Category Archives: senior living

How reverse mortgages staged a comeback

Professor Chris Mayer has a lesson for ­homeowners: Reverse mortgages, which let older Americans tap their home equity without selling or moving, aren’t as risky as some say. In an online video, he brushes aside “common misconceptions,” including fears about losing your home.

Mayer, a real estate professor at Columbia Business School, isn’t an impartial observer. He’s chief executive officer of a company that sells reverse mortgages. He’s trying to rehabilitate one of the U.S.’s most-­reviled financial products—part of a broader push that relies in part on academics with interests in the mortgage industry.

The host of Mayer’s talk was the American College of Financial Services, a school that trains financial planners and insurance agents. Until recently, it had a task force funded by reverse mortgage companies, which each contribute $40,000 a year. They include Mayer’s firm, Longbridge Financial, and Quicken Loans’ One Reverse Mortgage.

To show the need for reverse mortgages, industry websites cite a Boston College retirement research center run by Alicia Munnell, a professor and former assistant secretary of the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration. She once invested $150,000 in Mayer’s company, though she’s since sold her stake.

The six-year-old task force cites key successes. Mainstream publications have run articles quoting positive research on the loans, and financial planners are growing more comfortable recommending them. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities industry’s self-regulatory agency, in 2014 withdrew its warning that reverse mortgages should generally be used as “a last resort.”

Mayer and Munnell said they’ve fully disclosed, in research, appearances, and interviews, their financial interest in the lender. Columbia and Boston College both said they approved the arrangements.

The professors and industry officials say these government-backed mortgages deserve a second look, partly because of a series of federal reforms in recent years designed to protect taxpayers and consumers.

“We are looking to help people responsibly incorporate home equity in their retirement planning,” Mayer said of Longbridge.

Reverse mortgages let homeowners draw down their equity in monthly installments, lines of credit or lump sums. The balance grows over time and comes due on the borrower’s death, at which point their heirs may pay off the loan when they sell the house. Borrowers must keep paying taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities—and could face foreclosure if they don’t.

While even critics say the mortgages can make sense for some customers, they say the loans are still too expensive and can tempt seniors to spend their home equity early, before they might need it for health expenses.

Fees on a $100,000 loan, based on a $200,000 home, can total $10,000. Because the fees are typically wrapped into the mortgage, they compound at interest rates that can rise over time. Homeowners who need cash could be better off selling and moving to less expensive quarters.

“The profits are significant, the oversight is minimal, and greed could work to the disadvantage of seniors who should be protected by government programs and not targeted as prey,” said Dave Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association until last year and a commissioner for the Federal Housing Administration in the Obama administration.

Academics represent a new face for an industry that’s long relied on aging celebrity pitchmen. The late Fred Thompson, a U.S. senator and Law & Order actor, represented American Advisors Group, the industry’s biggest player. These days, the same company leans on actor Tom Selleck.

“Just like you, I thought reverse mortgages had to have some catch,” Selleck says in an online video. “Then I did some homework and found out it’s not any of that. It’s not another way for a bank to get your house.”

Michael Douglas, in his Golden Globe-winning performance on the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, satirizes such pitches. His financially desperate character, an acting teacher, quits filming a reverse mortgage commercial because he can’t stomach the script.

In 2016 administrative proceedings, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accused American Advisors, as well as two other companies, of running deceptive ads. Without admitting or denying the allegations, American Advisors agreed to add more caveats to its advertising and pay a $400,000 fine.

Company spokesman Ryan Whittington said the company has since made “significant investments” in compliance. Reverse mortgages are “highly regulated, viable financial tools,” and all customers must undergo third-party counseling before buying one, he said.

The FHA has backed more than 1 million such reverse mortgages. Homeowners pay into an insurance fund an upfront fee equal to 2 percent of a home’s value, as well as an additional half a percentage point every year.

After the last housing crash, taxpayers had to make up a $1.7 billion shortfall because of reverse mortgage losses. Over the past five years, the government has been tightening rules, such as requiring homeowners to show they can afford tax and insurance payments.

