My Jobs Report Month 21 was supposed to be the title of today’s post, the necessary update to last month’s post, but a critical foreclosure conversation happened at the normal post time of Saturday morning. In other words, a meeting about my house came up. The two topics are entwined, as they are for most people. Both have entered a new phase. The everchanging story is one reason there is no typical foreclosure story. Those of us going through this are all episodes in some phenomenally large book.
Even Wednesday’s story and then Thursday’s story changed moments after they were posted. Tuesday, some official type taped a Notice of Default to my front door. Go back for details. I expected a Notice of Foreclosure, but didn’t complain about not getting it. There was a fourth sheet that mentioned foreclosure, but it didn’t seem to be a prime part of the package. So, Wednesday I posted about Tuesday’s shock. The shock was that I thought they’d said they were going to give me much more time. The other shock was because the taper told me they may sell my house in 30 days. The official notice on the door was good inspiration for finally calling the WA State hotline to find out if I had to start packing. (1-877-894-4663, operated by Parkview Services – a non-profit) I wrote about that, posted the post and shared it around. Knock, knock. My friendly mail carrier shyly had to deliver bad news, several registered letters. I decided you were probably already weary of my housing news, so I held off with the report; especially, when I noticed that the letters looked like copies of what was on the front door. The WA State hotline directed me to the Saturday morning meeting where and when I might get introduced to a housing counselor. That was this morning. Here is that tale.
The short version of house story: I need to make more money. Not a surprise, and actually a bit of a confirmation because that was the conclusion I came to months ago. All of that training in investing and frugality helped.
Needing to make more money leads into the jobs story. So, how’s that job search going? The job I had the greatest hopes for didn’t even give me the chance for an interview, and this is for a job that many in community pointed out to me because they saw me as an obvious fit. Oh well. The job search hasn’t produced a job, but ironically, I am so busy that I have less time to search. I continue to search, but my (part-time) job as Project Director for HCLE’s Virtual Museum is getting busier, and my (part-time) job as Information Manager for New Road Map Foundation is taking even more time than HCLE. That plus a new contract to develop a social media platform for the Whidbey Island Open Studio Tour, and a couple other projects means I’m working billable hours. Even better is that some of those jobs may expand significantly. Most involve non-profits, so that means expansion happens after fundraising. Give – not just to the non-profits I know, but give to the ones you like. They may hire people like me. Yeah!
I’m busy, but it is not enough – yet. That much work still is less than full-time and the analysis completed by the housing counseling company says I need to make more if I am going to keep the house. Yep. I guessed and actually calculated that. It’s almost as if I have some basic understanding of money and personal finance.
Skipping the many acronyms, in terms of major steps, I am at step 2 of a 3 or 4 step process. It doesn’t feel that way. The language used by the servicing company (that I thought had been the mortgage company) is so strong that it sounds dire and final. The Servicer emphasizes the one extreme, but there is a continuum of possibilities. What I’m learning is that, at each of these steps, many different things can happen, each with different ramifications and timings, and that even the professionals within the process are prone to make mistakes. Some mistakes seem to invalidate a lot of work. Other mistakes can reset the process by weeks or months. Very few homeowners are experts or lucky enough to guess right at every action. Ironically, most of the confusion comes from the protections that work in favor of the homeowner.
After the preliminary group presentation this morning, each of us were assigned someone to talk to, not necessarily our eventual counselor, but someone who could listen and then ask the right questions. The conversation went from the general to the specific.
Maybe they were overwhelmed. Maybe I was lucky. Maybe I made a good first impression over the phone. Somehow I was teamed with one of their senior people. Excellent. I provided the three minute synopsis of what you can read as hundreds of thousands of words in these posts. My situation was simple: Single (divorced), with dramatically depleted net worth (starting with the Triple Whammy), unsuccessful at getting a job (but trying), making insufficient (though growing) income from my business, unsuccessful at selling my house (so far), and with only one mortgage and only one credit card, and living fairly frugally. Oh yeah, and I am optimistic and would like to keep the house. My Hardship Letter, and yes, I’ve dutifully written one and will re-write it, should read fairly well – except for not having enough money right now.
