Circa 2010 | From My Journal
There’s life after foreclosure. I know, because I’m living it.
As I sit here, surrounded by flat cardboard waiting to be taped into boxes, garbage bags full of battered and ripped children’s books interspersed with shriveled banana peels, I’m relieved.
Three years ago we moved back to Fresno to be near family, a new job and a chance to purchase our first home. Even more difficult than leaving the town we loved was trying to judge how the change would affect our oldest son who is challenged with autism.
Purchasing a home was easier than pulling money out of my 401k for the closing costs. The difficulty was in paying the monthly mortgage. But that was okay. We were finally living the American Dream. This was how it worked.
At least that was what I was raised to believe. You purchase a home knowing it will be financially difficult for awhile. The first few years you slave to the mortgage, pinch pennies and cut out extras and, after a few pay raises, it gets easier. In about five years, you breathe again, feel proud to own a home, watch rental rates soar above your monthly mortgage payment and know you did good.
What I didn’t factor in was multi-year wage freeze, a pay cut, becoming pregnant after 15 years infertility, living in the hospital for a month and missing a house payment. Not to mention that my house didn’t gain value. It plummeted. In less than two years, it was valued $130,000 less than purchase price.
Thankfully, the bank was willing to work with us. As money-strapping as the mortgage was, we agreed to pay an additional large sum every month until we became current. That meant even some of the basics had to be cut. Trips to the grocery store would be sparse, and Top Ramen would be our once-again friend. Starbucks became a fuzzy memory. A precarious tightrope act began on which bills to pay and which to delay.
Each month became more difficult, as we were burdened with late fees and penalties. Then we learned about the Home Affordability Mortgage Program (HAMP). Except reaching these folks was its own frustrating adventure of busy signals and two-hour hold times that abruptly disconnected. Months passed before I made contact with a human.
Still we persevered, jumped hoops, faxed and FedEx’d requested paperwork and were elated to find out we qualified for the trial period. Finally, hope and relief!
That was the beginning of the real tailspin.
“What do you mean you won’t take my payment?” I was stunned. The voice on the other end didn’t make sense. Why didn’t they want my money? “I don’t understand.”
“You’ve been dropped from the program,” the bank representative said. “I’ll take $14,000 to bring your account current.”
“This isn’t right. I’ve been making payments.”
“Yes, but you’ve been dropped from HAMP, and now you need to bring the account current. Partial payments aren’t accepted.”
“Okay so that still doesn’t explain why I owe fourteen grand. Where did my money go?”
She muttered something about a suspended account.
Suspended? I needed more information and was transferred to an account manager. Well, to her voice mail anyhow. Again and again. Several times.
My payments went into a suspended account. They weren’t applied to the mortgage. If I qualified for the permanent plan, those months would be been forgiven or rolled into the loan or something.
The money couldn’t be applied to what was currently owed, and I wouldn’t get it back. If I lost the house, the bank would keep my money and any overage in the escrow account. Essentially, I lined the pockets of the bank while they moved me closer to foreclosure.
So yeah, my credit is trashed, the bills are really late or unpaid, and I can kiss my home goodbye. I could be crying, but really I just feel relieved.
We’ll start over. A rented house is still a home as long as I have my family. With rent almost half our mortgage, we can invest in other ventures: karate, gymnastics, family trips, music lessons, and college for the kids.
The shackles are off, and we now wander free from the house we slaved to own. I have a husband and kids to love, a life to lead, friends to meet, new neighbors to make and a book to write.
So goodbye, American Dream. I have new dreams now.
Eve Reiland (US)
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