How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work in Canada?

Happy Couple using Reverse Mortgage in Canada

A reverse mortgage can be a valuable financial tool for Canadian homeowners aged 55 and older, offering a way to access the equity in their homes without having to sell or move. This comprehensive guide will explain what a reverse mortgage is, how it works, the benefits and drawbacks, eligibility criteria, and the application process.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a type of loan that allows homeowners to borrow against the value of their home. Unlike traditional mortgages where the borrower makes regular payments to the lender, in a reverse mortgage, the lender makes payments to the homeowner. The loan is repaid when the homeowner sells the home, moves out permanently, or passes away.

How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?

Accessing Home Equity

A reverse mortgage lets you access up to 55% of the equity in your home. There are several factors included that determines how much you can borrow:

  • Your age: Older homeowners can typically borrow more.
  • Home value: The higher the appraised value of your home, the more you can borrow.
  • Interest rates: Current interest rates impact the amount available to borrow.
  • Location: Homes in urban areas might be appraised higher than those in rural areas.
  • Type of home: Single-family homes, condos, and townhouses are typically eligible, but the specific type can affect the loan amount.

Receiving Funds

You can choose an option on how to receive the funds from a reverse mortgage:

  • Lump sum: Receive the money all at once.
  • Monthly payments: Get a steady stream of income over time.
  • Line of credit: Withdraw funds as needed, up to the approved limit.
  • Combination: A mix of the above options.

Interest and Fees

Interest on a reverse mortgage accrues over time and is added to the loan balance. Unlike traditional loans, you don’t make monthly interest payments. The loan balance grows over time, and the interest is compounded.

There are also fees associated with reverse mortgages, including:

  • Origination fee: Charged by the lender to process the loan.
  • Appraisal fee: To determine the current market value of your home.
  • Legal fees: For legal services required to complete the loan.
  • Insurance: Premiums to protect the lender against the risk of the homeowner outliving the loan.


The reverse mortgage does not need to be repaid until the homeowner sells the home, moves out permanently, or passes away. At that point, the loan balance, including the accrued interest and fees, must be repaid. If the homeowner’s estate is handling the repayment, they typically have up to six months to settle the loan.

If the home is sold for more than the loan balance, the remaining equity goes to the homeowner or their estate. If it sells for less, the homeowner or their estate is not responsible for the shortfall, thanks to the non-recourse nature of reverse mortgages in Canada.

Benefits of a Reverse Mortgage

Benefits of a Reverse Mortgage

No Monthly Payments

One of the most significant benefits of a reverse mortgage is that there are no required monthly payments. This can provide financial relief for homeowners who may be on a fixed income and want to reduce their monthly expenses.

Stay in Your Home

A reverse mortgage allows you to stay in your home while accessing its equity. This can be particularly important for those who wish to remain in a familiar environment or near family and friends.

Tax-Free Income

The money you receive from a reverse mortgage is tax-free. This can help you manage your finances more effectively, as it doesn’t count as income and won’t affect your Old Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits.

Flexible Payout Options

Reverse mortgages offer flexible payout options, allowing you to choose the method that best suits your financial needs and lifestyle. Whether you prefer a lump sum, monthly payments, a line of credit, or a combination, you can tailor the reverse mortgage to your preferences.

Retain Ownership

You retain ownership of your home with a reverse mortgage. This means you can benefit from any future appreciation in your home’s value and continue to enjoy the security and stability that comes with homeownership.

Drawbacks of a Reverse Mortgage

Accruing Interest

Since you don’t make monthly payments, the interest on a reverse mortgage compound over time, increasing the loan balance. This can significantly reduce the equity left in your home, which may impact the inheritance you leave to your heirs.

Fees and Costs

Reverse mortgages come with various fees and costs, such as origination fees, appraisal fees, legal fees, and insurance premiums. These can add up and reduce the amount of money you receive from the loan.

