I have read so much reverse mortgage info.  It sounds like it is not really to help you but for the bank to help themselves.  It is designed to make you think they are helping you, but the truth is you are giving away your home.  You are selling it to them for a very low price.  If you get the reverse loan and die a year later, you have lost your home; you just gave it away, and your family can’t do anything about it and cannot have it even with a will.  My social worker told me his friend did that, and they took his home from him because you must sign over your deeds to them, and your home becomes theirs.  They can do whatever they want to because the house is theirs.  So, I don’t know, you better be careful about people claiming they are helping you.  Because it is themselves they are helping.  They know if you are 62 and over, you are already looking death close in the face. – Martha

We agree with you on one point… reverse mortgages are not for everyone, and every borrower needs to understand the scope of the loan, what is required of them, and what it will and will not do.  Unfortunately, though, that is where our agreement ends!

I do not know your social worker, and I cannot comment on his friend’s circumstances, but he did not give you accurate information on the HUD HECM Reverse Mortgage loan.

ARLO uncovers truth of reverse mortgages

The Truth is, the Title is YOURS.

Firstly, you are not selling your home.  Should you pass away, you always retain the title, which passes to your heirs, not the bank.  When you permanently move out of the house, the loan becomes due and payable…but only the amount you borrowed and any accrued interest.

In your example, you stated that if you passed just a month later, you lose your home, and the family would lose all interest as well.  This is inaccurate, and I hate to hear people spread mistruths like this.

Disbursement of Funds

There are several ways to receive your proceeds on a reverse mortgage.  You can choose a lump sum distribution, a monthly payment, leave it in a line of credit you can access when you want, or any combination of these choices.  Once you start the loan, you pay interest only on the loan portion you borrow.

In other words, if you have a Line of Credit available for $100,000 but you only take out $10,000 to do some work on your home, you only pay interest on the $10,000 you received, not on the money you have left in the line (just like a Home Equity Line of Credit or HELOC).

Again, using your example, if you passed one month after you got your loan, your family would have to pay the amount of the loan you took (10,000), any fees you financed, and the interest that accrued, which, at today’s rates would come to about $38 on those amounts.

You Own Your Home

Your family would have the right to decide if they wanted to pay the loan off and keep the house or sell it and pay the loan that way.  But again, they would only pay any outstanding balance.  Your assertion that you “sign a Deed” to the bank is untrue.

You do sign a Deed of Trust or Mortgage (depending on the state where you live) to secure the loan, but you would sign the same security instrument with any loan.  It does not give the lender title to your property.  I have seen so many articles written by people who heard something and did a halfway job of researching the loans that it is frustrating that there is so much misinformation available.

Here again, I cannot question some unknown person to find out what happened (if the person even exists and your friend wasn’t exaggerating) is an example of why people need to fear a reverse mortgage when the reported “facts” can’t even be actual.

Counseling & Education

Do not get me wrong, the social worker may have known someone who had something happen, but it is like the old game of operator we all used to play as kids.  By the last telling, not much of the statement is accurate.  A reverse mortgage does require you to understand the terms and to do your homework.

However, there are counselors approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (many of whom provide free counseling) who can tell you the real story of reverse mortgages so you can decide whether this is the right loan for you.  Unfortunately, too many people hear horror stories like the one you just told that cannot even be true based on the terms of the loan.

I would encourage you not to take my word for it (and indeed not the word of someone who has already given you false information) but contact HUD, AARP, or the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) to get the REAL facts about reverse mortgages.

It may still not be the right loan for you, but at least you will have made that decision based on the knowledge of the truth about the way the program works.

