A Brief History of Reverse Mortgages

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You may not have heard of reverse mortgages before, but they’ve been around for almost 60 years. Reverse mortgages are becoming increasingly popular and more widely used among senior adults. This loan option allows older adults to access home equity without having to make monthly payments or sell their homes.

The reverse mortgage is not a new concept. In fact, it has been around since 1961 when the first reverse mortgage was created in Maine.

Since then, the reverse mortgage has changed and developed into an important loan option that has now been used by more than a million households. Let’s take a look at how the reverse mortgage came to be.


The Birth of Reverse Mortgages

The first reverse mortgage was created by the Deering Savings & Loan in Maine in 1961. This early version of the loan was intended for older homeowners who were having trouble making their payments. The bank would allow them to borrow against their home equity without having to make any payments until they sold their home or passed away—a concept that was revolutionary at the time.


The Rise of FHA-Insured Reverse Mortgages

In 1987, Congress ran a pilot program called the HECM Demonstration that lasted over 10 years and capped the number of reverse mortgage loans issued annually.

In 1989, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) introduced an insured version of the reverse mortgage program. This was a major step forward for seniors looking for financial assistance as it allowed them to access their home equity while still living in their home and paying off the balance when they sold or moved out.


This advancement by the FHA provided borrowers with two major advantages:

  1. If the loan amount they took out exceeded the value of their home (also known as being “upside down”), the government would cover any difference. This was a huge benefit for those worried about being unable to pay off a larger loan than their property was worth.


  1. Borrowers also received better terms for their loans and guaranteed payouts, even if the lender went bankrupt or faced financial difficulty. This added security was seen as a huge boon for those who had previously been wary of taking out such a loan due to fear that they would not receive the full payment from their lender. Moreover, it meant that lenders were more likely to offer reverse mortgages since they now had government backing in case of default or insolvency.


Modern Reverse Mortgages

Since 1989, several changes have been made to modernize reverse mortgages and make them easier for seniors to use. This includes allowing borrowers to access their funds through multiple payment options such as lump sum payments, line of credits, or monthly payments.

Today, reverse mortgages are much more common and can be used for a variety of purposes, including paying off debt, covering medical bills, supplementing retirement income and even helping to make repairs on their primary residence.

Additionally, the limits on how much money can be borrowed have increased significantly over the years.  In 2023, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which insures HECMs, has increased its lending limit from $970,800 (in 2021) to $1,089,300.

These changes have helped make reverse mortgages more attractive and accessible for senior homeowners who need extra cash but do not want to leave their home or take on additional debt obligations.  In addition, most lenders today offer counseling services so borrowers can better understand how these loans work before committing to one.


Advances in Technology

In addition to changes made through legislation and regulations, technology has also had an impact on reverse mortgages over time.

  • Online tools such as calculators can help borrowers estimate how much they may qualify for under different scenarios;
  • Mobile apps allow borrowers and lenders to stay connected during telehealth consultations;
  • Digital document processing streamlines applications;
  • Artificial intelligence helps lenders detect potential fraud;
  • Online portals provide borrowers with secure access to account information.

Overall these advances help ensure that reverse mortgages remain safe while helping borrowers make informed decisions about their finances.



As you can see, reverse mortgages have come a long way since they were first introduced in 1961.  Reverse mortgages offer many benefits for senior homeowners who need extra money while staying in their homes and maintaining ownership of their property. By understanding how this loan option has evolved over the years—from its inception in 1961 up through today’s advances in technology—senior homeowners can be sure that they are making an informed decision about their personal finances that is tailored specifically for them.

With so many advantages offered by reverse mortgages today—including shorter terms than ever before—it's no wonder why so many seniors are turning toward this increasingly popular option as part of their retirement planning strategies.

Today’s versions are much more flexible and accessible than ever before, making them an appealing option for many senior adult homeowners who need additional funds but don’t want to give up ownership rights over their homes.

If you think a reverse mortgage could help you financially secure your future, contact one of our experienced loan consultants at Simple Reverse Lending today for more information on this popular loan product!