A Reverse Mortgage or Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a special type of home loan for older homeowners that requires no monthly mortgage payments. Borrowers are still responsible for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Reverse mortgages allow elders to access the home equity they have built up in their homes now, and defer payment of the loan until they die, sell, or move out of the home. Because there are no required mortgage payments on a reverse mortgage, the interest is added to the loan balance each month. The rising loan balance can eventually grow to exceed the value of the home, particularly in times of declining home values or if the borrower continues to live in the home for many years. However, the borrower (or the borrower’s estate) is generally not required to repay any additional loan balance in excess of the value of the home

To qualify for a reverse mortgage in the United States, the borrower must be at least 62 years of age and must occupy the property as his or her principal residence. In addition, any mortgage on the property must be low enough that it will be paid off with the reverse mortgage proceeds. Reverse mortgages follow FHA eligibility standards for property types, meaning most 1–4 family dwellings, FHA approved condominiums, and PUD’s qualify. Manufactured housing qualifies based on standard FHA guidelines.

Before starting the loan process for an FHA/HUD-approved reverse mortgage, applicants must take an approved counseling course. The counseling is meant to protect borrowers, although the quality of counseling has been criticized by groups such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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