Reverse Mortgages Explained

A mortgage where you don’t pay the lender, but the lender pays you? One that you don’t need to pay until you die? The products, known as reverse mortgages, should be approached with extreme caution.

In a regular mortgage, you pay down the debt by paying the lender each month. In a reverse mortgage, it’s the opposite: your debt actually grows over time because the lender is paying you on a monthly basis. And you don’t pay the lender back until you die, in which case the balance comes out of the value of your home, plus interest, or until you move.

Only people 62 and older who already own a home qualify for reverse mortgages. They’re popular among retirees looking to add to their monthly income, but even if you fit this bill you should be aware that reverse mortgages carry fees much higher than traditional mortgages. There is a 2% origination fee based on the value of your home as well as a 2% mortgage insurance premium, not to mention title searched, appraisals and other costs as well.

The big risk, though, is that you are essentially taking equity out of your home. So if you or your parents are looking for some extra income – unless it’s a last resort – stay away from selling the roof over your head in the form of a reverse mortgage.