What is the downside of a HECM reverse mortgage?

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) can be a great option for seniors who want to tap into the equity of their home to supplement their retirement income. However, there are some downsides to consider before deciding if an HECM is right for you.
  • You must reside in your home: If you are granted an HECM, the property must be your primary residence for the majority of the time. If you move out for more than 12 consecutive months, the loan becomes due, and you may be required to repay the loan.
  • Repayment: You’ll be required to repay the HECM when you decide to sell your property or decide to relocate. It’s important to remember that interest will accrue on the HECM, so the longer you have the loan, the more you’ll need to repay.
  • Cost: HECMs can be more expensive than traditional home loans, with higher upfront fees and closing costs. Borrowers are also required to pay mortgage insurance premiums.
  • Home Value: If the value of your home decreases, the amount you can borrow with a HECM may also decrease. Depending on how much equity you’ve taken out, you may owe more than the home is worth if it were to be sold.
  • While there are downsides to consider, an HECM can still be a helpful option for seniors who want to supplement their retirement income. It’s important to speak to a financial advisor and do your research to determine if an HECM is the right choice for you.

    The Downside of a HECM

    If you are considering a reverse mortgage or a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) to supplement your retirement income, it is best to know the downsides of such a decision. While a HECM can provide monetary benefits for seniors, there are specific requirements, limitations, and risk factors associated with this type of loan. It is essential to understand the cons of HECM before committing to this loan.
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    Residency Requirements

    One of the significant downsides of a HECM is its residency requirement. If you want to apply for a reverse mortgage, you must live in the property, and it must be your primary residence for the majority of the loan’s duration. Therefore, if you move out of the property, typically for more than 12 months, the loan becomes due immediately, and you may be subject to foreclosure. Additionally, if you need to move to an assisted living facility or nursing home, you may no longer be able to maintain your home’s primary residency status. In such cases, the loan’s balance may become due, even if you or your spouse still live in the property.

    Time Constraints for Primary Residence

    As mentioned, the primary residence is a significant factor in a HECM. To maintain the reverse mortgage’s validity, the borrower must continuously occupy the property as their primary residence. This requirement can create a burden on the borrower as they may be unable to leave the property for an extended period, like a prolonged vacation or an extended visit with family members. Tip: Reverse mortgage holders must contact their mortgage provider if leaving their home for any extended period to prevent any complications.

    Repayment Obligations

    The repayment obligations for a HECM loan are another downside to consider. The HECM loan must be repaid when the homeowner(s) passes away or sells their property. If the homeowner’s estate decides not to sell the property, the heirs have several repayment options, including paying off the loan, refinancing the property, or simply giving the property to the lender.
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    Furthermore, the reverse mortgage must be paid even if the loan balance exceeds the home’s current value. This requirement means that the homeowner’s heirs may inherit a property with a mortgage balance that is more significant than the property’s worth, leaving less equity for the next generations. Tip: Heirs are encouraged to pay off or refinance the loan as soon as possible to avoid additional interest, capitalizing the loan, and reducing the remaining equity.

    Dependence on Home Equity

    HECMs enable homeowners to convert their home equity into cash, which provides a source of income to supplement their retirement funds. However, one of the downsides of this loan is that it may reduce the homeowner’s equity, leaving them with fewer options for the future. Additionally, the loan may engulf the equity over time, and the total debt owed can exceed the value of the home. Tip: Borrowers are encouraged to seek financial counseling to determine whether a HECM loan fits their current and future financial needs.

    Potential for Reverse Mortgage Scams

    Another potential downside of a HECM is an increased potential for scams and fraud. Reverse mortgages have become a popular target for unscrupulous fraudsters, who often target vulnerable seniors. These scams may include offering too-good-to-be-true terms, pressuring seniors to act quickly, or attempting to take advantage of their lack of financial literacy. Tip: Seniors are encouraged to work with reputable lenders and seek counsel from trusted friends, family members, and financial advisors to avoid falling victim to scams.

    Reducing Inheritance for Heirs

    Lastly, a HECM may significantly reduce the inheritance left for the borrower’s heirs. Because the HECM loan’s balance increases over time, the interest accrues over an extended period. When the borrower passes away, the lender is entitled to the sale price of the property up to the total amount of the loan balance, leaving significantly less for the heirs.
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    Tip: Borrowers and their financial advisors are encouraged to plan for the potential loss of inheritance, weigh the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage, and consider other financial alternatives before making a final decision.


    While a HECM loan may provide seniors with a valuable source of supplemental income, it is essential to understand the pros and cons before pursuing this option. Seniors are encouraged to research their options carefully, work with reputable lenders, and seek counsel from trusted advisors to ensure that they are making the best decision for their current and future financial needs.

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