The big surprise despite low HECM loan volumes



HECM volume and 1st-time borrowers 


[Reverse Market Insight]

RMI’s Jon McCue reviews recent data that reveals a surprising trends despite depressed HECM endorsement activity. Here’s what he had to say…


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Who Wants a Roomie In Their 70s or 80s? You’d Be Surprised.

Some young people think older adults have it good: they’ve saved and invested their money, own a home, and can now simply retire and relax. Meanwhile, the younger set has to work, work, work. Except when they’re texting. Or watching cat videos. Or out getting a super-sized coffee drink. But we digress.

Many Millennials and Gen Zers are sincere, hard-working people just like their predecessors, look forward to getting ahead, and love elders — these folks are often their grandparents, after all. And while some seniors may own a house and be able to qualify for a HECM, others are not so fortunate. The last thing they can imagine in their golden years is to have to leave the home they love due to financial constraints. So, for some, the answer is a roommate.

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Spanning the Decades

reverse mortgage newsNot just any roommate, however: a youthful one. That’s what a nonagenarian former NYU professor did — not because she needed the money, but because her four-story brownstone is a lot of house for one person. After her grown children moved out and her husband passed away, she began taking in lodgers, to help young people get their feet under them in a notoriously expensive rental market, and also for the company and assistance.

Her current housemate, a 23-year-old artist who just graduated from NYU, lives on the top floor of the house rent-free in exchange for light housework, food shopping, and companionship, such as shared meals. It’s mutually rewarding, and helps stave off loneliness, which is epidemic among the senior population.

Making New Friends at An Older Age

Some people are more comfortable living with their own cohort group, which is why businesses such as Silvernest, an online roommate matching service for older adults, are growing along with the burgeoning elder population. The majority of Silvernest site users are seeking a housemate for financial reasons as much as companionship, but that doesn’t mean the arrangement can’t be beneficial on many levels, says Silvernest CEO Wendi Burkhardt.

While an open mind and open heart are important for home-sharing success, it’s equally crucial that seniors not be naïve about who they welcome into their home, say elder care managers. Some ways to find a suitable housemate include:

  • Word of mouth referrals from trusted friends and associates
  • Asking an eldercare professional for leads
  • Having a family member or friend vet the prospective roommate and call references
  • Doing a background check
  • Having clear expectations and a written home-sharing agreement.

Senior Cohousing Comes Into Its Own

Three decades after Danish architect Kathryn McCamant, coauthor of Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, helped bring the cohousing concept to America, this model has begun to take off for elders.

Cohousing refers to a planned residential community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each attached or single family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, and gardens. Neighbors also tend to share resources such as tools and lawnmowers.

While cohousing communities are typically designed for middle-income, multigenerational use, there is a growing need for senior housing for those with more limited resources, notes McCamant, who has designed and built half a dozen such communities for those 55+. Currently, there are thirteen completed senior cohousing communities nationwide, with two more under development and an additional thirteen forming.

A HECM for Purchase might enable a senior or couple to downsize from their larger family home to a cohousing community that meets many of their evolving needs, such as creating a wider network of support.

Maybe even someone who would enjoy watching a cat video now and then..




This Treehouse Isn’t Just for Kids!

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The Housing Shift: Part 2

One of the truly exciting aspects of aging in community today is the ingenuity behind some of the communities being developed. For instance, while senior living options such as Avanti offer an onsite program that encourages residents and kids to mingle and expand one another’s worldview, Treehouse catapults intergenerational living into a unique, visionary direction. 

reverse mortgage newsThe first such mission-driven community, now a decade old, opened in western Massachusetts to support families who are fostering and adopting children from the public foster care system. Offering affordable rentals as well as homes for purchase (good news for HECM loan originators), the community was carefully designed to ensure families and seniors are interspersed around Treehouse Circle, with the Community Center serving as a central gathering space. This inventive model has been so successful it’s now being replicated in California.

Resident Mary Steele, 82, who raised her own granddaughter from age 10, says living at Treehouse “gives me a sense of belonging and satisfaction. Parents need as much support as the kids. This place is ideal because I can continue to make a contribution. I also didn’t want to live with people all the same age.”

Needing to Be Needed

Creative communities such as Treehouse address the deeper issue around senior housing: being of use. It’s crucial to survive and thrive at any age, the more so as we move into elderhood. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, the Dalai Lama writes, “In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed… Selflessness and joy are intertwined. The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.

“We should start each day by consciously asking ourselves, ‘What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?’ We need to make sure that global brotherhood and oneness with others are not just abstract ideas that we profess, but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice.

“Each of us has the responsibility to make this a habit. But those in positions of responsibility have a special opportunity to expand inclusion and build societies that truly need everyone.”

Designing With Aging in Mind

Visionary city planners worldwide are rethinking how to make cities more livable and navigable for residents as they grow older. Intergenerational, sustainable communities are cropping up around the globe, from Kanazawa in Japan to Miss Sargfabrik in Austria. But as expected, the cost of change (and housing) isn’t cheap: homes in Atlanta’s evolving Mado community range from $300,000 to $1 million, though low-income housing options are in the planning stage.