In response to public concerns, Shelley Giordino, then an executive at reverse mortgage company Security 1 Lending, co-founded the Funding Longevity Task Force in 2012. It later became affiliated with the Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania-based American College of Financial Services.

Giordino, who now works for Mutual of Omaha’s reverse mortgage division, described her role as “head cheerleader” for positive reverse mortgages research. Gregg Smith, CEO of One Reverse Mortgage, said the group is promoting “true academic research,” including work by professors with no industry ties.

In January, the American College cut its ties with the task force because the school, as a nonprofit institution, wasn’t comfortable being affiliated with an organization endorsing products, according to Vice President James N. Katsaounis. “A proper retirement portfolio is one that is well-balanced and diversified, which may or may not include reverse mortgages,” he said.

Mayer, the Columbia professor and reverse mortgage company CEO, said many older consumers could benefit from the loans because they can never owe more than their house is worth even if real estate prices plunge.

A former economist at the Federal Reserve of Boston with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mayer joined the Columbia faculty in 2004 and currently co-­directs Columbia’s Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate. He wrote his first paper on reverse mortgages in 1994, when the FHA product was five years old.

In 2012, Mayer co-founded Longbridge, based in Mahwah, New Jersey, and in 2013 became CEO. He’s on the board of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. He said his company, which services 10,000 loans, hasn’t had a single completed foreclosure because of failure to pay property taxes or insurance.

While many colleges let professors engage in outside business activities, Gerald Epstein, a University of Massachusetts economics professor who’s studied academic conflicts of interest, said Columbia may need to scrutinize Mayer’s arrangement closely.

“They really should be careful when people have this kind of dual loyalty,” he said.

Columbia said it monitors Mayer’s employment as CEO of the mortgage company to ensure compliance with its policies. “Professor Mayer has demonstrated a commitment to openness and transparency by disclosing outside affiliations,” said Chris Cashman, a spokesman for the business school. Mayer has a “special appointment,” which reduces his salary and teaching load and also caps his hours at Longbridge, Cashman said.

Likewise, Boston College said it reviewed Professor Munnell’s investment in Mayer’s company, on whose board she served from 2012 through 2014. Munnell said another round of investors in 2016 bought out her $150,000 stake in Longbridge for an additional $4,000 in interest.

She said she now prefers another approach: States allowing seniors to defer property tax payments. The advantages include “no fee, no paperwork and no salespeople,” she said. In one way, she’s glad she exited her reverse mortgage investments.

“Anytime I had a conversation like this, I had to say at the beginning that I have $150,000 in Longbridge,” she said. “I had to do it all the time. I’m just as happy to be out, for my academic life.”

 

Source: Copyright Bloomberg News – Business News 13 Mar 2019

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Hitched then ditched by marriage ‘predator’

Galina Baron married an elderly man named Charlie Juzumas with a promise he'd never have to go to a nursing home. A judge later said she had "unclean hands" after her son's name was added to the title of Juzumas' house.

Galina Baron, 65, married Charlie Juzumas, 89, with the promise that he’d never have to go to a nursing home. He didn’t know it yet, but he had just become entangled in a predatory marriage.

She promised to be a caring bride who’d keep him out of a nursing home.

When the wedding was done, Galina Baron left her 89-year-old husband at a Toronto subway stop.

Charlie Juzumas took the TTC home, alone. He didn’t know it yet, but he had just become entangled in a predatory marriage.

Juzumas was Baron’s sixth or maybe eighth husband. She had trouble remembering them all, according to a 2012 Ontario Superior Court judgment filed after Juzumas tried to reclaim the house she took from him.

This story is based on Justice Susan Lang’s court judgment, an affidavit and interviews. Baron and her son, Yevgeni, refused to comment.

Juzumas was the husband who got away, but it was a precarious escape.

When Baron married him on Sept. 27, 2007, the 65-year-old bride had been offering caretaking to vulnerable widowers with the expectation of a mention in their will, according to the judgment.

Age was not Juzumas’ weakness. He did yard work, planted flowers and seemed entirely self-sufficient, although he once accepted a tenant’s offer to climb a ladder and remove storm windows. His vulnerability came from a fear of dying in a nursing home.

