Why You Need to Beware of Reverse Mortgages

Numerous TV commercials make a reverse mortgage sound simple. As more and more people are qualifying for reverse mortgages it is important to consider the large number of pitfalls in taking out a reverse mortgage, which can end up being  harmful both financially and emotionally.

ARE THERE ANY DISADVANTAGES?  Yes! It is important to evaluate the reverse mortgage disadvantages before taking out one. Proceed with caution. Many financial consultants believe that not only do reverse mortgages have definite disadvantages but that lenders for these types of mortgages don’t fully disclose all the terms, or  tell you how high the front-load is.  HUD estimates that several hundred seniors nationwide have been cheated by unscrupulous lenders and third-party “estate planning” firms that take advantage of consumers’ relative lack of knowledge about reverse mortgages; enticing them to agree to unfair or illegal contract terms. A woman in Norwalk, California alleged that she paid $5,571 to an America’s Trust, Inc. in return for a visit from an agent, who came to her home and simply referred her to a reverse mortgage lender. She also alleged that America’s Trust never informed her that she would be charged 10% of her loan amount for that service.

WHO GETS REVERSE MORTGAGES (which are considered a loan-of-last-resort for seniors without any other options of getting the capital they need in any other way).   Many people have a strong distaste for reverse mortgages, as they feel that it is the poorest people, who will take out a reverse mortgage while banks take a massive cut of everything these people have worked all their lives to acquire. Reverse mortgages have been described as a way for wealthy to scoop up the poorest families homes, while the poorest families become poorer.

REVERSE MORTGAGES HAVE SEVERAL OPTIONS BUT THEY ARE ALL STILL A MORTGAGE THAT MUST BE REPAID!  Reverse mortgages are a mortgage. There are several options to receive money in a reverse mortgage: lump sum, a line of credit or monthly payments for a specific period of time or for the remainder of your life.

Just as with a traditional mortgage, you borrow money and that loan must be repaid to the lender at the end of the reverse mortgage term. The “end of the term” is when you move out of the home for 12 months or if the home is sold (whichever comes first) or at your death.   The lender has an agreement to take possession of the house to satisfy the balance owed. Typically this is handled by selling the home and using the proceeds from the sale to pay off the reverse mortgage balance.  The bank takes the portion of the sale that it is owed, plus interest. The lender gets a premium over what they lent as payment because the loan amount does not go down; it goes up!  The loan you receive on a reverse mortgage is worth less than or equal to the value of your house and interest is accruing each month on the amount you still owe, thus the amount you owe increases each month as  payments are distributed to you or when you take out money on the line of credit. ) This is why it has been referred to as selling ones house slowly, because the equity in your house is lost over time.


READ THE FINE PRINT It’s imperative to read the fine print, ask lots of questions and make sure everything you are promised is actually in the contract! (Have the loan company highlight in the contract, each point they tell you. Read it over carefully or have some other person, such as an attorney take time to read it, to make sure that is exactly what you were told, before signing anything.)

You may be told:  There are no income, credit or medical requirements to qualify and no other qualifications like there are with a regular mortgage (RED FLAG!)

REALITY: While it may be true that your income and credit are not a factor, the fees associated with establishing a reverse mortgage are very expensive, while promising an uncertain amount of benefits. It is important to understand that on a reverse mortgage, interest is accruing each month on the amount owed to the lender. That  means the amount you owe increases each month as tenure/term payments are distributed, money is taken out on the line of credit, etc.  For example, a typical reverse mortgage borrower receives approximately $300 per month from the lender with a monthly compounded interest rate of 1%. Over the course of ten years, you will receive $36,000,  in total but by that time you will owe almost $70,000. This means that you are repaying close to twice the amount you are receiving PLUS the bank receives a limited ownership claim in your house in exchange and will eventually own your house!   A reverse mortgage works like a credit card in the respect that if the payments aren’t made it goes into default, damaging your credit and most likely you get sued,  but the difference is you also lose your home.

