NPR: What Should Mom Do With Her Home? Reverse Mortgage Sounds Good

The current housing market has led many older homeowners into a dilemma: sell at a loss, or run the risk of staying in home past the point where it is a good idea. It has left many families wondering what to do with their homes, says a National Public Radio segment. For some, taking a reverse mortgage could be a viable option for them, NPR says. 

Over the past five years, home prices have plunged by roughly a third. During that same period, the annual cost of residing in an assisted-living facility has increased 5.7 percent per year, according to a recent survey by Genworth, a long-term care insurance provider.

So what should be done with the house? Try selling in a depressed market? Or rent it until prices perk up? Or would it make more sense to take out a reverse mortgage and try to stay in the house, using cash from the transaction to hire more help?

Advertisement

…When a crisis hits — say, dad dies and mom needs to move in with a child — the family may see the house as a source of immediate cash to help pay for the move and more care. “It’s found money,” [says Realtor John Mike]. “They don’t care if they get $20,000 less than they would” by being patient. This rushed selling has been contributing to low prices in South Florida, he said.

Mike said renting out a house to create an immediate monthly stream of cash can be a better option than panicked selling. “I’ve seen people who have been very happy with renting out the house, and it’s better for the neighborhood because the house is occupied,” and the home-price comparisons don’t get driven down in a rushed sale, he said.

Another option is a reverse mortgage, which allows someone who owns a home, or owes very little on it, to draw down the equity in the form of cash. That money could be used to pay for personal care to help the occupant stay in the home.

But Mike said that while that path may work for some homeowners, too often “people have regrets because the reverse mortgage just delays the inevitable.” With home prices still falling and nursing aide costs rising, the cash from the reverse mortgage doesn’t go far, and before long, the owner needs to move, he said.

Linda Fodrini-Johnson, a past president of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, said deciding what to do with a family home is not only a complicated financial decision, but an emotional one as well.

In many cases, “that’s the house you grew up in,” Fodrini-Johnson said. “It’s a special place.”

Because of the intense emotions surrounding a home, the decisions often cause conflicts among siblings. She urges families to communicate respectfully with each other to determine which options — selling, renting or getting a reverse mortgage — might make the most sense…

 Listen to the full NPR segment.

Written by Elizabeth Ecker