For homeowners entering their golden years, a reverse mortgage presents a solution to unlock the untapped wealth residing within their homes. Many older Americans find themselves with little in retirement savings but possess significant equity in their homes, making a reverse mortgage an attractive option for individuals seeking financial flexibility but also want to remain in their current home.

A reverse mortgage is a financial product designed for homeowners aged 62 or older who have substantial equity in their homes. Instead of making monthly mortgage payments, the homeowner receives payments from the lender, effectively converting a portion of their home equity into cash.


Here's how it generally works:

  • Eligibility: Homeowners must meet age requirements (62 or older), own their home outright or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off with the reverse mortgage, and live in the home as their primary residence.
    Loan Types: There are different types of reverse mortgages, but the most common is the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
    Loan Amount: The loan amount depends on factors such as the homeowner's age, home value, and current interest rates. The older the homeowner, the more they can potentially borrow.
    Payment Options: Borrowers can receive funds in various ways, including a lump sum, monthly payments, a line of credit, or a combination of these.
    Repayment: Repayment is typically not required until the homeowner sells the home, moves out permanently, or passes away. The loan is then repaid through the sale of the home, with any remaining equity going to the homeowner or their heirs.


Pros of Reverse Mortgages:

  • Supplemental Income: Provides a source of income for retirees, allowing them to tap into home equity.
  • No Monthly Payments: Borrowers are not required to make monthly mortgage payments as long as they live in the home.
  • Flexible Payout Options: Borrowers can choose how they receive the funds, whether as a lump sum, monthly payments, or a line of credit.
  • Non-Recourse Loan: The borrower or their heirs typically won't owe more than the home's value when repaying the loan.

Cons of Reverse Mortgages:

  • Accruing Interest: Interest on the loan accumulates over time, potentially reducing the homeowner's equity.
  • Upfront Costs: Reverse mortgages may have higher upfront costs compared to traditional mortgages.
  • Impact on Inheritance: The loan could impact the amount of inheritance left to heirs, as the home equity is used to repay the loan.
  • Complexity: Reverse mortgages can be complex, and it's important for borrowers to fully understand the terms and implications.

Why choose a reverse mortgage instead of a cash out refinance or home equity line of credit?

Homeowners may choose a reverse mortgage over a cash-out refinance or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) for various reasons, depending on their financial needs, preferences, and circumstances. Here are some factors that might influence the decision:

  • A cash out refinance and a HELOC would both require monthly payments. 
  • Reverse mortgages are often easier to qualify for compared to traditional mortgages or HELOCs.
  • The eligibility criteria focus less on creditworthiness and income, making it more accessible for seniors with limited income.
  • With a traditional mortgage or HELOC, the homeowner might be required to sell the home if the loan balance becomes due or the they or their heirs may owe more than the home is worth when the loan comes due.

Before considering a reverse mortgage, it's advisable for homeowners to consult with their financial advisors and a licensed lender to assess their individual situation and explore all options.

Useful Links:
Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM)
Free Home Valuation