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Are reverse mortgages an option for seniors who want to avoid nursing homes?

New study data suggests seniors are increasingly resistant to nursing homes, which could be a renewed reverse mortgage opportunity

The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the senior population is becoming clearer. According to recent estimates reported by the Washington Post, nearly 9 in 10 deaths attributable to COVID-19 were people aged 65 or older.

Another pandemic-related point of clarity is related to older Americans who reside in nursing homes. Based on new data released by the Boston College Center for Retirement Research (CRR), a survey of Canadian seniors showed that 70% of study participants reported that they are less likely to use a nursing home after the pandemic.

Respondents were also less likely to consider nursing homes after observing the living conditions via media coverage, according to the report.

“However, home care services equivalent to nursing home care tend to be significantly more costly in Canada, so more generous government home care subsidies may be needed to reduce the difference,” the research brief states.

The senior population in the United States has voiced similar concerns regarding congregate care settings because of the impact the pandemic has had on these facilities.

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic led to heightened business activity for the reverse mortgage industry. Volume in 2020 finished on a strong note, according to data compiled by Reverse Market Insight (RMI). Volume throughout 2021 remained high by historical standards, but following a boom in HECM-to-HECM (H2H) refinances, volume experienced a sharp drop in September 2022.

Still, reverse mortgage professionals and other aging in place proponents offered the idea throughout the pandemic that reverse mortgages can allow seniors to remain in their homes as an alternative to a congregate care setting.

Earlier this year, Atlantic Coast Mortgage’s Laurie MacNaughton told RMD how she had seen an increase in purchase business so that clients could either avoid or leave a nursing home.

MacNaughton had a loan come across her desk in which an existing Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) resident was seeking a reverse mortgage for purchase loan to get into a private residence. She made a mental note of its uniqueness, but continued to see similar loans come her way.

“The first time I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh, what an interesting thing to do.’ Next time, it’s like two of them back-to-back,” she told RMD in April. “And then after number five, and number seven, [it became clear that] this was an honest-to-goodness pattern. That I think we could almost call a trend for these people, during the darkest of the pandemic years wanting to get mom or dad sometimes out of continuing care into a private residency.”

Still, the road to fashion reverse mortgages as a viable alternative to nursing homes is a long one, as are many issues related to product education. However, there are new classes of reverse mortgage professionals who are more than willing to offer a reverse mortgage as an alternative to a nursing home, considering recent events.

“I really think that with COVID, we were forced into a position where we had to educate the clients, because we couldn’t sit down, face-to-face with them,” Longbridge Financial’s Jarred Talmadge said in a recent episode of The RMD Podcast. “That changed everything because it made us have to back up and [realize that] we couldn’t rely on sitting in front of the kitchen table. I honestly think it comes down to answering the clients’ questions to the point, almost, where it feels exhaustive.”