In the mortgage industry, confusion can sometimes arise between the terms ‘reverse mortgage’ and ‘lifetime mortgage’. They are both types of equity release, but what sets them apart?
Well, in the UK, we tend to use the term ‘lifetime mortgage’ while in other English-speaking countries, ‘reverse mortgage’ is more common.
In this article we’ll look at what a reverse mortgage is, the advantages and disadvantages of this type of borrowing and how to decide whether it’s the right step for you.
In this article:
- What is a reverse mortgage?
- How do they work?
- How old do you need to be?
- How much can you borrow?
- Advantages and disadvantages of reverse mortgages
- How a broker can help you find the right reverse mortgage
- Which lenders offer them?
- What happens when you die?
- How to get out of a reverse mortgage
- Get matched with a reverse mortgage specialist
What is a reverse mortgage?
Whereas with a traditional or ‘forward’ mortgage, you borrow money to buy a home, reverse mortgages are for those in later life who own their home and want to release some of the equity locked up in it.
There is no pre-agreed term, and the loan is repaid when you pass away, move into long term care or sell the house.
Typically, there are no monthly repayments. Instead, interest is rolled up and added to the initial capital when you settle the loan.
Flexible reverse mortgages
A flexible reverse mortgage is one that includes the option to make monthly repayments. Flexible reverse mortgages are often used by homeowners who are still working or are relatively young and want to release equity but protect their children’s inheritance.
If you take out a flexible lifetime mortgage and repay all the interest every month, the balance of your account won’t increase, and you will only need to pay back the initial amount borrowed when the time comes to pay off the loan.
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How do these mortgages work?
Usually, they can only be taken out if you own the property outright and it is your main UK residence. In most cases, you can take out a lifetime mortgage provided you live in the UK for at least six months of the year.
There are two main methods of accessing the equity you borrow:
- Lump sum: You take all the money immediately. This is often the preferred option when renovating the property or helping a family member get on the property ladder.
- Drawdown: You take a percentage of the borrowed amount and can access the rest as and when you need it. This is popular with retirees looking to use their equity to help fund their retirement. You will only pay interest on funds that have been withdrawn and this can help reduce the overall cost of borrowing.
How old do you need to be?
Typically, you need to be at least 55 to take out a reverse mortgage. However, some lenders set a higher minimum age.
There are also lenders who have a maximum age cap at the time of taking out the loan. Most who include this cap it at 85 but some go up to 95. Due to the nature of this type of borrowing, there is no upper age limit on the end of the loan.
How much can you borrow?
The maximum amount you can borrow will depend on several factors including:
- Your age: Generally, the older you are the more you can borrow.
- Your life expectancy: Borrowers with a lower life expectancy can often borrow more.
- The value of your home: There is no set percentage of equity that can be released. Depending on circumstances, it can be as low as 8% or as much as 70%. The lender will instruct an independent valuer to assess the property as part of the application process.
Use our calculator below to get a rough idea about the amount of equity you could release.
Reverse Mortgage Calculator
You can use our equity release calculator to work out how much capital you can release from your home. Simply enter your age and the property’s value and the tool will do the rest.
Maximum Equity you could release:
The amount is of your homes value, the maximum most borrowers your age can release.
Get Started with an Equity Release Specialist and find out exactly how much you could release.
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How a broker can help you find the right reverse mortgage
Taking out a reverse mortgage can allow you to benefit from the equity you have built up over the years without being forced to sell your family home.
But it’s a big decision as it will affect the value of your estate and, therefore, the inheritance you leave behind. So, while it is the right decision for some homeowners, for others there are other alternatives that are better suited to their situation.
The best way to assess all the options, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the loan and get the best deal if you decide to go ahead, is to speak to an advisor who deals with reverse mortgages on a daily basis and understands the market.
All the reverse mortgage brokers we work are members of the UK Equity Release Council so you can rest assured you’re getting the best advice. To arrange a chat with an expert, get in touch.
Advantages and disadvantages of reverse mortgages
As with all types of borrowing, there are advantages and disadvantages to lifetime mortgages:
The first and most obvious benefit of a reverse mortgage is that it allows you to access equity from your property without having to sell it.
Other benefits include:
The money you receive is tax-free
There are no restrictions on what you can do with the funds (so you could buy a home with a reverse mortgage)
There is no requirement to make monthly payments.
It doesn’t prevent you from moving if you later decide that’s the right thing to do.
Inheritance protection allows you to protect part of your home.
No negative equity guarantee means, regardless of house price fluctuations, you won’t have to repay more than the value of your home at the time it is sold.
The biggest drawback of a reverse mortgage is that it can be very costly. If you live for a long time after taking out the loan, the interest can have a significant impact on the value of your estate.
Other disadvantages are:
You may become ineligible for any means-tested benefits you are currently entitled to.
If you gift the equity you borrow (for example to provide a family member with a deposit for the first home) the recipient may be required to pay inheritance tax on it at a later date.
Interest rates tend to be higher than for more traditional types of mortgages.
You might have to pay fees and legal costs to arrange the loan.
A reverse mortgage from a lender who is not a member of the UK Equity Release Council will not be protected against repossession, eviction or negative equity.
Which lenders offer them?
There are lots of lenders that offer lifetime/reverse mortgages, including high street names and specialist lenders. Each has their own criteria in terms of maximum loan to value (LTV), early repayment charges (ERC) and age caps.
Rates can vary significantly but choosing a product with the terms and conditions to match your situation is more important than any headline rate.
The table below gives an indication of the type of terms currently available.
Looking for more rates and deals?
We can match you with a mortgage broker who can provide you with up-to-date bespoke rates and deals from across the entire market.
Last updated December 2023
The rates quoted above were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change at any time at the lender’s discretion. Speaking to a mortgage broker is the best way to keep track of the rates available at any given time.
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What happens when you die?
If the mortgage is in joint names, when one partner dies the mortgage remains unaffected. When the last surviving borrower passes away or moves into long term care, the house is usually sold, with the initial capital and any rolled up interest repaid using the proceeds.
If those inheriting your estate want to keep the house, they can do so by paying off the reverse mortgage using other means.
How to get out of a reverse mortgage
If you find yourself in a position where you feel a reverse mortgage isn’t the right solution for you, there are a number of ways you could get out of one, rather than wait for the traditional exit (as outlined in the section above).
- Sell the property and use the funds to repay the loan
- Pay the outstanding balance with cash funds (if available)
- Refinance on to a different type of mortgage or conventional loan (depending on the size of the balance)
Get matched with a reverse mortgage specialist
Reverse mortgages are complex products but often the best way for you to enjoy the benefits of your accumulated wealth in later life.
If you’re considering a lifetime mortgage it’s essential you seek professional advice from an advisor with whole-of-market access to ensure you don’t make a costly error.
We work with brokers who specialise in reverse mortgages for borrowers in all types of situations. With our unique broker matching service, we’ll assess your circumstances and put you in touch with an experienced broker who has a track record of advising people just like you.
To arrange a free no-obligation chat with your hand picked reverse mortgage broker, call today on 0808 189 2301 or enquire online.
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Not necessarily. Applications are assessed on a case by case basis and there are very few lenders willing to offer a lifetime mortgage on a non-standard construction home. For full details, read our guide to equity release on non-standard constructions.
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About the author
Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.
Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for Online Mortgage Advisor of course!
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