Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages

Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages

Now more than ever, Canada’s experienced homeowners are tapping into their home equity in exchange for cash, a process known as a reverse mortgage. 

Over the years, this type of mortgage loan has grown in popularity among seniors. In fact, in January 2020, reverse mortgage debt reached a new record of $4.03 billion, according to data from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). The choice to leverage equity instead of leaving it tied up in their property is an attractive option to an increasing number of mature homeowners.

If you’re considering converting to a reverse mortgage, you likely have a lot of questions, from eligibility requirements to receiving payments. Here’s what you need to know about reverse mortgages.

Reverse Mortgages 101

In simple terms, a reverse mortgage is a loan connected to the value of your home that allows you to convert money from the property’s equity tax-free while still maintaining ownership. Unlike a traditional mortgage which requires monthly payments, you don’t need to repay the reverse mortgage loan until you decide to move and sell, or the last borrower passes away.

In order to be eligible for a reverse mortgage, you need to be a Canadian homeowner and at least 55 years old. Your spouse must also be 55 years old if they’re on the title of the home.

A home equity line of credit is another popular form of accessing value in your home, offering between 65% to 80% of the property’s appraised value in some cases. A home equity line of credit is accessible to any homeowner without added age restrictions, but does require proof of a sufficient income and good credit. You’ll also be required to do a stress test to prove you can make payments under higher qualifying interest rates. For senior homeowners who would prefer simpler eligibility criteria, a reverse mortgage might be the best fit.

There are some misconceptions about reverse mortgages, particularly around eating into the equity of your home or the bank taking over your ownership. While more homeowners are beginning to understand reverse mortgages more clearly, it is recommended clients speak with a mortgage professional who can really explain the loan in greater detail.

Getting Started

When you’re ready to commit to a reverse mortgage, there will be an initial assessment to determine the home’s value and how much money you could be entitled to. 

You can expect to be evaluated on the appraised value of the property, plus its type and condition, your eligibility criteria and where you live. Contrary to regular mortgage applications, which take a deep-dive into your credit history and income, reverse mortgage assessments are generally less labourious. The financial institution want to make sure you have reasonable credit and at least some form of income to pay the property taxes.

The two biggest financial institutions that offer reverse mortgage plans in Canada are HomeEquity Bank and Equitable Bank, though your own banking institution may offer options too. Whichever lender you go with, you should anticipate some setup costs, including legal fees for closing or legal advice, appraisal costs and setup charges. 

You’ll still need to pay interest on the reverse mortgage loan, which tends to be higher than regular mortgages. However, you can choose to pay the interest on a monthly or yearly basis, or in full with the principal at any time. 

Cash in Hand

If you’re wondering how much you can borrow from a reverse mortgage — it varies. All of the criteria used in your mortgage assessment will determine how much cash you can expect to receive, including which mortgage lender you go with. For instance, a reverse mortgage with HomeEquity Bank’s Canadian Home Income Plan (CHIP) could let you borrow up to 55% of the home’s value, while Equitable Bank might let you take up to 40%. 

When it comes to receiving your money, you might have some flexibility. Some homeowners choose to receive monthly payments, while others opt to take out a lump sum. 

Whatever you choose to use the money for is up to you. Some people decide to give their money to their children to cover tuition costs or wedding expenses, while others use it in everyday spending. 

This Isn’t Working Out

A reverse mortgage isn’t a forever-commitment. If a reverse mortgage isn’t right for you or you need to break the agreement it is possible to get out of it, just with a few conditions.  

As with any mortgage contract, there are penalties for breaking a reverse mortgage in the middle of a term. How severe the penalty would be varies widely, depending on how long you’ve participated in the mortgage and the reason why you’re breaking it. 

If you sell your home, you’ll be required to repay the amount left on the loan. This also applies when the last borrower dies, in which case, the estate would need to pay off the reverse mortgage. 

Reverse mortgages are letting more seniors reap the benefits of equity in their home but, like all mortgage products, it’s crucial to understand what you’re getting before you sign on the dotted line. 


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