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All About Reverse Mortgages

BOSTON (CBS) - We've all seen the commercials, first with Fred Thompson and now with Henry Winkler, for reverse mortgages.

All About Reverse Mortgages

You borrow against the equity in your home and the money does not have to be paid back until you die or want to move. They have been around since 1990 and are getting better and more popular. According to NRMLA, the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, there were just over 60,000 such mortgages nationwide in 2013.

These mortgages are not for everyone. Ideal for a cash strapped elder who wants to stay in their home! Elder being someone in their late seventies or early 80s. An individual who is on a fixed income and living in their own home and wants to stay in their home may find a reverse mortgage gives them the cash they may need to make repairs or modifications on the house so they can continue to live there.

There are no restrictions on how the money is used. And many retirees are going on a shopping spree, traveling with the money or helping their kids get out of debt.

To be eligible for a reverse mortgage you must be at least 62 years old and own your home although you can still have a mortgage.

At 62 and healthy you can look forward to another 30 years in retirement and you have just tied up your largest asset. Before you sign on the dotted line be sure you talk with a financial planner to see if a reverse mortgage is right for your situation. In addition, HUD now requires extensive counseling and budget planning before they will sign off on the loan.

There is no free lunch here. There are upfront fees. Lots of them. I used the median listing price of a house in Boston of $350,000. You would be entitled to a monthly payout of up to $1,033 or a lump sum of up to $216,000.

You can choose to receive the proceeds from a reverse mortgage as a lump sum, in fixed monthly payments either for a set term or for as long as you live in the home, as a line of credit, or as a combination of these.

As an alternative you might just consider selling your home, pocketing the profit and moving into a smaller less expensive place or even elder housing or an assisted living facility. But moving is a major change and change is hard at any age.

The Federal Trade Commission, HUD and the AARP all have information on reverse mortgages. The FTC's toll free number is 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).

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