What is Reverse Mortgage? A Detailed Guide
 Mortgage Processing

What is Reverse Mortgage? A Detailed Guide

Matthew Turner
Matthew Turner
December 13, 2023
Last updated on:

December 13, 2023


Read time: 5 mins

In the ever-evolving landscape of financial planning, individuals are constantly seeking innovative ways to secure their retirement years. One such financial tool that has gained prominence in recent years is the reverse mortgage. By availing of this, many seniors have been able to attain financial stability and peace of mind. 

Reverse mortgages offer seniors a unique approach to accessing home equity. Over the years, it has become immensely popular because it has emerged as a game-changer in retirement planning. However, understanding the nuances of reverse mortgages can often seem complex and elusive.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the world of reverse mortgages, demystifying the intricacies, benefits, and potential pitfalls associated with this unique financial tool.

As per the Zipdo report, the global reverse mortgage market was valued at USD 19.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of nearly 15% between 2021 and 2026.

Why Consider Reverse Mortgages?
Image 1 - Why Consider Reverse Mortgages?

What is Reverse Mortgage? Working and Types

To understand what is a reverse mortgage, let's delve into this unique financial arrangement designed for seniors. A reverse mortgage is a loan that empowers homeowners or individuals aged 62 or older to convert a portion of their home into cash. Unlike a traditional mortgage, in which homeowners make monthly payments, in a reverse mortgage, the lender makes payments to the homeowner, either in whole, monthly installments or as a line of credit.

Here's an example to illustrate the concept: Imagine a retiree. Let's call her Alice. She owns a home valued at $300,000. Through a reverse mortgage, Alice may access a predetermined percentage of her home equity, say 50%, resulting in a potential payout of $150,000. This sum can be received in various ways based on her preferences.

Importantly, the loan is repaid when Alice sells the house, moves out permanently, or dies. At that point, the proceeds from the home sale are used to settle the reverse mortgage balance, with any remaining funds going to Alice or her heirs.

What are the steps of applying for a mortgage?

Applying for a mortgage involves several steps. First, gather financial documents such as income statements and credit reports. Then, choose a lender and complete the application. The lender reviews your credit, income, and other factors. If approved, a home appraisal and closing process follow, concluding with the loan disbursal.

To know the strategies to streamline the mortgage application process, read our blog, ‘Best Ways to Streamline Mortgage Application Process.’

How Reverse Mortgages Work

Understanding how reverse mortgages work is crucial as it enables individuals and financial institutions to grasp the financial implications, risks, and benefits, empowering informed decisions about home equity.

The process involves several key steps. These include:

Eligibility and Counseling

Before applying for a reverse mortgage, homeowners must meet certain eligibility criteria, including age and home ownership status. Additionally, they are required to undergo mandatory counseling with a HUD-approved counselor to ensure they fully understand the implications and alternatives.

Application and Approval

Homeowners apply for a reverse mortgage through a lender that offers such products. The lender evaluates the application, considering factors such as the homeowner's age, the appraised value of the home, and current interest rates. Once approved, the lender determines the maximum loan amount.

Loan Disbursement Options

Borrowers can choose how they receive the funds. Options such as a lump sum, monthly payments, a line of credit, or a mix of these. The choice depends on the homeowner's financial goals and needs.

Ongoing Obligations

While reverse mortgage borrowers are not required to make monthly mortgage payments, they remain responsible for property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance costs. Failure to meet these obligations may result in foreclosure.

Accrual of Interest

Interest on the reverse mortgage accrues over time, and the total amount owed increases as the borrower receives funds. The interest is typically repaid when the homeowner or the individual sells the home, moves out, or passes away.


The loan becomes due when the homeowner no longer lives in the home as their primary residence. Repayment typically occurs through the sale of the home, with the proceeds used to settle the outstanding loan balance. If the home's value exceeds the loan amount, the remaining equity will go to the homeowner or their heirs.

Reverse Mortgage Workflow
Image 2 - Reverse Mortgage Workflow

Types of Reverse Mortgages

One common type is the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is insured by ab organization called the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). However, there are various types of reverse mortgages to cater to diverse needs.

Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgages

These mortgages are offered by some state and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations. As the name suggests, the funds can only be used for a specific purpose, such as home repairs or property taxes. While they are generally low-cost, their availability is limited compared to other types.

Proprietary Reverse Mortgages

Unlike HECMs, proprietary reverse mortgages are privately insured and offered by financial institutions. They are designed for homeowners with higher home values and may provide more substantial loan amounts. However, they are not as widely available as HECMs and may have higher fees.

HECM for Purchase (H4P)

This type of reverse mortgage is specifically tailored for seniors who are looking to purchase a new primary residence. It allows them to use a reverse mortgage to finance the purchase of a new home, combining the transaction into one. It can be an attractive option for retirees looking to downsize or move closer to family.

Jumbo Reverse Mortgages

Jumbo reverse mortgages cater to homeowners with high-value properties that exceed the FHA's HECM limits. They offer an alternative for those seeking to tap into substantial home equity. However, borrowers should be aware of potentially higher interest rates and stricter eligibility criteria.

Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit (RMLOC)

Rather than receiving a lump sum, borrowers can opt for a line of credit that they can access as needed. The unused portion of the credit line may grow over time, providing an additional financial cushion for the borrower.

Qualifications for Reverse Mortgage Application

Some of the common criteria include:

  • Age Eligibility: Borrowers typically must be 62 years or older, ensuring the loan's purpose for seniors.
  • Home Ownership: Applicants must own their primary residence outright or have a significant amount of home equity.
  • Occupancy Requirements: The home must be the borrower's primary residence.
  • Financial Assessment: Lenders may assess the borrower's income, credit history, and financial stability to ensure they can meet obligations like property taxes and insurance.
  • Property Type: Eligible properties include single-family homes, multi-unit properties (up to four units), and approved condominiums.
  • HUD Counseling: Borrowers are often required to undergo counseling from a HUD-approved counselor to understand the terms and implications of a reverse mortgage.
  • Loan Limits: The maximum loan amount is subject to FHA limits, considering factors like home value and borrower age.

