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Age in Place in Comfort and Safety: Fund Home Modifications with HECMs

For the majority of older Americans, the thought of moving is about as appealing as a root canal. AARP research [1] consistently finds that the vast majority of people age 50 and older want to stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

Yet only a small percentage of that same population are preparing their homes to make “aging in place” a reality, according to HomeAdvisor [2], the online marketplace that matches homeowners with home improvement contractors.

That reality is rife for change now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. As the news has shown us, assisted living complexes, a common alternative to aging in place, have quickly become a hotbed of senior health risk in the age of the COVID-19 crisis. Financial pressures, sicker residents, limited oversight, and too few employees are putting seniors’ lives in peril [3].

The good news (and yes, there is some), is that for homeowners 62 and older, a reverse mortgage, (also known as a HECM) can help pay for home modifications that will allow you to extend your time aging in place.

Many HECM borrowers have successfully used reverse mortgages to pay for aging-in-place modifications such as:

Outdoor and indoor ramps: Entry and exit ramps aren't just for wheelchair access and aren't limited to outside the home. Many aging-in-place households opt for ramps as alternate access to stairs for those with balance issues. Other families install indoor threshold ramps in doorways to form a seamless surface to transition into sunken living rooms or three-season porches.

Doorknobs and faucets: You don't realize how many doorknobs and faucets you have until they become harder to handle. For seniors with arthritis or limited manual ability, replacing round knobs on doors and cabinets with lever-style handles helps people with grip issues open doors and kitchen storage areas with ease. Consider the winning combination of touch-less faucets with anti-scald features for kitchens and bathrooms and reduce the risk of sudden bursts of hot water leading to a burn, or worse yet in the case of a bath or shower, a slip and fall.

Bathroom upgrades: The majority of bathrooms are not designed for aging-in-place, making these modifications the most extensive and expensive. Start small by adding grab bars for easy bathtub and toilet access and installing anti-slip flooring to shower stalls to prevent falls. Then consider walk-in tub or shower options, or if wheelchair access is anticipated, a roll-in shower with curb-less entrance and an entry point at least 3 inches wide. 

Smart-home technology: We've come a long way since MedicAlert and home security systems, folks. While wearable technology like watches, necklaces and even shoe insoles that monitor movement and vitals are still an option, you can also outfit doorways with sensors that alert a family or emergency care service. If someone enters a door but doesn’t exit within a specified period of time, then emergency services are activated. Smart home devices like Nest technologies will control temperature and lighting in the home, and can be paired with assistants like Google and Alexa to automate many of the functions in a home with ease.

How do HECMs fit in?

As we discussed previously in the myths around reverse mortgages, there are no restrictions on how you use reverse mortgage funds.  Why not extend your time living in your home by making small, incremental changes that allow you to stay in the home where you’ve made a lifetime of memories? 

Still unsure if a reverse mortgage is right for you? Let me help you consider all your options so you can make the best decision for your financial needs and for your particular stage of life.

Call Renee at 978-737-7489 or email her directly at [email protected] for your free consultation.

About Renee Guidaboni Coleman of CrossCountry Mortgage

Ensuring that a reverse mortgage is a viable financial option for you is Renee’s priority. In your initial consultation, you’ll learn about eligibility and property qualification requirements, the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, and options for receiving your money. From there, the decision to move forward is completely yours.

A reverse mortgage is a viable financial option worth exploring if:

  • You are a senior homeowner who is planning for or entering retirement.
  • You have an elderly parent or relative who is seeking additional income or a funding source for home repairs.

Renee frequently consults with financial planners and estate planning attorneys who are exploring reverse mortgages as a money management tool.