Tag Archives: home equity conversion mortgage

HECM Default Risk Analysis – Abstract

18 Aug

An Analysis of Default Risk in the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Program

Stephanie Moulton

Ohio State University (OSU) – John Glenn School of Public Affairs

Donald R. Haurin

Ohio State University (OSU) – Department of Economics

Wei Shi

Ohio State University (OSU) – Department of Economics

July 18, 2014


While reverse mortgages are intended as a tool to enable financial security for older homeowners, in 2012, nearly 10 percent of reverse mortgage borrowers in the federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program were in default on their property taxes or homeowners insurance. A variety of policy responses were implemented in 2013, including establishing underwriting guidelines for the first time in the program’s history. However, there is a lack of data and analysis to inform such criteria. Our analysis follows 30,000 seniors counseled for reverse mortgages between 2006 and 2011. The data includes comprehensive financial and credit report attributes, not typically available in analyses of reverse mortgage borrowers. Using a truncated bivariate probit model, we estimate the likelihood of tax and insurance default. Financial characteristics that increase default risk include the percentage of funds withdrawn in the first month of the loan, a lower credit score, higher property tax to income ratio, low or no unused revolving credit, and history of being past due on mortgage payments or having a tax lien on the property. We simulate the effects of alternative underwriting criteria and policy changes on the probability of take-up and default. While a simple limit on the initial withdrawal percentage substantially reduces default, it also substantially reduces participation in the program. A greater reduction in the default rate with less effect on participation can be achieved by setting thresholds based on credit score or derogatory credit indicators. Further reductions in the default rate with a minimal effect on participation can be achieved by requiring that participants with low credit scores to set aside some of their HECM funds for future property tax and insurance payments, a form of escrowing.


HECM Cap Suspension Extended

28 Jun

The suspension of the cap on the number of Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) reverse mortgages that can be endorsed by the FHA has been extended again.

The House Appropriations Committee passed a Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that extends by one year the suspension of the cap on the number of HECMs that the Federal Housing Administration can insure.

The bill – approved by a 28-20 vote – would extend the suspension until September 30, 2014.

As originally enacted in 1987, the HECM statute contained a volume cap of 2,500 loans.  That was increased by various increments several times, and finally to 275,000 loans permitted in 2006. Since that time, the cap has not increased but has been temporarily suspended, and the suspension was extended numerous times.

HECM Endorsements Rebound

26 Jun

Endorsements for the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) increased 10.2%  year-over-year in April after the 27% decrease for the same month in the previous year, according to the latest from Reverse Market Insight.

California showed the most total volume at 2,914 units—a 12.2% growth change year-over-year, with Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties taking the top three spots for HECM volumes in April,

New York also put in a strong showing with three of its own—Suffolk, Queens and Kings Counties

Reverse Mortgage Financial Assessment Guidance Proposed

15 May

In the wake of regulatory issues involving the HECM reverse mortgage (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association proposed guidance for the Department of Housing and Urban Development toward a financial assessment of reverse mortgage borrowers.

In order to determine whether borrowers are at risk for falling into default on reverse mortgage loans prior to their taking one out, NRMLA’s policy committee studied borrower data past and present including credit profiles and tax and insurance histories.

“The program is going to require a bit of retooling in response to the lessons that have been learned, to make the product more specific to consumers’ needs as well as their capacity to have a successful experience,” said Peter Bell, NRMLA president and CEO before attendees of NRMLA’s west coast regional conference in Irvine, California this week.

In developing the recommendations, NRMLA considered the goal of making the product more sustainable and better equipped to serve its intended purpose for borrowers to fund longevity rather than the most recent primary use of drawing all proceeds at once.

“Our recommendations on the financial assessment and how that should look is principally in order to reduce the tax and insurance delinquency rate,” said Colin Cushman, President and CEO of Generation Mortgage. “We hope FHA takes it on as at least something to think through.”

The NRMLA committee found the complexity of certain financial scenarios surrounding borrower defaults required a comprehensive solution involving financial assessment as well as principal limit utilization to test whether the applicant will be able to meet their obligations over the life of the loan.

Capacity and willingness to pay ongoing property charges are considered in the proposal, which involves a test for each. The capacity test looks at income and capacity to pay property taxes and insurance charges while the willingness test looks at whether historically borrowers have demonstrated they are willing to keep those payments current.

