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Can You Refinance a Reverse Mortgage Loan?

When you first opted for a reverse mortgage, it might have felt like the perfect solution to tap into your home equity and enjoy your retirement without monthly mortgage payments. As time passes, your financial situation, goals, or the market itself can change, making you wonder: “Can I refinance my reverse mortgage?” The answer is yes, but it’s essential to understand what is involved before making a move.

Why Consider Refinancing Your Reverse Mortgage?

  1. Lower Interest Rates: Just like traditional mortgages, reverse mortgage rates can fluctuate. If current rates are significantly lower than when you first took out your loan, refinancing could save you money over time.
  2. Increased Home Value: If your home’s value has risen since you took out your reverse mortgage, refinancing might allow you to access more equity.
  3. Switching Loan Types: You might find a different type of reverse mortgage that better suits your needs, such as one with a lower margin or different payment options.
  4. Adding or Removing Borrowers: Life circumstances change, and you might want to add a new borrower, like a spouse, to the loan, or remove one due to divorce or death.

Steps to Refinance Your Reverse Mortgage

  1. Evaluate Your Situation: Consider why you want to refinance and if the benefits outweigh the costs. This might include lower interest rates, access to more funds, or better loan terms.
  2. Research Lenders: Not all lenders offer reverse mortgage refinancing, so it’s crucial to find those who do. Compare offers from multiple lenders to find the best deal.
  3. Get a New Appraisal: Your home will need to be appraised again to determine its current market value. This can affect the amount of equity you can access.
  4. Undergo Financial Assessment: Lenders will assess your financial situation to ensure you can meet the new loan terms and property charges.
  5. Close the New Loan: If approved, you’ll close on the new reverse mortgage. The new loan will pay off the old one, and any remaining funds will be available to you.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Closing Costs: Refinancing comes with fees that can add up, so it’s important to ensure the benefits outweigh these costs.
  • Extended Loan Term: Refinancing could extend the term of your loan, potentially impacting your heirs.
  • Impact on Public Benefits: Increased funds from a reverse mortgage refinance might affect your eligibility for public benefits.

Is Refinancing Right for You?

Deciding whether to refinance your reverse mortgage depends on your specific circumstances and financial goals. It’s wise to consult with a financial advisor or reverse mortgage counselor to ensure it’s the best move for your situation.

Remember, refinancing isn’t the only option. Sometimes, other financial strategies might better suit your needs without the costs associated with refinancing.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

If you’re considering refinancing your reverse mortgage, do your homework, seek professional advice, and weigh all the pros and cons. Your home is one of your most valuable assets, so making informed decisions is crucial. We are always here to help. Give us a call.

Hard Inquiry vs. Soft Inquiry — What’s the Difference?

Knowing the difference between a hard inquiry vs soft inquiry can help you maintain a good credit score. Here’s what you need to know.

Most people know that your credit score can drop if you miss a payment or have a new collection filed against you. But how about when you apply for new credit? Yes, a credit application will trigger a “hard inquiry” on your report, which can have an impact on your credit score. Here’s what to know about hard inquiries, and how they compare with “soft inquiries.”

What is a Hard Inquiry?

Hard inquiries occur when you apply for credit and consent to allow a lender to check your credit report. These inquiries dated within the past 12 months count toward 10% of your credit scores even though 24-months of inquiry history is retained in your credit report.

Hard inquiries are listed by date and include the lender’s name and the name of the third-party credit provider that provided the report to the lender.

Examples of hard inquiries include:

  • Applying for a car loan and the dealer checks your credit report
  • Applying for a new credit card
  • Requesting to have the credit limit increased on an existing credit card
  • Applying for a mortgage
  • Applying to lease an apartment

Only authorized parties are allowed to access your credit report, and to do so, they must have a permissible purpose. Lenders only have permissible purpose if you have applied for credit and given the potential lender consent to check your credit report. Hard inquiries made for any other reason without your consent are not permissible and you have the right to dispute any unauthorized inquiries.

How Many Points Does a Hard Inquiry Affect Your Credit Score?

According to credit experts, “In most cases, a hard inquiry from a lender will decrease your scores by 7 points or less. The highest drop in scores that I’ve seen was 23 points, but that is very rare.”

The impact of applying for credit will differ from person to person based on their unique credit history. Individuals with very little or no credit history may see a bigger drop in scores compared to someone who has established credit and who has proven to manage more accounts over time.

It is true that in most cases, an occasional hard inquiry will have little to no impact on your credit scores. However, a new hard inquiry can lower your score by a few points when certain factors come together in your credit report:

  • Opening a new credit card or line of credit will affect your length of credit history because it lowers the average age of your total accounts. This, in turn, will lower your length of credit history and subsequently, will lower your credit scores.
  • New credit, once used, will increase the “amounts owed/credit utilization” factor of your credit scores and may also contribute to lowering your scores.

Minimize the Impact of a Hard Inquiry on Your Credit Score

To minimize the impact on your score, do your rate shopping within a focused amount of time. Most credit scores are not affected by multiple inquiries from the same type of creditor within a short period of time.

