Reverse Mortgage Topics of Controversy

The reverse mortgage is getting a lot of play these days in the media, but what is it exactly? Let's take a closer look at it and some of the issues that arise. The reverse mortgage is a form of negative amortization, but with a favorable side effect. While you make payments to a lender with a traditional home loan, the lender makes payments to you with a reverse loan.

As payments are made to you, more and more of the equity in your home is converted into debt. That debt grows at an interest rate that is typically one to two points higher than a normal mortgage or refinance. The number one question regarding reverse mortgages has to do with equity. Specifically, what happens if the equity is all used up before the borrower dies or the home is sold? Do you lose the home, get foreclosed on or what? When the equity ran out, the very first reverse mortgages often had clauses that allowed the homeowners to be removed from the property. Yes, it was ugly.

Most current programs allow you to remain in the home, but read the fine print of yours. Considering you are giving away a big chunk of your nest egg, you should get some sizeable payments, right? Well, maybe. There are a lot of factors involved.

These include the dollar value of your equity, your age and so on. While you should be concerned about how the payment is calculated, it is important to understand there is an easier way to determine it. Just ask to see examples. Multiple programs are available and they should show you the estimated payment amounts. At some point in time, you might realize a reverse mortgage is not for you. Can you get out of it? Generally, you can so long as you pay off the mortgage debt.

Make sure to read the loan documents for language on this issue. Another issue that arises is appreciation. What happens if your home appreciates over time? Can you get at the new equity? In most cases, you can.

Whether this has to occur through a refinance or a modification to the reverse mortgage is a case by case decision. What happens when I die? The reverse mortgage is handled no different than any of your other assets. It becomes due. This means your heirs must either pay it off or sell the property.

If they sell the property, the reverse mortgage balance is paid off. The reverse mortgage is undoubtedly a new toy in the loan industry. That being said, it is very expensive. For a majority of people, it is a bad choice compared to other alternatives that are cheaper and produce more income.

Barry Waxler is a financial advisor with

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