Special offer

Reverse Mortgages: Be Aware

Real Estate Agent with Long & Foster - Wayne/Devon, Pennsylvania

Reverse Mortgages are very appealing to older home owners on Philadelphia’s Main Line as well as in other areas of the United States during these hard economic times. A reverse mortgage is basically when a lender gives you a cash advance on the equity you have in your home. You don’t have to pay back the advance until you either sell the home or die. However, there are several things you should be aware of before getting a reverse mortgage, such as:

1. How much money will you actually be able to borrow? There is a maximum home value which was just raised from $417,000 to $625,500, although you can’t obtain a reverse mortgage for the full value of your home. A formula is used to determine how much you can borrow. This formula takes into consideration how old you are (the older you are the more you can borrow), current interest rates, and your home’s value. You will have to subtract what you owe on your house and any loan fees involved in getting the loan. This is all subtracted from the amount you are able to borrow. To see how much you could possibly borrow go to www.revmort.com/nrmla.

2. Reverse mortgages have very high fees. A Money magazine article states that as well as paying normal closing costs, there is an origination fee of 2% on the first $200,000 of the loan balance and 1% thereafter, plus mortgage insurance premium of about 2% and on top to that there is a monthly service charge. Origination fees are legally not to exceed $6,000, but by the time you add up all of the fees involved, the total amount in fees is usually in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.

3. There is some risk involved. First of all you have to be at least 62 years old before you can obtain a reverse mortgage. If you decide to obtain a reverse mortgage in your early sixties or seventies, you have to ask yourself “Will the money outlast me?” If or when you run out of money, you won’t have any home equity left, so the longer you can wait to obtain a reverse mortgage the better.

4. Alternative ways to make ends meet. Because retirees have seen a rapid decline in their investments, reverse mortgages have increased by 50% over the past two years and the average age of the borrower has shifted from 76 to 72 years old. So, before taking out a reverse mortgage, don’t forget that cutting expenses, moving into a smaller home, or taking out a home equity line of credit are some other viable options to obtaining a reverse mortgage.

Before you are able to obtain a reverse mortgage you are required to meet with an independent counselor who should explain the loan and all of the drawbacks. However, a recent study showed that counselors are not fully explaining all the risks involved so be sure to do your research and try to find out all the pros and cons of obtaining a reverse mortgage to make sure it is the best option for you.

Comments (2)

Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Happily Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Some seniors are being taken advantage of by loan originators not explaining in full all of the risks involved.  Reverse mortgages should be used only when there are no other options.  The closing costs are outrageous. I know several seniors who have a reverse mortgage and paid over $16,000 for closing costs.

Oct 08, 2009 10:10 AM
Michael A. Caruso
Surterre Properties - Laguna Niguel, CA


I'm not a big fan of Reverse mortgages, but as a last resort. It's very true that the counselors don't explain all the risks and I find myself having to go in detail as to the risks & costs involved.

Best regards.

Michael Caruso, Broker ABR ABRM CRB CRS GREEN GRI

2007 President, Orange County Association of Realtors           


Oct 08, 2009 10:29 AM