What Are the 3 Types of Reverse Mortgages?

Find out which one may work best for you

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Reverse mortgages allow borrowers to use the equity in a fully or mostly paid-off residence to meet ordinary expenses. These loans usually don't need to be paid off until the house is sold, and are restricted to retirees who are 62 years old or older.

Most reverse mortgages are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), which are insured by the federal government and regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Proprietary reverse mortgages are private mortgages, not insured by the government, that are usually made to borrowers who need more than the HECM limit. Single-purpose reverse mortgages are for one specific expense. Let’s go over each type and how they work.

Key Takeaways

  • Most borrowers will use a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, which is insured by the government.
  • Proprietary reverse mortgages aren’t insured by the government but allow borrowers who wouldn’t qualify for a HECM to obtain a reverse mortgage.
  • Single-purpose reverse mortgages are often used for home repairs or property taxes.

The 3 Types of Reverse Mortgages

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Proprietary Reverse Mortgage Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgage
Loan Amount Up to $970,800 Highest Lowest
Fees High Highest Low
Government Guarantee Insured Not applicable Possible
Use of Proceeds No restrictions Up to lender Restricted to a single purpose

HECMs will work for most retirees. They are insured by the government and designed to allow seniors to use their home assets in retirement. Proprietary reverse mortgages are useful for borrowers who wouldn’t qualify for a HECM, or who need a loan amount higher than the HECM limit. Single-purpose reverse mortgages directly pay a single expense incurred by the borrower.

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage

Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) are the most popular type of reverse mortgage, and the only one insured by the government, specifically the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HECMs are available to homeowners who are ages 62 or older and either wholly own their residence or have paid off most of the mortgage.

When It Works Best

HECMs work best for retirees on a fixed income who need to access the equity in their homes for income. With a HECM, borrowers can receive the loan funds in a lump sum, a monthly payment, or as a line of credit.


Borrowers are required to get counseling that reviews how the reverse-mortgage process will work and the financial situation of the borrower prior to applying for a loan. Counselors must be approved by HUD and can be found on the HUD website.

HECMs are insured by the federal government but can be originated at most lenders. The lender will underwrite the loan to ensure that the borrower qualifies based on government requirements, and that they are willing and able to keep up with property taxes, maintenance costs, and other expenses related to the property.

No payments are due on the loan until the property is sold, either by the original borrower or by their estate after death. Borrowers who get a HECM line of credit only accrue interest on the outstanding balance.

Prospective HECM borrowers must:

  • Be at least 62 years old
  • Own the residence or have paid it down “considerably”
  • Occupy the property as a principal residence
  • Be current on all federal debt
  • Be willing and able maintain the property and meet all expenses


A HECM is beneficial for seniors whose retirement assets consist mostly of their residence. Retirees who rely on Social Security and or a pension and don’t have much else in the form of assets can use a HECM to convert the equity in their home into cash to use for expenses.


The main drawback is the cost. A reverse mortgage typically has a higher interest rate to compensate the lender for the amount of time it will take to be repaid on the loan. Additionally, each of the following costs may be charged:

  • Counseling fees
  • Loan origination fees (up to $6,000)
  • Closing costs
  • Initial and continuing mortgage insurance premium (MIP)
  • Interest
  • Servicing fees

Proprietary Reverse Mortgage

A proprietary reverse mortgage is an all-encompassing term for non-HECM reverse mortgages offered by private lenders. They are not guaranteed by the government and are not regulated by HUD or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

When It Works Best

Proprietary reverse mortgages are best used by borrowers who don’t qualify for HECMs. The underwriting process likely will be similar to HECMs', but there is no counseling requirement.


The benefit of a proprietary reverse mortgage depends on the lender.


Proprietary reverse mortgages are most commonly used by borrowers whose residence value is far higher than the HECM loan limit. The private lender can exceed that limit, allowing the borrower to turn more equity into cash.


Proprietary reverse mortgages are likely to have even higher fees and interest rates than HECMs. This is because the mortgage will likely be mostly similar to a HECM, but without the benefit of government insurance, so the lender needs to be compensated for the additional risk.

Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgage

Single-purpose reverse mortgages also are not guaranteed by the federal government. They are typically offered by local governments or nonprofits to be used for a single purpose. This purpose could be something like home repairs or unpaid property taxes.

When It Works Best

A single-purpose reverse mortgage is used for a one-time project or expense. Unlike the other two options, it can’t be used for ongoing expenses or to rebuild retirement assets.

The borrower will not need to use much equity in their residence, and the lender will likely use a title company to enforce the use of proceeds.


It’s possible that the lender will require that single-purpose reverse mortgage payments go directly to the payee.


This product is beneficial for borrowers who need to pay a one-off expense. They won’t have to pay a lot of fees to access the equity and can access the loan funds without having to use a high-fee unsecured loan product.


The main drawback is the limited use of funds. The borrower can only apply the funds to the designated use of proceeds. If something else comes up, they would need to get the loan restructured or originate a new loan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do reverse mortgages differ from other types of mortgages?

Reverse mortgages differ from forward mortgages because they are most often used to access the equity in a residence. Although they can be used to purchase a new residence, they are conventionally used by people who have paid off or nearly paid off their residences to turn that equity into cash.

What are the most common types of reverse mortgages?

HECMs, single-purpose reverse mortgages, and proprietary reverse mortgages are the most common types of reverse mortgage. Of the three, HECMs are most frequently financed.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Reverse Mortgage Loans.”

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Reverse Mortgages: A Discussion Guide,” Page 1.

  3. Federal Trade Commission. “Reverse Mortgages.”

  4. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Housing Counseling.”

  5. All Reverse Mortgage Inc. “Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit and Growth Rate Explained.”

  6. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “How Much Will a Reverse Mortgage Loan Cost?

  7. Rocket Mortgage. “Proprietary Reverse Mortgage: What You Need To Know.”

  8. AAG. “Types of Reverse Mortgages.”

  9. Rocket Mortgage. “Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgages: What You Need To Know.”

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