How to Find a Trustworthy Reverse Mortgage Counselor

Eligible seniors ages 62 and older can use a reverse mortgage to create income for retirement. Before you can get a reverse mortgage, however, you have to complete approved reverse mortgage counseling. This counseling session is designed to ensure that you understand the responsibilities and financial implications involved.

Knowing what to look for can help you find a reputable reverse mortgage counselor.

Key Takeaways

  • A reverse mortgage is a financial product that allows eligible homeowners to convert their equity into income.
  • HECMs (home equity conversion mortgages), the most common type of reverse mortgage, are backed by the federal government.
  • Homeowners must complete reverse mortgage counseling before they can apply for a home equity conversion mortgage.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers online resources to help homeowners find a trusted reverse mortgage counselor.

How a Reverse Mortgage Works

A reverse mortgage allows homeowners to withdraw their home equity, but it’s not the same as a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). When a homeowner takes out a reverse mortgage, they can receive a lump sum or a series of installment payments that can be used for medical expenses, day-to-day living expenses, or virtually anything else.

Fees and interest accrue on the reverse mortgage balance, but no payment is due as long as the homeowner lives in the home. If the homeowner sells the home, moves out, or passes away, the entire reverse mortgage balance then becomes payable.

A home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) is a reverse mortgage that’s backed by the federal government. This type of reverse mortgage requires that homeowners:

HECMs have closing costs and fees, including mortgage insurance premiums (MIPs). How much you can borrow can depend on the amount of equity that you have in the home, your age, and current interest rates.


Failing to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance in a timely manner could result in the entire reverse mortgage balance becoming payable.

What Does Reverse Mortgage Counseling Involve?

Reverse mortgage counseling must be completed before a homeowner can apply for an HECM. It’s up to you to choose a lender and schedule a meeting. HUD encourages in-person counseling sessions whenever possible, though it does allow approved counselors to offer phone sessions when a face-to-face meeting isn’t doable.

HUD requires reverse mortgage counselors to discuss certain topics with homeowners. If you’re meeting with a reverse mortgage counselor, you can expect to talk about:

  • Your financial needs and circumstances
  • Features of a reverse mortgage and how they work
  • Financial responsibilities associated with a reverse mortgage
  • Reverse mortgage costs, including closing costs, fees, interest, and mortgage insurance
  • Tax implications of a reverse mortgage
  • Reverse mortgage alternatives
  • How to spot and avoid reverse mortgage scams and financial elder abuse

Reverse mortgage counselors can charge a fee for their services. HUD allows reverse mortgage counselors to establish fees that are “reasonable and customary,” though they cannot charge fees in excess of the level of services provided.

So why is this counseling necessary? Reverse mortgage counseling is designed to ensure that homeowners fully understand what they’re agreeing to when taking on a reverse mortgage. For example, while the homeowner may have no obligation to repay the reverse mortgage balance while they live in the home, they could leave debt behind for their heirs when they pass away. If you would rather not do that, you might consider another option for withdrawing equity instead.


Purchasing a life insurance policy and naming heirs as beneficiaries can ensure that they have the money to pay off a reverse mortgage balance after you’re gone.

How to Find a Trustworthy Reverse Mortgage Counselor

The easiest way to find a reputable reverse mortgage counselor near you is to search HUD’s reverse mortgage counselor roster. To be listed on this roster, counselors must complete certain education and training as well as a background check. A HUD reverse mortgage counselor can be located online or by phone at 1-800-569-4287.

If you’re interested in connecting with a counselor who offers phone meetings, you can also search HUD’s list of intermediaries who provide HECM counseling nationwide. This is a shorter list than the reverse mortgage counseling roster, but you can find reputable organizations to work with here if you can’t schedule an in-person meeting.

Once you schedule a reverse mortgage counseling session, your counselor should provide you with an informational package and some other documents to help you prepare. These materials are designed to answer questions that you might have about a reverse mortgage and provide an overview of the pros and cons. During the session, you’ll discuss the details of reverse mortgages and your finances to help decide if getting one makes sense for you.

After the counseling session, you’ll receive a certificate of completion. You’ll need to have this to move forward with your HECM application. Your counselor may also follow up to see if you have any lingering questions about reverse mortgages.


A reverse mortgage counselor can withhold a counseling certificate if they believe that a homeowner does not have an adequate understanding of how a reverse mortgage works.

What is HECM counseling?

HECM counseling is a required counseling session for homeowners who are interested in getting a home equity conversion mortgage. During this counseling session, the counselor will review the homeowner’s financial situation, discuss the features of reverse mortgages and their pros and cons, explain the costs of reverse mortgages, and outline the identifying features of reverse mortgage scams.

Why is counseling required for reverse mortgages?

Reverse mortgages can have significant financial implications for homeowners and their heirs. Reverse mortgage counseling ensures that homeowners fully understand the benefits and risks so that they can make an informed decision about whether a reverse mortgage is right for them.

How does an HECM work?

An HECM works by allowing a homeowner to convert their equity into income. No payment is due toward the reverse mortgage balance while the homeowner uses the property as a primary residence. If the homeowner sells the home, moves out, or passes away, then the principal balance along with accumulated fees and interest becomes payable immediately.

The Bottom Line

Reverse mortgages may be better suited to some homeowners than others. Completing reverse mortgage counseling can help you to decide if it’s an option worth considering or whether something like a home equity loan or a HELOC might be more appropriate. Connecting with a trusted reverse mortgage counselor is the first step, and HUD provides resources to make conducting your search easier. Once you complete counseling, you can then move on to researching the best reverse mortgage companies to find a lender to work with.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “How the HECM Program Works.”

  2. Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Advice. “Reverse Mortgages.”

  3. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Home Equity Conversion Mortgages for Seniors.”

  4. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “HECM Protocol: Chapter 1. Introduction to Reverse Mortgage Counseling,” Page 11.

  5. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “HECM Counseling Fees,” Page 1.

  6. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Counseling Agencies.”

  7. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Housing Handbook,” Page 32 (Page 35 of PDF).

  8. HUD Exchange, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “HECM Origination Counseling.”