How to Avoid Getting Scammed With a Reverse Mortgage

Reverse mortgages have been negatively cast as a last-ditch option for seniors short on cash. However, reverse mortgages can also provide many helpful benefits, including the ability to replenish or boost your retirement account or help you stave off foreclosure. Find out what a reverse mortgage is and the best ways to make it work for your financial situation.

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage, also known as a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM), is a specialized loan available to individuals who are over 62 years old. This loan allows borrowers to convert a portion of home equity into cash. Interest on the loan is deferred until the home is sold or the last borrower dies.

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, homeowners will need to own their home outright or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off easily with the proceeds of the loan. Homeowners must also live in the home to remain qualified. Homeowners will still be required to pay for property taxes and insurance premiums.

What Are the Best Ways to Use a Reverse Mortgage?

If you have a lot of home equity but are still struggling to pay the monthly payments, a reverse mortgage can then pay you the equity, which can then in turn be used to pay off your mortgage. You will need to have a reverse mortgage with a lump-sum disbursement and show that you can afford taxes and insurance costs.

Another great way to use a reverse mortgage is to give your retirement fund the boost it needs. If you didn't save enough for retirement, know that you aren't alone — the majority of Americans don't. Receiving some of your reverse mortgage as a lump-sum allows you to invest the money if market conditions are favorable.

What Are Other Ways to Use a Reverse Mortgage?

Technically, the money you receive from a reverse mortgage is your money, and you can use it however you like. You don't even need good credit or a lot of income to qualify for an HECM. Investing your HECM into your retirement is one of the best things you can do with the money. Here are a few other wise financial moves you can make with the money you earn from a reverse mortgage.

Purchase Investment Property

You can purchase property in cash from your HECM and not worry about being approved for a mortgage. Of course, buying property is not always a good investment, so be sure the property you purchase is worth it. Don't just throw your money into any property purchase and hope to live off rental income.

Buy a Second Home

If you love to split your time in a vacation home, then a HECM with enough equity can help you afford to buy a second home without having to worry about mortgage payments. Don't just buy a second home just because you can. A second home purchase should be considered if it can save you money and also earn you money. A second home can help you avoid vacation or hotel rental fees, and you can rent out your home when you are not living there. Remember you must keep your current home, the home you wish to get a HECM loan with, as your primary residence.

Pay Off Debt

If debt is weighing you down each month, then consider using your HECM to pay it off and save money on interest payments. However, don't be tempted to get back into debt. Using your HECM to pay off debt should be the start of a debt-free lifestyle, not a bandage to place on a shopping or gambling addiction.

What Are the Downsides of a Reverse Mortgage?

If you're currently using other government programs, such as Medicaid or SSI, having your HECM disbursed to you as monthly payments will be counted as income. You will face foreclosure if you cannot afford the property taxes or insurance premiums. Another thing to consider before proceeding with a reverse mortgage is that the upfront fees to do so can be quite high. Also, the amount of money you get upfront from your mortgage is dependent on several factors, such as your age and the value of your home. You might not get as much money as you need. (See also: 5 Downsides of a Reverse Mortgage)

Before tapping into your equity, take time to consider if this is really the best option for your financial situation. If you truly have that much equity in your house, you could even sell your home and downsize to a smaller home, mortgage-free.

Are you considering a reverse mortgage? How do you plan to use the funds?

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