Credit score models have been programmed to accommodate typical “rate shopping periods” for auto, mortgage, or student loans. This means that if you are looking to buy a new automobile, conduct your comparison shopping among multiple dealers and creditors within a 30-day average period. Then, multiple hard credit inquiries from auto lenders will only count as a single hard inquiry for credit scoring purposes.

Hard inquiries count toward the calculation of your credit scores, so it’s important to monitor your inquiries. Make sure that you know who, when, and why a creditor has reviewed a copy of your credit report. If you notice hard inquiries in your credit report that you do not recognize, it’s important to find out more about them by using the information in your report and disputing the inquiries. You can learn more about how to dispute inaccuracies in your credit report by visiting the FTC’s website.

How to Check for Hard Inquiries

The next time you apply for new credit, you’d be wise to obtain and review your credit report. Or, get a free report at annualcreditreport.com, a federally-mandated website that gives you a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus. In your report, you’ll see a list of the creditors and lenders who have checked your credit file over the past 24 months. These credit checks by creditors and lenders are called “inquiries.”

But not all inquiries are created equal — hard inquiries and soft inquiries have different effects on your credit score.

What is a Soft Inquiry?

Soft inquiries are checks of your credit report that are not associated with your credit application. They do not impact your credit scores in any way.

Examples of soft inquiries might include any of the following:

  • Checking your credit report and credit scores through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers
  • Applying for a job
  • Receiving prescreened offers of credit from credit card companies, insurers, and other creditors

Hard Inquiry vs. Soft Inquiry: Rule of Thumb

If you’re not applying for credit, you won’t incur a hard inquiry. So you don’t need to worry about dragging down your credit score by signing up for an app or service that helps you monitor your credit.

That being said, don’t be afraid to apply for credit if you need it. The impact on your score is typically small if you are not applying for many kinds of credit within a short time.

Understanding Warrantable vs. Non-Warrantable When Purchasing a Condo

When you’re shopping for a condo, there’s a bit more on your plate than just the typical homebuying concerns like credit scores, interest rates, and loan programs. A crucial aspect is understanding the role of the Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and whether the condo is warrantable or non-warrantable. This distinction can significantly impact your mortgage process and future as a condo owner.

Warrantable Condos: What You Need to Know

A condo is considered warrantable if it meets the standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two main government-sponsored entities in the mortgage industry. These entities buy mortgages on the secondary market, so lenders follow their guidelines to ensure loans are sellable.

For a condo to be warrantable, it must:

  • Not be part of a timeshare.
  • Meet owner-occupancy rate requirements.
  • Contribute at least 10% of its annual budget to its reserve account.
  • Maintain adequate reserves for repairs and maintenance.
  • Ensure a low delinquency rate in HOA dues.
  • Restrict short-term rentals.

Buying a warrantable condo often makes the mortgage process smoother and might even be in your best long-term interest.

Non-Warrantable Condos: Understanding the Risks

A condo may be non-warrantable for several reasons:

  • Ongoing construction or development projects.
  • Active litigation involving the HOA.
  • Low owner-occupancy rates.
  • High concentration of units owned by a single entity.

For example, in a condo community with 5-20 units, Fannie Mae limits ownership to two units per entity. For larger communities, no single entity can own more than 20% of the units, though Freddie Mac allows up to 25%.

Knowing a condo’s warrantability status helps you make an educated decision. Your mortgage advisor can guide you through this process, ensuring you understand which condos meet the requirements for different loan programs.

Government Loans for Condos: FHA and VA

FHA and VA loans have their own criteria for condo warrantability, similar to those of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These agencies maintain lists of approved condo communities, which might not always align with the GSEs’ lists. However, if a condo is approved by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, it often qualifies for FHA or VA loans after their review.

FHA guidelines require:

  • Borrowers to meet standard FHA mortgage criteria.
  • At least half of the community’s units to be owner-occupied.
  • New developments to have at least 30% owner occupancy.

There are no extra charges for financing a condo with an FHA or VA loan compared to a single-family home.

Advantages of Buying a Warrantable Condo

Warrantable condos are easier to finance, with many lenders only offering loans for such properties. Some lenders provide options for both warrantable and non-warrantable condos, but loans for warrantable condos usually come with lower interest rates and down payments, making them more affordable.

Why Warrantability Matters

When buying a detached home, you own the entire structure. But in a condo, the financial and structural health of the entire development affects the risk level for lenders. Therefore, lenders consider not just your credit and down payment but also the condo community’s overall stability.

The HOA owns and maintains common areas and building exteriors, impacting your lender’s collateral. Hence, the lender analyzes both you as a buyer and the condo community’s financial health.

Considering a Non-Warrantable Condo

While some lenders offer loans for non-warrantable condos, it’s crucial to understand potential issues:

  • Higher down payments and interest rates.
  • Possible signs of financial instability if HOA dues are delinquent or reserves are insufficient.
  • Risk of increased HOA dues or special assessments.
  • Limited buyer pool when reselling.

Externally, warrantable and non-warrantable condos might look the same. However, working with your real estate agent and mortgage advisor will reveal important differences affecting your purchase decision.