Anyone who wishes to obtain a reverse mortgage has to undergo an “interview” with a HUD-approved counselor. While there is no substitute for this counseling session, there is still an important step that you can take to ensure that a reverse mortgage is right for you: interview yourself.

In conducting this self-interview, you should first ask yourself: Why do I want a reverse mortgage? Avoid the inclination to answer, because I can, and try to drill deeper into your rationale for obtaining one. Are you especially short on cash, and/or looking for a quick fix for a sudden, personal financial crisis? Towards what end(s) will you use the reverse mortgage proceeds? Perhaps you want to make a big purchase, and you lack the funds to do so? Perhaps, you plan to take the proceeds in monthly increments in order to fund day-to-day living expenses? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions: it’s only important to be honest with yourself when answering them.

Next, ask yourself if you really need a reverse mortgage. If not for the reverse mortgage, what sacrifices, if any, would you have to make? Would you still be able to maintain your current standard of living? Would you even be able to remain in your current home? Perhaps you have a primary mortgage that you can only repay with the help of a reverse mortgage?

How does your reverse mortgage fit into your overall financial plan? Depending on your age, the amount you borrow, and fluctuations in housing prices, you may eventually exhaust all of the equity in your home. Can you afford this possibility? If/when you decide to move into an assisted living facility or nursing home, is it realistic to assume that you can pay for this yourself (taking your reverse mortgage into account)?

Along the same lines, ask yourself if there are any reasonable alternatives to the reverse mortgage. Since reverse mortgage are inherently costly (due to a combination of interest, origination fees, and insurance premiums), you should naturally make sure that there does not exist a cheaper option. For example, can you borrow a comparable sum from friend or family member? Are you eligible for a single-purpose reverse mortgage? Can you “downsize” into a less expensive home?

Finally, consider the impact of your reverse mortgage on your estate. Do you plan to leave money/assets to your children as part of your will? If your home has sentimental value for you, does it also have sentimental value for your children? If you obtain a reverse mortgage, will it still be possible for the home to remain with your heirs after your death? Is this even an important consideration?

In short, you want to take very seriously the decision to obtain a reverse mortgage. Once you make the decision, the process of actually obtaining the reverse mortgage is quite straightforward and will be (psychologically) hard to derail once it gets started. That being the case, the HUD-approved counseling session is basically a formality, undertaken right before closing, designed to make sure that you understand the basic mechanics of a reverse mortgage. Before you get to that point, conduct a self-interview and make sure a reverse mortgage is right for you.

Have Feedback on This Article?