A reverse mortgage is a mortgage loan, usually secured by a residential property, that enables the borrower to access the unencumbered value of the property. The loans are typically promoted to older homeowners and typically do not require monthly mortgage payments. Borrowers are still responsible for property taxes and homeowner's insurance. Reverse mortgages allow elders to access the home equity they have built up in their homes now, and defer payment of the loan until they die, sell, or move out of the home. Because there are no required mortgage payments on a reverse mortgage, the interest is added to the loan balance each month. The rising loan balance can eventually grow to exceed the value of the home, particularly in times of declining home values or if the borrower continues to live in the home for many years. However, the borrower (or the borrower's estate) is generally not required to repay any additional loan balance in excess of the value of the home.In the United States, the FHA-insured HECM (home equity conversion mortgage) aka reverse mortgage, is a non-recourse loan. In simple terms, the borrowers are not responsible to repay any loan balance that exceeds the net-sales proceeds of their home. For example, if the last borrower left the home and the loan balance on their FHA-insured reverse mortgage was $125,000, and the home sold for $100,000, neither the borrower nor their heirs would be responsible for the $25,000 on the reverse mortgage loan that exceeded the value of their home. The extra $25,000 would be paid from the FHA insurance that was purchased when the HECM loan was originated. A reverse mortgage cannot go upside down. The cost of the FHA mortgage insurance is a one-time fee of 2% of the appraised value of the home, and then an annual fee of 0.5% of the outstanding loan balance.Specific rules for reverse mortgage transactions vary depending on the laws of the jurisdiction. For example, in Canada, the loan balance cannot exceed the fair market value of the home by law.One may compare a reverse mortgage with a conventional mortgage, whereby the homeowner makes a monthly payment to the lender and after each payment the homeowner's equity increases.Regulators and academics have given mixed commentary on the reverse mortgage market. Some economists argue that reverse mortgages may benefit the elderly by smoothing out their income and consumption patterns over time. However, regulatory authorities, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, argue that reverse mortgages are "complex products and difficult for consumers to understand", especially in light of "misleading advertising", low-quality counseling, and "risk of fraud and other scams". Moreover, the Bureau claims that many consumers do not use reverse mortgages for the positive, consumption-smoothing purposes advanced by economists. In Canada, the borrower must seek independent legal advice before being approved for a reverse mortgage. In 2014, a "relatively high number" of the U.S. reverse mortgage borrowers – about 12% – defaulted on "their property taxes or homeowners insurance". In the United States, reverse mortgage borrowers can face foreclosure if they do not maintain their homes or keep up to date on homeowner's insurance and property taxes.
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