An American Nightmare: One Family’s Mortgage Crisis Story

It’s been an odd day; although I am always somewhat easily distracted, there is an undercurrent of tension in my attempts to find work a disabled person can do at home. I feel an internal clock ticking with the ever-present nagging dread of the future. My life in the house I’ve been living in for 25 years is on the line and I feel utterly helpless. I’ve been involved in what seems to me to be an eternal process of loan modification, and as I’ve been massacred by that same process very recently, the trauma of that colors my fears today.

I was one of the first hit by the Great Real Estate Crash of 2006. I had, after some years working with a building development and construction firm, some dreams of a post-empty-nest career for myself. Green building was just beginning, Lake County, long one of California’s low-rent areas, was booming. I’d done quite well buying a few pieces of property and was feeling that sense of possibility a boom-time presents.

I also felt a great need to DO something; the departure of my daughters had been and continues to be devastating for me in ways I do not understand. In order to emotionally survive I felt I needed to be fully occupied, and I had what I thought was a solid team behind me.  I (wait for it!  it’s just as stupid as you might imagine!) decided to build a house.  And in so doing managed to undermine my entire financial life. *

I’d partnered equally with my nephew Kevin, but somehow I ended up paying for about 75% of the project and he — didn’t. That he remains above-ground is a testament to my love for the lad and my strong belief in karma.

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To make a long story short, our number was up! We were sequentially raped by 3 dishonest contractors, but persisted optimistically until we brought our gorgeous house to market during the summer of 2006 — at which point the Cosmic Trickster popped the housing bubble and left the kid and me to hang, twisting slowly in the wind.

We could not sell this house! Time went by and the nephew didn’t tell me when he stopped having enough money to pay the mortgage. He’d fallen in love and was dealing with issues of rejection and had dropped out of sight. I heard that we were having problems just on the brink of foreclosure. At that point we discovered loan modifications and began a process with Bank of America/Freddie Mac. They told us we didn’t have to pay the mortgage during negotiations — but they either lied or were wrong, because after another three months had gone by we received foreclosure notifications again.

Undeterred, Kevin chased the bank people from here to hell and back and got them to agree to a 40 year loan, lower percentage interest rate — just what we wanted; the perfect loan. We were ecstatic!

Within days our joy turned into a nightmare that shouldn’t happen in America. Somehow while Kevin was negotiating with people who did NOT want to negotiate with him (no matter what they tell you out there — the banks don’t want these deals to succeed), a rogue cell from one of the foreclosure proceedings just somehow kept moving, and one day somebody from Freddie Mac called a Realtor in Lakeport who hadn’t had a sale in 3 years. They told him to re-key the property and put it up for sale, and he did.

Anyone who knows anything about real estate and real estate law knows that this is illegal. But funny thing — when the bank officials that we’d been about to sign a deal with heard that the house had been taken, they stopped talking with us. Deal was off. This was despite the fact that there had been no eviction notices (we had tons of stuff there as many of our family and friends had been using the house while it was in limbo) and no “sale on the Courthouse steps” and the rest of the things that the laws say must occur.

When this happened, our Realtor shrugged his shoulders and said we should report the other Realtor. We had no money for a lawyer. We looked around and nobody we saw had any interest in helping us on contingency. The bank took our property illegally here in the United States of America — and there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing we can do about it. Ain’t that America, all right. To say that I’m angry wouldn’t do it justice. I’ve gone beyond anger into despair.

I wish I were truly angry; if you are angry you will fight. There is no fight in me. I am under-insured and under-medicated; I am in the depression cycle of Bipolar disorder and I’m just trying to save the home I live in. I am full of wonderment at what this country has become — a land of banks “too big to fail” who flail around and crush people like me and don’t even notice that there’s blood on the shoes, honey, blood all over those shoes. Mine.

* The rest of my financial life has been undermined by my health care costs. If things don’t change I will be appearing soon, on a street -corner near — you!

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