Get the lowdown on reverse mortgages

It’s possible that few financial products generate as much debate and confusion as reverse mortgages. 

Not a quick fix or a panacea for immediate financial difficulties, reverse mortgages are for seniors who want to stay in their home for the long term. And like any major financial decision, people have to do their homework before determining if it is the right tool. 

Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources will host an information-only presentation about the pros and cons of reverse mortgages at two Tacoma locations — on Jan. 12 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. at the Pierce County Anne (2401 S. 35th St.) and Jan. 13 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Sound View Building at 3602 Pacific Ave. The sessions will cover the basics of the program, pitfalls and advantages, steps and time needed for application, how the long-term costs and benefits are realized, and why some consumers end up in default.

“It’s often said that home is where the heart is,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, Manager of Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources.  â€œStaying at home may be difficult without effective financial supports.  A Reverse Mortgage can be a wise choice or a terrible alternative.  It requires homeowners to do their homework, evaluate alternatives and follow through on obligations.”

Under a reverse mortgage, homeowners pay an FHA-approved lender an upfront fee and then have access to a percentage of their home equity. The loan is repaid when they move, sell the home, die or fail to pay property taxes or homeowners insurance to maintain the property. The maximum size of a reverse mortgage depends on your age, home value, interest rate and upfront costs.

In the last year, changes have been made in the reverse mortgage process. To strengthen the program and reduce foreclosures, new limits on borrowing have been set, upfront mortgage insurance premiums are changing, and annual mortgage insurance premiums are dropping. 

The county-hosted presentations are free and open to the public. Additional information is available at 253-798-4600.