Man writes reverse mortgage on chalkboard

Reverse Mortgage Guide With Types and Requirements

As real estate professionals, staying informed about various financial tools and options available to homeowners is crucial. One such tool is the reverse mortgage. But what is a reverse mortgage, and how does it work? Read on to gain more insight into reverse mortgages so you’ll be armed with everything you need to know when it comes to helping clients make decisions in the future.

What is Reverse Mortgage in Real Estate?

A reverse mortgage is a financial product that allows homeowners aged 62 or older to convert a portion of their home equity into cash without selling their property or making monthly mortgage payments. It is a way for seniors to tap into the value of their homes and secure additional funds for retirement or other financial needs.

How Do Reverse Mortgages Work?

There are different types of reverse mortgages. Here’s a general explanation of how they work.


The homeowner must be at least 62 years old and own the property outright or have considerable equity.

Loan proceeds

With a reverse mortgage, the homeowner can receive loan proceeds in various ways, such as a lump sum, monthly installments, a line of credit, or a combination of these options. The loan amount is determined based on factors like the home’s appraised value, the homeowner’s age, and current interest rates.


Unlike a traditional mortgage, a reverse mortgage does not require monthly repayments. The loan becomes due when the homeowner moves out of the house, sells the property, or dies. At that point, the loan, along with any accumulated interest, is repaid from the proceeds of the home sale.

Financial obligations

As a real estate professional, it’s important to inform clients that they are still responsible for paying property taxes, homeowners insurance, and necessary maintenance costs while holding a reverse mortgage. Failure to meet these obligations could result in defaulting on the loan.

Types of Reverse Mortgages

When discussing reverse mortgages, it’s essential to be aware of the three primary types:

1. Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM)

The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage is the most common type of reverse mortgage and is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). HECMs offer various payment options, which can be used for any reason. HECMs also include safeguards for borrowers, such as mandatory counseling to ensure they understand the loan’s terms and potential consequences. HECM loans have no income limitations or medical requirements.

2. Proprietary Reverse Mortgage

Offered by private lenders, proprietary reverse mortgages are not government-insured. They are typically suitable for homeowners with high-value properties, allowing them to access a larger portion of their home equity.

3. Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgage

State or local government agencies or nonprofit organizations typically offer single-purpose reverse mortgages. The money is typically designated for a specific purpose, such as property tax payments or home repairs. Because government agencies and nonprofit groups offer them, a single-purpose reverse mortgage is typically the least expensive reverse mortgage loan.

Differences Between Regular Mortgages and Reverse Mortgages

A regular mortgage is also known as a forward mortgage. The borrower receives a loan from a lender to buy a property and makes monthly payments to repay the loan over time. On the other hand, a reverse mortgage is designed for older homeowners who have paid off their traditional mortgage (or are close to paying it off). The homeowner receives a loan based on the expectation that the lender will receive payment for the loan once the homeowner moves, sells, or passes away.

Here’s a further explanation of the differences between a regular and reverse mortgage.

Applicant age requirement

Borrowers must be at least 62 to apply for a reverse mortgage. The typical minimum age range for a regular mortgage is 18-21.

Home value limitations

The amount a homeowner can borrow through a reverse mortgage is based on the Maximum Claim Amount, which the Federal Housing Administration sets. The amount is adjusted annually and varies depending on the local housing market.

There isn’t a specific “home value limitation” for a regular mortgage in the same sense as there is for a reverse mortgage. The loan amount for a regular mortgage is determined by a combination of factors related to the property’s value, the borrower’s financial situation, and the type of loan.

How mortgage payments work

In a reverse mortgage, the homeowner receives payments from the lender as a lump sum, a line of credit, or regular monthly payments. The homeowner does not make monthly payments as long as they live in the home, but interest accrues on the loan balance.

For a typical mortgage, the borrower makes monthly payments to the lender, which typically include principal and interest, until the loan is fully repaid.

Tax deductions

According to Smart Asset, a reverse mortgage has no significant tax implications for most homeowners. You do not pay taxes on borrowed money. Certain circumstances may allow the homeowner to deduct interest payments from a reverse mortgage.

To better understand tax implications for a reverse and regular mortgage, it’s best to seek the advice of a tax advisor.

The Benefits of a Reverse Mortgage

While reverse mortgages can be a valuable financial tool for some homeowners, it’s important to explore the benefits and drawbacks of these loans.

The benefits of reverse mortgages include:

1. Supplemental income

Reverse mortgages can provide additional income for retirees, helping them cover daily expenses, healthcare costs, or other financial needs.

2. No monthly mortgage payments

If the homeowner still owed money on their mortgage, a reverse mortgage may eliminate those monthly mortgage payments, which can alleviate financial stress for senior homeowners.

3. Flexibility

Reverse mortgages offer various payment options, allowing borrowers to choose the option that best suits their needs.

Drawbacks and Risks of Reverse Mortgages

There are drawbacks and risks of reverse mortgages. They include the following:

1. Accumulating interest

Interest accrues over time, which means the loan balance can increase significantly, potentially reducing the equity remaining in the home.

2. Impact on heirs

The loan repayment from the sale of the property can affect the inheritance left for heirs through reverse mortgages.

3. Eligibility requirements

Homeowners must meet specific age and equity requirements to qualify for a reverse mortgage.

Reverse mortgages can be a valuable tool for senior homeowners seeking financial flexibility and security in their retirement years. As a real estate professional, understanding the fundamentals of reverse mortgages, including how they work and the different types available, will empower you to guide your clients effectively. It’s important to remember that reverse mortgages are not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s essential to evaluate each homeowner’s unique circumstances to determine if a reverse mortgage is right for them.

Expand Your Real Estate Knowledge with Colibri Real Estate

If you’re a real estate agent looking to enhance your knowledge about things like reverse mortgages or seeking additional continuing education courses to renew your real estate license, Colibri Real Estate School has you covered. For over 25 years, Colibri has partnered with agents nationwide to provide quality, flexible continuing education courses. With multiple learning channels like self-paced online courses or correspondence courses, you can choose from popular CE packages or build one that works best for you. Contact us to learn more and get started today.

Reed, Eric. “Tax Implications for Reverse Mortgages.” SmartAsset, March 18, 2024.