In 2019, the reverse mortgage line of credit continues to be the most popular option for homeowners when choosing how to access their funds. 

According to an article by AARP, borrowers recognized this choice at about 66% of the time when obtaining a reverse mortgage as being the right choice for them. Since HUD changed the guidelines on the receipt of funds in 2014, this percentage had increased further still.

The credit line option allows borrowers a great deal of freedom when planning their finances. Homeowners like the fact that they can take as much as they want when the loan originally closes up to the maximum allowed by HUD in the first 12 months and then can take the funds as needed from there.  Borrowers appreciate that while they can take all remaining available funds after 12 months, they are not required to take any funds they don’t want or need.

But since the credit line reverse mortgage is only available in an adjustable rate, many may wonder why this option is even more popular than the fixed rate program. The answer is flexibility. The fixed rate reverse mortgage option has only one way you can take your funds and that is all in a lump sum at the very beginning.  The fixed rate does not have a line of credit option, it is a single draw that must be taken in full when the loan closes.

This option is fine if you need all the funds at the start, for example to pay off an existing mortgage or for other purposes. However, if you want to be able to access your funds as you go, the fixed rate option will not work. The credit line gives the borrowers the option of taking as much money as they wish at initial funding, but then with the remaining funds the borrowers can access the funds as they desire.

But there are other benefits to the line of credit reverse mortgage as well. For one, the borrower does not accrue interest on any portion of the funds that are not being used. Borrowers who do not have an immediate need for funds do not have to pay interest on the funds if they remain un-borrowed and available to the borrower.

The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM or “Heck-um”) line of credit is the one credit line that can never be frozen or closed while the borrower still has a remaining balance left on it. How many people do you know who have had a credit line from their local bank frozen during tough credit times or when home values begin to stabilize or even drop? It may even have happened to you. The senior HECM borrower with the credit line option has paid their federal mortgage insurance to insure that their line of credit will always be available to them.

Line of Credit Growth Feature

Another extremely important feature of the line of credit reverse mortgage is the credit line growth rate. I have often heard this mischaracterized as interest earned which it is not, but the unused portion of the credit line grows at the same rate at which the loan accrues interest plus the Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) renewal.

In other words, in today’s market if the fully indexed accrual rate (index + margin) is 4.25%, and the MIP renewal rate that you would add is + .50% = the interest plus the MIP would total 4.75% for the interest and the mortgage insurance combined. If the Available Loan Amount of your loan is $350,000 after the net Principal Limit and costs have been determined, and you don’t use those funds, then your credit line begins to grow monthly based on the interest rates.

Your line of credit would grow by $1,385.41 ($350,000 X .0475 / 12) in the first month alone and would continue to grow at the same rate but would increase as the balance increased.  It would also go down if some or all the funds were used that month as the growth rate is determined on the unused balance of the funds available.

The next month you start with a higher loan balance, so the line of credit goes up even higher. After just 5 years of this scenario, these borrowers would have available credit of around $450,000 in their credit line, over $550,000 if they should be lucky enough to be able to leave it there for 10! And here is a hedge against inflation, as the interest rates rise, the amount the borrowers accrue grows even faster.

Comparing Reverse Mortgages to a HELOC

Also See: Why a Reverse Mortgage is SMARTER than a HELOC
Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit Traditional Bank HELOC
Requires monthly mortgage paymentsNOYES
Becomes balloon after 10 years requiring full repaymentNOYES
Harder for qualify for fixed income borrowersNOYES
Minimum credit score NO YES
Rate is typically adjustable YESYES
Features a guaranteed growth rate YESNO
Prepayment penalty NO NO

So, the bottom line is that the line of credit reverse mortgage shares some of the features of the HELOC.  It is a line of credit that borrowers can use to borrow against the equity in their home and they only accrue interest on the funds they borrow.

Unlike a HELOC, there are no payments due, the loan can never be closed by the lender because they made the arbitrary decision to stop making line of credit loans (borrowers do have to occupy the home, pay taxes and insurance on time and maintain the home in a reasonable manner) and the amount available to borrowers grows over time based on a growth rate of the unused portion of the line.

We believe for the reasons stated above and, in the summary, below, the reverse mortgage is a much better long term planning tool for most senior borrowers.

Summary: 

  • The line of credit option has become the most popular reverse mortgage payment plan for most borrowers due to its flexibility.

  • Just like a Bank HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit), you only accrue interest on your outstanding loan balance (not the total amount available to you if you haven’t used all available funds).

  • The reverse mortgage line of credit is ideal for retirees on fixed income due to easier qualification and no call date or scheduled repayment period with increasing payments.

  • Funds available in your credit line increase or grow if you still have funds remaining each month giving you more money to use, this is called the “growth rate”.

The experts at All Reverse Mortgage® are here to answer your questions! If you have an inquiry about the reverse mortgage credit line give us a call Toll Free (800) 565-1722, or continue exploring with our new Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit Calculator.

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