The nation’s two biggest providers of reverse mortgages are no longer offering the loans, as the economics of the business have come under pressure.
Wells Fargo, the largest provider, said on Thursday that it was leaving the business, following the departure in February of Bank of America [BAC 10.68 0.08 (+0.75%) ], the second-largest lender. With the two biggest players gone — together, they accounted for 43 percent of the business, according to Reverse Market Insight — prospective borrowers may find it more difficult to access the mortgages.
Reverse mortgages allow people age 62 and older to tap what may be their biggest asset, their home equity, without having to make any payments. Instead, the bank pays the borrowers, though they continue to be responsible for paying property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.
But the loans have increasingly become a riskier proposition. Banks are not allowed to assess borrowers’ ability to keep up with all their payments, and more borrowers do not have the wherewithal to stay current on their homeowners’ insurance and property taxes, both of which have risen in many parts of the country. At the same time, borrowers have been taking the maximum amount of money available, often using it to pay off any remaining money owed on the home. Yet home prices continue to slide.
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