Groups Warn Seniors to Beware of Reverse Mortgages
The U.S. senior community is warming up to reverse mortgages, but the product's increasing popularity also is breeding a new crop of unscrupulous brokers, lenders, and loan agents who are taking advantage of the nation's elderly.
In general, reverse mortgages allow home owners who are 62 and older to borrow against their home equity without having to repay the money until the home is sold or the borrower dies or permanently moves out.
But the mortgages have some groups concerned. Speaking at a recent hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, legislators and consumer advocates warned that, without better loan counseling and tougher government oversight, a flood of older home owners could be pressured into taking out inappropriate loans — just as millions of mortgage borrowers were persuaded to accept subprime loans that are now going into default at a rapid clip.
"We have gone through a savings and loan collapse, a stock market bubble and are currently in the middle of a lending mess," noted Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) at the hearing. "Our goal is to make sure that the reverse mortgages don't become the scandal of the next decade."
National Reverse Mortgage Loan Association President Peter Bell says the perceived problem may be somewhat overblown. But he concedes that some sales agents who are finding themselves unemployed due to the housing downturn could be picking up jobs in the reverse mortgage sector but may have "a different type of mentality about moving transactions through quickly."
Source: Buffalo News, Tony Pugh (12/17/07)