I couldn’t wait. The authorities may all expect me to act at the very last moment, but that would delay my sense of relief. Why would I do that after more than a year of struggle? For the first time since Autumn 2011, I mailed a check to my mortgage company. I hope they like it. And, while I am celebrating the event, I also know that this isn’t actually a mortgage payment. That won’t happen for months, and there’s no guarantee it will happen then, either.
Welcome to another episode in my housing chronicle. The news makes the mortgage crisis sound onerous, and yet has to simplify each story to fit inside a few minutes or phrases. My story has been playing out in more than a year of episodes; and it isn’t over yet. Thank you to all who waded with me through the tougher times. Here’s another part of the story that’s on the nicer side.
The offer I described weeks ago finally arrived. It was just like they said. After reviewing my finances, and I’ve given them months of bank records to work from, they calculated that I could make a modified mortgage payment that is about half of my original payment. This sounds good. Yes, the principal has gone up by the amount that I haven’t paid, and by the penalties, and that seems appropriate. But the interest rate will possibly be down to 2% for a few years, and then take more years to ramp back up to an index based on a Fed rate. It may take a decade before it returns to what I signed up for when I bought this house over seven years ago.
The details that are less likely to become a news story involve months of uncertainty. The payment I just made is the first of three, or four, trial payments. If the mortgage servicer decides I made the payments in an appropriate fashion, they may, may, decide to offer me a modified mortgage that will probably, but not necessarily, be approximately the trial payment. Evidently I’ll know they approve of my actions when I receive a FedEx package of refinance paperwork. If they approve what I return to them, then they may offer the modified mortgage, or not. If they make the offer, I’ve been cautioned that I should continue to be extra-vigilant for months as if I am on an unspoken probationary period. I am potentially more than half a year from stepping past this process.
Well, that’s easy, right?
Welcome to my slapstick afternoon.
I am a nomad. My office can be anywhere because most of my work is online. But, since last May I’ve worked in a co-working space in downtown Langley. Langley is nice place to work. My workspace, the post office, the library, and the bank are all within view of each other.
Small towns are great that way. They are actually efficient places to work, as long as the money comes from somewhere else. Langley is also quaint, which I mention for two reasons: 1) because a friend hates that description, and 2) because lately it has been far from quaint. The street in Langley that leads to all of those places is a major re-construction site. (But hey, they’re working towards an impressive goal.)
We don’t have “Don’t Cross” signs because some things are obvious. On most days, a dozen heavy earthmovers can be quickly driving up and down the street – er – arena of dirt, mud, gravel, dust, and ditches. Simply crossing the street requires good shoes, alert senses, and nimble steps. Simply running errands isn’t simple.
Sending in a check isn’t simple, either. I was strongly advised to make it a cashier’s check for the exact amount, get copies of everything, and then mail it by Certified Mail with a Return receipt. Okay. Bank, cashier’s check. Library, printer. Post Office, trusted mail. Except that I got to work, collected everything I needed, and realized I left the number at home. I didn’t know what to make the check out for. Rummage. Quickly contact my official counselor. Wait for a reply. And then wander out to the parking lot where one scrap of paper happened to have the right amount written, which was confirmed when I got back to the office and saw the email reply. Catch breath. Drop in on the Post Office to check on the advice I was given, and make sure I was going to do things right. Scurry to the library to print a cover letter. Go farther to the bank. Proclaim my ignorance of cashiers checks and such. And realize I brought the wrong checkbook. Wind my way back to the office. Sidle past the caution tape and the ditch. Find the checkbook. Kick myself in the butt. Try again. And succeed. At kicking myself in the butt. And then rerun the errands. It only took about two hours. I needed to take a break after that, and luckily Langley has lots of places for good tea and such.
Better organized people have fewer problems. Maybe. At least if we ever make this into a movie there’ll be plenty of material for comic relief.
Despite the doubts and cautions, my situation is improving. I know that’s not the case for others. While the news talks about fewer foreclosures, I can see an empty foreclosed house from my backyard. I am relieved to still be in my house, even with my dammed plans. Their house has a blue tarp on the roof. The curtains are pulled back to reveal the sad sight of empty rooms. They left the neighborhood before I ever heard their story. Maybe they just aren’t as open and willing to expose the process as I am. Maybe I’ve been too busy in my own struggle to notice theirs until it was too late.
My house may be mine again. As my business and fortunes improve, the house can be improved too. The trial payment isn’t a mortgage payment, merely a demonstration that sells the idea that I am financially healthy enough to carry a modified mortgage. For me, the trial payment buys me things far more valuable: hopes, dreams, and opportunities.