Reverse Mortgage FAQs

Are reverse mortgages available with a fixed rate that never changes?


Do some reverse mortgages have adjustable rates?


What is the adjustable rate based on?

Adjustable rates are based on either the 1-month LIBOR index or the 1-year LIBOR index. 

The LIBOR index is a published rate (Wall Street Journal) that is not controlled by the lender.

Are there caps on the adjustable rates?

Yes, there are two types of caps.  There is an annual cap, which means that the rate can never go up by more than 2% in any one year.

And there are lifetime caps: 5% over the start rate for the annual adjustable type and 10% over the start rate for the monthly adjustable reverse mortgage.

What is PL?

PL stand for Principal Limit and it is the maximum loan amount. 

It is based on three factors:

  1. Property value (up to a point)
  2. Age of the youngest borrower (or their spouse even if that spouse isn’t on the loan)
  3. Expected interest rate.
Is the amount of money I can get higher the older I am?

  Yes, up until 90 years old.  For calculation purposes, the borrower’s age caps at 90.

What value is the reverse mortgage based upon? The home’s value (Maximum Claim Amount) is considered to be the lowest of the:

  • National Lending Limit, which is currently $625,500

  • Appraisal value

  • Purchase price if the reverse mortgage is being used to buy a house

Consider three people, all the same age, all getting a reverse mortgage at the same time. 

  • One owns a house worth $625,500
  • The second owns a house worth $800,000
  • And the third owns a house worth $2 million

Would the homeowner with the $2 million dollar house get more proceeds from an FHA reverse mortgage than the other two? 

No, a house worth more than $625,000 would be treated just like a house worth $625,500 in terms of how much money they can get from a reverse mortgage.

What affects how much money can you take out with a reverse mortgage?

There are three main factors that affect how much money you can take out with a reverse mortgage. 

That amount is called the Principal Limit and it is affected by the Max Claim Amount (home’s value), the age of the youngest borrower, co-borrower, or spouse of a borrower, and something called the Expected Rate.

What is the best way to determine the Principal Limit – how large a reverse mortgage someone is eligible for?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has Principal Limit Factor Tables that were changed substantially in August, 2014.  The best way to determine the amount is to use a reverse mortgage calculator; like the one provided on this website.

Use Our Reverse Calculator NOW!

Can older borrowers get more money than younger borrowers?

The amount of money a borrower can get from a reverse mortgage depends on several factors and one is age.  But remember, it is the age of the youngest borrower, or their spouse – even if that spouse isn’t on the loan. 

This is a change from the past.  Also, the benefit of being older (in terms of getting more money) stops at 90. 

Anyone over 90 is treated the same as someone who is 90.

What percentage of the home’s value can someone borrow?

Remember, the home’s value is capped at $625,500, and the amount someone can get is also affected by the Expect Rate – the higher the expected rate, the less they can get.

If the Expected Rate is 5% or less, the range is 52.4% to 75%.  If the Expected Rate is 7%, the range drops to 31.2% to 57.8%.

What fees does the borrower have to pay for?

Most all loan fees are paid for with loan proceeds.  The two typical exceptions are the appraisal and the counseling fee.

What does the mortgage insurance on a reverse mortgage cover?

Mortgage insurance protects the borrower in case of lender default and it protects the lender in case of borrower default.  If a lender goes out of business, FHA will ensure the proceeds available in a line of credit remain available and term or tenure payments continue monthly without interruption.

How much is mortgage insurance?

There are two components to mortgage insurance: an upfront premium and an on-going annual premium. 

  1. Upfront mortgage insurance – is 0.5% when the initial disbursement is 60% or less than the Principal Limit.  However, it is 2.5% when the initial disbursement is greater than 60% of the available Principal Limit. Upfront mortgage insurance is calculated on the Maximum Claim Amount (home’s value).
  2. Annual mortgage insurance – is 1.25% of the loan balance and it is charged over the life of the loan.

The Initial Disbursement Limit dictates how much the borrower can receive in the first year.  It is a new disbursement rule that pertains to all payment options.

If Mandatory Obligations are greater than 50% of the Principal Limit, the borrower can still take an additional 10% during the first twelve months but the total disbursement cannot exceed the Principal Limit.

What must be paid off initially from reverse mortgage proceeds?