Yet getting around cities with challenging terrain, such as hilly San Francisco, can be difficult as residents age. Bay Area nonprofit Institute on Aging brokered a three-way partnership with ride service leader Lyft and Whistlestop, a senior shuttle-van service, to provide more extensive, wheelchair accessible service to seniors.

“The story needs to be, what can we do to keep people living independently,” says Stephen Johnston, co-founder of Aging2.0. “We need to do a better job of incorporating older people into our lives.”

“Towns are frightened by density,” says Michael Glynn, vice president with National Development in Boston, who has built walkable communities primarily for older homeowners. “But if you build in the right, walkable location, it could do a lot of good for an 85-year-old.”

Aging in Community: With A Little Help from Our Friends

With a little help from our friends…

A year ago we explored some new models for seasoned adult living, beyond assisted living or standard retirement communities. In With A Little Help from Our Friends, aging expert and journalist Beth Baker takes us on a journey through expanded innovation that elders themselves are co-creating.reverse mortgage news

Aging in place is only as good as the place you’re aging in, writes Baker. Today’s mature adults are less likely to swim in the river of denial and more apt to be proactive, taking charge of their current and future independence by focusing on interdependence, the watchword of successful aging in place. And reverse mortgage can play a valuable role in enabling this to happen.

Some of the creative community options reverse mortgage professionals need to be aware of as Boomers become clients:

    1. Villages. Launched with Beacon Hill (a Boston suburb) in 2002, Villages are not actual structures, but neighbor-to-neighbor support systems designed to enable older adults to remain at home as they age. They’re volunteer run, usually with one or two paid staff, and provide everything from a ride to the doctor, to help changing a lightbulb, to grocery shopping — or “just” a friendly ear. Members (the seniors who receive assistance) pay an affordable annual fee, and are encouraged to volunteer to the extent they are able and willing. Villages also organize social events and outings, exercise classes or computer training; whatever the members want. The model is growing rapidly, with nearly 200 Villages now open nationwide and another 150 in development. The Village to Village Network helps communities establish and maintain their own Villages.
    2. Cohousing. The brainchild of a Danish architect, cohousing emerged in the U.S. in the 1980s, and like Villages, is mushrooming. The model enables each household to own (or in some cases, to rent) their own house or condominium, while sharing common space, weekly meals, and other social and lifestyle needs (e.g., cars and lawnmowers). Cohousing is collaborative, non-hierarchical, and can be multigenerational or dedicated to those 55+. Moving to a cohousing community can be an excellent way for seniors to downsize, perhaps with a HECM for Purchase, while creating a wider support network of neighbors and friends for their later years.
      Some cohousing models are designed for a specific elder niche, such as the Babayagas’ House that opened in a Paris suburb in 2012, an affordable urban site for women 50+ whose residents pledge to perform ten hours of weekly chores, and to care for one another with no professional staff. The model has caught fire in Canada, with Baba Yaga Place launching in Toronto.

      For those who become ill while living in cohousing, it may also be a way to live one’s final months without needing to resort to a nursing home. Baker relates the story of one single, childless 60-year-old man living in an intergenerational cohousing community, who developed colon cancer. His neighbors accompanied him to medical appointments, delivered meals, etc., enabling him to live nearly twice as long as his prognosis and to die peacefully at home, surrounded by friends and loved ones who sang to him in his final hours. This is an aspirational vision for both how to live and how to die.

    3. Cooperatives. Similar to cohousing in terms of community focus, housing cooperatives have a distinct legal and financial structure. Autonomy and affordability are two bywords, along with democratic member control and concern for the wider community. While most housing coops are multigenerational, senior housing coops are growing. Community relationships that support elders as they age are one of the strongest reasons seniors cite for choosing this form of retirement living.
    4. Housesharing. While creating community with friends or strangers may seem the purview of college students and twenty-somethings, housesharing is also an economical and creative way for elders to find companionship and reduce expenses in their later years. Some people opt to live among peers; others are comfortable with an intergenerational arrangement, and some just want to rent a room to defray costs — though they may find the tenant becomes a friend. The National Shared Housing Resource Center can help seniors find a shared housing organization in their community.

Affording the Future

In the third section of her book, Baker dives into “getting from here to there,” including accepting help (even if that means a robot assistant or smart home technology), advocating for direct care workers (another term for caregivers) and examining the ways seniors can plan for the unknown.

In lieu of pricey long-term care insurance, Baker suggests that reverse mortgage might be a viable way for mature adults to turn their home equity into cash to use as needed. She writes, “Many of us will likely turn to the value in our home to help pay for care.” With a combination of home healthtech, direct care workers, community support, and available home equity, the next wave of retirees may be able to remain at home until the very end.

The Future of Aging Well

There is the matter of how societal expectations affect where older adults live, which makes the changing senior living landscape a bright field for the reverse mortgage industry. As we’re exploring, the desire to age in place is expanding into ever more creative ways to age in community, which may or may not mean moving from one’s lifelong residence to a smaller (or larger) home, a new area, a co-housing community, or a senior living community.

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Expanding senior housing options & opportunity

How Reverse Mortgages Can Help Seniors Age In Place, Part 2

Whether an older person is considering housing alternatives in the near term, or planning ahead with an eye on possible future needs, it makes good marketing sense for reverse mortgage professionals to become familiar with the range of senior living arrangements available, which will maximize your reverse mortgage marketing efforts.Continue reading