Impact on Estate

Because the loan must be repaid when you pass away, the proceeds from the sale of your home will go towards paying off the reverse mortgage. This can reduce the amount of inheritance you leave to your heirs. However, any remaining equity after the loan is repaid will go to your estate.

Eligibility and Limits

Not all homes or homeowners are eligible for a reverse mortgage. Additionally, the amount you can borrow is capped at 55% of your home’s appraised value, which may not be sufficient for some financial needs.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for a reverse mortgage in Canada, you must meet certain criteria:

  • Age: You must be at least 55 years old.
  • Homeownership: You must own your home, which must be your primary residence.
  • Equity: You must have sufficient equity in your home.
  • Location: The home must be located in Canada.
  • Type of Home: Eligible properties typically include single-family homes, townhouses, and condos.

Elderly couple considering Reverse mortgage in Onatrio

Application Process

  1. Initial Consultation

The first step in obtaining a reverse mortgage is to consult with a financial advisor or mortgage specialist. They can help you understand how a reverse mortgage works and determine if it’s the right option for you.

  1. Application

If you decide to proceed, you’ll need to complete an application. This will include providing information about your home, your financial situation, and your plans for the loan.

  1. Appraisal

An appraisal of your home will be conducted to determine its current market value. This will help the lender calculate the maximum amount you can borrow.

  1. Approval

Once your application is reviewed and your home is appraised, the lender will determine your eligibility and the loan amount. If approved, you’ll receive an offer outlining the terms and conditions.

  1. Legal Advice

It’s essential to seek independent legal advice before signing any agreements. A lawyer can help you understand the legal implications and ensure you’re making an informed decision.

  1. Closing

After receiving legal advice and signing the necessary documents, the loan will be finalized. You’ll receive the funds according to the payout option you selected, and the reverse mortgage will be registered against your home.

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

A reverse mortgage can be an excellent option for some homeowners, but it’s not suitable for everyone. Here are some factors to consider when deciding if a reverse mortgage is right for you:

Financial Needs and Goals

Consider your financial needs and long-term goals. If you need extra income to cover living expenses, medical costs, or home renovations, a reverse mortgage can provide the necessary funds without requiring monthly payments.

Other Financial Options

Explore other financial options before deciding on a reverse mortgage. These might include downsizing, selling your home, or taking out a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Compare the pros and cons of each option to determine which best meets your needs.

Impact on Inheritance

Think about the impact a reverse mortgage will have on your estate and the inheritance you plan to leave for your heirs. Discuss your plans with your family to ensure everyone understands the implications.

Future Housing Plans

Consider your future housing plans. If you plan to move in the near future, a reverse mortgage might not be the best option, as it will need to be repaid when you sell your home.


A reverse mortgage can be a valuable financial tool for Canadian homeowners aged 55 and older, offering a way to access the equity in their homes without having to sell or move. By understanding how a reverse mortgage works, the benefits and drawbacks, and the eligibility criteria, you can make an informed decision about whether this financial product is right for you. Always consult with a financial advisor or mortgage specialist to explore your options and ensure you’re making the best choice for your unique situation.

Frequently Asked Questions on Reverse Mortgages in Canada

No, you do not have to make monthly payments on a reverse mortgage. The loan is repaid when you sell your home, move out permanently, or pass away.

Yes, you will still own your home with a reverse mortgage. You retain ownership and can benefit from any future appreciation in the home’s value.

Yes, you can pay off a reverse mortgage early, but there may be early repayment fees depending on the terms of your loan agreement. It’s important to review these terms with your lender.

To apply for a reverse mortgage, you need to consult with a financial advisor or mortgage specialist to determine if it’s the right option for you. If you decide to proceed, you’ll need to complete an application, have your home appraised, and seek independent legal advice before finalizing the loan.

Yes, you can use a reverse mortgage to buy a new home. This is often referred to as a "reverse mortgage purchase." You can use the reverse mortgage funds to pay for part of the home's purchase price and cover the remaining balance with other funds.

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