"QUESTION: My husband and I are retired with a total annual income of $40,000. We owe $145,000 on our home, which is worth $475,000. We don't have any extra to play with. We would like to know whether you would advise us to consider a reverse mortgage.
ANSWER: A reverse mortgage could pay off your existing mortgage and eliminate the monthly mortgage payments you are currently paying. This could free up some income for you to play with each month.
Here's essentially how it would work. A reverse mortgage would pay off your existing mortgage balance of $145,000. Then, rather than having to make monthly interest and principal payments, the interest charged on the loan would simply add to the balance of the loan.
Let's assume your home will appreciate by 4 percent in the coming years, and the reverse mortgage interest rate averages 6 percent. Ten years from now, your home is worth $703,000 and the balance on the reverse mortgage is $260,000. In 20 years, your home is worth $1,040,000 and the loan balance is $465,000.
When you move from the home, sell the home or pass away, the loan becomes due, and any equity in the home goes to you or your heirs. In the event the mortgage balance is greater than the value of the home, you can walk away from the loan without paying a dime.
In addition to using a reverse mortgage to pay off your existing mortgage, you could also pull out extra cash, secure a line of credit or receive monthly income. Obviously, the more money you pull out, the less equity you'll have in your home.
Unlike a traditional mortgage, the startup costs are high, so you wouldn't want to use a reverse mortgage if you plan to move soon.
A reverse mortgage can be a great option, but for those who want to leave a truckload of money to their kids, paying off a home loan out of retirement income would be a better option."