A relative newcomer in the mortgage market is a Reverse Annuity Mortgage (RAM). For older Americans, especially retirees living on fixed incomes, the equity in their paid-for or almost-paid-for home represents a large but liquid asset. The RAM is designed to help supplement those homeowners' income.
The lender who will issue a RAM appraises the property and makes the loan based on a percentage of its current value. The homeowner retains ownership, and the property secures the loan. The lender then pays an annuity to the borrower, usually on a monthly basis, up to an amount equal to the equity they have in the home.
The advantage of such a loan for older Americans is that of receiving a monthly tax-free income. Under one plan, this income is available for life or until the house is sold at the homeowner moves. The schedule of payments depends on the value of the home and the ages of the owners. There are risks involved, however. If the homeowner wants to move and buy a new house, there may not be enough equity in the home to permit such a plan. Or the lender may consider only the current market value of the home rather than any future appreciation when deciding on the monthly payments.