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Reverse Mortgages

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How They Work – When Best Used

[By Staff Writers]

A reverse mortgage is a loan that pays the mortgagor (doctor-client) cash and at the same time does not require a payment. Instead, the loan accrues interest until the loan term is complete. The only security the mortgagee (lender) has is the home itself. It has no legal right to any asset or income. To visualize a reverse mortgage, think of it as having rising debt and falling equity. When you take out a reverse mortgage, you still own your home and are responsible for the upkeep, taxes, and insurance.

Several Options

There are many different payment options available. A doctor-client can get a lump sum at closing, periodic payments, a line of credit, or a combination of these three.


The costs of a reverse mortgage are very similar to a regular mortgage. The physician-client will have to pay many of the following: origination fees, closing costs, servicing fees, interest, and risk pooling fees.

Risk-pooling fees are a new type of fee unique to the reverse mortgage. It allows the mortgagee to self-insure loan losses due to varying circumstances.


According to expert Larry Fowler, CPA, CFP™, a great way to analyze the cost of reverse mortgages is to use the “Total Annual Loan Cost” (TALC) rate. The TALC rate is a rate equivalent to the amount of interest that must be charged on the cash received by the physician-client to grow the cash to the level of the final amount due at the end of the loan term. A physician needs to know three items to be able to calculate the TALC rate: the amount owed; the cash advances made to the borrower, and the term of the loan. The federal Truth-in-Lending laws now require lenders to give TALC rate projections for every reverse mortgage.

Left-Over Provisions

Most reverse mortgages have provisions that explain how the leftover cash is distributed in the event that the home owner moves, sells the home, or dies. These provisions can become very important if any of the previous three situations occur. For this reason, it is very important that these provisions be clearly understood.



Reverse mortgages should be used when a physician needs extra money, plans to stay in his/her home for a long period of time, does not want to make payments, and does not want to sell his/her home and move to a different one. The reason a doctor should stay a long period of time is that the TALC rate is usually highest in the beginning of the loan and drops off in the latter part of the loan.


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3 Responses

  1. Reverse Mortgage Cons

    The fees on a reverse mortgage are the same as a traditional FHA mortgage but are higher than a conventional mortgage because of the insurance cost.

    The largest costs are:

    • FHA mortgage insurance.
    • Origination fee.
    • The loan balance gets larger over time and the value of the estate/inheritance may decrease over time.
    • Although Social Security and Medicare are not affected, Medicaid and other need-based government assistance can be affected if too much funds are withdrawn (and not spent) in one month.
    • The program is not well understood by most individuals. However, the availability of independent reverse mortgage counseling helps.



  2. The real estate scheme that bets on death

    It’s called en viager — think of it as a reverse mortgage. Here’s how it works:

    Instead of buying an apartment and moving into it, you buy an apartment owned and occupied by an elderly person. Based on the apartment owner’s age and life expectancy, and the value of the place, you calculate a bouquet — a lump sum paid to the owner — and agree to pay a set amount per month. Until the owner dies.


    If that’s tomorrow, lucky you. If the owner outlives you, your survivors — spouse, children, even grandchildren — must continue paying the monthly amount until she or he finally dies.



  3. Reverse Mortgage Disadvantages

    Here are some possible disadvantages to the product that you should consider when assessing your suitability:

    You Accumulate Interest: There are no monthly payments on a reverse mortgage. As such, the loan amount — the amount you will eventually have to pay back — grows larger over time. Every month, the amount of interest you will eventually owe increases — it accumulates. However, the amount you owe on the loan will never exceed the value of the home when the loan becomes due. The loan and accumulated interest become due when you or your spouse die or move out of the home.

    Disappointing Loan Amounts: Some reverse mortgage borrowers are disappointed by the amount of money they can borrow with a reverse mortgage. Your actual loan amount is determined by a calculation using the appraised value of your home, the amount of money you owe on the home, your age and current interest rates.

    The Loans Are Complicated: The basics of reverse mortgages can seem so foreign to people.



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