By Camille Gillies
Since buying a house ranks high on most people’s list of major purchases —probably the largest purchase most of us will make in our lifetime — it pays to be selective when it comes to choosing a mortgage broker. After all, it wasn’t long ago that a conglomeration of disreputable mortgage brokers were caught up in the fray of the housing crisis, assisting homebuyers in obtaining loans that were beyond the homebuyers’ financial reality. As the waves of home foreclosures continue, we all know how that sad scenario is playing out.
It is mortgage professionals such as Tampa Palms mortgage broker Mary Catchur who can help prevent homebuyers from putting themselves in such risky financial circumstances. Catchur, who owns Marimark Mortgage in the Tampa Palms Professional Center, is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who spent 13 years as an auditor for KPMG (Klynveld, Peat, Marwick & Goerdeler), an international public accounting firm. She applies her well-honed financial analysis skills to assist loan applicants, reviewing each client’s financial status and advising them about loans that make sense for their individual situations.
Catchur says that when she started in the mortgage business, her coworkers were surprised at the effectiveness of her straightforward, financially focused approach. “When I first started, one of the brokers I worked with advised me to handle my calls a different way — until he saw how the pile (of new business) on my desk was growing larger than his,” Catchur recalls. “He said, ‘Mary, it must be working for you. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ I think people appreciate the fact that I’m not trying to push products at them.”
Accountants are held to high ethical standards and trained to look at numbers objectively, which is why Catchur speaks plainly to her clients and cautions them if a particular loan doesn’t seem right or if refinancing an existing loan is not the best strategy. She will tell you if you are on the right track with your home loan with a free consultation.
Get What You Pay For
“If you’re tempted by a loan with ‘no closing costs,’ you may be overlooking the fact that you’ll be paying a higher interest rate because there aren’t any (closing costs),” Mary says. “I also always ask how long a person refinancing plans to stay in their home, because if you plan to be there only a short time, refinancing may not make sense.”
She says that the refinancing end of her business has been busy of late, with homeowners taking advantage of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), which the federal government recently extended to December 31, 2013. Although Catchur gladly handles refinances, she says that when she entered the mortgage business, she was struck by the number of brokerage companies that preferred to focus on refinances rather than purchases.
“That’s because the purchase business requires you to be accountable to deadlines and other parties that have an interest in the transaction, such as the real estate agent,’’ she explains. “I realized that this was an area that — with my operational experience in the real estate industry and my communication skills — I could easily demonstrate my expertise.”
Catchur adds that her company is well respected in the real estate community. “Realtors know they can depend on my company to quickly determine whether their clients are qualified,” she says. “They don’t want to waste a day showing property to unqualified buyers, and we can do a credit check on their clients within a few minutes. We also are sensitive to deadlines and recognize the needs of buyers and sellers to close on time. Most of our loans close in 30 days or less.”
Catchur also stresses that she is easy to reach, accessible on weekends and evenings to do prequalifications. A prequalification letter, which indicates a buyer’s financial capabilities, is immediately provided to the agent to submit with purchase offers.
“Mary is very efficient,” says Judy Curry, a Realtor with RE/MAX Premier Group in Wesley Chapel. Curry says that she regularly refers clients to Marimark Mortgage, and notes that approximately 95 percent of her clients choose Mary as their mortgage broker. “With Mary, you aren’t just a file number and you won’t experience the closing delays that often come with choosing a big lender. On the day of closing, Mary does whatever’s necessary — like driving across town for additional paperwork — to get it done.”
Curry also says that Catchur is able to choose from many lenders, which makes the buyer’s application process much easier than going from lender to lender.
“None of my clients have been unhappy with her,” Curry says. “Mary explains everything in language that they can understand, and she always makes them feel at ease. I’m very passionate about using her.”
New Tampa Connections
When Catchur opened Marimark Mortgage seven years ago, she was no stranger to the real estate industry. After her tenure with KPMG, she was the chief financial officer for an internet-based real estate company, in which she established a mortgage division. The company, based in Clearwater, expanded to 28 states and was sold at the peak of the housing market. Following the sale, Catchur decided to open her own business, which she named after her husband, Mark, and herself, and located close to the family’s home in Tampa Palms.
Mark is an attorney and the couple has a daughter and two sons. Their daughter, 19, attends the University of Florida (UF) and the boys, 17 and 11, go to Jesuit High and Tampa Preparatory School (Tampa Prep), respectively. Mary currently serves as treasurer for the New Tampa Tigers Pop Warner football program, a position she has held for the past two years.
“My kids have played football in New Tampa for years and I enjoy being involved in the program,” she says.
Catchur, a Pennsylvania native who grew up helping out at her family’s electrical business, has called Tampa home since 1979. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Accounting and French from the University of South Florida (USF) and currently maintains her mortgage broker’s license in Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“With today’s technology, you don’t need to be located in the same area to do business,” Catchur explains, adding that she serves many clients outside Florida.
A couple of positive things to come out of the housing crisis, Catchur explains, are that many unscrupulous brokers were weeded out, and it’s now harder for “just anyone” to get into the mortgage business. “All brokers were required to be retested and relicensed, and we had to undergo background checks and checks of our own credit histories,” she says. “There’s now a lot more oversight in the process.”
As the real estate market improves, Catchur wants homebuyers to know that banks are still lending and that financing is still available.
“It’s not impossible to get financing,” she explains, noting that a few zero-down-payment options exist with some USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and VA (Veterans Administration) loans. “It’s always best to shop around and remember that your bank is not your only choice for a mortgage.”
To discuss your home loan options with Mary Catchur, call 910-8020, visit MarimarkMortgage.com or email MCatchur@MarimarkMortgage.com.