Mortgage Professor: Reverse Mortgage Websites Not Designed for Shoppers

In the final installment of a five-part series on reverse mortgages, The Mortgage Professor, also known as Jack Guttentag, advises consumers on shopping around for the loans. 

Guttentag advises borrowers to select the loan option they will use before they shop. In other words, they should know whether they want a Saver or Standard at a fixed rate or an adjustable rate. 

Finding that websites for reverse mortgage shoppers are largely un-user-friendly, Guttentag visited the sites of 42 reverse mortgage lenders in California and found only one—All Reverse Mortgage—to be complete. 


The websites of HECM originators are not designed for shoppers. I visited the sites of 42 HECM lenders in California who belong to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. Only seven showed HECM prices without requiring me to identify myself, and on six of the seven, the data was incomplete and user-unfriendly. Only one — All Reverse Mortgage Company — provided data that was both complete and readily understandable.

…A potentially confusing feature of HECMs is that they use two interest rates. The “expected” rate is used at the outset to determine the net principal limit (NPL), which is the maximum amount the borrower can draw. The loan rate is applied to the loan each month to calculate the interest that is added to the balance each month.

This is not a problem on FRMs because the loan rate is the expected rate. Because a higher rate and higher fees reduce the NPL, borrowers can shop the NPL — the HECM offering the largest draw is the best.

Unfortunately, there is an important exception to this rule. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not recognize expected rates below 5 percent, so that an FRM at 4.5 percent and at 5 percent that are otherwise identical have the same NPL.

Hence, the simplest way to shop for an FRM is to seek the lowest loan rate. If you are faced with a choice between lender A who has a lower origination fee and lender B who has a lower rate, choose the one with the lowest future loan balance in the year that is your best guess as to how long you will have the mortgage.

View the original article at Inman News or the Mortgage Professor’s website

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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  • Jack’s right – Cliff and Michael have created the friendliest and most informative website available.  I love reading the articles … they’re well written and very informative.

  • If you’re in business to make a profit, the purpose of your Website is to generate direct communication and therefore: leads, not overly empower consumers who are trying to avoid talking to you.

  • Dr. Guttentag states:  “The Saver option is for borrowers with short time horizons who want to minimize the loss of equity in their home. Those who plan to stay in their house indefinitely should opt for the standard HECM.”  
    The quotation reflects the antiquated thinking of the past.  It seems Dr. Guttentag has assumed that Saver borrowers will draw down all (or nearly all) of the proceeds near closing and will not repay any significant portion of the total amount due and outstanding until at or near Saver termination .  His article ignores the personal financial planning research currently being performed and the recommendations coming out of that research.  His reasoning is entirely in line with the conventional wisdom of the past.

    Reading the article helps one understand whose website Dr. Guttentag would recommend and why.  When the evaluator has such a limited and biased point of view, his recommendations reflect that view.  While the cited website may be the best in the history of the industry, the article makes one wonder if it has much functionality.

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