What is a HECM Saver Loan? How Does the HECM Saver Work?

HECM Saver – the best alternative to any seniors considering a home equity line of credit or home equity loan – Learn how the HECM Saver can benefit your retirement. 

The HECM Saver is one of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s reverse mortgage products where the upfront loan closing costs are lower than those associated with a standard HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) reverse mortgage.  For those who are approaching retirement age and don’t have a retirement plan in place, the HECM Saver is a cost-effective way to finance this stage in life and can bring peace of mind.

Before going into the details, a brief explanation of a reverse mortgage is needed.  A reverse mortgage is a type of equity release and is sometimes referred to as a lifetime mortgage.  It is available to homeowners who are over 62 years of age and allows them to access some of the equity in their home they have built up over years or decades of mortgage payments.   Borrowers can receive payment in a lump sum or can receive funds in monthly payments.

In other words, a reverse mortgage is a loan against the value of a person’s home.  Unlike a traditional loan or home equity loan, no repayment (principal or interest) is required or made until the home is sold or the borrower dies.  The entire transaction is structured in such a way that the amount of the reverse mortgage will not exceed the value of the home.  For example, with some lending institutions, a reverse mortgage cannot exceed 70% of the home’s appraised value.

In brief: why a reverse mortgage is better than other options

Unfortunately, due to the economic reality of the present times, people who have worked all their lives and are approaching retirement age or who have already retired may not have enough money to fund their retirement.  People in their 60s who have been paying a mortgage for years or decades might find themselves in a situation where their pensions or other sources of income simply will not be enough to pay the bills.  There are several solutions to the problem, but none of the following would be considered ideal.  These less than ideal solutions include:

§  Selling the family home and downsizing  which is heartbreaking for many

§  Getting a home equity loan which may be too expensive and borrowers risk losing their home if payments aren’t made

§  Renting a room or part of the home to a stranger which means loss of privacy and living space.

§  Doing nothing, which means continuing to pay the mortgage but cutting back on other expensive such as groceries, heating, medicines and other necessities for a comfortable life.

The standard reverse mortgage can be expensive

After reading through the above options, one can see why a reverse mortgage makes sense:  a homeowner can fund his or her retirement and not worry about paying the amount back until the house is sold or until he or she no longer lives in the residence.   However, one complaint that some seniors have about reverse mortgages is that the upfront loan closing costs are simply too high to be affordable.  If a house has an appraised value of $500,000, the borrower will need to pay about $10,000 in loan closing costs.  For those who are already watching their pennies, the closing costs are too dear.

to find out exactly how much you can borrow please get a free online reverse mortgage quote.

The HECM Saver

This is where the HECM Saver comes in; although less money can be borrowed, the upfront cost of the loan at closing is reduced by almost 40%.  The owner of the previously mentioned $500,000 home will only pay $50 in upfront premiums.

“Despite the popularity of our HECM loan product, we have noted concerns that some senior citizens find that our fees are too high for them,” FHA Commissioner David Stevens stated in 2010.  “In response, we created HECM Saver which will provide seniors with a reverse mortgage option that significantly lowers costs by almost eliminating the upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) that is required under the standard HECM option.”

The HECM Standard option, which is a regular reverse mortgage offered by HUD and resembles reverse mortgage products offered by other lending institutions and banks, the upfront premium that must be paid at closing is 2 percent of the value of the borrower’s property.  With the HECM Saver, the upfront premium is slashed dramatically to only 0.01 percent of the property’s value.  For many homeowners who are looking to fund their retirement or simply need some extra cash, the HECM Saver can be a lifeline.  The Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) for both types of reverse mortgage will be charged on a monthly basis at an annual rate of 1.25 percent of the outstanding balance on the loan.

As mentioned earlier, the amount borrowers receive under the HECM Saver option will be substantially reduced.  Borrowers will receive up to 18 percent less than they would under the HECM Standard option.  Due to the reduced amount borrowers will receive, the risk to the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) insurance fund is considerably reduced.

to get an idea of how much you can receive use our free HECM calculator online.

HECM Saver and HECM Standard borrowers can choose to receive the funds as a lump sum, as a line of credit or as fixed monthly payments that will continue for as long as they live in their home.  As with all reverse mortgages, interest will accrue, but the loan doesn’t need to be repaid until the borrower dies, leaves the home as a primary residence or sells the house.   If the balance due on the loan is more than the value of the property when the borrower leaves the home or passes away, the FHA insurance will pay the difference; debt is not transferred to heirs.

Who should consider an HECM Saver?

If a homeowner has already crunched some numbers and has found that the amount he or she can borrow with the HECM Saver will cover all of his or her needs, then it simply makes more sense to get the HECM Saver rather than a standard reverse mortgage.   However, if he or she needs to receive the maximum allowable amount, the HECM Standard will be better, although it will be much more expensive up front.

The HECM Saver makes sense if a homeowner only needs a small amount; if the borrower is only planning on spending a couple more years in his or her home or just wants enough money to renovate a part of the house, it is the most suitable loan.   According to Don Redfoot, the AARP’s Public Policy Institute strategic policy advisor: “The HECM Saver is less expensive if you take small loans for short periods.”

In short, if a home is valued at $500,000, a borrower will save almost $10,000 on the cost of the loan.

Who qualifies for HECM Saver/ Standard reverse mortgages?

In a nutshell, to qualify for a reverse mortgage, applicants must:

§  be 62 years of age or older

§  own their primary residence

§  must have equity in their home

§  must have an outstanding balance on the mortgage that is LESS than the loan amount that can be received by an HECM.

§  must never have defaulted on government debt.

Credit checks are not carried out when homeowners apply for an HECM, and applicants to not need to earn a specified income.   Applicants will have to go through a counselling session with an HUD representative, and homeowners will still need to pay things such as homeowners insurance premiums and real estate taxes.   Failure to pay these could result in the borrower losing his or her home.


HECM Saver and HECM Standard options are meant to be widely available and flexible so that seniors can live their retirement years in relative comfort, free of financial hardship.  A general rule of thumb is that older applicants will be eligible to receive more money.


HECM Saver and HECM Standard can be used traditionally, for the purchase of a new home, and for refinancing.


A borrower can opt from one of five payment plans.

§  Tenure

§  Term

§  Line of credit

§  Modified tenure

§  Modified term.

A homeowner can also select one of two interest rate indices:

§  Constant Maturity Rate

§  London Interbank Offered Rate.

And finally, a borrower can select an adjustable rate mortgage (monthly and annual) or a fixed interest rate mortgage.


If you are a senior or are quickly approaching retirement age and want to have some financial security  after spending a lifetime of working, rather than sell your home or rent part of it out, consider getting an HECM Saver reverse mortgage.  While any type of reverse mortgage will be better than a home equity loan if you don’t have savings or sufficient income, you may want to skip applying for an HECM Standard because the upfront costs can be very high, depending on the value of your home.

Before applying for any sort of reverse mortgage or home equity loan, speak with an HUD counsellor or your financial advisor; making the wrong choice may cost you thousands of dollars and you may lose your home.

If you have questions and want to learn more about reverse mortgages and other financial options that are available, speak with your lending institution or visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.   With some help and sound advice, you will be able to finance your retirement and enjoy some deserved peace of mind.