Q&A: Refinancing reverse mortgage

Dear Liz: I am a senior citizen who fell for the hype about reverse mortgages during a really hard time in my life. To this date I regret profoundly having sold my home to the devil! I never imagined that my debt would grow such as it has. My home is currently valued at $120,000 and my debt is $189,000. I was paid just $40,000 when I initiated the loan. Plus, the loan was sold to a company I don’t like. They charge fees for everything, which just adds to the debt, and I am totally unable to do anything about what they charge. Can I refinance this loan with another company?

Answer: A reverse mortgage technically can be refinanced, but you would need to have substantial equity in your home. Since that’s not the case, you’re stuck.

Many people don’t understand how a reverse mortgage balance can grow over time. Although reverse mortgages allow people 62 and older to convert home equity to cash, without requiring payments, any amount borrowed grows at the interest rate specified in the loan contract. People who tap their home equity early in retirement may find they don’t have any equity left later.

Although your debt exceeds your home’s value, neither you nor your heirs will be on the hook for the difference. The lender will have to accept the proceeds of the home’s sale when you die, sell or move out as payment in full.

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