If you’re tapping into your home equity through a reverse mortgage, you have probably heard by now about the new reverse mortgage “financial assessment” that is soon to be part of the process of getting a government-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM.)

The financial assessment, which is like the assessment that a “forward” loan originator conducts for traditional mortgage borrowers, is being introduced this year as an extra safeguard for borrowers. Fears and doubts about using your home’s equity are very normal. In a study of 2,000 American Retirees, only 11% reported they use their home equity as a source of retirement income which means most seniors are not utilizing a major stream of income.To get more information and guidance throughout the entire reverse mortgage process, contact a reverse loan specialist.

Reverse mortgage set-asides

On a basic level, the financial assessment takes a detailed look at your financial situation including your income, debts, credit history and other financial health measures, to determine that you’ll still be able to pay for your mandatory obligations after you get a reverse mortgage.

Under the terms of all HECM reverse mortgages, the borrower must continue to pay property tax and homeowners insurance premiums, for example, and the financial assessment’s goal is to make sure that as a borrower, you’ll still be willing and able to meet those property charges.

But the financial assessment is not black and white. Your lender will collect information from you, ask some follow-up questions, and make one of a few determinations based on the assessment:

  • Yes, you qualify
  • No, you don’t qualify
  • Maybe, you might qualify

If you fall into the “maybe” category, there’s one tool that can help lead to your qualification. It’s called a set-aside.

Reverse mortgage set-asides

Think of a reverse mortgage set-aside as a designated pool of money that is budgeted upfront for your expenses down the road. If you have had a traditional mortgage, you might have escrowed, or set aside, funds for your future property taxes. The reverse mortgage set-aside is similar, but if you require a set-aside, it will be calculated based on how much you are likely to need for the rest of your life.

Do I need a set-aside?

No, if: Your credit history and property charge payment history are deemed satisfactory, and your residual income as determined by the lender meets the standard. (You can also opt for a set aside if you choose, on a voluntary basis, and will be held to this set-aside for the life of the loan.)

So, the answer is ‘yes’ if:

  • You don’t have satisfactory credit history and/or
  • You don’t have a satisfactory property charge payment history, and/or
  • You don’t have adequate residual income

Setting up mortgage set-aside

How does the lender calculate the set-aside?

If you require a set-aside, your lender follows a formula to determine the amount you’ll need. That formula includes the sum of the following:

  • Current property taxes
  • Current homeowners insurance premiums
  • Flood insurance premiums
  • A factor reflecting any increase in rates of tax and insurance
  • The expected mortgage insurance premium rate both for the upfront MIP and the ongoing, annual MIP
  • Life expectancy of the youngest borrower

Partial versus fully-funded set-asides

Depending on the results of your financial assessment, your lender will determine whether you require a fully funded, or partially funded set-aside.

Always shop multiple lenders rates and compare reviews, if one of these scenarios applies to your situation and how it’s likely to impact the amount you can receive from your loan.

For more information, check out this trusted 3rd Party Material: HUD Financial Assessment and Property Charge Guide (.pdf document)