Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in menu_set_active_trail() (line 2405 of /home/hulijedw/public_html/includes/menu.inc).

Jumbo Reverse Mortgages: A Dying Breed

Cliff Auerswald's picture

They were in the process of or contemplating obtaining a jumbo reverse mortgage with a company who sold their product to Lehman. The only ray of sunlight in this cloudy scenario for senior homeowners is the recent passage of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, H.R. 3221

By now, if you have been watching the news at all you’ve either read or heard all about the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the Sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America. Many senior homeowners can find relief in the fact that any of the funds that they may have had on deposit with Lehman are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corp., but that certainly doesn’t help them with any Lehman stock they may have owned…and it doesn’t help them if they were in the process of or contemplating obtaining a jumbo reverse mortgage with a company who sold their product to Lehman.

You see, Lehman was the source for one of the two remaining proprietary or jumbo reverse mortgage loan programs in the market for senior borrowers, age 62 and over. Just as 2006 and 2007 saw the birth of many new jumbo products, 2007 has seen the exit of all but one proprietary program. Several years ago, if a senior borrower with a high value home wanted a reverse mortgage, the Financial Freedom Cash Account product was about the only game in town. With all the liquidity issues in the secondary markets and the failures of IndyMac Bank and Lehman Brothers (the sources for two of the prominent jumbo reverse mortgage programs), the future of the jumbo reverse mortgage may be at risk, at least in the short run. The remaining programs were already automatically cutting the property value and lending at greatly reduced rates and with only one program left standing (and the conventional wisdom wonders for how long), many high value homes may have to be limited to the government Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM or “Heck-um”).

The only ray of sunlight in this cloudy scenario for senior homeowners is the recent passage of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, H.R. 3221. By all accounts, the bill will raise the limits of the HECM loans but there is some confusion as to what the limits will ultimately be. There are interpretations out by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA), that the national limit will go to $417,000 with the ability to go to $625,500 in high cost areas or a national limit of $625,500. However, in a letter received by this author from Barbara Boxer, United States Senator from California dated September 12, 2008, she states “I am pleased to report that the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 which passed Congress and was signed into law on July 30, 2008, permanently raises the HECM loan limit to $625,500.” This letter was sent in response to inquiries made regarding H.R. 3221.

If the Federal Reserve cuts rates in their meeting again today (there seems to be about a 50/50 split between economists as to whether the Fed will take that action based on the instability in the financial markets and Monday’s worst drop on the stock market since 9/11 (FED Article - Associated Press) then seniors will again see a drop in their interest income from money in bank accounts. Falling stock prices have impacted many as well. With the proprietary reverse mortgage programs all but gone (at least for the time being), senior homeowners with higher valued properties really need the new provisions of H.R. 3221.

There are other options for seniors with higher net worth, multiple or high value properties and who are medically insurable. But for those who really need a reverse mortgage and have a home valued greater than the current HUD lending limit for the area (currently anywhere from $200,160 to $362,790), the new provisions cannot be implemented by HUD quickly enough. If Ms. Boxer is correct and the national limit is now $625,500.00, that would fill the need of many borrowers currently seeking proprietary products and soften the effect of the disappearing jumbo product. Now we just need the division of HUD, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to issue the Mortgagee Letters to the lenders indicating they are ready to implement all the changes of this sweeping legislation and senior borrowers will be able to begin utilizing the higher limits.

Reverse Mortgage Lenders

Add new comment