The following items must be paid off before any money goes to the borrower:

  • Initial mortgage insurance premium (either 0.5% or 2.5%)

  • Required payoffs including existing liens, federal liens, delinquent federal debt, student loans

  • Property taxes due within 45 days, which are to be paid at closing

  • Hazard and/or flood insurance paid at closing

  • Repair Set-Asides for repairs performed after closing

  • Funds for home repairs completed as a condition of closing

  • Reasonable and customary loan fees

  • Customary fees for warranties, inspections, or engineer certifications

When must a Repair Set-Aside be put in place?

Repair Set-Asides are mandatory if the appraisal notes needed repairs in excess of $500. 

If the appraiser estimates the cost to fix items, then two times (2x) that amount must be held back. 

If a contractor estimates the repair costs, then only one and a half times (1.5x) must be held back.

When do repairs have to be completed?

All repairs must be completed in a manner approved by HUD. 

The repairs can be completed after closing if they cost less than 15% of the Maximum Claim Amount (home value). 

  • If the repairs will cost between 15% and 30% of the MCA (Maximum Claim Amount), they must be completed before closing. 
  • If repairs will cost more than 30%, HUD must review the property. 

However, an appraiser should never reject a property outright.

When was the first FHA-insured mortgage funded?

The first HUD/FHA-insured reverse mortgage (also known as a HECM – Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) was funded in 1989 in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The first non-FHA reverse mortgage was funded in 1961 by a private company in Portland, Maine.

What types of reverse mortgages are common?

The common FHA-insured reverse mortgages include the HECM, the HECM to HECM refinance, and the HECM for purchase (sometimes known as H4P)

What are the rules for refinancing an FHA-insured reverse mortgage (HECM)?

To refinance an existing reverse mortgage with a new reverse mortgage, the existing HECM must be in good standing, it must be at least 6 months old, and the new Principal Limit(maximum loan amountmust be five times (5x) the cost of the refinance.

What are the rules when using an FHA-insured reverse mortgage (HECM) to buy a home?

 When using a HECM to purchase a home, the home must meet the following requirements:

  • Must meet FHA requirements prior to loan application

  • Property must be complete; it cannot be under construction

  • Certificate of Occupancy date must precede the application date

  • If repairs were noted by the appraiser, they must be completed prior to closing

  • Borrowers must move into the property within 60 days of closing

Why would people use a reverse mortgage to buy a home?

Common reasons why reverse mortgages are used in purchase transactions include: downsizing to a smaller or easier to maintain home, moving into a 50+ community, purchasing a home closer to family, moving into a home with more modern amenities or that is easier to navigate (like a one-story house).

Why does a reverse mortgage have to be in both first and second lien position; there’s only one loan?

With a reverse mortgage, the lender is in first lien position and HUD is in second lien position.  This is to protect the homeowner in case the lender defaults or goes out of business.  FHA insurance will ensure that the homeowner gets all payments or benefits to which they’re entitled.

What are the qualification rules to being a borrower on a reverse mortgage?

Qualification rules include:

  1. The youngest borrower must be 62 at the time of closing
  2. At least one borrower must live in the home, making it a primary residence
  3. The borrower must be the homeowner on title
  4. The borrower must be a US resident or permanent resident alien; and
  5. The borrower must live in the home more than half the year.
Do non-borrowing spouses affect reverse mortgage qualifications or proceeds?

Yes, non-borrowing spouses (NBS) have certain rights and they affect how much a reverse mortgage can be.  A non-borrowing spouse does not have to be 62 years old, but the younger they are, the less the borrower can get.

Can a non-borrowing spouse stay in the home after the last borrower leaves or passes away?

  Yes, if they meet certain rules including:

  • The non-borrowing spouse (NBS) is identified at the time of application

  • They must be married at time of closing

  • They must live in the principal residence most of the year

  • They must have continued to live in the principal residence throughout the borrower’s lifetime

  • A non-borrowing spouse can reside in a healthcare facility so long as the borrowing spouse lives in the home while the non-borrowing spouse was away

  • They must remain married during the borrower’s lifetime

  • The non-borrowing spouse has 90 days after death to establish legal ownership or legal right to remain in the home.

Will a non-borrowing spouse receive funds after the borrower passes away?

No, the non-borrowing spouse will not have access to the line of credit and they will not continue to receive any regular monthly payments.

Can a home in a trust get a reverse mortgage?

Yes,it must be a revocable trust, the borrower must be named as the beneficiary in the trust documents, and the beneficiary and trustee must sign the security instrument.

