Reverse mortgages help seniors stay afloat

Avoid depleting your savings when home prices fall

LIVE NOW: Inman Connect San Francisco
Tune-in now to catch the livestream. Don't miss this chance to see real estate leaders tackle the industry's top problems.

Jeff Taylor, the former longtime leader of Wells Fargo’s reverse mortgage division, had a stock answer when applicants declined a reverse mortgage because they felt the rates and fees were simply too high. Taylor had done the research for his own mother and decided the reverse mortgage was the best strategy to keep his mother comfortable in her later years.

"Too high compared to what?" Taylor would say. "Selling your home, paying the closing costs, and then attempting to find another acceptable place? Have you ever tried to find a senior an acceptable place — especially if that person is a member of your family? If you did, good luck on being able to afford it."

I thought about that answer the other day when a recent AARP study (the group formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) revealed that 31.6 percent of seniors have experienced a substantial decline in their homes’ values in the past three years, and a fourth have exhausted their personal savings.

Among the findings in "Recovering from the Great Recession: Long Struggle Ahead for Older Americans" was that 66.6 percent of the 5,027 respondents at or approaching retirement age have had to tap into their retirement savings accounts during the past three years. A quarter of those polled had exhausted their personal savings, making them even less prepared for retirement.