With a reverse mortgage, you always retain title to or ownership of your home. The lender never, at any point, owns the home even after the last surviving spouse permanently vacates the property.
The amount of funds you receive depends on the age of the youngest borrower, the value of the home, the interest rate and upfront costs. The older you are, the more proceeds you can receive.
The funds can be delivered to you as a lump sum, as a line of credit or as fixed monthly payments, either for a fixed amount of time or for as long as you remain in the home. You can also combine these options, for example, taking part of the proceeds as a lump sum and leaving the balance in a line of credit.
Fees can be paid out of the loan proceeds. This means you incur very little out-of-pocket expense to get a reverse mortgage. Your only out-of-pocket expense is the appraisal fee and maybe a charge for counseling depending on the counseling organization you work with. Together, these two fees will total a few hundred dollars. Very low-income homeowners are exempted from being charged for counseling.
Your final loan balance is comprised of the amount borrowed, plus annual mortgage insurance premiums, servicing fees and interest. The loan balance grows as you live in the home. In other words, when you sell or leave the house, you owe more than you originally borrowed. Look at it this way: A traditional mortgage is a balloon full of air that loses some air and gets smaller each time you make a payment. A reverse mortgage is an empty balloon that grows larger as time passes.
With a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage or HECM (see Types of Reverse Mortgages), the government insured reverse mortgage option, no matter how large the loan balance, you never have to pay more than the appraised value of the home or the sale price. This feature is referred to as non-recourse. If the loan balance exceeds the appraised value of the home, then the federal government absorbs that loss. The government pays for it with proceeds from its insurance fund, which you as a borrower pay into on a monthly basis.