Inheriting Property From Parents: Why Reverse Mortgages Can Help

By Darren Moffatt

September 4

2 comments


We are currently at the beginning of the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history. According to a 2021 Productivity Report, over the next two decades:

  • more than $3.5 BILLION will shift from baby boomers to Generation X and Millenial beneficiaries 
  • by the year 2050 there will $224 BILLION bequested annually
  • much of this wealth transfer will be in the form of property inheritance from parents.  

This trend has already begun. A growing number of Australians are finding themselves becoming homeowners, not through the usual path of purchasing, but by inheriting homes from their elderly parents. Notwithstanding the sad passing of a loved one, such a windfall might seem like good fortune but it often comes with its own set of challenges. Suddenly, you’re not just a beneficiary, but also a property owner (sometimes for the first time) with all the associated financial responsibilities.

At Seniors First we have noticed more people who’ve just inherited a property asking us about a Reverse Mortgage loan. At first we were surprised, but upon closer investigation it makes sense; it’s a response to a range of unexpected financial pressures.

Some inheritors are also caught off-guard by the unplanned tax implications of their new assets, such as Capital Gains Tax (CGT) . Others might be grappling with personal financial hardships that make the sudden maintenance costs of another property difficult to bear.

As we look into this trend, we’ll shed light on how Reverse Mortgages offer a lifeline to these individuals, helping them navigate the complexities of inheritance while ensuring they remain financially stable. 

Whether you’ve recently inherited real estate, or you’re simply curious about this emerging trend, we’re here to guide you through the ins and outs of why more Australians are turning to Reverse Mortgages after inheriting property from parents.

Impact on Age Pension: The Delicate Balance

Inheriting a property can be a bittersweet experience. While it’s a significant asset, its implications on one’s age pension can sometimes come as an unexpected curveball. The age pension, a crucial safety net for many older Australians, has specific criteria, and the addition of a valuable property to one’s assets might upset this balance.

Let’s break this down a bit. The age pension in Australia operates under both an assets test and an income test. When you inherit a property, unless the property becomes your owner occupied residence its value becomes part of your assessable assets. For those who already own a home (which is exempt fromt the assets test), the new additional property asset might push them over the asset threshold, potentially reducing their pension or even disqualifying them from it altogether. This can be quite a shock, especially if the pension was a primary source of income.

Imagine this: You’ve been relying on your age pension to manage your day-to-day expenses. Then, you inherit a family home. Its sentimental value is immense, but so is its market value. And suddenly, due to this added asset, your steady pension stream is reduced or stops.

For example, let’s say you are a retiree who depends primarily on your Age Pension for your daily expenses. Suddenly, you inherited a property worth $600,000 from your parents. Before inheriting the property, your assessable assets are worth $250,000 keeping well below the Age Pension asset test threshold for a single homeowner, which stands at $301,750 as of August 2023. However, adding the inherited property value pushed your total assets to $850,000, wiping out your Age Pension. 

It’s a situation that leaves many Australians in a challenging position, trying to bridge the gap between their lowered income and fixed expenses. This is where Reverse Mortgage loans can help. With some Reverse Mortgage lenders it’s possible to release equity against secondary properties such as holiday homes or rental properties. 

[ Related Post: AHURI Study: Worrying Senior’s Housing & Mortgage Trends ]

inheriting property from parents

What is a Reverse Mortgage and How Does it Work?

If you’ve ever heard the term “Reverse Mortgage” and wondered what it entails, you’re not alone. While it’s gaining traction, especially among Australians who’ve inherited property, it’s essential to understand its fundamentals and the potential benefits.

In simple terms, a Reverse Mortgage is a type of loan that allows homeowners to unlock a portion of their home’s equity and convert it into cash. 

So for example, if the value of your inherited property is $600,000 you may release a portion of it (let’s say 30%), so you can take out $180,000 as a lump sum that you can use to cover maintenance costs and bolster your financial standing. 

The amount you can borrow largely depends on your property’s value, its location, and your age. Typically, the older you are, the more you can borrow. Over time, interest accumulates on the borrowed amount. The loan, including the accumulated interest, is usually repaid when you sell the home, move out, or upon passing.

One of the standout advantages of a Reverse Mortgage is that it provides you with financial freedom without the need to uproot. You can continue living in your home while benefiting from its equity. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

For many Australians, especially those grappling with reduced age pensions after inheriting a property, a Reverse Mortgage offers a practical solution. It bridges the gap between maintaining their lifestyle and leveraging the value of their inherited asset. 

