January 21, 2021

Your Money: Tighter Rules Will Make It Harder to Get a Reverse Mortgage

Now the rules are about to change again.

As a result, some people with heavy debt who were hoping a reverse mortgage would solve their financial problems may find that it is no longer a viable option. Under the new rules, which go into effect on Sept. 30, many borrowers will be able to get access to even less of the value locked in their home — about 15 percent less — compared to the maximum available now. The rules also put new limits on the amount of money that can be taken out in the first year, which may further deter the most distressed prospective borrowers.

“The changes really put the product on track as a long-term financial planning tool as opposed to a crisis management tool,” said Ramsey Alwin, senior director of economic security at the National Council on Aging.

The Federal Housing Administration, which insures most reverse mortgages, is making the changes in an effort to strengthen the program, which allows people 62 and older to tap their home equity without making payments. Lenders get their money back once the house is sold.

Since the economic crisis, more homeowners withdrew the entire pile of cash they were eligible for all at once, which strained the program’s reserve funds (lenders were also paid more when borrowers took large sums, and reverse mortgage experts say lenders prodded borrowers in this direction). Declining home values also hurt the program’s overall finances, since lenders often could not recoup the full loan amounts when the houses were ultimately sold.

The F.H.A. hopes that the changes, particularly the limits on how much can be withdrawn in the first year, will encourage people to tap their home equity slowly and steadily, in a way that will enable property owners to stay in their homes as they age. That’s a change that several consumer advocates, along with members of the industry, agree was necessary.

Up until now, just about anyone could qualify for a reverse mortgage. But perhaps the biggest change to the program will go into effect early next year, when borrowers will also need to prove that they have the wherewithal to pay property taxes and insurance over the life of the loan. If they cannot, they will have to set that money aside — and that could consume much of the loan’s proceeds.

There is still a little time to get a mortgage using the current program. As long as prospective borrowers go through the required financial counseling and receive a case number before Sept. 28, they will be able to qualify under the current rules.

Here’s a closer look at how the changes will affect prospective borrowers:

FIRST-YEAR LIMIT There will now be a limit on the amount of money that can be withdrawn in the first year. A homeowner eligible to withdraw a total of $200,000 in cash, for example, would be allowed to get only $120,000, or 60 percent of that sum, in the first year.

There are exceptions. Some homeowners will be able to draw a bit more if their existing mortgage, along with other items like delinquent federal debts, exceed the 60 percent limit. Homeowners are required to pay off those items — which regulators call “mandatory obligations” — before qualifying for the loan. So borrowers can withdraw enough to pay off these types of obligations, plus another 10 percent of the maximum allowable amount (in this case that’s an extra $20,000, or 10 percent, of $200,000).

Credit cards are not considered a mandatory obligation, so people with significant credit card debt may find they can’t withdraw enough money to pay those loans off, said Christopher J. Mayer, professor of real estate, finance and economics at Columbia Business School, who is also a partner in a start-up company, Longbridge Financial, that provides reverse mortgages. “There will be fewer financially distressed borrowers for whom a reverse mortgage will provide a satisfactory solution,” he added. “The product will be more attractive for people using it as part of a retirement plan.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/07/your-money/tighter-rules-will-make-it-harder-to-get-a-reverse-mortgage.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Americans Closest to Retirement Were Hardest Hit by Recession

In the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to having been most injured. But the Labor Department’s latest jobs snapshot and other recent data reports present a strong case for crowning baby boomers as the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath.

These Americans in their 50s and early 60s — those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security — have lost the most earnings power of any age group, with their household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago, according to Sentier Research, a data analysis company.

Their retirement savings and home values fell sharply at the worst possible time: just before they needed to cash out. They are supporting both aged parents and unemployed young-adult children, earning them the inauspicious nickname “Generation Squeeze.”

New research suggests that they may die sooner, because their health, income security and mental well-being were battered by recession at a crucial time in their lives. A recent study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security lost up to three years from their life expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.

“If I break my wrist, I lose my house,” said Susan Zimmerman, 62, a freelance writer in Cleveland, of the distress that a medical emergency would wreak upon her finances and her quality of life. None of the three part-time jobs she has cobbled together pay benefits, and she says she is counting the days until she becomes eligible for Medicare.

In the meantime, Ms. Zimmerman has fashioned her own regimen of home remedies — including eating blue cheese instead of taking penicillin and consuming plenty of orange juice, red wine, coffee and whatever else the latest longevity studies recommend — to maintain her health, which she must do if she wants to continue paying the bills.

