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Call it the estate-devouring, nightmare home loan you hope to never encounter: A reverse mortgage with a base interest rate of 9.95 percent, plus a 50 percent share for the lender of increases in value of the house following closing, plus another 2 percent “maturity fee” to sweeten the payout even more. On top of that, there’s a $33,000 mandatory purchase of an annuity by the homeowner that is added to the principal balance and incurs compounding interest while lessening the lender’s future payments to the homeowner.
Is this for real? Do mortgages with terms like this actually exist in this country today? They do. Talk to Sarah Havemeyer of Southampton, N.Y., who’s been fighting a California bank in court for two years over her late mother’s reverse mortgage that dates back to 1997. Although the bank, OneWest, has not yet provided a total of what it believes is owed on the reverse mortgage, according to Havemeyer, she estimates it could be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million to $1.6 million. By comparison, the amount that Havemeyer’s mother actually received from the reverse mortgage between 1997 and her death in 2010 was just $272,911.51. A reverse mortgage places a lien against a senior’s home in exchange for periodic or lump sum payments. The full amount borrowed does not come due until the borrower dies, moves out or sells the home.
OneWest, for its part, isn’t talking. The bank declined to discuss either Havemeyer’s litigation or any details of the reverse mortgage terms. The law firm representing OneWest’s subsidiary that claims ownership of the reverse mortgage note – Financial Freedom Acquisition LLC – did not respond to a request for comment.
Financial Freedom has filed for foreclosure, seeking payment of the $272,911.51, plus “interest at the rate stated” in the mortgage along with legal and other fees. The filing did not indicate that a huge chunk of the “interest” due flows from its 50-50 share in the appreciation of the house from $556,000 in 1997 to its approximate current value around $1.8 million.
Havemeyer, who is serving as executrix of her mother’s estate, is challenging the foreclosure, claiming that Financial Freedom has not been able to present documentation that it actually owns the mortgage, and the terms of the loan are “unconscionable and usurious” and violate state law.