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U.S. eliminates the most popular type of reverse mortgage

The most popular type of reverse mortgage for senior citizens has been done away with by the Federal Housing Administration.

In a traditional mortgage, you borrow money against your house and pay it back in monthly installments over time. With a reverse mortgage, you borrow money against your house, but you don’t have to pay it back until you die, sell the house, or move – which means you don’t owe anything as long as you stay in your home.

In most cases, to qualify you must be at least 62 years old.

In the past, borrowers could choose to receive a lump sum, monthly payments at an adjustable interest rate, or a line of credit. But the FHA has now eliminated the lump-sum option.

Seniors who prefer a lump sum can still apply for one through the “Saver” reverse mortgage plan. But the amount you can borrow with this plan is less than with the standard plan – typically about 10% to 18% less (although the fees may be lower as well).

The government says it is doing away with the standard lump-sum option because a large number of seniors were defaulting. While a reverse mortgage doesn’t involve monthly payments, homeowners must still pay taxes and insurance, and many people were failing to do so – suggesting that they were taking out the loans as a last resort rather than as part of a careful financial plan.

Proceeds from a reverse mortgage are not subject to income tax and generally won’t affect your ability to receive Social Security or Medicare. However, it’s possible that they could affect your eligibility for certain government programs such as Medicaid.

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