What you may be told by the loan company:  Some lenders claim that the homeowner doesn’t have to pay anything upfront.
REALITY: RED FLAG BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN ANYONE TELLS YOU THAT!! Many lenders simply add the upfront costs into the loan so while you do not pay them upfront you certainly do pay them. Lenders, of course, love not making you pay the fees upfront  because you will have to pay the loan company more interest. This is because, in reality, you are borrowing the extra money from the lender to pay the fees it costs in order to get the reverse mortgage from the lender!   This is extremely profitable for lenders. Ka-Ching! (Guess who is the loser!)


Front-loading encompasses the upfront costs which will be paid out of your home’s equity at closing and will include interest, origination fees, points, mortgage insurance premiums, closing costs, appraiser fees, servicing fees, shared equity or “maturity” fees, and shared appreciation fees.


  •     The origination fee will be double compared to the amount you pay on a normal mortgage.
  •     The interest rates and fees are all determined based upon home value and what loan you decide to go with. Reverse mortgages often have very high fees and interest rates.

Bottom line: You will  pay an excessively large price for a reverse mortgage. (You will be paying a higher interest rate than on other loans, have less equity in your home, and you may run out of the money sooner than you think.)

Numerous other front-end and back-end fees can quickly drive up the cost of a reverse mortgage. The case of the San Mateo County Public Guardian v. Commonwealth Life Insurance illustrates how some of these fees generated allegations by a class of 1,505 borrowers that they were charged tens of thousands of dollars in artificially inflated loan fees.

CONFUSING AND COMPLEX TERMS OF A REVERSE MORTGAGE  Reverse Mortgages are more complicated and have more  confusing terms and conditions than a traditional mortgage. These complex contract terms of a reverse mortgage can greatly impact the overall cost to you, the borrower. There can lead to serious repercussions to borrowers, when lenders or third parties involved in arranging reverse mortgages do not fully disclose a loan’s terms and fees.

A lawsuit filed by the San Mateo County Public Guardian alleged that Transamerica Corporation  charged Berta Gray, an 83-year old woman what was in effect a shared appreciation fee. This fee gave Transamerica an automatic 50% interest  that automatically paid TransAmerica  50 percent ownership interest in the difference between the base value of the home when the loan was established and the appreciated market value of the home when the loan terminates, even though the fee bore no relation to the amount she actually borrowed.

The cost of her reverse mortgage soared when TransAmerica also required her to purchase an annuity, financed out of her home’s equity to provide monthly payments to TransAmerica immediately and that interest began compounding on that fee even though she was not due to receive any payment on the annuity until six years after the loan began, at age 89. Under this arrangement, if Ms. Gray died before the six-year period ended, her estate would see no benefit from the annuity purchase, although she had paid in full for it.

WHAT ELSE DO WE HAVE TO PAY TO GET A REVERSE MORTGAGE? Don’t forget that you are still responsible to pay not only the loan but also the annual real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, all home repairs and other maintenance, HOA fees and mortgage insurance (which covers the lender – not you-should the property value decrease, or if the mortgage is held over a very long period )

The amount that the homeowner can borrow depends on the age of the youngest borrower, the current interest rates being offered, & the value of their home.
Payouts to the homeowner are based on actuary tables  The bank estimates how long you have to live & how much your house will be worth to them at that time of your death.   A person age 90 can borrow more as a percentage of equity than someone aged 70. The older you are, the more your home is worth, and the lower the interest rate – the more money you can get.

No. It is impossible to calculate the true cost of a Reverse Mortgage, without predicting how long you will live and what future interest rates and home appreciation rates will be.

All reverse mortgages are going to have different costs, based on whether there’s any monthly repayment and the ages/health of the people requesting the loan.