“I will probably be working until I’m 100,” she said.

As common as that sentiment is, the job market has been especially unkind to older workers.

Unemployment rates for Americans nearing retirement are far lower than those for young people, who are recently out of school, with fewer skills and a shorter work history. But once out of a job, older workers have a much harder time finding another one. Over the last year, the average duration of unemployment for older people was 53 weeks, compared with 19 weeks for teenagers, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report released on Friday.

The lengthy process is partly because older workers are more likely to have been laid off from industries that are downsizing, like manufacturing. Compared with the rest of the population, older people are also more likely to own their own homes and be less mobile than renters, who can move to new job markets.

Older workers are more likely to have a disability of some sort, perhaps limiting the range of jobs that offer realistic choices. They may also be less inclined, at least initially, to take jobs that pay far less than their old positions.

Displaced boomers also believe they are victims of age discrimination, because employers can easily find a young, energetic worker who will accept lower pay and who can potentially stick around for decades rather than a few years.

“When you’re older, they just see gray hair and they write you off,” said Arynita Armstrong, 60, of Willis, Tex. She has been looking for work for five years since losing her job at a mortgage company. “They’re afraid to hire you, because they think you’re a health risk. You know, you might make their premiums go up. They think it’ll cost more money to invest in training you than it’s worth it because you might retire in five years.

“Not that they say any of this to your face,” she added.

When older workers do find re-employment, the compensation is usually not up to the level of their previous jobs, according to data from the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

In a survey by the center of older workers who were laid off during the recession, just one in six had found another job, and half of that group had accepted pay cuts. Fourteen percent of the re-employed said the pay in their new job was less than half what they earned in their previous job.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/business/americans-closest-to-retirement-were-hardest-hit-by-recession.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Better Economy and Storm Delays Lift U.S. Auto Sales

DETROIT (AP) — Superstorm Sandy gave an extra boost to already strong U.S. auto sales last month, although carmakers warned that uncertainty over the “fiscal cliff” could undo some of those gains.

Most major companies, from Toyota to Chrysler, posted impressive increases from a year earlier. Only General Motors was left struggling to explain its 3-percent sales gain and large inventory of unsold trucks.

Americans were already willing to buy a new car or truck last month because they’re more confident in the economy. Home values are rising, hiring is up and auto financing is readily available. Also, the average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads is approaching a record 11 years, so many people are looking to replace older cars.

Sandy just boosted that demand. The storm added 20,000 to 30,000 sales industry wide in November, mostly from people who planned to buy cars during the October storm but had to delay their purchases, Ford estimated. People who need to replace storm-damaged vehicles are expected to drive sales for several more months. GM estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 vehicles will eventually need to be replaced.

November sales, when calculated on an annual basis, are likely to be 15 million or more, the highest rate since March of 2008, according to LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area consulting firm. That’s higher than the 14.3 million annual rate so far this year, even though November is normally a lackluster month due to cold weather and holiday anticipation. Both GM and Chrysler predicted November sales would run at an annual rate of 15.3 million.

If sales end up at 15 million for the year, it would be a vast improvement over the 10.4 million during the recession in 2009. Sales would still fall short of the recent peak of around 17 million in 2005.

But the ongoing “fiscal cliff” negotiations between Congress and the White House could still derail the industry’s recovery. The term refers to sharp government spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to start Jan. 1 unless an agreement is reached to cut the budget deficit. Economists say that those measures, if implemented, could push the U.S. economy back into a recession.

“Exactly how much growth we can expect next year will depend in part on how Congress and the president resolve the fiscal cliff issue,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. sales chief. “Markets and consumers hate uncertainty.”

McNeil and other GM executives tried to explain the automaker’s disappointing performance. GM’s biggest brand, Chevrolet, reported flat sales over last year despite new products like the Spark minicar. Silverado pickup sales fell 10 percent.

GM’s sales have been trailing the industry all year. They were up 4 percent through October, compared to the industry-wide increase of 14 percent.

GM said its competitors resorted to higher than usual incentives last month to get rid of 2012 model-year trucks. GM, which had more 2013 trucks on its lots, was only offering an average of $500 per truck, or a third of what others were offering. GM has been trying to hold the line on costly incentives, which can hurt resale value and brand image.

“We want to be known for great products, not great incentives,” McNeil said.

But some analysts think GM will be forced to offer more deals in December to clear out higher-than-forecast inventory.