It’s unclear if Baron knew this when she knocked on his door in 2006. Both were born in Lithuania, 24 years apart. Baron spoke the language of his home country and offered housework.

He was reluctant but she kept coming back. As her visits increased to three times a week, he started to see her as a saviour who’d keep him at home.

Juzumas’ wife, Malvina, died a decade earlier and they had no children, but his memories lived in this house. It was a three-storey Victorian, with stained-glass windows near the west Toronto neighbourhood of Beaconsfield.

Baron pushed for marriage, saying she merely wanted a widow’s pension. She clinched the deal by promising he’d never go to a nursing home.

The day before they married, Baron and Juzumas went to see a lawyer named Stan Mamak in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. The court judgment detailed Mamak’s actions.

In a recent interview, Mamak said he did his best to independently represent Juzumas’ interests and believed the elderly man was a willing participant. “Just because someone is old doesn’t mean they are infirm,” he said.

Without meeting Juzumas separately to ask his wishes, Mamak wrote a will making Baron the sole executor and beneficiary of his estate, the judgment found.

Baron never did move in, but she spent her daytime visits berating him, according to witness testimony, the judgment said. She got joint access to his bank account. He paid her $800 a month for housekeeping and she took all but $100 of his tenants’ $1,300 monthly rent, said the judgment, which found Baron had “unclean hands.”

According to her affidavit, his new tenant, Pamela Detlor, studied Juzumas’ reaction to Baron. The moment Baron marched through his front door, Juzumas’ shoulders slumped, Detlor said. He was so afraid to speak that she initially thought he was mute. Later, he’d confide his troubles in Detlor saying, “I am a stupid old man,” according to the judgment.

Two years after the wedding, Juzumas realized he’d made a mistake, both in marriage and in the will that gave Baron his estate. He went to a different lawyer who wrote a new will. (The judgment doesn’t say why he didn’t choose Mamak, the original lawyer who wrote the first will of their marriage.) Baron would now inherit $10,000. The rest was bequeathed to his niece in Lithuania. The bulk of his estate came from his home, worth roughly $600,000 in 2009.

Baron soon discovered this act of rebellion. She went to see Mamak. The judgment states that Mamak believed it was Baron who was the victim, a “wronged, vulnerable spouse/caregiver.”

Mamak told the Star that Baron described Juzumas as a violent man, saying she claimed he threatened to cut her in half with a sword.

“In retrospect, I feel she was probably trying to manipulate my image of her — that she was an innocent victim,” Mamak said.

Together, Baron and Mamak came up with the idea to transfer the title of the house to her son, Yevgeni, the judgment found. Mamak said he improved the agreement, letting Juzumas live in the house with his name on title until his death.

A meeting was arranged to add Baron’s son Yevgeni to the house title. That morning, 91-year-old Juzumas ate a bowl of Baron’s soup, becoming “dizzy, as if I’d taken a strong drink,” he later told court.

Tired and disoriented, Juzumas signed the papers, giving away his financial security to a young man he disliked. The judgment later found there was no evidence Mamak spoke to Juzumas without Baron in the room, nor did he tell him the new agreement was “virtually eviscerating” his recent will. (Mamak said he believes he spoke to Juzumas independently but has no notes to prove it.)

When Juzumas learned of Baron’s ruse through a legal followup letter two weeks later, Juzumas’ long-time neighbour, Ferne Sinkins, drove him to the lawyer’s office. Baron arrived a few minutes later, but was told to wait. Juzumas emerged from his meeting with Mamak saying he was told the transfer was “in the computer; it can’t be changed,” the judgment said.

He returned the following week with the same request. Again, Baron appeared — an “unexplained coincidence,” the judge found. (Mamak denied tipping off Baron, saying she was probably following Juzumas.) This time, she demanded a new will and power of attorney over his medical care.

At home, his tenant thought he was “doped up.” His neighbour questioned the large gash on his forehead. Juzumas said he passed out, adding that Baron told him he fell down the stairs. He didn’t want to go to the hospital, fearing he’d be taken to a nursing home. During a rare evening visit, Baron called an ambulance claiming Juzumas was sick. His tenant, Detlor, told the attendants of Baron’s abuse.

