Usually, reverse mortgages are thought of as a way for seniors to remain in their homes while drawing income from their property, but Wall Street Journal staffer Anya Martin reports that a reverse mortgage can also be used to buy a home.

Here’s how it works:

Seniors 62 or older buying a primary residence make a down payment and pay closing costs. They then get a lump-sum loan that goes toward the home purchase. No monthly payments are required to pay down the debt. Instead, interest accrues on the loan, and the principal and interest are usually due when the last co-borrower or spouse on the loan moves out or dies.

Most reverse mortgages are FHA-insured loans called home-equity conversion mortgages, or HECMs. The loan amount is a percentage of the home’s appraised value, up to $625,500. That percentage starts at about 52% of the purchase price and rises with a borrower’s age, going up to about 75%.

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