4 Better Alternatives to Reverse Mortgages

Tom BurchnellReviewed by

For many retirement-age homeowners, their house is one of their most important financial assets. If you’ve lived in your home for a long time and paid off a significant portion of your mortgage, your home likely holds a large amount of untapped equity.

Often seen as a home equity loan alternative for retirement-age homeowners, a reverse mortgage offers one opportunity to turn that equity into wealth. As with most home equity financing options, a reverse mortgage provides the means to tap into otherwise inaccessible wealth. Due to the standard terms and conditions, lenders market reverse mortgages primarily towards seniors. However, a reverse mortgage may not be their—or others’—best choice for accessing home equity.

If this method of financing doesn’t offer the best home equity solution, what options provide a better reverse mortgage alternative?

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a secured loan that allows (senior) homeowners to borrow against the value of their home. As with all secure loans, the borrower must offer collateral in case of failure to meet the agreed-upon terms and conditions. As with most other home equity financing options, the collateral for a reverse mortgage program is the borrower’s home.

Plus, one important reverse mortgage fact to keep in mind is that unlike other home equity financing alternatives, a reverse mortgage doesn’t require continual repayments. Instead, repayment is due in full upon the borrower’s sale of their home or their passing. This condition is one of the primary reasons lenders advertise reverse mortgages to senior homeowners.

There are two key factors that influence the size of a reverse mortgage loan: 

  • the homeowner’s age
  • the home’s value (i.e., their “home equity”) 

The older you are and the greater your home’s equity, the greater your loan amount might be. Additionally, as interest compounds over the loan’s duration, taking out a reverse mortgage closer to the minimum age of 62 will likely result in a loss of more equity over time.

What Is Home Equity?

Simply put, home equity is the amount a homeowner walks away with following the sale of their house (though it remains subject to any real estate agent and similar costs). Your home equity can be calculated by subtracting any remaining mortgage balance from your property’s appraised value.

As you continually pay down your mortgage, your home equity increases. This is another reason why senior homeowners comprise the primary demographic for reverse mortgages—they are more likely to have lived in their house longer and accrued higher home equity.

However, the complication with home equity is that until you sell your home, that accrued wealth remains inaccessible. Home equity financing allows you to do so with loans such as reverse mortgage options.

What Do I Need to Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage?

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, generally, you would need to be 62 or older and either fully own your house or be close to paying off your mortgage. Can you get a reverse mortgage with bad credit? Yes. In fact, there are no income or credit score requirements to be eligible for a reverse mortgage as there is no monthly payment made by the homeowner to a mortgage lender.

What Benefits Do Reverse Mortgages Offer?

Some older homeowners are interested in reverse mortgages because it allows them to turn their home’s otherwise inaccessible equity into cash without the burden of a monthly mortgage payment. In addition, because you have already accrued home equity, it can be less risky than other financing options.

Following reverse mortgage loan approval, you would have the option to receive a monthly check or a lump sum. Both provide helpful sources of income for retirees, but the former remains subject to variable interest rates while the latter stays fixed.

Convert your Home Equity to Cash

The Downsides of a Reverse Mortgage

While a reverse mortgage may be a good option for some homeowners, several reasons prevent its use as a one-size-fits-all solution. As with many loans, the drawbacks can outweigh the benefits due to strict rules and high costs. The following are things to take into account when considering your reverse mortgage options:

  • Collateral – As with many home equity financing options, your home acts as the loan’s collateral. While you will not be responsible for continual loan payments as with other home equity financing, you may still lose your home if you do not meet your property taxes, home insurance, and other loan terms and conditions.
  • Age Restrictions – You will not qualify for a reverse mortgage if you are younger than 62 years old. The reasoning behind the age restriction is that younger homeowners will not have had the time to accumulate enough equity in their homes and interest compounds until repayment.
  • High Costs – There are a variety of fees associated with reverse mortgages: origination fees, servicing fees, closing costs, insurance premiums, and interest:
  • Origination fees, charged by lenders upon entering the loan agreement to cover the cost of the initial loan processing
  • Servicing fees cover the costs associated with administering the loan, including monitoring taxes and insurance
  • Closing costs, an umbrella term that can refer to a variety of fees and costs associated with property risks and administrative tasks
  • Insurance, taken out to protect against extreme circumstances such as foreclosure or the reverse mortgage lender going out of business
  • Interest which accrues over the entire life of the loan and is collected upon repayment
  • Lack of Flexibility in Occupancy – Entering a reverse mortgage agreement can make it more challenging to sell the property or rent it out to different occupants. It can also create complications if you try to move out of the house or add a name to the property title. Further, if the person who enters into the loan passes away, any spouses, relatives, friends, or roommates who also live in the home may be forced to leave.
  • Impacts on Heirs – Many senior homeowners are concerned about the wealth that they will leave behind when they pass away. As the borrower takes out money against their home’s equity, this value decreases. This means that your heirs will receive a smaller inheritance than they would have if you had not taken out a reverse mortgage—or may not receive anything from the home’s sale at all.

