Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit

In 2023, the reverse mortgage line of credit continues to be the most popular option for homeowners to access their funds.  According to an article by AARP, borrowers recognized this choice about 66% of the time when obtaining a reverse mortgage as being the right choice for them.

The credit line option allows borrowers a great deal of freedom when planning their finances.  Homeowners like the fact that they can take as much as they want when the loan originally closes up to the maximum allowed by HUD in the first 12 months and then can take the funds as needed from there.

Borrowers appreciate that while they can take all remaining available funds after 12 months, they are not required to take any funds they don’t want or need.  However, since the credit line reverse mortgage is only available at an adjustable rate, many may wonder why this option is even more popular than the fixed rate program.

The answer is flexibility.

ARLO explains reverse mortgage line of credit feature

Fixed Rate Products Offer Lump Sum Only

The fixed-rate reverse mortgage option has only one way to take your funds, all in a lump sum at the beginning.  The fixed-rate does not have a line of credit option; it is a single draw that must be taken in full when the loan closes.

This option is acceptable if you need all the funds at the start, for example, to pay off an existing mortgage or for other purposes.  However, if you want to be able to access your funds as you go, the fixed rate option will not work.

The credit line gives the borrowers the option of taking as much money as they wish at initial funding, but then, with the remaining funds, the borrowers can access the funds as they desire.  But there are other benefits to the line of credit reverse mortgage as well.

For one, the borrower does not accrue interest on any portion of the funds that are not being used.

Federally Insured LOC = Greater Security

Borrowers who do not need funds immediately do not have to pay interest on the funds if they remain un-borrowed and available to the borrower.  The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM or “Heck-um”) line of credit is the one credit line that can *never be frozen or closed while the borrower still has a remaining balance left on it.

How many people do you know who have had a credit line from their local bank frozen during tough credit times or when home values begin to stabilize or even drop?  It may even have happened to you.

The senior HECM borrower with the credit line option has paid their federal mortgage insurance to insure that their line of credit will always be available to them. 

(*You must continue maintaining your taxes and insurance and living in your home as your primary residence.)

Growth Rate Feature

Another significant feature of the line of credit reverse mortgage is the credit line growth rate.

I have often heard this mischaracterized as interest earned, which it is not. Still, the unused portion of the credit line grows at the same rate at which the loan accrues interest plus the Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) renewal.

reverse mortgage line of credit growth chart

Growth Rate Example:

In other words, in today’s market, if the fully indexed accrual rate (index + margin) is 4.25%, and the MIP renewal rate that you would add is + .50% = the interest plus the MIP would total 4.75% for the interest and the mortgage insurance combined.

If the Available Loan Amount of your loan is $350,000 after the net Principal Limit and costs have been determined, and you don’t use those funds, then your credit line begins to grow monthly based on the interest rates.  Your line of credit would grow by $1,385.41 ($350,000 X .0475 / 12) in the first month alone and would continue to grow at the same rate but would increase as the balance increased.

It would also go down if some or all the funds were used that month, as the unused balance of the funds available determines the growth rate.  The following month, you start with a higher loan balance, so the line of credit goes up even higher.

After just five years of this scenario, these borrowers would have available credit of around $450,000 in their credit line, over $550,000 if they were lucky enough to leave it there for 10!  And here is a hedge against inflation; as the interest rates rise, the amount the borrowers accrue grows even faster.

How much are you eligible for?  Try ARLO’s Line of Credit Calculator

Comparing Reverse Mortgages to a HELOC

Also See: Why a Reverse Mortgage is SMARTER than a HELOC
Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit Traditional Bank HELOC
Requires monthly mortgage paymentsNOYES
Becomes balloon after 10 years requiring full repaymentNOYES
Harder for qualify for fixed income borrowersNOYES
Minimum credit score NO YES
Rate is typically adjustable YESYES
Features a guaranteed growth rate YESNO
Prepayment penalty NO NO

So, the bottom line is that the line of credit reverse mortgage shares some of the features of the HELOC.  It is a line of credit that borrowers can use to borrow against the equity in their home, and they only accrue interest on the funds they borrow.

Unlike a HELOC, there are no payments due. The loan can never be closed by the lender because they made the arbitrary decision to stop making line of credit loans (borrowers do have to occupy the home, pay taxes and insurance on time, and reasonably maintain the home). The amount available to borrowers grows over time based on a growth rate of the unused portion of the line.

For the reasons stated above and, in summary, the reverse mortgage is a much better long-term planning tool for most senior borrowers.

Line of Credit FAQs


What is a HECM line of credit?

The HECM line of credit is the most popular method of allocation of funds on a federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage.  The reverse mortgage line of credit is guaranteed for as long as you live in your home and maintain your property taxes and homeowners insurance.  The line of credit is open-ended and revolving, allowing you to advance and repay funds at any time without penalty.  You can make voluntary repayments if you choose or defer interest until you sell your home later.

Which is better, a home equity line of credit or a reverse mortgage?

The answer depends entirely on your individual needs.  A home equity line of credit, commonly called a HELOC, is a short-term interest-only loan you can apply for at most major banks.  These equity loans are better suited for those equipped to make monthly repayments and understand these loans recast after ten years into a balloon note.  Additionally, HELOCs are not guaranteed and can be frozen or reduced at any time due to market volatility or declining property values.  A reverse mortgage line of credit is a loan that works in “reverse” and allows you to borrow money without the burden of mandatory monthly mortgage payments.  A reverse mortgage is guaranteed for as long as you live in the home as your primary residence and maintain your taxes and insurance.  The HECM line of credit can never be frozen or reduced due to market volatility and has the unique feature of any loan program, which is the line of credit growth rate.

How does a reverse mortgage line of credit grow?

The HECM line of credit comes with a guaranteed growth rate. The Growth Rate equals your current interest rate + the mortgage insurance rate (currently 0.50% as of December 2022). Each month, the growth rate is applied to your unused portion of the line of credit.  Growth rate example: Customer has a HECM loan with a $75,000 available unused line of credit.  The hypothetical interest rate of 4%, and a MIP rate of 0.50%.  Each month, the 4.5% combined rate will be applied to the unused line of credit figure.  $75,000 x .0450 = $3,375. $3,375/12 = $281.25 in line of credit growth for the next month.  This calculation is performed each month based on how much remains in the line of credit.


If you already have a reverse mortgage, can you get a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?

Yes and No.  The federally insured HECM will allow for subordinate financing.  However, finding a lending institution that would go behind a reverse mortgage is difficult due to its negative amortization.

How is the interest charged on a reverse mortgage line of credit?

The interest is charged on a reverse mortgage monthly and added to the outstanding balance.  The formula for calculating interest is a simple interest formula.  Interest Example: Customer has a HECM loan with an outstanding balance of $50,000 and a hypothetical interest rate of 4%.  $50,000 x 0.040 = $2,000. $2,000/12 = $166.67 in interest added to the loan’s outstanding balance.  Each month, this calculation is performed based on the outstanding loan balance on the loan.


  • Due to its flexibility, the line of credit option has become the most popular reverse mortgage payment plan for most borrowers.
  • Like a Bank HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit), you only accrue interest on your outstanding loan balance (not the total amount available if you have yet to use all available funds).
  • The reverse mortgage line of credit is ideal for retirees on a fixed income due to easier qualification and no call date or scheduled repayment period with increasing payments.
  • Funds available in your credit line increase or grow if you still have funds remaining each month, giving you more money to use; this is called the “growth rate.”
Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit Growth Explained
Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit Explained | Credit Line Growth

ARLO recommends these helpful resources: