“The only solace for Isabel Santos as she spends her evenings huddled over stacks of yellowed foreclosure notices is that her parents are not alive to watch their ranch-style house in Pleasant Hill, Calif., slipping away.
Ms. Santos, 61, along with a growing number of baby boomers, is confronting a bitter inheritance: The same loans that were supposed to help their elderly parents stay in their houses are now pushing their children out. “My dad had nothing when he came here from Cuba and worked so hard to buy this house,” Ms. Santos said, her voice quivering.
Similar scenes are being played out throughout an aging America, where the children of elderly borrowers are learning that their parents’ reverse mortgages are now threatening their own inheritances. Reverse mortgages, which allow homeowners 62 and older to borrow money against the value of their homes that need not be paid back until they move out or die, have long posed pitfalls for older borrowers.
Now many like Ms. Santos are discovering that reverse mortgages can also come up with a harsh sting for their heirs.
Under federal rules, survivors are supposed to be offered the option to settle the loan for a percentage of the full amount. Instead, reverse mortgage companies are increasingly threatening to foreclose unless heirs pay the mortgages in full, according to interviews with more than four dozen housing counselors, state regulators and 25 families whose elderly parents took out reverse mortgages.
Some lenders are moving to foreclose just weeks after the borrower dies, many families say. The complaints are echoed by borrowers across the country, according to a review of federal and state court lawsuits against reverse mortgage lenders.
Others say that they don’t get that far. Soon after their parents die, the heirs say they are plunged into a bureaucratic maze as they try to get lenders to provide them with details about how to keep their family homes.
Ms. Santos’s mother, Yolanda, began borrowing money against the equity in her home in 2009, when she was in her 80s. Ms. Santos thought the arrangement would defray her mother’s living and medical expenses by providing cash up front…..”