Meeting these qualifications helps ensure that reverse mortgages serve as a viable financial option for eligible senior homeowners.

How to Apply for Reverse Mortgage?

Applying for a reverse mortgage involves several steps. Here's a general guide on how to apply:

  • Meet Eligibility Criteria: Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria, including being at least 62 years old, owning your home outright or having substantial equity, and using the property as your primary or main residence.
  • Educational Counseling: Attend a counseling session with a HUD-approved counselor. This is a mandatory step to ensure you understand the terms, costs, and implications of a reverse mortgage.
  • Choose a Lender: Research and select a reputable lender accepted by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Different lenders may offer various types of reverse mortgages.
  • Application Submission: Complete the application provided by the chosen lender. This includes personal and financial information, details about the property, and your preferred payment plan (lump sum (whole), monthly payments, line of credit, or a mix of these).
  • Appraisal and Underwriting: The lender will appraise your home to determine its value and assess your financial situation. The underwriting process evaluates your eligibility based on the information provided.
  • Loan Approval: Upon approval, you'll receive a disclosure document detailing the terms and costs. Review this carefully and ask questions if needed.
  • Closing: Once satisfied, proceed to the closing phase. Sign the necessary documents and the funds will be disbursed according to your chosen payment plan.
  • Ongoing Responsibilities: After closing, continue to meet obligations, such as paying property taxes, insurance, and maintaining the property. The loan becomes due when you move out of the home or pass away.

It's crucial to carefully consider the implications and seek advice from financial professionals during the application process for a reverse mortgage.

How Long Does it Take to Process a Reverse Mortgage?

The timeline for a reverse mortgage can vary depending on factors, including the lender's processes, the complexity of the application, and individual circumstances. However, a rough estimate of the time it takes to complete the reverse mortgage process is typically between 30 to 45 days.

Here's a breakdown of the key stages and their approximate durations:

Application and Counseling:

Time: 1 to 2 weeks

Description: This includes completing the application form and attending the mandatory counseling session with a HUD-approved counselor.

Appraisal and Underwriting:

Time: 2 to 4 weeks

Description: The lender conducts an appraisal of the property and performs underwriting to assess eligibility and determine the loan amount.

Loan Approval and Disclosures:

Time: 1 to 2 weeks

Description: Once the appraisal and underwriting are complete, the lender approves the loan, and the borrower receives disclosure documents outlining the terms and costs.


Time: 1 to 2 weeks

Description: The closing phase involves signing the necessary documents, and the loan funds are disbursed according to the chosen payment plan.

It's important to note that these timeframes are general estimates, and actual timelines can vary. Delays may occur due to several factors, such as the complexity of the application, additional documentation requirements, or the lender's internal processes. Borrowers can help expedite the process by promptly providing all requested information and cooperating with the lender's requirements.

What Happens if Reverse Mortgage is Denied?

If a reverse mortgage application is denied, there are several potential reasons, and the next steps can depend on the specific circumstances.

Here's an overview of what may happen:

  • Understanding the Denial: Reasons for Denial: Common reasons include not meeting eligibility criteria, insufficient home equity, failure to pay property charges or financial instability.
  • Seeking Clarification: Communication with Lender: If denied, it's crucial to communicate with the lender to understand the specific reasons for the denial. Lenders are often required to provide written explanations for denials.
  • Addressing Issues: Correctable Issues: If the denial is due to issues that can be addressed, such as outstanding debts or property conditions, taking steps to resolve these may improve the likelihood of approval upon reapplication.
  • Exploring Alternatives: Consider Other Options: If a reverse mortgage is not feasible, explore alternative financial options, such as downsizing, seeking assistance from family members, or exploring different types of loans.
  • Consulting a Counselor: HUD Counseling: Seeking guidance from a HUD-approved counselor can provide insights into available options and assist in making informed decisions.
  • Reapplying with Another Lender: Seeking Another Lender: If the denial is specific to the lender's policies, consider applying with a different lender. Different lenders may have varying approval criteria.
  • Legal Recourse:
    Legal Review: In rare cases, if there are concerns about the denial being unfair or unjust, seeking legal advice may be an option.

It's crucial for individuals considering a reverse mortgage to thoroughly understand the eligibility criteria, seek professional advice, and also carefully review the terms and conditions before applying. In the event of a denial, taking proactive steps to address issues and exploring alternatives is essential.


Reverse mortgages are poised for transformation with innovative solutions. Emerging financial models are reshaping this housing equity tool, offering more flexibility, transparency, and accessibility. The evolving landscape aims to address concerns, enhance customer experiences, and cater to a broader demographic, making reverse mortgages a more viable and attractive option for retirees seeking financial security in their golden years.

Third-party firms play a pivotal role in implementing these technologies, ensuring their seamless integration with legacy systems. Their expertise in data analytics and compliance management becomes crucial for navigating the intricate regulatory landscape surrounding reverse mortgages. By delegating operations to specialized firms, individuals and financial institutions can access advanced tools for portfolio optimization, real-time risk monitoring, and personalized customer interactions, thereby improving reverse mortgage processes' overall efficiency and reliability.

Invensis delivers mortgage processing services to financial institutions through robust technical processes. We meticulously handle document verification, eligibility assessments, appraisal coordination, disbursement management, and compliance checks. Our streamlined approach ensures accuracy, speed, and regulatory adherence in every step of the reverse mortgage processing cycle. Contact us to handle all your mortgage processing needs!

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