Questioned by hospital staff, Baron called Juzumas a violent, pathological liar who should be sent to a nursing home. Instead, staff sent him home where helpful tenant Detlor insisted he change the locks. The day Baron came to get a few possessions left on the porch, Juzumas lay flat on the couch so she couldn’t see him.

Juzumas took his case to court. Baron fought back. The judge gave him a divorce and reversed the transfer of his house, blaming it on Baron and Yevgeni’s “undue influence of a vulnerable elder.”

Two years later, Juzumas sold his home for $910,000 and, neighbours said, returned to Lithuania with his niece.

Source: Toronto Star  Investigative News reporter, Published on Sun Apr 17 2016

Galina Baron married an elderly man named Charlie Juzumas with a promise he'd never have to go to a nursing home. A judge later said she had "unclean hands" after her son's name was added to the title of Juzumas' house.

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Seniors look to their home for financing the future

Canadian seniors consistently report that they prefer to live at home and age in place, instead of moving to assisted living. Yet, they also report that financial challenges are the biggest hurdle to doing so.

A recent report from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) shows that 93% of seniors live at home and prefer to age in place. And, HomEquity Bank statistics support this, reporting that 60% of retired Canadians describe staying in their home as critical to their quality of life.

“Every day, our team hears from older Canadians who want to remain in their homes and communities, but find the financial challenges very stressful,” says Yvonne Ziomecki, SVP, HomEquity Bank. “We work with seniors to help them explore utilizing the equity in their homes so they can continue to live in a familiar environment – which in most cases is the family home.”

According to the FCM report:

  • 700,000 senior-led households face a housing affordability challenge;
  • a combination of modest incomes and high living costs mean that one in four senior-led households are spending more than 30% of their income on shelter; and
  • seniors who live alone experience poverty at twice the rate of other seniors.

One reason finances have been adversely affected, notes the FCM study, is because only one-third of the Canadian workforce is covered by a registered pension plan, down from 37% in 1992.

HomEquity Bank stats show 30% of Canadians nearing retirement have $50,000 or less in savings. And, almost 70% of those nearing retirement are still carrying debt, with 35% of Canadians nearing retirement planning on using the value of their home to generate retirement income.

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca Donald Horne | 07 Jan 2016

Are you a senior who would like to stay in your own home and worried about being able to afford it? Book your know obligation consultation with the Ray McMillan Mortgage Team or visit www.RayMcMillan.com and let us explore your options together.

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How to change your client’s mind on reverse mortgages

As more seniors look to this type of financing to help their adult children as well as finance their retirement, brokers can clear up these misconceptions.

“More Canadian seniors are looking to a reverse mortgage as a way to supplement their retirement income. For many, it helps them to remain in their homes as they age,” saysHomEquity Bank SVP of marketing & sales, Yvonne Ziomecki. “When it comes to finances, we want to educate Canadians on their options, and clear up misconceptions around the reverse mortgage.”

Ziomecki shared with MPA these Top 10 Facts That Will Make You Change Your Mind on Reverse Mortgages to help brokers clear up any misgivings that clients may have:

1) Once you are approved for a reverse mortgage, you are approved for life;

2) You can qualify for a reverse mortgage regardless of your credit rating or income level;

3) You will still have equity left in your home. Even after arranging a reverse mortgage, in most cases, HomEquityBank clients have an average of 50% of the equity left in their homes;

4) You can’t sign final documents without first receiving Independent Legal Advice. That means all Canadian seniors must receive independent counsel before a reverse mortgage can be arranged;

5) Arranging a reverse mortgage is not complicated. Some seniors have described arranging a CHIP reverse mortgage as “the simplest financial transaction ever arranged;”

6) Reverse mortgage rates are as low as Prime plus 1.25%;

7) Money is of course tax free, and can help you lower your overall tax liability;

8) If one spouse dies, there are no changes to the terms of the reverse mortgage. The loan does not have to be repaid and you don’t have to requalify;

9) Reverse mortgages provide you with an opportunity to diversify your retirement portfolio; and

10) We have different rules in Canada when it comes to reverse mortgages, so don’t look to U.S. sources for information.

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca   Donald Horne | 18 Jun 2015