What Catherine Fithian, age 64, loves most about her home in the tiny community of Howard, OH, is that she can look out her kitchen window and see nothing but miles and miles of corn fields.
“It’s so peaceful,” says Fithian. “I love seeing all this land that’s not developed.”
Fithian grew up in Mount Vernon, OH, just a few miles west from where she lives now. “In my last year of graduate school, I got wild hair and moved to Raleigh, NC, site unseen where I knew one person. It was a wild time.”
She spent the next 30 years In North Carolina working in sales. “Initially, I recruited physicians,” she says. “I’ve sold everything you can sell, but with a moral compass.”
Catherine moved back to Ohio in 2010 to take care her of her mother. After her mother passed away, she stayed in Ohio and bought a home.
“The last place I lived in North Carolina was all cement. It was so overdeveloped. Howard, on the other hand, is a nice area. It has a lake nearby and there aren’t any sharks, or stingrays or jellyfish to worry about,” she says.
After she settled into her single-family home, she landed a job selling property and casualty insurance. Five years later, her business partner was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Seven months later, he sadly passed away and Catherine was unemployed.
She started looking for a new job and tried applying for a home equity loan with a local bank to cover daily expenses until she landed on her feet. But she was turned down. “The lady I was working with wanted to help, but there wasn’t much she could do given my circumstances,” says Catherine.
A few months later, Catherine called the loan officer back and asked her if she offered reverse mortgages. The loan officer told Catherine that she had left the bank, but recommended Mark Kelly, a reverse mortgage loan officer with Mutual of Omaha Mortgage, who lived nearby.
Catherine was still six months away from turning 62, the minimum age to qualify for a reverse mortgage at the time. “Mark still came out to my place and spent two hours explaining things very thoroughly. I trusted him completely. Then he said, ‘I will see you in six months if you still want to do this.’”
When she turned 62, Catherine immediately contacted Mark. She met with an independent third-party housing counselor who explained the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, alternative option and answered Catherine’s questions.
Once the reverse mortgage was completed, all of the loan proceeds were set up in a Life Expectancy Set-Aside to pay Catherine’s property taxes and homeowners insurance for the next 20 years.
Mark Kelly, her loan officer, knew she was looking for a new job, so he contacted his son-in-law who worked for Union Home Mortgage and recommended Catherine for a position.
Today, Catherine works part-time for Union Home Mortgage in the marketing department. “It’s a phenomenal company to work for from the owner on down,” says Catherine. “There’s a code of ethics that everyone follows. We all treat one another with respect. We also have a saying, “Have fun, but get it done.”
Eighteen months after getting her first reverse mortgage, Catherine noticed that interest rates were at historical lows. She called Mark to see if it would make sense to refinance her reverse mortgage. After running the numbers, Mark agreed that it would be beneficial.
Catherine was able to pay off the old reverse mortgage and set up a new line of credit that she can draw on when she gets older.
“I am finally enjoying my life,” says Catherine. “A reverse mortgage isn’t for everyone, but in my case it helped out a lot.”