Reverse Mortgages: True or False

You retain the title to your home.The lender takes ownership of your home.
The loan is repaid when the borrower sells the home or passes away.You must make monthly payments to the lender.
You can receive funds as a lump sum, monthly payments, or a line of credit.You only receive a one-time payment.
Reverse mortgages are regulated by the federal government.Reverse mortgages are unregulated and risky.
Borrowers must meet certain age and property criteria.Everyone is eligible for a reverse mortgage.
The amount you can borrow depends on age, home value, and interest rates.You can borrow the full value of your home regardless of other factors.
This chart contrasts the actual truths against common myths and misunderstandings surrounding reverse mortgages.

Top FAQs


How do reverse mortgages work?

A reverse mortgage is a loan that allows a homeowner to borrow money using their home as collateral without the burden of having to make a monthly mortgage payment.  This allows homeowners to access home equity without increasing their monthly expenses.  The proceeds on a reverse mortgage can be used for whatever purpose the borrower chooses.  The funds can be accessed via a line of credit, scheduled monthly payments, cash advances, or a combination of these options.

Is a reverse mortgage a scam?

A reverse mortgage is not a scam.  It is simply a loan that works in the opposite or “reverse” of a traditional loan.  Instead of making monthly payments every month over a specified timeframe to pay the loan off, all interest and payments are deferred until the loan reaches maturity.  This means the balance on the loan will increase over time rather than decrease because you are not making a mortgage payment.

When is a reverse mortgage a good idea?

Several instances exist when a reverse mortgage is a good idea for a homeowner.  One of those is payment relief.  Suppose your current mortgage is too expensive to afford in retirement.  In that case, the reverse mortgage may be the perfect solution to eliminating that expense from your budget to facilitate your retirement goals.  Other instances include cash out for home remodel, additional funds for payment of taxes and home repairs in the future, preserving retirement assets such as 401K, IRA, and other savings, and sometimes to improve overall quality of life.

Do you pay interest on a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is, in fact, a loan, and therefore, interest is charged on a reverse mortgage.  However, you are not paying the interest on a monthly or yearly basis like you would with a traditional mortgage.  The interest on the reverse mortgage is added to the balance and is not paid until the loan is paid off by sale, refinance, or other means.

What are the drawbacks of taking a reverse mortgage?

The downside of a reverse mortgage can be that the closing costs can be higher than a traditional loan, the property must be your primary residence, the loan is not assumable, and there may be less equity to leave to your heir as an inheritance.  On the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, there is an initial mortgage insurance premium charged by HUD, which is 2% of the property value or max claim (whichever is less), which leads to higher costs for these loans than a traditional loan.  It should be noted, however, that proprietary reverse mortgages have comparable costs and sometimes less than a traditional loan.  When you have a reverse mortgage, the property must be your primary residence, so if you have a reverse mortgage and want to move out of your home without selling it, you would have to pay off the reverse mortgage before moving out.  When a homeowner dies with a traditional loan, the heir can assume the loan and continue making payments to keep it in good standing.  With a reverse mortgage, the loan becomes due and payable upon the last surviving borrower leaving the home permanently, so the heir cannot assume the reverse mortgage and must address it via selling the property, completing their own refinance of the loan, or paying it off by other means.  Lastly, when you have a reverse mortgage, your balance increases over time since you do not have to make a mortgage payment.  This can result in less equity in your home over time and, therefore, less of an inheritance for your heir.

If a person has a reverse mortgage and has no home equity left, do they have to move out?

With a reverse mortgage, you can continue to live in the home for life, regardless of whether there is still equity in the home. This is one of the appealing aspects of the loan.  If there is equity, it belongs to the homeowner or their heirs. However, if they outlive their equity, they can still live in the home for life, no matter how negative the loan balance becomes.  The lender or HUD cannot seek repayment from other assets or heirs.  In fact, if the heirs wish to retain the home after the borrower passes away, they can keep the home by paying off the loan at the amount owed or 95% of the current market value, whichever is less.  Therefore, not only is the borrower not required to move, but the family can also retain the home and settle the loan for less than the total amount owed if the loan balance exceeds the home’s value.  Alternatively, they can choose to walk away without owing anything.