Miami, Florida

When Roberta, 72, retired from her position as a housekeeper at New York City’s Helmsley Hotel on 42nd Street, it was time for a change. She had no children and no family in New York since her husband had passed away, so she decided to move to Miami to live near her also widowed sister, 70-year-old Harriet. Roberta sold her New York home and with the proceeds built a new one in Miami’s Hadley Park neighborhood on 12th Avenue. It was an ideal location, because the grocery store, doctor’s office, and park were all very close by. Best of all, her sister lived within walking distance on 47th Street, directly off of 12th Avenue. Currently, the sisters are still living in these homes. That may have changed a few years ago, but luckily, Roberta had a plan to help her sister.

Harriet could no longer afford the mortgage payments on her home because chronic asthma had forced her to retire from her career as a home healthcare provider. Roberta’s biggest asset was her newly built home for which she had paid cash and therefore owned outright. She decided that she would take out a reverse mortgage on her house and use some of the proceeds to cover the closing costs for a reverse mortgage on her sister’s nearby home. To this end, she began working with friendly and knowledgeable Pamela Kirkpatrick of Allied Mortgage Group. Everything went as planned, until Roberta discovered that someone had tricked her.

According to Ms. Kirkpatrick, deception was the only logical conclusion after she tried to uncover the truth behind a mysterious mortgage note on Roberta’s home, discovered while Ms. Kirkpatrick was preparing the reverse mortgage transaction. “She had owned her home free and clear, or so we thought, until we found out about that bogus loan….[Roberta’s alleged lender] did produce disclosures that had her signatures on them…[but] I think they just slipped in pieces of paper and had her sign everything,” said Ms. Kirkpatrick. “It was a $9,000 note that [Roberta] had no knowledge of…it had accumulated interest, and she had never received notification that it existed.” By the time the note was discovered, it had accumulated over $3,000 in interest, all without the alleged lender sending any bills to Roberta.

Ms. Kirkpatrick was doggedly determined to get to the bottom of this dilemma, but the attorney for Roberta’s alleged lender stonewalled her at every turn. “I grilled the attorney that had worked on [Roberta’s home sale], and I said, ‘What are you trying to pull here? This is wrong.’” They could not, however, explain why they had never sent any notifications of payment due and had never alerted credit bureaus about Roberta’s alleged failure to make payments.

The existence of this alleged debt came as distressing news to Roberta, but because time was of the essence for helping her sister, she chose not to pursue the matter further at that time. She was focused on obtaining the cash needed to save her sister’s home. “We made [Roberta] aware of the ‘unknown’ mortgage and provided [her] with the ammunition to seek legal counsel,” said Ms. Kirkpatrick. Ms. Bailey has not yet taken action against the organization behind the mystery mortgage, but she is relieved that it is no longer accumulating interest and that it did not ultimately interfere with her plan to save her sister’s house. After Ms. Kirkpatrick put a stop to growth of the alleged loan, Roberta’s HECM closed without delay. She received the funds necessary to help her sister. “Everything was beautiful,” says Roberta of her experience with Ms. Kirkpatrick and Allied. Roberta was eligible for $105,161, and she chose to access it through a line of credit. Her initial draw covered the $23,169 in closing costs for the reverse mortgage on her sister’s home.

Thanks to her sister, Harriet was able to go forward with Ms. Kirkpatrick and Allied for the reverse mortgage on her house. She was eligible for $130,000, which entirely paid off the mortgage on her home and relieved the severely asthmatic retiree of burdensome monthly mortgage payments. She is able to remain living in her home on Miami’s 47th Street. Harriett delights in visiting regularly with her five sons and eighteen grandchildren as well as her sister. The sisters see each other nearly every day and enjoy cooking and eating together, especially barbeque in the style of their native Jamaica.

When asked what advice she would give to other seniors who are considering a reverse mortgage, Roberta replies that reverse mortgages are “very helpful…a good thing, especially if they have family that needs help.” In this case, two sisters helped each other—if it wasn’t for Roberta’s reverse mortgage, Harriett may not have been able to stay in her home. If it hadn’t been for Harriet’s dilemma, however, Roberta may not have learned of the mysterious mortgage on her home until the accruing interest reached an unmanageable amount. It is fortunate that the sisters were able to use reverse mortgages as a tool to make a profound positive impact on both of their lives.