International Reverse Mortgage Push Could Soon Reach Ireland

In a summer that’s already seen reverse mortgage expansion news out of Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and China, yet another country may soon be getting into the game.

Seniors Money is mulling a return to the equity-release products it had previously offered in Ireland, according to reports last week in the Irish Times.

“As property prices soar once again, the company is seeking finance to re-enter the market with its signature product: equity-release home loans to elderly people whose debts are later repaid by their estates after they die,” the Times reported.

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Seniors Money’s management team reportedly purchased controlling interest of the company’s Irish and Spanish subsidiaries from its former private equity owners, with an eye toward taking advantage of high home prices in those countries. During the lead-up to the previous recession, Seniors Money had a reverse mortgage portfolio of around 250 million euros, according to the Times, as older Irish homeowners sought to free up the sizable equity they’d built up in their homes.

“These so-called ‘lifetime loans,’ aimed at the asset-rich but cash-poor, became reasonably common just before the height of the last property boom,” the Times observed in a separate analysis piece.

During the boom times, Seniors Money took a page from their U.S. counterparts and used well-known Irish actor Mick Lally in its television spots. Homeowners frequently used those loans — open to those 60 and older — to help their adult children afford down payments for homes, according to the Times, though demand for the products dried up during the recession and Seniors Money exited the industry after it ran low on financial backing.

But with demographic tailwinds, the company may soon bet again on the products, with director Derek Handley telling the publication that there was “tremendous opportunity” for reverse mortgages in the country.

“We are coming through an economic cycle,” Handley said. “The population is aging. There will be a demand for the product.”

Should Seniors Money follow through on its plans for Ireland, the move would represent the latest in a string of international reverse mortgage expansions. Earlier this month, Chinese officials opened reverse mortgage lending to all homeowners aged 60 and older, while Heartland Bank has seen rapid growth in Australia and New Zealand; in addition, growing competition in Canada led to a change in marketing strategy at the country’s oldest reverse mortgage lender.

Written by Alex Spanko

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