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Frequently Asked Mortgage Questions

Do you have questions? We can help! You will find the answers to several frequently asked mortgage questions below.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

Basic Features of a Reverse Mortgage

All reverse mortgages—whether the government-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage or a proprietary product—share a set of common characteristics, which include the following:

You must be at least 62 years old and own a home.

You ALWAYS retain title (ownership) to the home. The lender never, at any point, owns the home, even after you (or last surviving spouse) permanently vacate the property.

You must still pay property taxes and insurance, and keep the home well maintained. If you are unable to pay your property taxes and insurance, then a special set-aside from your reverse mortgage can be created.

Repayment of the loan occurs when you (or last surviving spouse) permanently vacate the home. You or your heirs (estate) then must facilitate the pay back of the loan using either private funds or selling the home. After the loan is repaid, all leftover proceeds from the sale of the home go to you or the estate.

The amount of funds you are eligible to receive depends on your age (or age of the youngest borrower in the case of couples), the value of the home, the interest rate and the upfront costs. With the HECM product, the county lending limit is a factor. With all products, the older you are, the more proceeds you are eligible to receive.
Loan fees can be financed, or paid out of the available loan proceeds. This means you incur very little out-of-pocket expense to get a reverse mortgage. In most cases, you only have to pay for the appraisal, which costs roughly $350 depending on your market.
The loan balance (amount owed) grows each time you access funds from your line of credit or receive a monthly payment. In addition, the lender is charging you interest on the outstanding loan balance as well as a monthly servicing fee.

Repayment of the loan is not required until you (or the last surviving spouse) permanently leave the home as a primary residence. For the HECM program, you can live up to 12 consecutive months outside the home, but this may vary for other products.

All reverse mortgages have a "non-recourse" feature, which means that the total amount owed can never exceed the appraised value of the home. If the amount owed exceeds the home's appraised value, then the lender or the federal government (in the case of the HECM product) will absorb that loss.


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What is the difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification?

The pre-approval process is much more complete than pre-qualification. For pre-qualification, the loan officer asks you a few questions and provides you with a pre-qual letter. Pre-approval includes all the steps of a full approval, except for the appraisal and title search. Pre-approval can put you in a better negotiating position, much like a cash buyer.

When does it make sense to refinance?

Usually people refinance to save money, either by obtaining a lower interest rate or by reducing the term of the loan. Refinancing is also a way to convert an adjustable loan to a fixed loan or to consolidate debts. The decision to refinance can be difficult, since there are several reasons to refinance. However, if you are looking to save money, try this calculation:

Calculate the total cost of the refinance
Calculate the monthly savings
Divide the total cost of the refinance (#1) by the monthly savings (#2). This is the "break even" time. If you own the house longer than this, you will save money by refinancing.
Since refinancing is a complex topic, consult a mortgage professional.

What is a rate lock?

A rate lock is a contractual agreement between the lender and buyer. There are four components to a rate lock: loan program, interest rate, points, and the length of the lock.

What is the difference between a mortgage broker and a lender?

A mortgage broker counsels you on the loans available from different wholesalers, takes your application, and usually processes the loan which involves putting together the complete file of information about your transaction including the credit report, appraisal, verification of your employment and assets, and so on. When the file is complete, but sometimes sooner, the lender "underwrites" the loan, which means deciding whether or not you are an acceptable risk.

Will I save money going directly to a mortgage lender?

Not necessarily. In fact, if you are a reasonably astute shopper, you will probably do better dealing with a mortgage broker. Mortgage brokers do not add any net cost to the lending process, because they perform functions that would otherwise have to be done by employees of the lender. Furthermore, because mortgage brokers deal with multiple lenders -- in a typical case, 25 to 30, sometimes more -- they can shop for the best terms available on any given day. In addition, they can find the lenders who specialize in various market niches that many other lenders avoid, such as loans to applicants with poor credit ratings, loans to borrowers who do not intend to occupy the property, loans with minimal or no down payment, and so on.

What is a full documented loan?

Both income and assets are disclosed and verified, and income is used in determining the applicant's ability to repay the mortgage. Formal verification requires the borrower's employer to verify employment and the borrower's bank to verify deposits. Alternative documentation, designed to save time, accepts copies of the borrower's original bank statements, W-2s and paycheck stubs.

What are the other types of loans?

Stated income/verified assets: Income is disclosed and the source of the income is verified, but the amount is not verified. Assets are verified, and must meet an adequacy standard such as, for example, 6 months of stated income and 2 months of expected monthly housing expense.

Stated income/stated assets: Both income and assets are disclosed but not verified. However, the source of the borrower's income is verified.

No ratio: Income is disclosed and verified but not used in qualifying the borrower. The standard rule that the borrower's housing expense cannot exceed some specified percent of income, is ignored. Assets are disclosed and verified.

No income: Income is not disclosed, but assets are disclosed and verified, and must meet an adequacy standard.

Stated Assets or No asset verification: Assets are disclosed but not verified, income is disclosed, verified and used to qualify the applicant.

No asset: Assets are not disclosed, but income is disclosed, verified and used to qualify the applicant.
No income/no assets: Neither income nor assets are disclosed.

What is a good faith estimate?

It is the list of settlement charges that the lender is obliged to provide the borrower within three business days of receiving the loan application.

What is a conforming loan?

A loan eligible for purchase by the two major Federal agencies that buy mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What is a jumbo mortgage?

A mortgage larger than the maximum eligible for conforming purchase by the two Federal agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What are points?

It is an upfront cash payment required by the lender as part of the charge for the loan, expressed as a percent of the loan amount; e.g., "2 points" means a charge equal to 2% of the loan balance.

What is a pre-qualification?

This is the process of determining whether a customer has enough cash and sufficient income to meet the qualification requirements set by the lender on a requested loan. A pre-qualification is subject to verification of the information provided by the applicant. A pre-qualification is short of approval because it does not take account of the credit history of the borrower.