When it comes to reverse mortgages, a crucial step in the process is the financial assessment – a set of guidelines developed by HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).  This assessment is more than just a formality; it’s a safeguard designed to protect both the borrower and the government, which insures most of these loans.

Why a Financial Assessment? The main goal of the financial assessment is to ensure that, as a borrower, you’re in a strong position to manage specific financial responsibilities after you receive your reverse mortgage.  These responsibilities are key to maintaining the good standing of your loan. They include:

  1. Keeping Up with Property Taxes: Staying current on property tax payments is essential.
  2. Maintaining Homeowners Insurance: Ensuring your home is insured is a must.
  3. Upkeeping Your Home: It’s important to maintain your home and property according to the standards set by the Federal Housing Administration.

The Consequences of Not Meeting Obligations If these responsibilities are not met, it could lead to serious consequences. For instance, the reverse mortgage loan might become due and payable immediately, which can be a significant concern, especially if you’re still living in the home.

The Objective of the Assessment The financial assessment’s objective is to verify that you have sufficient cash flow to handle these essential payments, ensuring the loan remains current and in good standing.  It’s a step towards confirming that a reverse mortgage is a viable and sustainable financial solution for you.

In summary, the financial assessment is an integral part of the reverse mortgage process, designed to ensure that borrowers are well-equipped to fulfill their loan obligations and maintain their financial health post-mortgage.

ARLO teaching financial assessment

Key Elements and Requirements

When you apply for a reverse mortgage, the person reviewing your application (called an underwriter) has an important job: they need to ensure you can comfortably pay your property taxes and home insurance.  This is a big part of what they look for, as instructed by HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), which oversees these loans.

Why Paying Taxes and Insurance Matters: The underwriter needs to check that you can keep up with these payments.  Why?  Because being able to pay your property taxes and home insurance is a requirement when you have a reverse mortgage.  If you can’t keep up with these costs, it could cause the loan servicer to call your loan due and payable within the loan maturity event agreement.

What This Means for You: When applying for a reverse mortgage, the underwriter will examine your residual income.  They want to make sure that, along with enjoying the benefits of the loan, you’re also in an excellent position to pay your property taxes and home insurance without any stress.  This helps everyone involved – it keeps you secure in your home and ensures that the reverse mortgage works as it should.

Extenuating Circumstances to Financial Assessment

Reverse mortgages have specific financial assessment rules, but there’s room for flexibility, especially if your past includes loan defaults or credit issues.  This doesn’t automatically disqualify you.  Lenders must examine your unique circumstances closely to understand the reasons behind these financial challenges.

Extenuating Circumstances: Take, for instance, a situation where you or your spouse had a significant healthcare event that temporarily increased your expenses, leading to difficulties in meeting loan obligations.  If this event is in the past and it’s clear that such an issue is unlikely to recur, the lender may view this as an extenuating circumstance.  This means they recognize that these events were beyond your control but impacted your finances significantly.

Assessment Beyond a Simple Yes or No: It’s important to understand that the financial assessment for a reverse mortgage isn’t just a straightforward “yes” or “no” decision.  It’s more of a comprehensive process that helps the lender evaluate your ability to handle a reverse mortgage without future financial strain.

Purpose of Financial Assessment: This assessment aims to ensure that opting for a reverse mortgage is a sound financial decision for you.  It’s too late for the lender to determine that the reverse mortgage won’t lead to financial difficulties.

Comparing to Traditional Mortgages: While this assessment thoroughly reviews your financial history, the criteria used are similar to those for a standard mortgage.  This familiarity can be reassuring, as the assessment process is not entirely foreign to those who have previously dealt with mortgages.

Overcoming Financial Assessment Challenges with a LESA

During the financial assessment process of your reverse mortgage application, there might be concerns about your ability to meet future loan obligations, particularly if your financial assessment raises some questions.  However, this doesn’t automatically disqualify you from obtaining a reverse mortgage.  This is where the “Life Expectancy Set-Aside” (LESA) comes into play.

Implementing a LESA Set-Aside: A LESA is a practical solution implemented by lenders when they’re unsure about your financial capacity to handle ongoing costs associated with your home after the reverse mortgage is in place.  These costs typically include property taxes and homeowners’ insurance.  To calculate the LESA amount, the lender multiplies your annual property charges by your life expectancy.  This calculation ensures that sufficient funds are set aside to cover these expenses for the expected duration of the loan.

How LESA Secures Your Loan: The concept of LESA is similar to an escrow account in conventional mortgages.  A specific portion of your reverse mortgage funds is allocated for future loan-related expenses.  This set-aside acts as a financial buffer, earmarked exclusively for paying your property taxes and insurance.

By opting for a LESA, you can still be approved for a reverse mortgage even if you face challenges in the financial assessment.  It’s a strategy that secures your loan and provides peace of mind, knowing that critical homeownership costs are taken care of.

Financial Assessmsne FAQ: Key Questions and Answers


What is the financial assessment for a reverse mortgage?

Financial Assessment for a reverse mortgage is the income and credit guidelines in place as determined by HUD. Financial Assessment was put in place to determine a potential borrower’s willingness and capacity to meet their financial obligations timely.


Why was financial assessment created for reverse mortgages when there’s no mortgage payment?

Financial assessment was created for reverse mortgages due to the fact that even though there is no mortgage payment on the reverse mortgage loan, the borrower is still responsible for their taxes, insurance and upkeep of the home. Before the financial assessment, many people obtained a reverse mortgage loan but ultimately found themselves unable to keep up with the ongoing costs of taxes and insurance.


How much residual income do you need for a reverse mortgage?

The residual income you need to qualify for a reverse mortgage will depend upon which region of the country you reside in as well as the number of occupants of the property. For example, a Single Person living in the Western region (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY) would require a residual monthly income of just $589. Residual income is calculated by adding up all the expenses a borrower has (taxes, insurance, utilities, consumer debt) and subtracting them from their total income. For example, if this single person in the West had a monthly income of $3,000 and total expenses of $2,000, they would have a residual income of $1,000 and qualify for the income requirements under Financial Assessment. To see the entire chart for all regions of the country and the FA requirements, please click here.


What kind of general credit requirements do you need for a reverse mortgage?

The general credit requirements needed for a reverse mortgage are very similar to those of a traditional mortgage. They are looking at the overall credit history with the most emphasis placed on the most recent 24-month period prior to the date of application. The payment history for Taxes, Insurance and HOA dues (if any) also factors into the credit requirements to determine eligibility.


What would disqualify me from a reverse mortgage?

There is not a whole lot that can disqualify you from getting a reverse mortgage. The Financial Assessment guidelines allow for what is known as a Life Expectancy Set-Aside (LESA) for those borrowers who do not meet the credit guidelines. For example, if you do not meet the credit guidelines but you have sufficient income to meet the Residual Income requirement, a LESA can be implemented in the loan, and you can still qualify. However, those borrowers who do not have the required income level can be disqualified and those with an existing government loan delinquency or default.

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