It’s not just the housing market that’s poised for a big shift. So is reverse mortgage lending.
While industry participants have typically concerned themselves with potential changes to the federally-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program or state regulations another sea change is approaching the horizon.
There’s an old investing adage that says, “don’t fight the Fed”. In other words, wise investors align their financial decisions with the current monetary policy of the Federal Reserve. Mortgage originators of all stripes did just that. Traditional mortgage lenders certainly did.
For the last two years refinance transactions have been the rage for traditional and reverse lenders as the central bank slashed interest rates in the effort to stave off a recession due to Covid-19 shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. However, by late April after a series of rate hikes by the Fed, mortgage refinance volume collapsed to 68% less than it was one year ago. Can we expect the same for HECM refinances?
Quite honestly it’s too early to tell. FHA’s March HECM snapshot shows that 48% of all HECM transactions were for refinances. In the same month, 40% of FHA case number assignments for submitted HECM applications were for HECM-to-HECM refinances. What’s notable is that are nearly 10% fewer applications for a refinance than in January of this year and that may actually be good news.
In March traditional non-refinance and purchase applications accounted for 59% of all case number assignments. That’s a notable increase from January when only 50% of case numbers were for traditional and purchase HECM applications. Anecdotally this seems to indicate with fewer refinance opportunities available originators returned their focus to finding new first-time HECM borrowers.
To even the casual observer it’s quite obvious that rising interest rates and flattening home values will splash a modest amount of cold water on both traditional and mortgage lending volumes. However, reverse mortgage professionals have a unique advantage over traditional mortgage lenders. While unfortunate, inflation will thwart the ability of many middle-aged Americans to adequately save for retirement. While retirement deposits decline home equity will continue to accrue with the forced-savings plan which required mortgage payments require; all to the homeowner’s benefit; a benefit which they may be able to tap into using a reverse mortgage.
It would be both prudent and desirable to see non-refinance HECM volume continue to increase to replace what was once a reliable source of funded loans. After all, like the seasons bring hotter days and chilly nights, HECM refinances will become the notable exception rather than the rule. Despite rising rates and uncertain home values, our turbulent economy is increasing the necessity for additional cash flow. And that is where we ultimately stand.