Benefits of Releasing Home Equity through a Reverse Mortgage

For many Aussies who’ve recently become homeowners via inheritance, the equity locked up in their new property might seem a bit like money in a vault – valuable, but not always immediately accessible. That’s where the appeal of a Reverse Mortgage comes in. By allowing homeowners to tap into this treasure without selling or moving out, Reverse Mortgages can be a financial game-changer. Let’s unpack some of the standout benefits:

1. Immediate Liquidity

Think of a Reverse Mortgage as a tap on your property’s equity. Turn it on, and out flows cash. This provides homeowners with immediate funds, which can be especially crucial for those experiencing a sudden drop in income or unexpected expenses.

2. Flexibility in Fund Usage

Once you’ve accessed your home’s equity through a Reverse Mortgage, how you use the funds is entirely up to you. Whether you’re dreaming of a home renovation, looking to consolidate debts, or simply aiming to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, the choice is yours. It’s this flexibility that makes the Reverse Mortgage a versatile financial tool for many.

3. Preserve the Family Home

One of the most cherished aspects of a Reverse Mortgage is the ability to stay put. You don’t have to sell or vacate the home, which can be particularly comforting if the property has sentimental value as a family inheritance.

4. Potential for Legacy Planning

A common misconception is that taking out a Reverse Mortgage means saying goodbye to the possibility of leaving an inheritance. However, with the right planning and depending on property value appreciation, there can still be equity left in the home when the loan is repaid. This means you might very well leave a legacy for your heirs.

In essence, a Reverse Mortgage is not just a financial decision; it’s an opportunity to make the most of an inherited property, ensuring it benefits you today while also considering the future.

[ Related Post: Retiree Debt Trends: Home Equity Release Helps Over 60’s Cope With Soaring Debt

Risks and Considerations to Keep in Mind

While the allure of a Reverse Mortgage is undeniably attractive, especially to Australians who’ve come into property inheritance, it’s essential to approach the decision with a balanced perspective. As with any financial product, there are both advantages and potential pitfalls. Here, we’ll shine a light on some of the considerations that merit attention:

1. Accumulating Interest

Unlike a standard mortgage where you gradually chip away at the interest and principal amount, with a Reverse Mortgage, the interest accumulates over time. This means that the longer you have the loan, the more you’ll owe, as the interest compounds on the borrowed amount.

2. Impact on Government Benefits

Accessing a lump sum from a Reverse Mortgage might affect eligibility for certain government benefits or concessions. It’s crucial to consult with a Financial Information Services (FIS) officer at Centrelink to understand any potential implications.

3. Estate Planning Impacts

If leaving a property or significant assets to heirs is a priority, it’s essential to understand that a Reverse Mortgage might reduce the home’s equity. While it’s possible to still leave a legacy, the amount may be less than anticipated.

5. Misconceptions and Myths

The topic of Reverse Mortgages is riddled with misconceptions. One common myth is that the bank takes ownership of the home. In truth, the title remains with the homeowner. However, the bank does hold a mortgage on the property until the loan is paid off.

Making a decision about a Reverse Mortgage shouldn’t be done in haste. While it offers a plethora of benefits, especially for those inheriting property and navigating financial challenges, it’s vital to understand the potential risks.

Property Inheritors: Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

So, is a reverse mortgage the right path for you? Well, the answer isn’t one-size-fits-all. Every individual’s circumstances are unique, and what works for one person might not be the best fit for another. What’s vital is ensuring you’re equipped with all the relevant information, weighing up the pros and cons, and considering your long-term goals and aspirations.

Before making any decisions, it’s a wise move to consult with advisors or professionals who can provide information and advice based on your specific situation. After all, an informed decision is the best decision. 

Remember, inheriting a property is a significant event in one’s life. In some cases, a Reverse Mortgage can be a useful tool for releasing equity if the family does not want to sell the inherited house immediately.  

Contact Seniors First for more information about Reverse Mortgages or call us on 1300 745 745.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. If you are worried recently inherited assets will produce negative financial consequences, please contact a financial adviser or your lawyer. Please note that all Centrelink rates are correct at the time of publication, but may have since changed by the time you read this. 

 

  • can the loan be paid out at any time and if so what are the penalties…eg if a person won lotto or a lottery and decided to pay out the loan what would be the procedure and or penalties if reduced or paid out earlier than ones passing

    • Hi Mike, the current lenders offer only variable rates which means that aside from standard mortgage discharge fees (usally around $500) there are no exit fees or pealties for early repayment. You can pay the loan out at any time, and you can also pay interest when ever you like. Regards, DM

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