Reverse Mortgages – Good or Bad Idea?

chip reverse mortgage

A lot more Canadians are using the economic value of their own property to make up for financial shortfalls, as they head towards retirement life. Many over the age of 55 find themselves house rich and cash poor. Numerous senior Canadians are on their way into retirement with either too much personal debt, or not enough savings, or in many cases both of those.

As they leave behind the labor force their earnings decrease but their financial obligations continue. So many are facing this scenario and managing it becomes stressful. Many property owners in this situation ask themselves if a reverse mortgage is the answer, since it would allow them to take funds out of their home, and continue to live there. Reverse mortgages can relieve financial challenges and allow seniors to live a little, do some renovating, or maybe give their children financial help.

Reverse mortgages are a good idea, but they should only be taken into consideration after all alternate options have been explored. Reverse mortgages do carry a higher rate of interest than a conventional mortgage although not much different from second mortgages or lines of credit. They do erode the equity in your principal investment, which in turn might need to be sold later. If you are prepared to overlook this, you are probably under financial pressure or perhaps you are not living the life you want after years of working hard.

HomEquity Bank offers reverse mortgages in Canada, the greater part of which are in larger more expensive cities like Toronto and Vancouver. The bank provides them through the Canadian Home Income Plan (CHIP).

Here is how reverse mortgages work:

To qualify you need to be over 55 and own a home, you can get up to 55 per cent of its value depending on your age. The money is tax-free and you do not have to pay anything back until you want to sell your house or you die. Then the principal and accrued interest is due in full, within six months or at closing of the sale of the home.

The rate is somewhat higher than a conventional mortgage mortgage with an “A” lender. HomEquity is offering a 5-year fixed reverse mortgage at 4.99 per cent compared to rates under 3% for a first mortgage to clients with excellent credit. After the five-year term is up, the rate is renegotiated and will depend on market conditions at that time.

The real cost is very easy to forget about as you are not making any payments unless you want to. HomEquity Bank, says their typical consumers are in their early 70s and borrow on average $110,000, and usually sell their home within six to eight years.

Ziomecki says the process involves a home appraisal and those with mortgages would not be turned down, though they would be able to borrow less. Applicants must have a lawyer to ensure they understand what’s involved. HomEquity encourages the entire family to get involved to avoid acrimony later.

HomEquity sees four types of customer:

Debtors (35%): They have poor money management habits and may be maxed out on department store and bank-issued credit cards. They have large credit lines and in some cases huge mortgages. It adds up to a reduced credit rating, and they often cannot obtain additional financing from their bank.

Spenders (30%): They desire a much better lifestyle without having the repayments. It could perhaps be a holiday home or a significant home refurbishment. They may not want to have a credit line given that they would have to make a payment each and every month.

Cash poor (17.5%): This group cannot make ends meet. Their pension income and savings are moderate. Many are single women or widows who did not work outside the home. They need the extra cash to stay afloat.

Unanticipated needs (17.5%): This could be big bills or a desire to deliver an early inheritance to their children. If the latter, giving the money makes them feel good.

HomeEquity had a banner year in 2014. Its reverse mortgage business increased 23 per cent and was worth $309 million. As more Boomers head into retirement, the company says it expects the growth to continue.