Red Flag It is a very real possibility and this should be a serious consideration before you decide to do it. The proceeds from a reverse mortgage could prove to be a serious barrier to allowing you to qualify for Medicaid because your proceeds from the loan are counted as an asset! Each state differs, however, any untapped equity you currently have in your home will not be considered an asset when determining your Medicaid eligibility so long as you continue to live in your home. Make sure you speak with a Medicaid specialist before obtaining a reverse mortgage, as you do not want the cash proceeds prohibiting you from Medicaid eligibility.


NO! BIG RED FLAG: NEVER take out a reverse mortgage specifically to buy an annuity. An annuity is a type of insurance, in this case, using the equity in the home to pay out the monthly reverse mortgage payments to the borrower. This means that the borrower is charged the cost of the annuity immediately, with compounding interest even though the annuity is not due to start making payments for a certain period after it is established.    For example, if the annuity is set up to start paying out after a six-year period, if the borrower dies before the six-year period is up, the estate of the borrower would not benefit from the annuity even though the borrower had already paid for it in full.


A session with a HUD certified counselor, who is supposed to explain the disadvantages of reverse mortgages to you, might not help protect you.
During the process of obtaining  a reverse mortgage the senior borrower should attend a counseling session with a HUD certified counselor, who has no financial interest in if the senior borrower gets a reverse mortgage or not.  The counselor should explain the disadvantages of reverse mortgages, as many are really bad deals for the borrower.   However,  there have been  situations where reverse mortgage counselors are affiliated with the lender. Thus, in reality, that counselor in not a neutral party. Unfortunately, this practice is encouraged by the fact that Fannie Mae will purchase reverse mortgage loans from loan originators who themselves provide “counseling” to prospective reverse mortgage borrowers.  The current system of reverse mortgage counseling is not enough to protect potential borrowers against financial fraud and abuse. There needs to be  established consumer protections that explains the current pitfalls and hazards for consumers.

Lastly, remember, that the deal you make may not be directly with the lending bank, but with someone planning to profit on your home’s rise in value.  

This entry was posted in Baby Boomers, Oklahoma, Oklahomans helping Oklahomans, Reverse Mortgages, Tulsa and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Why You Need to Beware of Reverse Mortgages

  1. J.B. says:

    One elderly gentleman got $50,000 for his home and 4.5 acres.He found out later that he was REQUIRED to take out an additional insurance policy to cover the $50,000 policy if he defaults on the “loan”. That was $500 a month and that was in addition to the homeowners insurance, the taxes, and HOA fees. Must have equity in home and you are still responsible for taxes and insurance. He lost his house. Imagine that happening to you in your 80s! What a shame!

    We know of another one who lost his house also but don’t know the details.

  2. Grace says:

    Reverse mortgages have earned a bad rep
    10 percent of loans went into default because borrowers could not keep up with homeowners insurance and property taxes. New rules require a financial assessment to ensure that borrowers have enough money to pay ongoing costs.

    Interest charges and annual mortgage premiums (at a rate of 1.25 percent of the amount you borrow) will accrue on any outstanding balance and are due when the home is sold.
    ~ Interest rate on lump-sum payouts is fixed; a typical rate is 5 percent.
    ~ Monthly payouts or draws from a line of credit will have variable rates (recently ranging from 3.1 percent to 4.1 percent).

    You still must pay
    ~ a lender’s origination fee
    ~ fees for third-party services (such as an appraisal or inspection)
    ~ closing costs, which can run $1,000 to $2,500 or more.

    If you take the money up front in a single payment and lock in a fixed rate that’s all you get. You might choose this option to, say, eliminate debt or buy your next home,as it preserves a chunk of home equity for heirs. Or you can take a series of monthly payments or a line of credit, or some combination.