Asian brands also got a boost from some unusually big discounts, said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for automotive pricing site TrueCar.com. TrueCar estimated that Hyundai and Kia, which were admonished by the U.S. government in late October for overstating gas mileage, increased incentive spending by nearly 30 percent. Nissan spending was up 45 percent to $4,273 per vehicle, by far the highest incentives in the industry.

Toyota said its 17-percent sales increase was partly due to post-Sandy demand. Honda was up 39 percent thanks to strong sales of the new Accord sedan and clearance deals on the outgoing Civic, which was replaced by a new 2013 Civic at the end of the month.

Luxury cars saw their usual yearend surge as holiday commercials started crowding the airwaves. Porsche’s sales rose 71 percent to 3,865, a record month for the automaker. Infiniti, Acura, BMW and Lexus all reported big gains.

Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell said luxury brands have historically targeted their customers at this time of year because of holiday bonuses. That’s no longer a driving factor, she said, but it’s still a good time of year for people to buy 2012 model-year luxury vehicles because dealers are trying to clear them out.

Other automakers reporting sales Monday:

— Chrysler’s sales were up 14 percent. Ram pickups were up 23 percent, while sales of the Fiat 500 minicar more than doubled.

— Hyundai’s sales rose 8 percent, led by the Sonata midsize car and the Elantra compact. TrueCar said Hyundai increased incentives by 30 percent it was admonished by the U.S. government in late October for overstating gas mileage.

— Volkswagen’s sales rose 29 percent on the strength of the Passat sedan, which was up 75 percent.

— Nissan’s sales climbed 13 percent as sales of its new Pathfinder SUV more than tripled over last year.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2012/12/03/business/ap-us-auto-sales.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks: Homeowners in Denial About Value of Properties

Homeowners, especially those who bought their houses after the real-estate bubble burst, are still having trouble accepting just how much the values of their properties may have fallen, says a new report from the real-estate site Zillow.

Current sellers who bought their homes in 2007 or later, an analysis of the site’s home listings shows, are overpricing their properties by an average of 14 percent.

Zillow

Sellers who bought their houses before the bubble, and those who bought during the big run-up in home values, also are overpricing their homes, but not by as much. Those who bought before 2002 are pricing their homes roughly 12 percent over market value, while those who bought from 2002-06 price them about 9 percent over market value.

In the analysis, Zillow compared the asking price of one million homes for sale to the homes’ previous purchase price, then factored in the change in the Zillow Home Value Index for the respective ZIP code, to determine an estimate of that home’s current market value.

Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, says those who bought post-bubble, in 2008, 2009 or later, seem to think they escaped the worse of the housing market debacle and tend to price their homes too high as a result. But 2006 was just the start of the housing recession, which continues today; home values are now down nearly 30 percent from the market’s peak. And, values have fallen about 12 percent from January 2009 through May of this year, he says.

That means, he says, that even people who bought after the bubble burst need to take a hard look at what has happened in their local market since they bought their home. Traditionally, people tend to overprice their homes a bit anyway, to allow room for negotiation. But unrealistic overpricing in the current environment, he says, means properties stagnate.

Sellers, he said, need primarily to consider comparable sales and asking prices in their market when setting an asking price for their home. Factoring in what they paid for their home, or how much they owe on their mortgage, “leads to conclusions that are divorced from the outside market,” he said, and the market determines whether a buyer is interested in your house: “The buyer doesn’t care what you paid or what your mortgage is.”

Of course, some sellers who owe more than their house is worth are limited in how low they can price their home because selling for less than their mortgage means they’ll have to negotiate a short-sale with their bank. “They’re hoping against hope that they can sell at a higher price,” Mr. Humphries said.

But others are simply faced with a reluctance — understandable, to be sure — to sell the house for less than they paid. “They could price more aggressively, but there’s a psychological hurdle,” he says. “They don’t want to realize a loss.”

Humphries foresees home values continuing to fall through the middle of next year for a variety of reasons, including persistent unemployment, a significant pipeline of homes in foreclosure, as well as high rates of homes with negative equity, which means many more will likely end up in foreclosure. A return to a “normal” market is likely at least three years away, he says.

Is your home on the market? What factors went into your asking price?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=33d3119991ae4807443a2a5f6f2443c9

Bucks: Friday Reading: Solar Panels Increase Home Values

April 21

Thursday Reading: Unplugging for the Week

Marking screen-free week, marketing to kids with online games, apps for the royal wedding and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cf21945bcd794b12a38395905a7c6eb1