George A. Downey, a longtime reverse-mortgage lender, walked into a seminar designed to help people explore creative financing alternatives in an attempt to avoid default and foreclosure.

"There were some older folks in the room, but nothing was ever offered about a reverse mortgage being a possibility," said Downey, founder of Braintree, Mass.-based Harbor Mortgage. "The numbers have to work, but if they do, it can be a godsend for them. The current mortgage is paid off; they keep the house; and they have no future payments.

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