Additional requirements would apply to higher risk applicants who do not pass both tests, in order to offset that risk. Those might include reduction of principal limit factors, raising the mortgage insurance premium or requiring a tax and insurance escrow.

New York Regional NRMLA Conference Offers Useful Information – Part FOUR – NRMLA Research Forum

25 Mar

The very last session at last week’s Regional Conference was an overview of recent research.

Michael Eriksen of the University of Georgia presented “Aging in Place, Access to Affordable Housing and the Health and Living Arrangements of Older Americans.”   With 75 million baby boomers on the verge of retirement, this is an important topic.  There is a clear desire to age in place.  In fact, 80% of older households were found to be owner-occupied. While homeownership rates dropped off in the mid-2000’s for other age groups, 65 and older homeownership continued and continues to rise.

Findings from this study also show that 1/3 of older homeowners have experienced a serious fall, fall rates are on the rise, but only 16% live in handicapped-modified homes.  Modifications are needed, but can be costly, leading to the conclusion that home equity may be the best way to pay for them.

Cindy Hounsell of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement spoke about the need to inform women, especially, about financial options available in retirement.  At age 65 and over, there ate 6 million more women than men in the United States, and 68% of the 85 and older population are women.  Women’s issues to be considered are that they earn less therefore have less in savings and pensions, but live longer and often live alone.  Women need to realize that their biggest risk is outliving their retirement savings.  More women than men have consistently taken out reverse mortgages.

Ohio State University’s Stephanie Moulton presented research on “Aging in Place: Analyzing the Use of Reverse Mortgages to Preserve Independent Living.”  The underlying assumption is that reverse mortgages provide greater financial security which, combined with the ability to stay in one’s own home, may lead to independence and overall well-being.

Like other speakers in the conference, she pointed out that the pool of potential eligible HECM borrowers is growing.   Additionally, the age of the average HECM borrower is getting younger and more HECM borrowers have more mortgage debt.

Clients counseled for reverse mortgages reported that they used reverse mortgage funds mainly to increase monthly income and pay off existing mortgage debt.


New York Regional NRMLA Conference Offers Useful Information – Part THREE – The Technical Default Process

25 Mar

Day Two of the NRMLA conference provided a useful session by Lorraine Geraci on the art of communication with seniors, with a discussion on the physical aspects of aging and a caution to avoid stereotyping older people.

The second workshop of the day gave a detailed look at technical default presented by representatives of HUD, RMS reverse mortgage servicers, and CredAbility reverse mortgage counseling agency.

Taxes and insurance payments made by reverse mortgage borrowers are tracked by the servicer through a third party.  If they are in arrears, the borrower is contacted within 30 days to discuss cure options:  the overdrawn amount can be paid back on a payment plan, the entire loan can be repaid, or the borrower can execute a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

HUD has a program to provide default counseling.  Upon review of the borrower’s budget, a deficit is usually found which the counselor attempts to help rectify.  Borrowers are referred to agencies which provide benefits and are encouraged to apply for available help such as SNAP (food stamps), free cell phones, and home sharing options.  The borrower can usually find $200 in savings in this way.

Many seniors pride themselves in their self sufficiency and are reluctant to participate in public assistance until long after the point at which they qualified.  It often takes three or more sessions with a counselor to achieve maximum improvement.  If money cannot be found through savings in the budget, counselors then discuss asking children or grandchildren for help in meeting budget deficits or in moving to alternative housing.

Loan originators are encouraged to provide information at the time of the initial application about tax reductions, etc, that may be available to the senior borrower.

Of the approximately 1400 default counseling sessions done last year, half were able to successfully get into a repayment plan.

Case Study:

A pilot program in the Philadelphia area has been instituted to help guard against the danger of HECM foreclosure. They began with date they had:  borrowers whose loans were already “due and payable”.  Contact was attempted, first with a telephone call, then a letter, and finally a visit to the property.  A counselor assists with enrollment in benefits programs and all efforts are made to keep the borrower in their home.

The help of HECM servicers was enlisted to obtain data on defaulted borrowers not yet due and payable.  These seniors are enrolled in benefit programs, new less-expensive homeowners’ insurance is put in place, live-in family members are asked to commit money to pay a part of expenses, TV services are bundled into more economical packages.  Perhaps most importantly, the repayment plans can be extended from one to two years, offering flexibility to meet goals more successfully.

