Reverse Mortgage vs. Home Equity Loan

Written by Banks Editorial Team
5 min. read
Written by Banks Editorial Team
5 min. read

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Homeownership provides many perks, ranging from more stability and better tax deductions. The major perk that draws many homeowners is the promise of escaping rent payments. After paying off your mortgage, your cost of living will become more manageable. If you follow the 28% rule, more than a quarter of your budget will go towards the mortgage. You will have all of that money freed up after paying off your home debt.

While some people dream of becoming debt-free, other homeowners occasionally tap into home equity for various expenses. In addition, some people borrow against their home equity to cover emergency expenses or living expenses as they get older. Reverse mortgages and home equity loans are two popular financial products that help borrowers unlock their home equity. Understanding the differences between each resource will help you decide which one is right for you.

Access Your Home Equity

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Learn how Unison can help you leverage the equity in your home to unlock financial success without accumulating extra debt.
Learn how the Unison HomeOwner co-investment program can help you tap into your home’s equity to finance your lifestyle without added debt.

How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?

A reverse mortgage is for borrowers who want monthly payments as if they were the bank. You can either receive monthly payments or a lump sum based on your available home equity. You do not have to repay a reverse mortgage right away and can continue borrowing against your home equity. You will only have to repay the reverse mortgage after you sell your home or move out; otherwise, your estate repays after your death. Throughout the reverse mortgage’s duration, interest will continue to grow. Most people use reverse mortgages after they retire and need an extra income source. 

How Does a Home Equity Loan Work?

A home equity loan lets you borrow a lump sum payout from your home equity. Borrowers have to make fixed monthly payments towards the home equity loan right away. You cannot borrow more than 85% of your home’s value between a home equity loan and your mortgage. Some people refer to home equity loans as second mortgages since these loans do not replace the original mortgage. You would have to get a refinance to replace your current mortgage.

Reverse Mortgage vs. Home Equity Loan: Key Differences

Both financial products let you tap into your home equity. However, the mechanics behind them impact how much you can pay in the long term.

Fund Disbursement

Home equity loans always provide a lump sum payment. You can also get all of the proceeds at once with a reverse mortgage, but you can choose to receive monthly payouts instead. This is because receiving some of your home equity each month from a reverse mortgage delays interest compounding. At the same time, you already owe interest on all of the home equity loan’s proceeds. 

Loan Repayment

Home equity loans have fixed monthly payments. You can work them into your budget and extend the loan’s term if you need lower monthly payments. Home equity loans have 5-20 year terms. You do not have to repay a reverse mortgage until you sell, move out, or pass the property to one of your heirs. Reverse mortgages put less financial stress on you in the moment, but accumulating interest can eat into your remaining home equity if it snowballs too much.

Required Age and Equity

A home equity lender requires the applicant to be 18 years or older, and most lenders will not let you borrow more than 85% of your home’s equity between a home equity loan and a first mortgage. Reverse mortgages have more flexibility, but you have to be 62 years or older to qualify. Most people use reverse mortgages to fund their retirements.

Credit and Income Requirements

Applicants usually need a debt-to-income ratio below 43% to qualify for a home equity loan, and you will need a 620 credit score or higher in most cases. A reverse mortgage does not have any credit or income requirements. You do not even have to supply the lender with information about your income or credit. Lenders know they will receive the proceeds after your home sale so that they can wait longer.

Tax Advantages

Home equity loans can provide tax advantages if you use the proceeds to buy, build, or improve a home. You can deduct interest payments under this scenario. Reverse mortgages do not provide tax deductions, but the proceeds are not taxable. The IRS treats these payouts as loan proceeds rather than income. You get to keep all of the money you accrue from a reverse mortgage which means you won’t have to worry about the government dipping its hands into your reverse mortgage payouts. 

Access Your Home Equity

5c99f6b46b6a57000135380dLoading TrustPilot
Learn how Unison can help you leverage the equity in your home to unlock financial success without accumulating extra debt.
Learn how the Unison HomeOwner co-investment program can help you tap into your home’s equity to finance your lifestyle without added debt.

Pros and Cons of Reverse Mortgages


  • Reverse mortgage payouts help you fund your retirement years
  • You don’t have to worry about making monthly payments
  • Payouts are not subject to taxation
  • If one spouse dies, the other can still collect reverse mortgage payouts instead of being forced to pay it back
  • You won’t have to sell your home since you can live on reverse mortgage payments
  • Borrowers get to choose the frequency and amount of reverse mortgage payments


  • You may outlive your reverse mortgage payouts.
  • Compounding interest may leave you with little remaining equity when it’s time to sell.
  • Reverse mortgages have higher interest rates than home equity loans since lenders have to wait longer to receive their payout.
  • Your heirs may not receive many proceeds when you pass away since the estate must first repay the lender.
  • It’s possible to default on a reverse mortgage. The lender can call it in for several reasons, including if your home deteriorates over time.
  • Lenders may force you to close lines of credit on your home.

Pros and Cons of Home Equity Loans


  • Fixed monthly payments make it easier to predictably fit loan payments into your budget.
  • Lower interest rates
  • You can pay the loan over 5-20 years, resulting in lower monthly payments.
  • Low closing costs


  • You need good credit to get more equity and better terms.
  • Interest will accumulate on your loan.
  • You must generate enough income and have a sufficient debt-to-income ratio.
  • The borrower must ask for another home equity loan and repeat the process if the proceeds from the first loan are insufficient.

When to Use a Reverse Mortgage vs. Home Equity Loan

A reverse mortgage is an optimal choice if you have a lot of equity built into your home and have already retired. The reverse mortgage acts as a non-taxable income source, allowing you to benefit from the years of equity you built into your home. You can continue living on your property and won’t have to move anytime soon. You must be at least 62 years or older to apply for a reverse mortgage.

When to Use a Home Equity Loan vs. Reverse Mortgage

If you are younger than 62 years old, you will have to opt for a home equity loan. Borrowers who can select either loan will benefit from a home equity loan if they are not yet retired. Home equity loans have fixed monthly payments and lower interest rates. You can get the cash you need and rebuild your equity with monthly payments. You should only take out a reverse mortgage when you’re ready to retire and ride off into the sunset. You don’t want to run the risk of outliving your reverse mortgage. Prolonging a reverse mortgage and using a home equity loan instead can help.

Tap Into Your Home Equity Without Monthly Payments

Tapping into home equity can help you cover emergency expenses or provide a financial lifeline. Unfortunately, monthly payments scare most people away from unlocking their home equity. Unison recognized this dilemma and created a solution that lets you tap into home equity without making monthly payments: the equity sharing agreement.

In an equity sharing agreement, Unison pays you money in exchange for an option to share in your home’s future change in value. Unison only makes money when the home gets sold. The company benefits from rising housing prices, but it will take a loss if you sell your home at a loss. You won’t owe monthly payments or have to worry about debt. You can visit Unison’s website and fill out their form to discover how much home equity you can unlock.


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