What is a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a federally insured mortgage that allows homeowners age 62 or older to access their home equity in cash, monthly payments, or a growing line of credit.

This financial product is available to only older Americans who have accumulated home equity and now want to use this as their retirement income.  Borrowers generally do not have to repay the loan until the last borrower no longer uses the home as his or her primary home. At that time, the home has to repay the reverse mortgage balance within six months.

There are different types of reverse mortgage solutions. However, FHA-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is the most popular reverse mortgage. Here, FHA stands for Federal Housing Administration, which is a division of HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).

HECM is the only form of reverse mortgage insured by the federal government. Because of the government’s involvement, lenders often offer these loans with generous financing terms.

There are non-HECM financing products available such as the Jumbo Reverse Mortgage; the reverse mortgage is used synonymously with FHA-insured HECM products.

Meaning Of ‘Reverse’ In Reverse Mortgage

On a traditional mortgage, funds flow from the borrower’s bank account to the lender. On reverse mortgages, funds move in a lump sum or monthly payments from a lender to the borrower.

Most traditional mortgages require principal and interest payments. This decreases the loan balance. Not requiring these payments may cause the loan balance to increase instead.

Since the money and loan balances move in reverse, it is called a reverse mortgage.

Reverse mortgage foreclosure timeline

Eligibility Requirements For Reverse Mortgage

The most advantageous thing about a reverse mortgage is that there are no overly restrictive requirements. These types of loans are easier to qualify for than other financial products such as home equity loan and mortgage refinance.

Here are the key factors in qualifying for a reverse mortgage:

The key eligibility requirement for a reverse mortgage is that the borrower is age 62 or older. Since age is counted in whole years, a 69-year-old borrower who will turn 70 within six months of closing is considered 70. The advantage here is that older borrowers generally qualify for higher principal limits.

However, it doesn’t help borrower age 61.5. Borrowers are not eligible to complete the loan process until they officially turn 62.

Following is the list of eligible property types accepted for a reverse mortgage (The list may vary from lender to lender):

  • Single family home
  • Multi-family home (up to four members)
  • HUD-Approved condominium
  • Manufactured property that meets FHA requirements
  • Townhomes
  • Planned unit developments (PUDs)
  • Modular homes

To qualify for traditional HECM, the borrower must be the homeowner and also have significant home equity. But some homeowners with less equity in their properties can still qualify for traditional mortgages. They will be required to bring funds to closing.

With the HECM for Purchase Program, borrowers become a homeowner to the new property and generate equity in the home by bringing funds to closing. Seniors who have sold a property or liquidated an investment don’t have this problem.

Also, the borrower should be left with a very small amount the existing mortgage to repay.

The home must be the primary residence of the borrower. You can’t get a reverse mortgage on a second home or investment properties. Lenders verify your residency at the time of origination. However, the reverse mortgage program also requires an annual certificate confirming that the borrower will reside in the home. Also, the property should be in good condition before applying for the reverse mortgage

Non-Recourse Loan

The non-recourse loan is the most powerful aspect of reverse mortgage solutions. It states that the homeowner is not responsible for mortgage debt accruing beyond the value of the home. It gives the homeowner peace of mind their heirs will not have to pay their debts. FHA guarantees that neither the mortgage borrower nor their heirs will owe more than the home’s value at the time the house is sold. In Addition, a reverse mortgage can also be paid off early if you no longer want the loan.

What happens when you die with a reverse mortgage

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