The government protects its financial interests in home loans by setting standards for properties. The Federal Housing Administration insures mortgages for borrowers of modest means, including reverse mortgages for senior citizens. The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage -- HECM -- allows borrowers age 62 and older to tap into their home's equity periodically or in a lump sum. To qualify, a home must meet the Department of Housing and Urban Development's minimum property standards for safety, durability and marketability.
A single-family home of one to four units must meet general standards to qualify for a HECM. Existing and new constructions must sit on a single parcel. A single property that is comprised of multiple parcels must be grouped in such a way that the property is manageable and marketable, says the HUD Handbook for Minimum Property Standards. The property must be accessible without the need to trespass through neighboring properties. The home must also have its own utilities and be free of hazardous conditions that affect structural soundness or occupant health and safety.
Site conditions must be suitable for the property type. The land must provide functional and economical stability for the home, while permitting correction of potential hazards. Structures, paved areas and utilities must be located on the site in areas where the least ground-water hazard exists. Additionally, site design, building orientation, window placement and barriers must protect against predictable and undesirable site noise. A home must have adequate parking and walkways with safe access to the dwelling. The site must be graded such that the land provides sufficient drainage away from the structure; experiences minimal erosion and settlement problems; and does not drain runoff onto neighboring properties.
Building and Construction
A home that adheres to HUD's minimum property standards is easy to circulate; provides visual and noise privacy and economy in maintenance and use of space. Each dwelling must have at least one lavatory for bathing that measures no less than 6 feet in height. Entrances must have hinged doors not less than 6 feet high and 8 inches wide. Doors and windows that provide exterior access to the home must have locking devices for occupant safety. Homes must also provide proper ventilation openings protected by corrosion-resistant wire mesh.
The quality of materials used on a dwelling must ensure durability, economy of maintenance and adequate resistance to weather, moisture, corrosion and fire, according to HUD. Building insulation must be installed at a height unaffected by vermin, water and soil. Doors must be single-unit manufactured pieces. No paint may contain more than 0.06 percent lead by weight, and paint used on exterior surfaces must be mold resistant or used in conjunction with a fungicide.
- HUD: Minimum Property Standards
- HUD: Handbook 4910.1: General Acceptability Criteria
- HUD: Handbook 4910.1: Site Design
- HUD: Handbook 4910.1: Building Design
- HUD: Handbook 4910.1: Materials
- HUD: Handbook 4910.1: Construction
- HUD: Home Equity Conversion Mortgages for Seniors
- HUD: FHA Reverse Mortgages (HECMs) for Seniors
- USA Today: Money Watch: How Risky Is a FHA Reverse Mortgage?
K.C. Hernandez has covered real estate topics since 2009. She is a licensed real estate salesperson in San Diego since 2004. Her articles have appeared in community newspapers but her work is mostly online. Hernandez has a Bachelor of Arts in English from UCLA and works as the real estate expert for Demand Media Studios.