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When it comes to retirement, one of the biggest concerns for many seniors is how they will finance their living expenses. For some, this may mean tapping into the equity in their homes to help supplement their income. There are two popular ways to do this: reverse mortgages and home equity loans. Although they appear similar, key differences between reverse mortgages and home equity loans can make one option more appealing depending on your circumstances. This blog explores those differences to help you choose the right option for you.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a type of loan that allows seniors to access the equity in their homes without having to sell or move out. Instead, the loan is repaid when the homeowner passes away or sells the property. Unlike traditional mortgages, which require monthly payments, a reverse mortgage allows the borrower to receive payments from the lender. These payments can be received as a lump sum, line of credit, or monthly installments.

Homeowners who are 62 years or older and have significant equity in their homes are typically eligible for reverse mortgages. The lender decides the borrowing amount based on factors like age, home value, and loan interest rate.

A key benefit of reverse mortgages is the ability to receive lender payments while still living in the home. Reverse mortgages are useful for seniors who want to stay in their homes but need additional income for expenses like healthcare costs or home repairs. They are non-recourse loans, which means the borrower’s estate is not responsible for any amount owed that exceeds the home’s value.

However, there are some downsides to consider as well. One of the biggest is that the interest rates on reverse mortgages are generally higher than traditional mortgages, which means that the amount owed can quickly grow over time. Furthermore, obtaining a reverse mortgage incurs fees such as closing costs and mortgage insurance premiums.

What is a Home Equity Loan?

Homeowners repay this type of loan in monthly installments, like a traditional mortgage, and can borrow money against their home equity. It is known as a home equity loan, unlike a reverse mortgage. Home equity loans usually have lower interest rates than reverse mortgages, and lenders don’t charge fees for obtaining the loan.

The value of the home and the amount of equity built up determine the amount that a borrower can borrow with a home equity loan. Home equity loans are a good option for specific expenses like home repairs or paying off high-interest debt. Home equity loans offer tax-deductible interest depending on the purpose of the loan and other factors. It is important to note that the lender can foreclose on the property if the borrower fails to make payments on the loan.

Differences between Reverse Mortgages and Home Equity Loans

Repayment Terms: The method of repayment is one of the most significant differences between the two loans. The homeowner repays a reverse mortgage only when they sell the property or pass away, and they don’t need to make monthly payments.

Home equity loans, on the other hand, require monthly payments over a set period of time.

Interest Rates: Interest rates on reverse mortgages tend to be higher than those on home equity loans. This is because the lender is assuming more risk by offering a loan that does not require monthly payments.


Reverse mortgages have higher fees associated with obtaining the loan than home equity loans. These fees can include origination fees, closing costs, and mortgage insurance premiums. Home equity loans, on the other hand, typically do not have any fees associated with obtaining the loan.

Loan Amount:

A reverse mortgage usually allows for a higher amount to be borrowed compared to a home equity loan. This is due to reverse mortgages being based on the borrower’s age and home value, while home equity loans are based only on the equity amount.

Repayment Flexibility:

Reverse mortgages offer more flexibility in terms of how the borrower can receive their payments. They can choose to receive payments as a lump sum, line of credit, or monthly installments. Home equity loans, on the other hand, typically only offer one option for receiving the loan amount.

Ownership of the Home:

The homeowner keeps ownership of the home and receives payments with a reverse mortgage. The lender puts a lien on the property with a home equity loan, and if the borrower fails to make payments, the lender can foreclose on the property.

Tax Implications:

The interest on a home equity loan may be tax-deductible, but not on a reverse mortgage. It’s crucial to consult a tax professional to understand the specific tax implications of each loan.

Before deciding between a reverse mortgage and a home equity loan, it’s important to consult with a financial professional who can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option. Seek professional advice to understand each loan’s specific terms and conditions and determine the option that suits your individual needs. Both options for accessing home equity are popular among seniors, and individuals should carefully consider their differences.