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A reverse mortgage is a loan that allows homeowners to convert a portion of their home equity into cash without selling the property. The downside of this type of loan is that it can lead to foreclosure if you don't meet continuing requirements for making payments on the loan after your house is sold.

Reverse mortgages may be an appealing option for seniors who want to access the equity they've built up in their home without having to move or hand over ownership of their property, however there are many important things every borrower should know about this type of loan before signing a contract. Reverse mortgage loans were first developed in the early 1970s and today, most reverse mortgages are federally insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through its Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

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