Reverse Mortgage – What You Need to Know

A reverse mortgage is a unique loan option specifically designed for senior homeowners. Unlike traditional mortgages where you make monthly payments to own your home outright, a reverse mortgage allows you to access the equity you’ve built up in your property without the burden of regular payments. This can be a valuable tool for retirees seeking to supplement their income, pay for unexpected expenses, or improve their overall financial security.

Reverse Mortgage

It’s important to note that with a reverse mortgage, the loan amount you receive is based on your age, home value, and current interest rates. While you don’t make monthly payments, the interest on the loan accrues and is added to the principal balance, increasing your debt over time. This means you’ll eventually need to repay the loan, typically when you move out of the home, sell it, or pass away.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage, also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), is a loan specifically designed for senior homeowners. Unlike traditional mortgages where you make monthly payments to the lender, a reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against the equity in your home and receive the funds as a lump sum, line of credit, or monthly payments. You retain ownership of your home during the loan term.

How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?

  • The loan amount is based on your age, home value, and current interest rates.
  • You don’t typically make monthly payments, but interest accrues on the outstanding loan balance.
  • The loan becomes due when you no longer live in the home, sell it, or pass away.
  • Heirs are responsible for repaying the loan, usually by selling the home.

Types of Reverse Mortgage

While reverse mortgages share core principles, there are three main categories with distinct characteristics:

1. Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs)

  • Most common type: Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and insured by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • Eligibility: Open to homeowners 62 and older with sufficient home equity.
  • Disbursement Options: Lump sum, line of credit, monthly payments, or a combination.
  • Benefits: Federally insured, standardized features, widely available.
  • Drawbacks: Higher closing costs, mandatory mortgage insurance premiums.

2. Proprietary Reverse Mortgages

  • Non-federally insured: Offered by private lenders.
  • Eligibility: May cater to borrowers with higher home values or those ineligible for HECMs (e.g., condo units).
  • Disbursement Options: Similar to HECMs.
  • Benefits: Potentially higher loan amounts, may offer flexible features.
  • Drawbacks: May have higher interest rates and fees, less standardized terms and protections.

3. Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgages

  • Least common: Offered by state and local governments or non-profit organizations.
  • Eligibility: Often limited by income and specific needs (e.g., home repairs).

Disbursement Options: Typically a single lump sum for the designated purpose.

Benefits: Usually lower costs and fees, targeted towards specific needs.

Drawbacks: Limited availability, restricted use of funds, may have income restrictions.

Choosing the right reverse mortgage depends on your circumstances, financial goals, and risk tolerance. Consulting with a financial advisor and a HUD-approved counselor is crucial to navigate the options and make an informed decision.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Reserve Mortgages

Reverse mortgages offer unique advantages for senior homeowners but also come with potential downsides. Weighing both sides is crucial before making a decision.


  • Financial Security: Accessing home equity can supplement income, pay off existing debt, or cover unexpected expenses.
  • Staying Put: Avoid the emotional and financial stress of selling your home to access retirement funds.
  • Flexibility: Choose how you receive funds (lump sum, line of credit, monthly payments) to fit your needs.
  • Non-Recourse Loan: You or your heirs cannot owe more than the home’s value, even if the loan balance exceeds it.
  • Tax Benefits: The funds received from a reverse mortgage are typically not considered taxable income.


  • Decreasing Equity: As interest accrues, your remaining home equity diminishes, potentially impacting your heirs’ inheritance.
  • Higher Costs: Closing costs, mortgage insurance premiums, and interest rates can be higher than traditional mortgages.
  • Debt Accumulation: Interest compounds, leading to a potentially significant debt burden over time.
  • Potential for Misuse: Careful budgeting is crucial to avoid depleting funds quickly and jeopardizing your future financial security.
  • Loss of Ownership Rights: While you retain ownership, failing to meet property tax, insurance, or maintenance obligations could lead to foreclosure.

Ultimately, a reverse mortgage can be a valuable tool in specific situations, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Consulting with financial advisors and HUD-approved counselors is essential to understand the complexities and ensure it aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance.

Eligibility for Reserve Mortgages

To qualify for a HECM loan, you must:

  • Be at least 62 years old.
  • Own your home with full title or a Life Estate with survivorship rights.
  • Occupy the home as your primary residence.
  • Meet the financial assessment requirements set by the lender.

Applying for a Reserve Mortgage

1. Initial Research and Consideration:

  • Gather information: Research reverse mortgages, understand the pros and cons, and consider if they align with your financial goals.
  • Consult a financial advisor: Discuss your financial situation and explore alternative options to ensure a reverse mortgage is the right fit.

2. Find a HUD-approved Counselor:

  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires mandatory counseling before applying.
  • Locate a counselor through the HUD website or by calling the National Consumer Counseling Center

3. Contact a Reverse Mortgage Lender:

  • Research and compare lenders offering reverse mortgages in your area.
  • Look for lenders with a good reputation, competitive rates, and transparency in their terms.

4. Pre-application and Eligibility Assessment:

  • Provide basic information about yourself and your property to the chosen lender.
  • The lender will assess your eligibility based on age, homeownership, and equity requirements.

5. Counseling Session:

  • Attend the mandatory counseling session with the HUD-approved counselor.
  • Understand the different types of reverse mortgages, associated costs, and legal implications.
  • Discuss your financial situation and alternative solutions to ensure informed decision-making.

6. Application and Loan Processing:

  • Once you’ve completed counseling and remain interested, formally apply for the reverse mortgage.
  • This involves submitting detailed financial documentation and property details.
  • The lender will conduct an appraisal to determine your home’s market value.

7. Loan Approval and Closing:

  • If approved, carefully review the loan terms, including interest rates, fees, and repayment options.
  • Ask questions and clarify any doubts before proceeding to closing.
  • Attend the closing meeting to finalize the loan and receive the funds according to your chosen disbursement method (lump sum, line of credit, or monthly payments).

Throughout the process, maintain transparency and open communication with the lender, counselor, and any advisors involved.