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Choosing Between HECM and Proprietary Reverse Mortgages: What Seniors Need to Know

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As retirement approaches, many seniors find themselves in a financial conundrum, balancing the desire to live comfortably with the reality of fixed income sources. Traditional Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) have long been a popular solution, offering seniors a way to tap into their home equity without the need to sell their beloved homes. However, HECMs are not the only option available. Proprietary reverse mortgages, also known as jumbo reverse mortgages, have emerged as a compelling alternative for certain homeowners. This blog post delves into what proprietary reverse mortgages are, how they differ from HECMs, and why they might be a better choice for some seniors.

Understanding Proprietary Reverse Mortgages

Proprietary reverse mortgages are private loans that allow seniors to convert part of their home equity into cash. Unlike HECMs, which are federally insured and subject to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines, proprietary reverse mortgages are offered by private lenders without federal insurance. This distinction allows for greater flexibility in terms and conditions, making them particularly attractive for homes with higher values.

Key Differences from HECMs

  • Higher Loan Limits: Proprietary reverse mortgages do not have the same cap as HECMs, which is set by the federal government. This makes them ideal for seniors with homes that exceed the HECM lending limit, allowing them to access more of their home equity.
  • Flexibility: Without the constraints of federal guidelines, proprietary reverse mortgages can offer more flexible terms and conditions. This includes potentially lower upfront costs and the ability to tailor the loan to the borrower's specific needs.
  • Property Types: Proprietary reverse mortgages may be available for property types that do not qualify for HECMs, such as certain condominiums not approved by the FHA.

Why Choose a Proprietary Reverse Mortgage?

1. Access to Greater Equity for High-Value Homes

For seniors living in areas with high property values or those who own particularly valuable homes, proprietary reverse mortgages can provide access to a larger portion of their home equity than HECMs. This can be crucial for covering living expenses, medical bills, or fulfilling retirement dreams that require significant funding.

2. Flexibility for Non-Traditional Properties

Seniors who own unique properties that don't meet the strict criteria for HECMs may find proprietary reverse mortgages to be a viable alternative. Whether it's a high-value condominium or a home in a non-approved project, these private loans can offer solutions where federal programs cannot.

3. Potentially Lower Upfront Costs

Some proprietary reverse mortgage products are designed with lower upfront costs compared to HECMs, which can include a mortgage insurance premium. This can make the loan more cost-effective for seniors who are concerned about the initial expenses associated with reverse mortgages.

4. Tailored Loan Products

Private lenders can offer a variety of proprietary reverse mortgage products, each designed to meet specific needs. This means seniors have the opportunity to choose a loan that best fits their financial situation, whether they need a lump sum, a line of credit, or monthly payments.

Considerations Before Choosing a Proprietary Reverse Mortgage

While proprietary reverse mortgages offer several advantages, they are not without their considerations. Here are some factors seniors should take into account:

  • Lack of Federal Insurance: Unlike HECMs, proprietary reverse mortgages are not federally insured. This means borrowers may not have the same level of protection and should thoroughly research lenders and their offerings.
  • Interest Rates and Fees: Proprietary reverse mortgages might have higher interest rates or different fee structures compared to HECMs. It's important to compare these costs to ensure the loan is financially viable.
  • Impact on Heirs: As with any reverse mortgage, the loan balance must be repaid when the borrower moves out, sells the home, or passes away. This could potentially affect the inheritance for heirs, who may need to sell the property to repay the loan.

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Making an Informed Decision

Choosing between a proprietary reverse mortgage and a HECM is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of one's financial situation, home value, and long-term goals. Seniors should consider the following steps to make an informed choice:

1. Consult with a Financial Advisor

A financial advisor can provide personalized advice based on an individual's financial situation, helping to determine whether a proprietary reverse mortgage or a HECM is the best option.

2. Compare Loan Offers

It's crucial to shop around and compare loan offers from multiple lenders, paying close attention to interest rates, fees, and loan terms. This will help seniors find the most cost-effective and suitable product for their needs.

3. Understand the Terms and Conditions

Before committing to a loan, seniors should fully understand the terms and conditions, including how the loan balance will be repaid and the potential impact on their estate.

4. Consider Long-Term Implications

Seniors should think about their long-term financial needs and how a reverse mortgage fits into their overall retirement plan. This includes considering the potential need for long-term care and how the loan may affect their ability to cover these costs.


For many seniors, a proprietary reverse mortgage can offer a path to financial flexibility and security in retirement, particularly for those with high-value homes or unique property types. By providing access to a larger portion of home equity and offering tailored loan products, these private loans can be an attractive alternative to HECMs. However, the decision to take out a proprietary reverse mortgage should be made with a comprehensive understanding of the product and its implications for the borrower's financial future.

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