If you’re in the market for a loan that can convert your home equity into cash flow or a line of credit in retirement, chances are you have explored the option of a reverse mortgage.
But the reverse mortgage is not one-size-fits all, and what many people don’t know is there are several products to choose from, both under the Federal Housing Administration’s popular Home Equity Conversion Mortgage HECM program, as well as private loan options.
For the last several years, the number of reverse mortgage products on the market has been limited to the government-insured HECM, and a very small handful of other loans for people with homes valued around $600,000 or more.
But recent changes to the Federal Housing Administration’s HECM are leading some lenders to revisit the opportunity for new jumbo reverse mortgages that will give borrowers even more options when it comes to tapping their home equity in retirement.
Two reasons. First, FHA may soon become less competitive relative to the private market because of loan limits set by the federal government. And second, FHA has recently changed its reverse mortgage rules.
Loan limits. FHA sets a limit on how much its lender-partners can lend through its insurance programs. Historically, this level was set at a cap of $417,000 for reverse mortgages. However, during the housing crisis, when lending was largely restricted across the private market, the government decided to raise that cap to $726,525. This made government home loans more desirable for homeowners of all different home values. It also made it harder for private lenders to compete.
The raise in the lending cap is temporary, however, and reverse mortgage lenders are seeing the point when loan limits retreat to their historic level as a chance to offer more products to borrowers whose homes are valued over the FHA lending limit.
What’s the difference?
As with any FHA-insured loan, a HECM falls under the government’s requirements when it comes to making the loan and then providing service to the borrower throughout the life of the loan. FHA only insures certain property types, for example. If you live in a manufactured home or a co-op, you likely won’t qualify for an FHA reverse mortgage.
A private loan can offer more options to the borrower since it isn’t tied to the government’s rules. It also creates more competition in the market, allowing borrowers even more choices.
When will the new loans be available?
Currently, borrowers with very high home values can access at least one non-FHA reverse mortgage option. Several additional lenders, however, have said they will be offering private reverse mortgage products in 2014.
If you are seeking a reverse mortgage, keep in mind that the HECM is just one type of reverse mortgage. It can help retirees to boost cash flow, protect against market risk, or simply provide a line of credit for emergency uses in retirement. But there are other options that may also be worth exploring.