Then came the details. You’re safe. I won’t write them up because almost everyone would understandably skip right over them. But there were two main processes, one’s for time, one’s for money.
The time process is something like:
- clock started when I stopped paying
- about 90 days later receive a Notice of Default
- about 90 days later receive a Notice of Default, which just happened, but it sounds like it should have been a Notice Of Pre-Foreclosure Options
- about 30 days later receive a Notice of Trust Sale
- about 120 days later “They” sell the house
- about 20 days later I must vacate the premises.
But, every date and period can be varied, sometimes shorter, more times longer. So, a 350 day process can easily extend to a year or more. From I heard, asking for an official meeting with Investor (Fannie Mae for me) with a counselor and or a mediator can put the process on hold, frequently for weeks or months. We might schedule that meeting during another meeting next week.
At any meeting everyone wants to know about the money. Got enough? Nope? Well, then there’s a four step waterfall that I’ll have to check from my notes. Here’s my understanding of it.
1) Recalculate the mortgage based on current income, with the late payments and penalties added to a new loan amount.
If that didn’t work,
2) Drop the interest rate until the payments can work, maybe as low as 2%.
If that didn’t work,
3) Extend the period up to 40 years
If that didn’t work,
4) Forebear some of the Principal, which I think of as Defer some of the Debt, effectively saying some portion of the balance is interest free, but still must be repaid at the end.
If that didn’t work, then a mortgage recalculated for current income, at a 2% rate, for a 40 year loan, that only charges interest on part of the principal, still isn’t enough of a modification.
Without going into the details, I need to make more money from my business and jobs if I plan to keep the house based on income. Basically, a 40 hour a week job, or a bunch of jobs that add up to 40 hours a week, should suffice. That was a lot of work to confirm what I knew, and the confirmation is worth a lot. These details, even in a simple case like mine, are so convoluted that it is easy to overlook possibilities. Others have to consider multiple foreclosures on their home and rental properties, or business mishaps, or estates, or divorces, or combinations.
Sometimes an expert is worth the few seconds it took them to notice the one prime flaw in the paperwork. I spent hours preparing my box of docs. Two years of taxes, four months of bank statements, enough documentation to qualify for a loan, because it’s basically the same process. And I brought along the note they taped to my door. Tape included. I still haven’t fully understood it, even after study, advice, listening, and asking. A few seconds after looking at it, a glance at the last page, and then the professional stopped. Whoever prepared the document dated the notice before they were supposed to. There’s a process here, and by dating it early it suggests, at least to me, that they’d made up their mind before giving me the chance to respond. That alone may require them to start the process over again, a delay of a few weeks. I never noticed that, and didn’t realize that implication.
I am an individualist. I enjoy working in groups, but most tasks I take on myself. Look at how long it took me to finally ask for help. And as soon as I did, I found help in unexpected ways. The foreclosure process is tortuous, emotionally, and logistically. It makes sense to ask for help. But. It also makes sense to check out the person or agency. Parkview Services seems legit. From what they say, they are paid by state grants. They don’t charge a fee. Washington State is nice that way, evidently; and yet, I am going to do a bit more research. I thank them for the graphic for the timeline above. That’s the best representation of what I call, the “Nominal Process” because everything can change. But, if you are going through this, be careful who you work with because ethics and competency aren’t universal.
Change happens and things are about to change again on July 1st. I must act before that, but then may have to change what I do at that point too. I pity the counselors. They must be in continual training mode.
These few hundred words, the hours I’ll spend preparing packets for negotiation, and the hours I’ll spend considering scenarios are secondary to my main goal: making, or having, or making and having enough money to maintain and sustain a comfortable lifestyle. Live long and prosper.
It is easy to focus on the foreclosure. It is easy to focus on the house. My main focus is to remove the threat of foreclosure and keep my home. And I’ll continue trying to get a job, or add up enough jobs to make enough without hurting myself, or find another source of funds (I’ve got my lottery tickets, and MVIS.) In the meantime, I’ll also keep the house on the market, as sad as I’d be to see it go. And I’ll continue to maintain my optimism. Sometimes something as simple as a date on a form, can open a window through which good fortune can arrive.