Monday, April 16, 2012
When God Closes a Door...
(Disclaimer: Company titles and representative names have been changed in the following story. Any similarities are purely coincidental. )
My family and I have been in mitigation with Evil Mortgage Company since August. I've spent over 20 hours on the phone being transferred to various Evil Mortgage Company representatives, 40+ hours re-configuring our monthly expenses/deficits and typing hardship letters on the computer. Somewhere in the rain forests of Brazil there is a 1/4 acre of trees missing so I could submit 62 pages of refinancing application pages through the mail. In March, after 8 months of work and three trips through the entire process, the work paid off...sort of. We qualified for the Homes Affordable Modification Program but they only took into consideration Mike's gross pay and not his actual take home pay to configure their 31% payment reduction. In Short their offer was only $113 lower than our current payment.
I sought the direction of Maria, our case Representative at Evil Mortgage Company. She noted on our account that the payments were still too high and to my surprise her supervisor, Joyce, called me the next day, "I just wanted to make you are aware that this is the best deal that Evil Mortgage Company has to offer." "There is no chance of a lower payment being offered to you under any program." "If you are unable to meet these new payments then I can only recommend that you and your family apply to short sale your home."
Mike and I sat down and crunched the numbers. $1,750 quote to re-tile the girls' bathroom (which has the same problem our other shower had-tile glued on drywall), $1,800 to repair the ceilings, $10,000 to fix the siding , kitchen cabinets (crumbling), new garage door...and so on and so on. As mentioned in a previous blog entry (http://justmamaforayear.blogspot.com/2011/08/day-wall-fell-in.html) our home is in need of multiple repairs. Our house value is less than half of what we owe on the mortgage and the house still needs $40,000+ of work.
We prayed a whole bunch, sought the advice of my credit counseling agent, a real estate lawyer, a Realtor, a friend in real estate with multiple properties of her own, and our accountant. All said that the only option we had was to sell. It was hard to swallow but it just didn't make sense to stay in our home. If I was to write that I simply nodded my head and said, "OK, God- this is clearly the direction you wish us to go!" It would be a long shot from the truth. In all honesty, I had a whirl wind of emotions.
First I was in disbelief, "This just can't be happening to US!" "There must be something we haven't pursued!"
Then I was a last hope Crusader, "I'll just get a night job at Walmart, try again to published some writing, sell some more of our stuff, and maybe I can tutor at tutor.com again!"
Mike was like, "You mean that website where you were waking up at 4:45 every morning to tutor for an hour for $5." "Did you forget you only made $168 in 5 months?" "Even if you were teaching we couldn't afford the house repairs."
Then I was Xena-The Warrior Princess- furious. "You know these companies are just out to rip off the American public!" "Government bailouts-my flippin' feet!!!" "Help to keep people in their homes-what a joke!" "More like help a bank executive buy an extra jet for his "work" "retreat" to Hawaii with his thong-bikini-packin' secretary." "I'd like to lower their interest rate straight to...." (You get the picture)
The day the Realtor put the for sale sign on our front lawn I felt defeated. I had a difficult time going outside for most of the day. There it was, staring at me, mocking me, not a For Sale sign but a sign of failure.
"All the work we put into this house." "All the shower repairs, new tile, new septic, new AC, new appliances, what was it all for?"
Mike tried to reassure me, "Honey it's not your fault." "You didn't know you paid 3x the price you should for a piece of garbage!" "Besides who knew the economy would tank right after you bought it?"
At this not so helpful comment I loaded the baby into the car seat and called over my shoulder, "I'm going for a drive."
As I drove along the river, Naomi joyfully chewed the hair on Jenna's cloth Tinkerbell doll and I mulled the situation over in my head. "Lots of people are loosing their homes right now." "I'm not judging them for it." "They aren't failures in my mind." "Why am I so disgusted with myself?" Was this the house that I planned to spend the rest of my days in and share cheery Christmas mornings with the Grandchildren playing games in the backyard? No.
But it was the first step in my adult independence. The place my husband and I fell from friendship into love, the first home that both our girls ever knew. Our first place as a family. Then the last most terrifying thought that had been hiding beneath all others I asked out loud, "Are we loosing our house because I stayed home with the kids instead of going back to work?"Like a child falling from a tree, the wind was knocked from my chest, my heart aching. I pulled the car over.
"Were they right, all those that said it couldn't be done?" "That I was crazy for wanting to be home with my girls and actually attempting it?" "That I would fail?" "I guess they're right-This is most definitely a failure!"
And for the first time I allowed myself to cry. Not just one wimpy tear streaming down my cheek but full on shoulder shaking, nose blowing sobs. I'm not sure how long I sat there like this but at least three pairs of joggers were wondering if they should speed dial a mental health facility or run faster.
When I was too exhausted to cry any longer, the fog of self pity began to seep out the car windows and I noticed Naomi's joy filled coos singing out from behind my seat. There she was, laughing adorably, grinning happily as she repeatedly thumped Tinker Bell against the baby view mirror. I opened the car door and smiled at Naomi while her legs did the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance they always do when she sees me. I lifted her into my arms and kissed her soft hair.
Had staying home been worth it if it means we loose the house? Naomi's little hand clasped my shirt collar, "Ma ma ma ma ma," then she flashed me her 8 tooth grin and nuzzled her nose into my chest. Even if I did go back to teaching we still couldn't afford all the repairs. Even if I was teaching, money would still be tight. With daycare and rising gas and food prices, there still wouldn't be any money left over. I thought Mike's words over in my head, "Who knew the economy would tank?" Yeah, and who knew house values would plummet and gas would skyrocket? Who knew my original mortgage company would sell our mortgage and the new payments would be unrealistic! "Who knew you'd have food allergies and that groceries would be so expensive," I said to Naomi as I tickled her belly. If I was teaching we'd still be struggling and we'd still be loosing the house.
On the drive home I freed myself from the guilt that I had been carrying for weeks and resolved to the fact that we would soon be moving. We gave it our best shot but with all things considered I had made the best decision I could when I bought the house 5 years ago. I've learned allot about home ownership, we both have, and we'll be sure that we don't make the same mistakes twice. For now we'll find a place to rent for a while. No matter where my family ends up we'll be home as long as we're together.
Posted by Jamie at 2:40 PM