Spatial Variation in Reverse Mortgages Usage: House Price Dynamics and Consumer Selection
Posted: 19 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 15, 2016
Reverse mortgages have been obtained by nearly one million senior households. In the future, the number of eligible households will grow substantially, about 80 percent are homeowners, and many of them have substantial equity in their home. We study state-level variations in rate of originations of HUD's Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) product. Our focus is on the impact of house prices on the origination rate. We test the hypothesis that states where real house prices are volatile and the current level is above the long term norm, seniors rationally anticipate future reductions in house prices and lock-in their housing equity gains by obtaining a reverse mortgage. We test alternative hypotheses, the first being that seniors living in states with high rates of house price appreciation increase their use of HECMs as a means to convert an illiquid wealth capital gain into a more liquid asset. A second alternative hypothesis is that intertemporal changes in originations of HECMs were a result of changes in the supply of mortgage originators. Our empirical work supports the hypothesis that seniors used HECMs to insure against house price declines, but we find no evidence in support of the alternative hypotheses.
Keywords: Reverse mortgages, Mortgage choice, Senior housing
JEL Classification: R21, R31, J14, G21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation