Reverse Mortgages Can Be a Lifeline for Seniors of Modest Means, But Counseling is Critical


NCOA Offers Ideas to Strengthen Home Equity Conversion Mortgages

Washington, DC – June 18, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — The federal reverse mortgage program can be a lifeline for some older homeowners, but consumer protections and comprehensive counseling are critical to protecting seniors and their home equity, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) told Congress today.

Ramsey Alwin, Senior Director of Economic Security, testified before a Senate subcommittee with oversight of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM).

Alwin shared NCOA’s experience as the only national aging organization serving as a federally approved reverse mortgage counseling provider and offered recommendations to strengthen the program for older homeowners:

  • Counseling is critical to wise decision-making by older homeowners.
    As the Baby Boomer generation ages and the age for reverse mortgages declines, these loans are becoming part of retirement planning. Access to unbiased counseling ensures that consumers are protected as they consider all of their financial options.
  • Changes to HECM should not come at the expense of seniors of modest means.
    About 44% of reverse mortgage borrowers have incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level, or $22,980 for a single individual. Older homeowners consider HECM loans for many reasons, including additional income (33%), to plan ahead for emergencies (26%), and to pay for home repairs or improvements (20%).
  • Increasing the sustainability of HECM requires greater collaboration for counselor training.
    Adequate resources for HECM training are critical for counselors to keep up with changes in the industry.

“The Department of Housing & Urban Development has made it easier for homeowners to learn about public benefits by requiring that HECM counselors conduct an NCOA BenefitsCheckUp® screening for clients with incomes under 200% of poverty,” Alwin said. “This has helped more than 103,000 seniors find over $378 million worth of annual benefits, helping some defer or avoid a HECM altogether.”

Full testimony can be found on the committee website. More information on NCOA and reverse mortgages can be found at


About NCOA  The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCOA’s mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged. NCOA is a national voice for older Americans and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their communities.  |  |

NCOA Media Contact:
Brandy Bauer
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