  3. P.S. says:


    * not everyone will qualify for one
    * you may not get as much income as you’d hoped for;
    * you pay closing costs.
    * points and fees are fairly high,
    * interest rates can be higher than those for regular mortgages.
    * your heirs don’t get to inherit your home, unless they can cough up enough to repay the loan.
    * a reverse mortgage might affect your eligibility for certain benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

    Reverse mortgages are generally not the best way to finance a retirement.A reverse mortgage may cost more than a home equity loan. Look into alternatives such as:
    * home equity loans.
    * Or consider selling your home, moving to a less expensive dwelling, and investing and living off the difference.

    Reverse mortgage programs vary widely in what they offer! Learn more at usa.gov/mortgages and consumerfinance.gov. Or read “Understanding Reverse Mortgages: Increase Your Cash Flow and Minimize Your Stress” by John Barlow (CreateSpace, $13).

    Never sign up for a reverse mortgage without first getting advice — from people who don’t sell reverse mortgages.


  4. Evan says:

    Be very careful about selling to an investor who buys the property as is from the homeowner, offering to maintain the property, pay the taxes and insurance. The homeowner has cash now and pays rent.

    Downside for : the expectations might not be the same for each party. For example the former homeowner might expect more or blow the money, then not have any to pay rent to the new owner, (think about the opportunity here for the investor who buys the property as is from the homeowner, offering to maintain the property, pay the taxes and insurance. The homeowner has cash now and pays rent. Downside: they might expect more to make the house nicer(but they might not if they have been happy living in it as it is). It is to the investors advantage to fix it up not only for tax writeoffs, but you want it as nice as possible so you can re-rent or sell it when they die or move on. You want to make sure they don’t blow the money they just received. As the new owner would you be able to kick out an old person, if they could no longer pay the rent? Maybe the new owner should put part of it in some type of escrow account so that the rent flow from the renters account into the new owners on the first of the month. If the renter dies before it is used up then it goes to their estate, Investors be sure you use a good real estate attorney to cover all bases, such as at their death how long the family has to remove their things..

    For the homeowner: the investor who buys the property as is from the homeowner, offering to maintain the property, pay the taxes and insurance, may allow them to have a nicer home if the investor does in fact fix it up some for you. (It is a writeoff for the investor to fix up things you might have a nicer house to live in.
    Downside: If you have to go into nursing home and still have money in your account you will have to use that money first before your Medicaid will kick in.

  5. zander says:

    Be warned that it’s a high-cost loan, especially if you borrow in your 60s. Early retirees and others past midlife who might have lost their jobs and are motoring through their savings are turning to reverse mortgages to pay bills or replace a traditional mortgage whose payments they can’t afford.

    But when they’ve used up the money they borrowed, these “safe” loans can lead them straight to foreclosure in their later years. READ THE WHOLE STORY: http://www.aarp.org/money/estate-planning/info-03-2012/risks-of-taking-reverse-mortgage-early.html

  6. Evalou says:

    Read this to make sure you are getting the best deal on a reverse mortgage: http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170617/jack-guttentag-shopping-for-best-hecm-reverse-mortgage-deal

  7. Evalou says:

    If you have a reverse mortgage you might get a letter from a different company saying you can get additional cash through a new reverse mortgage, because the value of your property increased.

    It is refinancing of a reverse mortgage with a cash-out. You take out a larger loan based on the higher value of your house, pay off the old loan and wind up with more money to spend. But the financial terms might be horrendous as you pay closing costs, a loan origination fee and an upfront loan insurance charge, plus an annual insurance fee of 1.25% on the amount you owe. Compare the cost with the additional amount of cash (or larger credit line) you’ll get from the refi. If the difference is modest, is isn’t worth it.

  8. Evalou says:

    The the intent of a reverse mortgage is to be comfortably retired in ones home instead of struggling so the kids can inherit the house.
    Retirement income is created in the form of a monthly stream of income, a lump sum, or a line of credit that’s tapped as needed.
    When they move or die, the loan has to be paid off usually by selling the house. You can never owe more than the house is worth.
    Like any other financial instrument, it’s complicated. Never agree to anything you don’t understand. Nothing is free!

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