Thursday, June 18, 2009

Seniors Drawn to Mortgages That Give Back

A small excerpt from an in depth article from a Wall Street Journal MarketWatch article on reverse mortgages, one of the bright spots of the mortgage market.

Federally insured reverse mortgages enable senior citizens to take money out of their homes. In March and April, the number of reverse mortgages backed by the government jumped nearly 20% from the same period last year. In April alone, the government insured 11,660 reverse mortgages, the highest monthly total since the government-backed program began in 1990. By contrast, the number of new home-equity loans, which similarly allow homeowners to tap the equity in their homes, fell around 70% in the first quarter from the prior-year period, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

More seniors now qualify for a reverse mortgage since Congress in February raised the maximum home value that seniors can borrow against to $625,500 from $417,000.

In a reverse mortgage, the bank makes payments to the homeowner instead of the homeowner making payments to a bank. To qualify for such a mortgage, a senior must be at least 62 years old and have a lot of equity in the home. The way it works is this: Say a senior owns a house worth $500,000 that has a $50,000 mortgage. The senior might get a $250,000 reverse mortgage to pay off the existing loan and then have $200,000 left over. The homeowner could get that as a lump sum or a line of credit, and wouldn't have to pay it back until he moved or died and the house was sold. The bank is repaid, including interest, from proceeds of the sale.

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