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Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgage Lending

Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgage Lending

If you have substantial equity in your home, you might be a strong candidate for reverse mortgage lending. 

In this kind of financial agreement, senior homeowners can borrow against the equity in their homes, receiving either a lump sum or regular payments. The loan is only due once they no longer live in that home. 

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a specific reverse mortgage program available to those 62 years of age and older. 

As the life expectancy grows in America, and more people are looking for financial stability in retirement, the HECM allows aging homeowners to tap into their wealth and make smarter decisions for their retirement.

HECMs are especially popular in California, where the cost of living and housing continues to rise. In fact, reports state that HECMs are more geographically concentrated than FHA-insured forward mortgages, and California remains the state with the largest share of HECM production.

If you think you might qualify for an HECM in California, there’s a lot to consider. Let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, how to select one, and what makes you a good or bad candidate for this type of arrangement. 

What Is a Reverse Mortgage? 

In traditional mortgages, borrowers make monthly payments to a lender – but reverse mortgages work the other way around. The lender pays the homeowner, either through a lump sum, monthly payments, or a line of credit. 

The loan balance increases over time as interest accumulates and is typically isn’t repaid until the homeowner sells the home, moves out permanently, or passes away. 

Reverse mortgages can provide retirees with additional income, help cover expenses, or fund large purchases – but they also come with some risks, including potentially reducing the inheritance for heirs and accruing substantial interest over time.

Types of Reverse Mortgages


As we mentioned, an HECM loan is a type of reverse mortgage specifically designed for homeowners 62 and older. These loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and allow homeowners to convert a portion of their home equity into cash. 

HECM loans offer flexibility in how the funds can be accessed, including options for lump-sum payments, monthly payments, or a line of credit. Borrowers are not required to repay the loan as long as they continue to live in the home as their primary residence, maintain the property, and keep up with property taxes and homeowners insurance. 


This is a type of reverse mortgage that is privately issued by a financial institution rather than being insured by the government, as is the case with federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs). 

These proprietary reverse mortgages are typically offered by banks, mortgage companies, or other private lenders and may have different terms, eligibility requirements, and borrowing limits compared to HECMs. They can be advantageous for homeowners with higher home values who may exceed the maximum loan limits of HECMs or for those seeking more flexibility in accessing their home equity. 

However, they may also come with higher fees and interest rates, as well as fewer consumer protections compared to federally-insured HECMs.


A single-purpose reverse mortgage is a type of reverse mortgage offered by some state and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations. 

Unlike traditional reverse mortgages, which can be used for any purpose, single-purpose reverse mortgages are designed for specific use, such as paying property taxes or making home repairs. They typically have lower costs and are available to homeowners with lower incomes or higher levels of home equity. 

One thing to note is that they may also have more limited eligibility criteria and loan amounts compared to other types of reverse mortgages.

The Pros and Cons of Reverse Mortgages 

Like any type of financial agreement, reverse mortgages (including HECMs) come with an array of benefits and potential risks. Let’s talk about some of the biggest points any homeowner needs to recognize: 


Arguably the biggest benefit of a reverse mortgage is that it provides a valuable source of supplemental income. By allowing retirees to access the equity in their homes without having to sell or downsize, a reverse mortgage can help cover living expenses, healthcare costs, or other financial needs during retirement. 

Another appealing aspect of a reverse mortgage is that it eliminates the need for monthly mortgage payments. Also, the funds received from a reverse mortgage are generally tax-free, providing retirees with a significant financial advantage. They can use the money without worrying about tax implications, further enhancing their financial security in retirement.


Although reverse mortgages can be financially viable and advisable for many, there are some drawbacks to consider. 

Firstly, they accrue interest and fees over time, potentially eroding the equity homeowners have built up in their homes. Additionally, the loan balance can grow substantially, especially if homeowners receive regular payments, which may leave less equity for heirs when the home is eventually sold. 

Furthermore, if borrowers are unable to keep up with property taxes, insurance, and maintenance requirements, they risk defaulting on the loan, leading to foreclosure and the loss of the home. This aspect can be particularly concerning for heirs who may have hoped to inherit the property. 

This brings us to our next section: understanding if the benefits of reverse mortgages outweigh the risks in your case.

Who Is a Good Candidate for a Reverse Mortgage?

The ideal candidates for a reverse mortgage are typically homeowners 62 and older who have substantial equity in their homes and are looking to supplement their retirement income without having to sell their property. 

As of January 2023, the National Reverse Mortgage Lender Association estimated that seniors in the United States collectively held approximately 11.8 trillion dollars in home equity, highlighting the potential wealth tied up in residential properties. 

Additionally, homeowners who have paid off their mortgages or have low remaining balances are particularly well-suited for reverse mortgages, as they can access a larger portion of their home’s equity. 

It’s also best if individuals plan to stay in their homes for the long term and are financially stable enough to cover property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs are good candidates, as these expenses are still their responsibility even with a reverse mortgage.

Common Misconceptions About Reverse Mortgages

One common concern about reverse mortgages is the fear of losing ownership of the home. 

While it’s true that a reverse mortgage allows homeowners to tap into their home equity, they retain ownership of the property as long as they continue to meet the loan obligations, such as paying property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs. 

Another frequent misunderstanding involves rumors about incorrect risks, such as the belief that borrowers can owe more than the value of their home or be forced to move out if the loan balance exceeds the property’s worth. 

In reality, reverse mortgages are non-recourse loans, meaning borrowers or their heirs will never owe more than the home’s appraised value at the time of repayment. 

If you’ve heard confusing facts (or myths) about reverse mortgages, don’t hesitate to reach out to qualified financial professionals. HUD-approved reverse mortgage counselors can provide personalized and accurate guidance based on your specific situation.

How to Apply for a Reverse Mortgage 

(1) Plan 

Your first step in accessing your full wealth is creating a clear map to success. By working with a professional, determine how much of your retirement budget is tied up in your home, what risks are associated with seeking a reverse mortgage, and how to proceed. 

(2) Consider

Next, it’s time to consider which type of reverse mortgage suits your needs. Keep in mind that third-party counseling is mandatory for all reverse mortgage borrowers under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), so you’ll need to find a certified counselor for this part of the process. 

(3) Apply 

Once you’ve determined which reverse mortgage meets your needs, it’s time to apply and iron out the details with your lender – whether that be the state, a private bank, or a mortgage company.

(4) Repayment 

After receiving your reverse mortgage funds, you can use them how you see fit (and under any requirements set by your loan). It’s only time to repay if you decide to sell the home or it’s no longer your primary residence. 

Learn More With NeighborWorks Orange County 

Our non-profit organization is committed to helping California homeowners build and maximize their wealth through various opportunities. Led by SoCal locals, we provide lending, realty, and educational tools to ensure homes are wealth-building assets – not liabilities. 

If you’re interested in learning more about reverse mortgages, we’re here to help. Connect with Anthony Trinh (DRE #01420656 NMLS #334888) at (714) 408-9323 or senior@nwoc.org for more information.


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