For some homeowners, these factors are deal breakers. Thankfully, homeowners have options when it comes to seeking an alternative to reverse mortgages.

Alternatives to Reverse Mortgages

There are several strong reasons why a reverse mortgage may not be the right choice for many homeowners. Alternative ways to get equity out of your home include:

Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan is another kind of loan that uses home equity as collateral. But the borrower typically makes monthly payments on a disbursed lump sum or withdrawals from a line of credit.

Further, the barriers to entry are different. There are no age restrictions, but there can be credit score and income requirements. Home equity loans are more appropriate for some homeowners who are too young for a reverse mortgage.

Home equity loans may be less costly than a reverse mortgage because they carry fewer fees, but they have the added burden of the monthly payment and the same risk of losing your home. Be sure to fully weigh the pros and cons of home equity loans before going with this option.

Sale-Leaseback

Sale-leaseback solutions are a particularly unique alternative to reverse mortgage agreements. In a sale-leaseback, you sell your home to a buyer who then leases your home back to you. This method enables you to convert your home’s value into an available cash flow while allowing you to keep living in your house until you repurchase it or decide to move—particularly helpful for individuals considering a move in the future.

Unlike traditional options such as a home equity loan or reverse mortgage, sale-leaseback agreements have few restrictions on credit, income, or other barriers to entry. It is not a loan, so there are no monthly payments other than monthly market rent.

Rather than slowly tapping into equity over time, this option would allow you to convert your home’s equity into immediately available cash. Further, some sale-leaseback solutions offer the opportunity to collect any appreciation on the home’s equity later on. 

Refinancing

Another option is to refinance your current mortgage. Updating your mortgage timeline can lower monthly payments and decrease your monthly financial burden in the short term. 

However, refinancing can impact your retirement plan, particularly if you are nearing retirement age. Expanding your mortgage timeline, such as with a 30-year contract, can result in increased financial burdens later on when you no longer have a steady income source. Just be sure to review the types of mortgage refinance options if you consider this route.

Downsizing

While it may seem like a more extreme option, downsizing just makes sense sometimes, particularly for older homeowners. Selling your home and moving into a less expensive residence is a great way to profit from your home’s equity. Despite the advantages, the logistics, stress, and emotions of downsizing may be difficult for many homeowners to manage.

A smaller property can also be logistically helpful—some seniors may prefer a home without stairs, some may not want or need the extra room. Downsizing can improve quality of life from both a financial and logistical perspective.

Take Back Your Financial Freedom with EasyKnock

For many homeowners, a reverse mortgage is not an ideal solution. Whether it be the age restrictions, the high fees, or the lack of flexibility, odds are you are better off exploring other options. For individuals wary of loans or who are not ready to move out of their house, sale-leaseback agreements offer a great alternative.

EasyKnock provides home equity solutions for homeowners who want to avoid the hassle and costs of typical loans, empowering you to sell your home on your terms—without the stress of moving out. If nothing else, EasyKnock allows homeowners the ability to convert their equity to cash while still having the choice between repurchasing their home or selling and downsizing on their own schedule.

Contact EasyKnock to learn more about your first step toward financial freedom and the least painful, most flexible method to access your home equity.

This article is published for educational and informational purposes only. This content is based on research and/or other relevant articles and contains trusted sources, but does not express the concerns of EasyKnock. Our goal at EasyKnock is to provide readers with up-to-date and objective resources on real estate and mortgage-related topics. Our content is written by experienced contributors in the finance and real-estate space and all articles undergo an in-depth review process.

Sources: 

  1. Investopedia. Reverse Mortgage. 
    www.investopedia.com/mortgage/reverse-mortgage/#the-cash-in-equity
  2. National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. Application/Fees/Disclosures. 
    www.reversemortgage.org/your-roadmap/4-application-fees-disclosures/
  3. Nolo. I am 65 and my wife is much younger. Can we get a reverse mortgage? 
    https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/i-am-65-wife-much-younger-can-reverse-mortgage.html 
  4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If I have a reverse mortgage loan, will my children or heirs be able to keep my home after I die? 
    www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/will-my-children-be-able-to-keep-my-home-after-i-die-if-i-have-a-reverse-mortgage-loan-en-242/
  5. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Can anyone take out a reverse mortgage loan? 
    www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/can-anyone-apply-for-a-reverse-mortgage-loan-en-227/
Tom Burchnell
Product Marketing Director

Tom Burchnell, Director of Digital Product Marketing for EasyKnock, holds an MBA & BBA in Marketing from University of Georgia and has 6 years of experience in real estate and finance. In his previous work, he spent time working with one of the largest direct lenders in the SouthEast. 

Convert your home equity to cash