Your Home as a Source of Dollars in Retirement

If you own a home, you may be wealthier than you think. The equity in your home could be one of your largest assets, especially if your mortgage has been paid down over the years or paid off. This home equity can be a valuable source of extra income during your retirement years.

How do you tap your home equity?

There are two ways to tap your home equity if you're approaching retirement (or already retired) and don't want to make mortgage payments: You can trade down, or you can use a reverse mortgage. Trading down involves selling your present home and replacing it with a smaller, less expensive home. A reverse mortgage is a home mortgage in which the lender makes monthly payments to you, rather than you making monthly payments to the lender. Both of these strategies can give you substantial additional income during retirement.

Note: You could get money from your home by taking a home equity loan, where you place a regular mortgage on your home. But you must repay the home equity loan, with interest, like other regular home mortgages.

Trading down can give you increased income

If your home is larger than you need, trading down to a smaller place may be a good way to increase your retirement income. The difference between the price that you receive for your present home and the cost of a smaller new home can be added to your retirement funds to provide you with additional investment income. The amount of cash that you can get by trading down depends on the value of your present home, the cost of purchasing a new home, and the incidental costs involved in the trade (e.g., brokerage commissions, legal fees, closing costs, and moving expenses). You should estimate these amounts to get some idea of the net amount that you will receive. To check the present value of your home, you should get an estimate of its selling price from two or three real estate agents. You should also get an estimate of the cost of your replacement home by shopping around for the type of home that you think you'll want.

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