Homeowner Remodels Home Built By Her Father

Wakefield, Rhode Island

Eleanor first heard about reverse mortgages back in the 90s, but at the time she didn’t see the need to get one. In 2007, she decided that if she was going to remodel her home, now might be the time to reconsider.

Eleanor, 79, is very happy living in the Cape Cod-style home built by her father 58 years ago. When she married in 1961, it was the perfect place to raise their son. Wakefield is part of South Kingstown, a town in southeast Rhode Island.

Its location on the Saugatucket River and the Old Post Road – one of the earliest postal routes between New York and Boston – attracted settlers in the early 18th century. “I’ve lived in Wakefield my entire life,” says Eleanor. “The people are friendly, everybody knows one another and the location is perfect, right on the water.”

Through her home is solidly built, time has slowly taken its toll on the roof, the fence surrounding the property, and various rooms. If she was going to continue living there at this stage of her life, the home would have to be refurbished. She considered her options. Her husband passed away in 1979, so Eleanor has been more or less supporting herself for the past 30 years.

She was a nursing supervisor at the local hospital for many years. When the hospital fell on financial hardship in the late 80s, Eleanor accepted early retirement and was promised cost of living increases as part of her pension.

“Unfortunately, those cost of living increases never came and I was offered only a small pension equal to 38 percent of my annual salary,” she says. Although she’s living comfortably on the pension and Social Security, there was no way she could afford the home repairs from her savings.

“I didn’t want to get a home equity loan either, because I didn’t want a monthly payment,” adds Eleanor.

Eleanor first heard about reverse mortgages back in the 90s, but at the time she didn’t see the need to get one. In 2007, she decided that if she was going to remodel her home, now might be the time to reconsider. She contacted Holly Knott, a reverse mortgage specialist at The Washington Trust Company, to get more information.

Her home was appraised for $380,000, which made her eligible to receive $220,000 in reverse mortgage proceeds. She proceeded with the loan and set up the funds in a line of credit. So far, she has drawn down $60,000 to fix the roof and fence and refurbish her bathroom.

“Now when something goes kaput, it’s nice to know that I have the funds to fix it,” says Eleanor.

She admits that growing up a child in the Great Depression has made her very frugal. “I could have received monthly payments or a lump sum, but I’m not one to buy a fur coat or take a vacation,” Eleanor adds. The most important thing right now is maintaining her home, so she can continue living there for as long as possible.

“I don’t think a reverse mortgage is right for everyone, but it was for me,” she points out. What partially sold her on the product was who she was working with. “I felt very safe with Holly, who carefully explained things and was able to answer all my questions. It’s very important that you have complete trust in that person.”