By now, anyone who watches TV has likely seen advertisements for reverse mortgages. Targeted towards senior citizens who own their homes free and clear. Ads highlight that the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) insures over 98 percent of all the reverse mortgages in United States. A reverse mortgage loan allows a home owner, at least 62 years of age, to convert the equity in their home into cash. Some people take monthly payments, lines of credit as well as lump sums of cash as needed. The loan against the equity in the home is secured by the home itself.
When the owner passes away the loan becomes due in full and is often taken from the proceeds of the sale of the home. In other cases, a life insurance policy may be used to repay the loan if home and other property is given to others in a will. The lenders offering reverse mortgages charge fees and surcharges along the way. These fees and the terms of the loan are a function of the life expectancy of the home owner, the value of the home and other factors.
Doing your research is important. The more you can learn about the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, the better decisions you and your family can make.
As the reverse mortgage ads suggest, the children of aging parents can be involved in the process of researching reverse mortgage loans and the lenders. Even if your parents are well-able to manage their financial affairs, it is always helpful to get another opinion, especially when there are so many new financial opportunities for seniors budgeting for and funding their retirement years. While researching, pay attention to credible alerts and warnings published online. Be careful because in the sea of information there is plenty of what looks like news but is really advertising telling you that reverse mortgages are risk free and there is never a need to look any further.
The loans are only as good as the lenders. Homeowners considering reverse mortgages should be notified by their lender that while the reverse mortgage is in place, the homeowner must still pay taxes and insurance on the property and that is not something covered by the lender. Lenders may also charge high fees on loans and get away with it when working with seniors who may have less bargaining power in negotiating the terms of the loan. It is important to know what financial terms are reasonable in the current time and market. Knowing what the competition is offering makes it easier to negotiate a fair reverse mortgage loan.
Beware of what you are risking with reverse mortgage loans and be vigilant. If you must, hire a professional to help you negotiate a better deal and avoid the awful stories told by several loan victims.
Read these stories at Center for American Progress: Treasury Secretary Nominee Steve Mnuchin’s Bet Against Seniors:
- Only press coverage stopped the eviction of a 103-year-old grandmother on a technicality
- 92-year-old widow evicted for 27-cent shortfall
- Foreclosure actions that defy common sense
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