What is a Reverse Mortgage?
A reverse mortgage is a loan for senior homeowners that use a portion of the home’s equity as collateral. The loan generally does not have to be repaid until the last surviving homeowner permanently moves out of the property or passes away. At that time, the estate has approximately 6 months to repay the balance of the reverse mortgage or sell the home to pay off the balance. All remaining equity is inherited by the estate. The estate is not personally liable if the home sells for less than the balance of the reverse mortgage.
Eligibility for a Reverse Mortgage (HECM)
To be eligible for a HECM reverse mortgage, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requires that all homeowners be at least age 62. The home must be owned free and clear or all existing liens but be able to be satisfied with the reverse mortgage. If there is a mortgage balance, it can be paid off completely with the proceeds of the reverse mortgage loan at the closing. Generally there are no income or credit score requirements for a reverse mortgage.
Eligible Home Types
Almost all home types are eligible. However, mobile homes must have been built in the last 30 years, the land must be owned, it must be on a permanent foundation, and it must meet an FHA inspection. Some condos and townhomes may be eligible as well.
Difference Between a Reverse Mortgage and a Home Equity Loan
Generally a home equity loan, a second mortgage, or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) have strict requirements for income and creditworthiness. Also, with other traditional loans the homeowner must still make monthly payments to repay the loans. A reverse mortgage has no income or credit score requirements and instead of making monthly payments to the lender, the homeowner receives money from the lender.
With a reverse mortgage the amount that can be borrowed is determined by an FHA formula that considers age, the current interest rate, and the appraised value of the home. The more valuable the home (up to a certain point), the higher the loan amount will be, depending on lending limits.
As stated previously, with traditional loans the homeowner is still required to make monthly payments, but with a reverse mortgage the loan is typically not due as long as the homeowner lives in the home. With a reverse mortgage no monthly payments are due, however the homeowner is still responsible for real estate taxes, insurance, and maintenance.
Outliving the Reverse Mortgage
A reverse mortgage can not be outlived. As long as at least one homeowner lives in the home as their primary residence and maintains the home in accordance with FHA requirements (keeping taxes and insurance current) the loan does will not become due.
In the event of death or in the event that the home ceases to be the primary residence for more than 12 months, the homeowner’s estate can choose to repay the reverse mortgage or put the home up for sale.
If the equity in the home is higher than the balance of the loan, the remaining equity belongs to the estate.
If the sale of the home is not enough to pay off the reverse mortgage, the lender must take a loss and request reimbursement from the FHA. No other assets are affected by a reverse mortgage. For example, investments, second homes, cars, and other valuable possessions cannot be taken from the estate to pay off the reverse mortgage.
The amount that is available generally depends on four factors: age (older is better), current interest rate, appraised value of the home and government imposed lending limits. Use the calculator to estimate how much could be drawn.
Distribution of Money From a Reverse Mortgage
There are several ways to receive the proceeds from a reverse mortgage.
- Lump sum – a lump sum of cash at closing.
- Tenure – equal monthly payments as long as the homeowner lives in the home.
- Term – equal monthly payments for a fixed number of years.
- Line of Credit – draw any amount at any time until the line of credit is exhausted.
- Any combination of those listed above