saclaw logoQ: Hi Law Librarian,

My elderly mother saw a commercial with Robert Wagner talking about the benefits of a reverse mortgage. My father passed away 5 years ago and she has not been in great health and has some medical expenses. Is this a risky proposition?


A. Hi Sasha,

As you might expect AARP is more objective then Mr. Wagner about reverse mortgages. These are complex loans which allow homeowners to convert part of the equity in their homes into cash. Many seniors are “house rich and cash poor”.

To qualify, borrowers have to be at least 62, own their home outright or carry a mortgage small enough to be paid off by the proceeds. There are no income or credit qualifications although homeowners are responsible for paying the annual taxes, property insurance and maintenance.

The loans have to be repaid when the homeowner moves or dies, in which the bank takes its share and anything, left goes to the heirs. AARP provides access to a reverse mortgage calculator so you can compare two nationally available programs.

Before making a decision that will affect her financial security and her future, do the research. If she does decide to take out a reverse mortgage, compare several different plans and discuss the need with your family and a reverse mortgage counselor. AARP offers counseling through the HUD network of HECM counselors. You can reach a counselor by calling 1-800-209-8085 weekdays and asking for reverse mortgage counseling.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian