A Primer on Reverse Mortgages

JTF#3

Introduction

Housing equity is the most important asset for the vast majority of Americans. In principle, this asset might be used to support consumption in retirement. Reverse mortgages were envisioned as a mechanism that would allow older people to consume their housing equity without selling their homes. Yet this market is extremely small — less than one percent of qualified homeowners have a reverse mortgage. This brief provides an overview of reverse mortgages and explores possible reasons for their currently limited appeal…