These are home equity loans available to homeowners age 62 or older. In general, a reverse mortgage is a loan that provides money that can be used for any purpose, and the principal and interest payments typically become due when you move, sell your house or die. A reverse mortgage also differs from other home loans in that you don’t need an income to qualify and you don’t have to make monthly repayments.
While reverse mortgages can be a valuable source of funds, they also have serious potential drawbacks. In particular, you will be reducing your equity, perhaps substantially, after you add in the interest costs.
“Reverse mortgages can help in some situations, such as when you have large medical bills that are not covered, to make major home repairs or to help people on low fixed-incomes make ends meet,” said Cynthia Angell, a Senior Financial Economist at the FDIC. “However, you are reducing your ownership share of the home. That means the inheritance you are leaving to your heirs could be greatly diminished or you could have far less money available for other purposes, such as buying into a retirement community later on. That’s why a reverse mortgage should usually be used as a last resort, not as an integral part of a retirement strategy.”
Also, Angell said, the fees can be high, and that could make a reverse mortgage a poor choice to cover relatively small expenses.