Reverse mortgages have often been portrayed in a negative light, creating misconceptions and doubts among those who might otherwise find them beneficial.  But what lies beneath these critiques?

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the heart of the matter, dispelling the myths that have long surrounded reverse mortgages.  With an objective lens, we aim to clarify how these mortgages work, who they’re best suited for, and why they might not be the financial burden they’re often made out to be.

Join us as we explore six common myths about reverse mortgages and uncover the truths that could reshape your perspective on this controversial loan option.  Whether you’re considering a reverse mortgage for yourself or simply curious about the facts, this guide is designed to enlighten and inform.

ARLO myth busting

#1 Myth: Reverse mortgages are a last resort.

Response: Not necessarily! 

Reverse mortgages have often been considered a last resort loan for borrowers with no other options.  And while they can be an excellent choice for individuals who are “cash poor, house rich,” this loan doesn’t have to be kept as a last-ditch effort to stay afloat.  Using home equity as more than a ‘last resort’ can help to keep cash shortfalls from becoming big problems,” says MetLife in the study we mentioned above.

For example, homeowners may use these funds to provide more choice and control, pay for home repairs and tax bills, and make other choices that allow them to stay home.  In some situations, a reverse mortgage may stabilize a problematic financial situation such as forestall foreclosure and allow the homeowners to find more effective solutions to their cash flow problems.”

#2 Myth: The bank takes your home.

Response: False!

When you take out a reverse mortgage, you retain the title of your home.  You are not transferring ownership to the bank; instead, the bank is allowing you to tap into your home’s equity as a loan.  The loan is generally repaid when borrowers sell their homes, but the bank does not automatically “take” your home unless you choose that method to repay your mortgage.

#3 Myth: You won’t qualify for benefits if you get a reverse mortgage.

Response: That’s not entirely true!

Reverse mortgage borrowers will still qualify for Medicare and Social Security programs available through age and entitlement qualifications, not on a needs basis.  However, needs-based programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be affected by reverse mortgage proceeds because these programs consider an individual’s assets when determining if they qualify for benefits.

These considerations vary state by state, so if you are a Medicaid or SSI beneficiary, check your state’s requirements to determine if a reverse mortgage would affect your eligibility.

#4 Myth: Reverse Mortgages are too expensive.

One standard warning financial planners may give on reverse mortgages is that they’re too expensive.

Fortunately, they don’t have to be.

Yes, there are fees associated with taking out a reverse mortgage.  But there’s also a federally insured product—the HECM—which substantially reduces the amount it costs to originate a loan.  The HECM reverse mortgage program requires borrowers to pay an upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) of 2% of the loan’s value and an annual premium of .50% of the loan balance.

Another thing to consider is that many origination fees can be paid with reverse mortgage proceeds, so you don’t necessarily have to pay all the out-of-pocket costs. Depending on secondary market conditions, you may find some $0 closing cost options.

#5 Myth: Reverse mortgages will drain all your equity.

Some detractors have argued that reverse mortgages use up a homeowner’s equity.  While this can happen sometimes, it doesn’t have to.  Reverse mortgage borrowers can control how much equity they use.  As mentioned above, if you only want or need a smaller loan, a HECM Saver could be the right option.

Not only would you benefit from smaller upfront fees, but it would also automatically limit the amount of equity you can draw down.  Another option is for borrowers to make interest payments on their loans to preserve the equity in their homes.  This is a 100% voluntary option, meaning you don’t HAVE to make interest payments during the loan’s term.

But if you’re concerned about how much interest is being added to your loan, this could help you manage the size of your mortgage.

All Reverse Mortgage has developed the first-ever amortization calculator that can show you how to keep your reverse mortgage balance from rising by applying a monthly payment option.  An added perk in paying interest on your loan is that you can deduct it from your taxes, so if you’re interested in pursuing this option, talk to your tax advisor.

#6 Myth: Reverse mortgages will trap you in your home.

Reverse mortgages allow you to stay in your home—they don’t trap you there.  Borrowers can repay their loans at any time if they so choose.  And if they need to leave their house to enter any care facility, they can, although they will be required to repay the mortgage (usually by selling the home).

If borrowers are nervous about paying the upfront fees of a reverse mortgage or are unsure how long they’ll be able to remain in their homes, consider a HECM.

Suppose your home’s value has gone up significantly after you took out a reverse mortgage, and you think the amount of equity you’ve been able to access is too small.  In that case, you can even refinance your reverse mortgage for a higher loan amount or take advantage of better interest rates.

Top FAQs


Do people regret getting a reverse mortgage?

In our experience, most borrowers are happy with getting a reverse mortgage due to its benefits.  However, that does not mean it is impossible to regret getting a reverse mortgage.  From what we have seen, the people who regret getting a reverse mortgage ultimately decide that their home is no longer suitable for them and wish to sell and relocate to a new home.  We always recommend that a borrower determine if their current home is the home they wish to remain in for the long term.

Why do reverse mortgages have a bad reputation?

Reverse mortgages have a bad reputation with some people due to a lot of wrong information.  Additionally, the first iterations of reverse mortgages from the 1960’s were awful programs.  However, since 1988, the Federal Government has insured reverse mortgage loans through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Do people lose their homes with a reverse mortgage?

Yes, you can lose your home with a reverse mortgage.  Like traditional loan programs, you remain the homeowner with a reverse mortgage, but there are requirements to keep the loan in good standing.  With a reverse mortgage, no monthly mortgage payments are required, so you cannot lose your home to foreclosure for failing to make your mortgage payment.  However, you must live in the property as your primary residence and maintain your property taxes, homeowners insurance, and home upkeep.

Can someone get a reverse mortgage if they owe on their home?

Yes, you can get a reverse mortgage if you owe on your home.  Any outstanding mortgage(s) or lien(s) must be paid off through the reverse mortgage loan proceeds.
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