6 Common Questions About Reverse Mortgages Answered

Reverse mortgages can be one tool for older homeowners seeking to bring in extra income, but there is a lot of confusion and fear about these products, their intention and who should obtain them.

Here are some answers to common questions about reverse mortgages:

1. Why should I (or anyone) consider a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a special type of loan for homeowners aged 62+ that lets you convert a portion of the equity in your home into cash. This loan may be useful for someone who expects to live in his/her home for several years and would like extra money to do so.

Reverse mortgages work best when they are considered part of a broader financial plan, rather than as a tool for getting quick cash or managing a financial crisis. Therefore, a reverse mortgage is not a fit for everyone, and obtaining counseling is critical.

The National Council on Aging’s (NCOA) guide, Use Your Home to Stay at Home™, explains the advantages and disadvantages of reverse mortgages, as well as other resources available to help older homeowners age in place.

2. What’s the difference between a reverse mortgage and a regular home equity loan?

Unlike a traditional home equity loan (or a second mortgage), you don’t have to repay a reverse mortgage loan until you either no longer live in the home as your principal residence or you fail to meet the obligations of the mortgage. At this time, there are also no income requirements for obtaining a reverse mortgage.

There are different types of reverse mortgages with different payment methods, but the most common is the FHA insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Homeowners can receive their payment either as fixed monthly payments, a lump sum payment, a line of credit, or a combination of these.

3. What does a reverse mortgage cost?

Just like with a traditional mortgage, there are closing costs associated with a reverse mortgage. These closing costs may include a loan origination fee, appraisal, title search and insurance, surveys, inspections, recording fees and other fees. Sometimes these costs can be financed into the loan.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) also requires borrowers to pay a sizable upfront mortgage insurance premium on some HECM reverse mortgages, which can affect the cost of these loans.

The National Reverse Mortgage Lender Association (NRMLA) has a helpful reverse mortgage calculator to estimate your costs. Fees vary by lender, so if you are considering a reverse mortgage, it is important to shop around.

4. Aren’t reverse mortgages just scams that give money to big banks?

Reverse mortgages themselves are not a scam, but there are unscrupulous people and companies that sometimes use reverse mortgages to exploit consumers. The FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urges vigilance when looking at reverse mortgage products.

The FHA maintains a list of legitimate reverse mortgage lenders that offer HECM loans. To check your lender, visit the HUD website. It helps to work with a lender who has many years of experience with these loans.

Federal law prohibits anyone from requiring you to buy a financial product (e.g., life insurance, long-term care insurance) in order to get a reverse mortgage.

To learn more about common scams targeted at seniors, visit NCOA’s Savvy Saving Seniors®.

5. Why do I need to get counseling before applying for a reverse mortgage?

The federal government requires that all reverse mortgage borrowers receive counseling before they take out a HECM loan. Counselors are trained and approved by HUD to provide unbiased information and to discuss alternatives to a HECM, the costs associated with the loan, the various products and payment plan options and much more.

The counseling session equips the borrower with the knowledge needed to make an informed choice. Depending on your income, you may be charged for this counseling.

You can get counseling through NCOA’s HUD-approved Reverse Mortgage Counseling Network by calling 1-800-510-0301. You can also find a counselor in your area at the HUD HECM Counselor Roster.

6. How can I get real information about this without somebody trying to sell me something?

In addition to the counseling service noted above, you may wish to explore all of your options for staying at home. Use the QuickCheck tool on NCOA’s consumer website, Home Equity Advisor, to identify the different ways you can save money and remain in your home. The site also features additional questions and answers about reverse mortgages.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Andy Smith
Andy Smith4 years ago

Thanks for the nice post. Reverse Mortgage is very helpful for senior citizen. It is important to choose best mortgage. Choosing the right mortgage should be based on your capacity to pay on time and you to choose a good mortgage is very important since this is a long term commitment. Make sure you find a mortgage service with small interest rates.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago


Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown4 years ago

Hey, I am sure that the seniors can trust the banks. I mean haven't they proven trustworthy in the past???

Marie W.
Marie W4 years ago

Caveat Emptor..

Doug G.
Doug G4 years ago

The financial services industry has been dreaming up new ways to feed off of working people for years, beginning with the marvelous 401K. This is just another rip off that benefits those parasites at someone else"s expense. Just say no to those thieving manipulative crooks.

Anne Moran
Anne M4 years ago


Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

I'm actually glad to see someone address this issue from a neutral POV, not trying to sell seniors on the idea.

janice b.
jan b4 years ago

I can't imagine anyone taking a reverse mortgage unless they are in dire straits.

Penny D.
Kim M4 years ago

Don't trust anything like this at all - it's just another scam for the rich banks to make more money and leave your relatives with more problems. That's if you're lucky enough to finish up in your beloved home and the evil bank hasn't got you out before hand - this has happened in the UK. I used to be a debt counsellor and would never recommend this type of thing as I came across so many who had been made homeless.

I have noticed something in France though which I think is a good idea. Many elderly people are "selling" their homes there but the difference is the buyer isn't allowed to have the property until the person has died. Some properties not only have a sale price but a monthly income that also has to be paid to the elderly person until they die. Now that does sound a good idea to me. Obviously it's open to fraud, so you've got to make sure you have a very trustworthy lawyer to do this to make sure you have every possibility set in stone and include everything in the contract. Why take out a loan when you can do this?! I think, for once, the French have got this right.