Mark Helm from RMS servicing said that 6.7% of their HECM portfolio is currently in tax and insurance default.  75% of these borrowers began with a “constructive default”: they had been in arrears on their taxes and had let insurance lapse before the beginning of the loan.  The majority are insurance defaults.  34% of borrowers in default are on a payment plan now, and if they fail to keep up repayments for 120 days, they are given a second chance.  Of the borrowers on a payment plan, 77% succeed in bringing their account up-to-date.

Of all the defaulted borrowers that are contacted, a number are non-responsive to letters and calls, but an inspection visit can often lead a borrower to begin repayment.  Sometimes an inspection may find the property vacant, in which case a short sale is attempted before foreclosure.  Multiple extensions may be granted.  The usual time frame from “due and payable” to foreclosure is 6 months, with 90-day extensions granted.

The recent rise in home values may offer a chance for borrowers to do a HECM-to-HECM refinance to boost loan proceeds.  Although national home values are reported to be up 10%, HECM REO values are only up 3% due to maintenance issues, making this potential option less viable for some.



New York Regional NRMLA Conference Offers Useful Information – Part TWO – Industry/HUD/FHA Updates

21 Mar

NRMLA President Peter Bell offered welcoming remarks at the General Session Tuesday March 19, 2013.   Guest speakers remarked that 8000 Americans turn 65 every day, and eleven million retirees will not be able to afford household expenses.  Again it was stressed how important a reverse mortgage can be in a wealth management portfolio.  Americans have 50 – 66% of their assets tied up in home equity, while only 2% of those eligible have taken advantage of the HECM product.

Director of HUD Single Family Program Development Karen Hill spoke about FHA policy.  She mentioned the predicted effects of the current sequestration: Staff impacts will include furloughs, a hiring freeze, and limited travel and training.  There will likely be delays in mortgage insurance applications, claims and answers to inquiries.  Counseling grants could also be impacted.

The mission of the FHA is to provide access to credit for under-served borrowers.  They must preserve the health of the MMI fund and manage/mitigate loss.  Steps taken this year were to raise the MMP in forward loans and to consolidate the fixed HECM products, eliminating the Fixed Standard on April 1 of this year.  Ms. Hill predicted that slightly fewer HECMs would be endorsed this year.

Currently, she reported, 73% of HECMs are fixed rate while only 23% are adjustable rate products.  Issues that will be addressed this year are the cap on HECM endorsements, the non-borrowing spouse scenario, and the funding and availability of HECM counseling.  Policy changes being considered may set limits on loan draws, mandate escrows for taxes and insurance, and implement a financial assessment for borrowers.  Policy will be published August 1st for implementation in October.

John Olmstead from the HUD Office of Housing Counseling remarked on their intentions to improve monitoring, communications and metrics for reporting the data collected by reverse mortgage counselors.  There are currently 2400 approved counseling agencies, 129 of which are approved for HECM counseling.  There are 629 active, approved HECM counselors today.

Recent guidance which has been promulgated to reverse mortgage providers includes warning against steering, loan officer participation in counseling, and cases where a loan officer has provided answers to possible counseling quiz answers.

HUD staff reported that $895 million has been disbursed from the insurance fund for 8591 claims processed.  61% of claims resulted from foreclosure and deed-in-lieu, 23 from assignments of mortgage, and a further 9% from mortgagors’ sale.

The Conference then moved to a panel discussion on the state of the reverse mortgage industry.  The goal of empowering the FHA with authority over the HECM product was discussed.  Broadening the marketplace, however, was the theme that everyone agreed is top priority.  Communication with the general public is key.  There have been fewer HECM loans written in the recent past, but the product remains a valuable one.  It is possible that sales strategies changed when the fixed rate product came to the market in 2009 and they need to be changed again to illustrate to seniors the advantages of a reverse mortgage.

The mission of the HECM program is to facilitate aging in place, and many factors in the current market favor its success.  Aging Baby Boomers, appreciation of home values, and the money being spent on TV advertising all bode well for the future of the HECM program.

In NRMLA’s future, we see more professional education and more involvement of state legislators/regulators.