Understanding Reverse Mortgages
Seniors today often live with a great deal of financial uncertainty. The retirement they imagined may not be consistent with the reality they face.
Incomes are flat or declining, living and medical expenses are higher than ever and few income boosting alternatives exist. Even those who have heard about Reverse Mortgages may be unsure about how they work or what questions to ask. As they search for information, they often turn to their financial institution for guidance and information. By becoming familiar with the product, you can be an even more valuable resource to your clients providing them with supplementing alternatives to drawing down assets.
What is a Reverse Mortgage?
A Reverse Mortgage is a special type of loan that allows a homeowner to convert a portion of the equity in their home into cash they can access. The funds are not taxable to the homeowner and typically don’t interfere with eligibility for Social Security or Medicare benefits. (However, in the federal Supplemental Security Income program, beneficiaries must keep their liquid resources under certain limits.) The customer retains title to the home as well as right to any appreciation in home value when the loan terminates after it is paid off. The loan remains in force until the last titleholder dies, permanently leaves the home or sells the property; the borrower can't be forced to sell or move by the lender. The loan may be repaid at any time. But unlike a traditional home equity loan or second mortgage, no monthly payments are required. Instead of putting further pressure on an already stretched budget, a Reverse Mortgage can free a senior homeowner of monthly debt obligations.
Most Reverse Mortgages today are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) and are FHA-insured and guaranteed. Because HECMs are subject to FHA lending limits, proprietary products have also been developed to help homeowners with properties in excess of the FHA lending limits.
Who qualifies for a Reverse Mortgage?
All titleholders must be 62 or older and own a home with some equity. There are no income or credit qualifications. Existing mortgages or liens must be paid off, but are often paid with proceeds from the Reverse. The homeowner must also remain current on insurance and property taxes, but these can also be paid with proceeds from the Reverse.
How can a borrower use the money?
The funds can be used for any purpose from making ends meet to living retirement dreams. The top reasons for funds used given typically by borrowers are:
- Paying off debts, primarily mortgage and credit cards
- Home repairs and remodeling
- Living expenses
- Health care or long-term care
- Easing the financial burden on children
- Escalating property taxes
The amount available depends on the borrower’s age, the value of the home, interest rates and local FHA lending limits. Older borrowers can receive a higher percentage of their equity than younger borrowers. Funds can be received in a lump sum, a monthly payment or a line of credit.
What are the costs?
As with most any loan product, there are origination fees and closing costs, but they can be paid from the proceeds of the Reverse Mortgage. HECM loans also have a charge for the FHA’s Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). There are usually no out-of-pocket costs to the borrower.
What consumer protections are in place?
Reverse Mortgages are non-recourse consumer loans – the loan payoff can never exceed the value of the home. To get a Reverse Mortgage, the customer must attend a mandatory counseling session and review their financial situation with a trained, professional Reverse Mortgage counselor. Many of the counselors are certified by the AARP. The counselor ensures that they understand the transaction, the costs and their other alternatives.
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