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If you’re a homeowner 62 years of age or older and you need to supplement your income, you may be able to tap into the value of your home using a reverse mortgage to get money now.

Unlike a traditional mortgage, you won’t have to make monthly payments and your income doesn’t affect your eligibility, according to Peter Bell, president of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

If you’re interested in getting a reverse mortgage, one of the major considerations is how much you can get. How much you get also varies on how you choose to receive your payouts. Here is what you need to know to get started.

How Much Can You Get?
The simplest way to figure this out is to use an online reverse mortgage calculator, where you plug in where you live, your age, your spouse’s age and the value of your home, says Bell.

How much you actually get is also determined by a variable: an interest rate that’s either calculated using the one-year treasury or the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). The calculator on figures out interest rates for you and explains how it’s calculated. If your lender offers both an interest rate based on the treasury and one based on the LIBOR, you can discuss with your loan originator which one would be better for you. The LIBOR rate may be recommended, since a set margin means it carries less interest rate risk for brokers, but patriotic investors tend to choose the treasury-based rate, Bell says. Some lenders only offer one or the other. Both rates fluctuate.

About 90% of reverse mortgages, according to the AARP, are made through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and their Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program.

Late last year, FHA-backed reverse mortgage loans were limited to between $200,000 and $300,000, depending on where you live. This year the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act raised the limit to $625,500.

Some proprietary lenders, such as Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC), MetLife (Stock Quote: MET), Senior Lending Network and other national and community banks may offer higher-amount reverse mortgages, but such loans will not be FHA-insured.

Payout Options That Pay More
How much you can get also varies on how you choose to receive your payouts. You may choose a lump sum payout to pay off a single debt such as a credit card balance. If you need help covering regular expenses, you can receive monthly reverse mortgage payments, known as the tenure option, for as long as you live in your home. A similar option is to receive monthly term payments, which only last for a set period of time. Lastly, you can opt for a line of credit if you want backup cash in case of unexpected expenses.

As a general rule, the older you are, the more money you can get. If you’re younger, your loan amount will have to stretch over a greater number of years.

With a line of credit, your unused available credit increases annually, meaning you can have more access to cash as years go by. If you opt for tenure payments, even if they’ve added up to more than the value of your home, you’ll continue to receive them regularly for as long as you live there.

So what does this all mean in real terms? Consider these two examples of hypothetical neighbors in Sacramento, Calif.

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Reverse Mortgage Example No. 1:
If a 70-year-old man and wife, 62, have a $200,000 home, and need extra money each month to help cover regular expenses, monthly payouts are determined using the age of the younger spouse.

According to the reverse mortgage lenders association's calculator, the couple can get a lump sum of about $80,363; a line of credit for about $80,363 that increases by 4.6% each year; or monthly payments of $509 for as long as either one lives in their home, based on interest rates calculated using the one-year U.S. treasury.

With an interest rate calculated using the LIBOR, electing a lump sum would pay $88,119; a line of credit equal that amount plus a 3.90% increase per year; or monthly payments of $535 per month.

So, the best option for the couple would be monthly payments from a reverse mortgage with an interest rate calculated using the LIBOR.

Reverse Mortgage Example No. 2:
A 75-year-old widow has a home worth $625,000. She wants to make minor home repairs and have backup funds in case of an emergency or unexpected medical bill.

She can get a lump sum of about $364,372; a line of credit for about $364,372 that increases by 4.6% each year; or monthly payments of $2,593, based on the one-year U.S. treasury, according to the calculator.

With a home equity conversion mortgage pegged against the LIBOR, electing a lump sum would get her $382,952; a line of credit for that amount plus a 3.90% increase per year; or $2,633 per month.

The best option in this case would be a line of credit.

Once you have an idea of how much you should be able to get, discuss your financial situation and your income needs with a reverse mortgage counselor and a loan officer. When deciding what payout option that works for you, remember that you’ll still have to pay your real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, home repairs and mortgage insurance, too.

For more mortgage news, data and calculators, BankingMyWay's mortgage center is the place to bookmark.

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