Senior Citizens and Today's Real Estate Market

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Susan Rossi, RE/MAX 2000

Senior Citizens and Today's Market


Today's market conditions present unique challenges
to senior citizens or those looking to retire. Monthly cash flow, annual real estate tax bills, unexpected medical expenses or outstanding debt raises stress levels and causes fear among seniors. At the same time, many adult children who could previously help seniors in their families have realized their own personal challenges in today's environment and find it harder to help.

While many seniors own their residence outright and have little or no mortgage balance, traditional home equity loans result in a monthly payment and qualifying criteria for these loans has tightened. So home equity lines of credit previously used by seniors for annual real estate taxes or emergencies are in many cases no longer an option.

Selling the home means moving. And with the market drop in pricing, many seniors may not see selling the home as an option, unless there is sufficient equity to pay any outstanding mortgage balance, taxes on the property, other outstanding debts and have enough left over for another residence. This can be overwhelming.

However, through the market downturn there have been changes made to the FHA Reverse Mortgage program, a safe, federally insured mortgage program specifically for those 62 and over. These changes have been broadly overlooked but have provided the answer for many seniors.

Today's FHA Reverse Mortgage gives a person aged 62 or over two options:

1) An HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) is a product which is similar to a refinance, but there is no mortgage payment due on the loan. Depending on the level of equity, any outstanding mortgage is first paid off in full, then the borrower can choose to take the balance in one lump sum, receive monthly payments from the HECM, or tap into the balance when needed. The loan (or as much as is used) is repaid when the home is sold, but the senior may continue to live in the property as long as they like, with no monthly payments. The borrower does not have to "qualify" financially as they would for a traditional home equity loan. Eligibility is determined by the amount of equity in the home and the borrower's age, not by traditional methods such as income or credit.

2) FHA Reverse Mortgages can be used to purchase a new home. In some cases, the senior has a home which is too large to care for or too far from family. They may choose to sell the home and use an FHA Reverse Mortgage for the purchase of a different or smaller home. This option requires a down payment which is calculated based on the purchase price of the home and the borrower's age. There are no monthly mortgage payments, the senior may reside in the property for as long as they like and the indebtedness is satisfied upon the future sale of the property.

Much more information, FAQ's, calculators, loan limits and more are available at Additional brochures and information is available at the National Council of Aging (NCOA) website The AARP has an in-depth education series on Reverse Mortgages for Seniors and can be found at

Reverse mortgages are not for everyone and require seniors to complete telephone counseling before making a mortgage application, and this newsletter is intended only to provide an overview on this program. Not all lenders are approved for FHA Reverse Mortgage lending, so if you or someone you know thinks this program could help please call Sue Rossi for the name of a local, reputable, approved FHA Reverse Mortgage lender to get all your questions answered.

Comments (1)

Judi Baker
Long Realty Company - Marana, AZ

Many seniors are from the old school, they pay cash and they do not like to owe anybody money.

Jan 15, 2010 03:49 AM