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We will make the calculator available free of charge to any HECM lender to place on their website. The only proviso is that the lender also posts its prices with us so that borrowers can compare the prices with those of other lenders.

Many seniors will be frustrated by even the most user-friendly calculator that is possible to design. They need personalized guidance on their HECM options and whether or not they want to proceed, which is best provided by someone who is not trying to sell them a HECM.

Under current law, before executing a HECM contract, a senior must be counseled by an independent party unconnected to the lender. While seniors can seek such counsel before contacting a lender, in practice they almost always contact a lender first and the lender provides them with a list of counselors. In good part, this defeats the purpose of the rule.

A major reason why borrowers don’t get counseled before they see a lender is that counselors don’t provide guidance on specific HECM options, HUD rules discourage it, and in any case counselors don’t have the tools to assess specific options. To find out how much they can draw, which is the first question seniors generally ask, they go to a lender.

Beginning Feb. 3, any senior with an interest in whether an HECM will meet their needs can obtain free guidance from me, one of my colleagues, or from a mortgage broker working pro bono to help a senior from a state in which the broker is not licensed. Seniors can register for an appointment on my website.

Jack Guttentag is professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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