In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the decline of real estate prices has been a distress not only to traditional mortgage borrowers and lenders, but also the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and its reverse mortgage program. As a result, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has taken several steps to make the program somewhat more restrictive, reducing borrowing limits and increasing the insurance premiums to borrowers that back the program.
In a big announcement this month, HUD has announced a new round of changes that will consolidate HECM Saver and Standard loans, change the principal limits that impact the maximum consumers can borrow, and generally increase costs once again for reverse mortgages. In addition, the HECM reverse mortgage program will become much more restrictive in how much can be borrowed at once, and early next year will introduce a new financial assessment process to further ensure that reverse mortgage borrowers have the means to maintain their property taxes and insurance to avoid defaulting on the loan.
From the financial planning perspective, these changes are arguably a good step to help curtail some irresponsible borrowing, and ironically may have little impact to the clients of financial planners who already tend to be somewhat more affluent and more proactive in their retirement strategies (while the impact will be more significant for those already in dire financial straits). On the other hand, the new higher costs for many types of loan approaches, and the new limitations on principal limits – which can be particularly constraining to affluent individuals with pricier homes – may make reverse mortgages somewhat less appealing for financial planners, even as the reverse mortgage industry shifts to focus more on the types of clients that planners typically work with.