Getting a Mortgage at Any Age: Applicants 70+ Receive 5% of Mortgage Volume
More than 5% of mortgage loan dollar volume went to applicants over 70 years old in the third quarter of 2023, says the New York Federal Reserve.
Some of this volume can be attributed to the popular reverse mortgage program, which eliminates a qualifying homeowner’s payment for life if they are 62 or older.
But some of it was for regular 30-year mortgages.
If you’re 70, 80, or even 90 years old, you might wonder if you can get a mortgage. After all, will lenders approve a loan that won’t be paid off until you’re 100 or older?
The answer is yes, thanks to strong anti-discrimination laws.
You Can Get a 30-year Mortgage at Any Age
Thanks to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a lender can’t discriminate against an applicant due to age, says the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).
You could be 99 years old and get a 30-year mortgage as long as you qualify. The lender may not deny a loan because they don’t think you’ll live long enough to pay it off.
But the law addresses more than just the age at which you apply.
ECOA also prohibits lenders from denying a loan for other reasons that may be related to age.
You can qualify for a mortgage on disability income, social security, pension, retirement, and other income types that are more common for older applicants.
That being said, you still have to verify your income amount and meet debt-to-income requirements.
Qualifying at an Older Age
Those over the age of 70 who apply for a mortgage are likely retired and receive a few types of non-employment income.
Almost any income type is acceptable as long as you can verify it will continue for the next three years. In some cases, no proof of continuance is required.
Following are conventional loan rules about verifying alternate income types.
Social Security: Provide your Social Security award letter. You do not have to prove continuance since this is assumed a lifetime benefit.
Social Security Disability: Provide your disability award letter. The lender may not ask for a doctor’s note regarding the duration of the disability. According to the CFPB, “Unless the Social Security Administration letter specifically states that benefits will expire within three years of loan origination, lenders should treat the benefits as likely to continue.”
Other Disability Income: Provide evidence of continuance for private disability income including award letters and statements. This income is harder to prove than Social Security since terms and rules for private plans are not widely known. Short-term disability typically may not be used to qualify.
Retirement Income: The lender will check the terms of retirement income to verify that it’s likely to continue for three years. Provide award letters, retirement account statements, and two years’ tax returns for variable retirement income like dividends.
Tax-free income may be “grossed up”, meaning the lender can add 15-25% to make it comparable to employment income which is taxed.
The Lender Must Prove the Ability to Repay
Keep in mind that verifying income amounts is not the same as discrimination. Other laws like the Ability To Repay (ATR) rule require lenders to ensure the borrower has the means to repay the loan.
For example, if you make $1,000 per month in Social Security income, the lender can’t approve you for a $1,500-per-month house payment.
Your total payment including taxes, insurance, and HOA dues must be no more than about 40-50% of your income, assuming little or no debt.
What If You Suspect Discrimination?
The first step is to speak with your lender if you suspect discrimination.
Remember that being in an ECOA-protected class doesn’t guarantee approval. You still must prove the ability to repay the loan. So what you perceive as discrimination might be the lender doing its lawful due diligence.
Discrimination is possible, though.
According to the CFPB, warning signs of discrimination are:
Refusing credit that you qualify for
Discouraging you from applying
Offering you less favorable credit terms
If you suspect discrimination, the best course of action is to submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372). Be ready to report the dates, amounts, and other details around your situation.
Getting a Mortgage at Any Age
If you qualify for the mortgage, the process should be the same whether you’re 30 or 70.
Thanks to strong laws against discrimination and disparate treatment, all individuals have the right to equal access to credit.
So even if you’re older, don’t fear applying to buy or refinance a home. Most lenders are eager to get your business and will treat you fairly no matter your age.
Tim Lucas spent 11 years in the mortgage industry and now leverages that real-world knowledge to give consumers reliable, actionable advice. Tim has been featured in national publications such as Time, U.S. News, MSN, The Mortgage Reports, My Mortgage Insider, and more.