Is a property held in a conservatorship eligible for a reverse mortgage?

Yes, whether the person unable to make legal decisions is incompetent or incapacitated, their property can be eligible for a reverse mortgage.  The conservator must sign the security instrument.

Can a power of attorney (POA) be used for a reverse mortgage?

Yes, an Attorney-in-fact (the caretaker with authority to manage financial and healthcare decisions) can enter into a reverse mortgage on a borrower’s behalf.  The Attorney-in-fact signs the security instrument and other loan documents.

Are life estates eligible for an FHA-insured reverse mortgage (HECM)?

Yes, if everyone with a legal interest signs the security instrument.

Can someone only get a reverse mortgage on their primary residence?

Yes, and there are a few other rules:

  1. The borrower must live in the home at least 51% of the year
  2. The borrower can only have one principal residence at a time
  3. At least one of the borrowers must live in the home – it is okay if a co-borrower is living in a health care facility; and
  4. If the borrower lives in a health care facility for more than one year, the loan is due.
What types of homes are eligible for a reverse mortgage?

The following home types are eligible for an FHA-insured reverse mortgage:

  1. Single family detached
  2. 2-4 unit condominium
  3. Manufactured home (that meets certain requirements)
  4. PUD (planned unit development) and
  5. Mixed use property so long as the commercial square footage is less than 25%.
What are some of the benefits of a HECM (FHA-insured reverse mortgage)?

The FHA reverse mortgage has changed considerably over time in an effort to increase the likelihood that the borrowers and the program are safe and sustainable. 

Benefits include:

  • No limitation on how proceeds are spent

  • All proceeds are tax free – because they are not deemed income by the IRS

  • Interest is tax deductible when the loan is paid off (not before)

  • No prepayment penalties if paid off before due

  • No monthly payments for principal or interest (unpaid interest is added to the loan balance)

  • Repayment is not required until last borrower no longer lives there as a primary residence

  • After loan balance is paid off, all remaining equity goes to the heirs; not the lender

Safeguards include:

  • Highly regulated to prevent fraud, over-charging, steering, or unethical lending practices

  • Independent counseling is required and the lender cannot steer borrower on whom to use

  • Non-recourse – if loan is more than value of home, the federal government pays the lender the difference, not the borrower

  • Three-day right of rescission to cancel loan if borrowers change their mind

  • Mandatory advance disclosures

  • Standard and capped interest rates

  • Limitation on fees

  • Loan can run until the borrower is 150 years old

What do people commonly use the proceeds from a reverse mortgage for?

People often use their reverse mortgage proceeds to:

  • Pay off an existing mortgage (thereby eliminating their mortgage payment)

  • Create a monthly income stream

  • Home repairs

  • Health-related expenses

  • Long-term care insurance

  • Establish a financial reserve

  • Pay taxes

  • Improve quality of life

  • Help with educational expenses (grandkids)

  • Refinance an existing reverse mortgage

  • Purchase a smaller home

What are the different payment options with reverse mortgage?

There are several payment options with a reverse mortgage:

  • Single lump sum; but afterward no additional funds are available

  • Tenure, which means equal fixed monthly payments

  • Term, which means fixed payments for a specified number of months selected by borrower

  • Line of Credit (LOC), which allows for the borrower to write checks as they need them

  • Modified Tenure or Term; a combination of Tenure or Term payments plus a line of credit

Does the reverse mortgage Line of Credit get bigger over time?

Yes, the amount available increases whether the borrower draws from the line or not.  The rate of increase equals the current note rate (index + margin) plus 1.25 (annual mortgage insurance percentage).

Does a reverse mortgage impact entitlements?

It does not impact Social Security benefits or Medicare benefits but it may impactMedicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What are the steps involved in getting a reverse mortgage?

There are seven primary steps to getting a reverse mortgage:

  1. Learning about reverse mortgages

  2. Counseling

  3. Loan application

  4. Processing

  5. Underwriting

  6. Closing

  7. Funding

When does the FHA-insured reverse mortgage (HECM) have to be repaid?

The loan is due and payable when the home is no longer:

  1. The primary residence of at least one borrower for 6 consecutive months
  2. Or the property is sold
  3. Or the property falls into a state of disrepair
  4. Or property taxes or insurance are not paid in a timely manner
  5. Or when the last surviving borrower dies
  6. Or when the last eligible non-borrowing spouse stops living there.