Wall Street Journal Covers Equity Release Programs

image Equity Sharing agreements are all “the rage” at the moment.  In the past few weeks almost every major news publication has covered companies like EquityKey and Rex & Co.  Although each company structures the transactions in different ways, the premise of the arrangement is the same: A homeowner agrees to give up part of a home’s future appreciation in exchange for cash — typically 10% to 15% of the property’s current value.

While the companies decline to say how many clients they have enlisted, it’s clear there is a market for these types of products.  According to the WSJ, Equity Key has seen applications jump 112% in the first six months of 2008, from the previous year.  Rex has seen the dollar value of deals completed in the first half of the year rise 20% from all of 2007.

As the availability for jumbo reverse mortgages has almost totally disappeared, reverse mortgage originators are finding these products are a good fit for some people vs a reverse mortgage.


The WSJ points out that these type of agreements can make financial sense for some older adults. For one, they offer some protection against the current turmoil in real-estate markets by allowing homeowners to cash in a portion of their home’s current value. But these deals also carry considerable risks, according to some real-estate experts.

In the first few years of a contract, lenders are generally protected from bearing their share of the losses. And if a home appreciates over the life of an agreement, this approach could prove more costly than a conventional loan.  “From the perspective of the companies, this may be a very good time to do these deals,” says Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. “When prices rebound, they will capture that in their share of the appreciation.”

Homeowners are using the money for a variety of things including investing in stocks or other investments they expect to outperform residential real estate.  Some others are trading away future profits to pay down debt and fund indulgences, such as renovations and vacations.  The WSJ article goes into much more detail about the products, definitely worth the read.

Trading on the Future

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  • You cannot be employed by a HUD-approved lender (regardless of whether FHA products are being offered)if you are also engaged in another business that is classified as real estate. It’s the same dual employment porohibition that forbids working for two mortgage originators a the same time.

  • On another issue I believe people would have to be either crazy or very desperate to go with a Rex or Equity Key arrangement when homes values are at or near their bottom. In ten years there could be alot of equity you will be giving up. This would have been a good product a few years back when homes values were at the top.

  • First, the correct cites in the HUD Mortgagee Approval Handbook are 2-27D and 2-29C.

    Second, there are wild claims about which are better, reverse mortgages or real estate options. To reach a reasoned conclusion one must not only look at one’s expectation on the economic front both nationally and locally but must also analyze each type of product in light of the borrower’s circumstances. If the reverse mortgage product selected is variable rate, market volatility could make that choice a poor one. Proprietary reverse mortgages also come with a much higher interest rate; they could be a very poor choice in specific situations.

    Simple claims that one must be “crazy” or “desperate” to get one product over another are as poor as statements such as “reverse mortgages are loans of last resort.” Simple conclusions made without any critical analysis of products is a disastrous exercise for seniors. Such claims make us look “desperate” and sometimes “crazy.” Cooler minds need to prevail. Are we more for higher revenues than concern for our customers (I dare not call them “clients”)?

    Recently the head of the Democratic Party in Florida referred to a candidate as a “bogus reverse mortgage peddler.” By our own unreasoned claims we look more like “reverse mortgage peddlers” than “reverse mortgage originators.”

  • Apparently Mr. Veale should read my comments again before responding. I do not see anywhere in my comment about recommending ” one product over another ” In fact I don’t see anything about reverse mortgages in my comment.

    I was responding to the comment in the WSJ article by Susan Watcher ” from the perspective of the companies, this may be a very good time to do these deals”.

    What I was saying is: ” sure, its a good time for the company” but not necessarily for the “customer”.
    If you are getting 10 to 15% of your home’s value at the bottom of the market and sharing 50% of future appreciation I would really crunch the numbers. Over the lifetime of the “deal” you may be paying dearly for a 50K check on a $500,000 home that was appraised at 750K a year ago.

    There are alot of fancy deals being put together by the Wall Street wizards who are responsible for alot of the mess we are in today. Of course this is just my opinion.

  • Mr. Ryal is right and has my apologies. I did misunderstand his use of “desperate” and “crazy” to imply a less desperate and crazy means of accomplishing those same objectives, particularly reverse mortgages.

    Equity Key is a real estate option that applies to almost all types of real estate. For many with investment properties, having a way to get more money out of a property to use in other endeavors may not be so “desperate” or “crazy” as claimed, especially if there are neither debt payments nor interest accruals. For example, if one was to use that money to buy another investment property that rises in net value more quickly than one-half of the value of the optioned property, what is so desperate or crazy about that especially if the newly acquired property generates a positive cash flow? Yes, there is a risk element but what venture in life has no risk involved.

    To some this technique may appear desperate and crazy but many people have made very good incomes from buying stock and selling options. Some have lost more than they have gained while many have sustained a much higher standard of life than their salaries alone would otherwise allow them to attain. Some may be risk adverse to any option making. For them, it is best to stay away from products like Equity Key.

    However, in making broad generalizations and sweeping condemnations one must be careful about the underlying assumptions. Will all home values rise over the next ten years? Homes in some parts of California have less (or marginally more) value today than ten years ago. Can not the same be said for other parts of the country? Like Mr. Ryal implies, giving up a substantial portion of home appreciation should not be entered into lightly. Wall Street (and other streets) has made many goofs and blunders.

    Do all reporters understand the products they are evaluating? A little research would have revealed the inadequacy of the article and a very effective use of at least one of these products.

    As with all financial products, suitability for and to the optioner is paramount. Tax risks and consequences are a significant part of any such analysis.

  • Very wealthy clients are flocking to EquityKey as a reasonable hedge against an uncertain future.

    I have included a few of the basic facts about EquityKey.

    Re: EquityKey: Unlocking the Future Value of Your Home TodayTM.

    Would you consider selling 50% of the future equity of your home, land or commercial real estate if you were paid cash…today? And, the current equity/value of your property will be yours to keep.

    EquityKey may purchase your future equity if you are a qualified owner. The program is straight forward and is subject to applicable terms and conditions.

    How You Would Qualify: At least one owner must:

    Be 65-85 years old
    Owe less then 80% of the home’s value
    Have at least one property value/equity worth $350K+
    Be in good health (no Type 1 diabetes, no smokers, no recent bouts with cancer and no uncontrolled high blood pressure or severe cardiac issues.)
    Who is EquityKey?

    Owned by KBC Financial Products, a subsidiary of Belgium-based KBC bank NV
    KBC manages an estimated 450 billion in assets, 11 million customers in 30 countries
    KBC is focused on working with private clients
    What are the Benefits?

    Each qualified owner can receive cash equal to 10-15% of the property value
    No closing cost are involved – just a simple application fee (refundable if not qualified or when the program funds)
    Funds are NOT a loan. (This is NOT a reverse mortgage)
    Equity Options USA is a Certified EquityKey Broker and will be happy to answer your questions regarding this opportunity. Please contact David H. Schwartz, (877) 777-4727 or e-mail me using http://EquityOptionsUSA.com

    Warm Regards,

    David H. Schwartz

  • Would appreciate info on Equity Release (not reverse mortgage), qualifications of owner and property, whether you work with Oregon residents, how you secure the funds you supply.

    Thank you,

    Howard Langston

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