If you are considering a reverse mortgage, you should be sure you understand how these loans work and how one would fit in with your overall financial plan.
First, you need to make sure you are eligible for a reverse mortgage. You must be a homeowner, age 62 or older, want to borrow the equity from your principal residence and have a low outstanding mortgage balance or no current mortgage at all.
Reverse mortgage considerations
Once you have determined you qualify for a reverse mortgage, you should think about your long-term plans. Borrowers must pay closing costs and mortgage lender fees for a reverse mortgage. These costs can be wrapped into the loan balance and will be repaid when you stop using your home as your principal residence. A reverse mortgage, because of these costs, rarely makes sense for short-term use.
The most important decision in relation to a reverse mortgage is whether or not you plan to stay in your home. With very high upfront costs, if you think you may move into a smaller or more convenient home in the next few years, a reverse mortgage may not be the right loan product for you since these fees cannot be recovered.
If you do plan to move, a reverse mortgage might still be an option. If, for example, you sell your current home and want to downsize into another, you can take the profits from the first home to buy the second. You can then take out a reverse mortgage on the new home at the same settlement for the home purchase and therefore gain access to the cash you used to buy the home.
Reverse mortgages and your estate
Many homeowners are concerned about the repayment of a reverse mortgage. The loan must be repaid when you sell your home or stop living in it as your principal residence. You or your heirs are not responsible for any remaining balance above the price of your home if you sell it for less than the loan amount. If you have equity in the home after the loan is repaid, that belongs to you or your heirs.
Consulting a HUD-approved reverse mortgage counselor is the best way to get all of your concerns addressed so you can make an informed decision.
Michele Lerner contributed to this answer.