Misunderstandings about senior citizen reverse mortgages

What happens when the mortgage principal exceeds the market value?

DEAR BOB: I've read everything I can find about senior citizen reverse mortgages, including your articles. But I still have important unanswered questions. My understanding is the amount to be repaid to the lender can never be more than the value of the house. But what determines that value? Is it the tax assessor's value? Or the market value of comparable houses? Also, can the lender put any restrictions on what the owner does with the house while living there? For example, suppose I want to tear down the garage to enlarge my backyard and install a carport over the driveway for parking? This would probably lower the resale value of my house – Jon C. DEAR JON: When a reverse mortgage is originated with a senior citizen homeowner who is at least 62, the lender has the home's market value professionally appraised. The local tax assessor's valuation is irrelevant. The market value is usually determined by recent sales prices of comparable nearby homes. Purchase Bob Bruss reports...