I'm finally able to sit down and type it all out. From April 2010 through September 2011 the housing saga overwhelmed my life. I'll just put everything behind a cut because it's going to be long. Mostly, this is going to be a brain dump about those 17 months. It will be good for me to get it all out and good for posterity (read: written down so I can reference back to it if necessary). Feel free to skip it, I understand :)
I left my management job in August 2009. I made a comfortable salary and was able to pay the exorbitant amount of money to my mortgage company. I say exorbitant because a) I purchased my condo at the height of the bubble, right before it all came tumbling down and, b) the interest rates I were paying on the two loans (70/30 loan) were at 7.125% and 12.25%. I was paying about $600 a month for my mortgage on a $75k loan. Add in another $120 for HOA fees, and that's a pretty big undertaking. While I was working as a manager, I could easily afford my mortgage and HOA with one paycheck and still pay some other bills. I was paid twice a month. Yay for me! I can feed myself, pay my bills, and still have enough to go have a few drinks (I was drinking fairly heavily then at the time) and hang out with my buddies.
I decided to leave that job because, well, I was suffering from burnout. I didn't care anymore about the store and how it ran and that signaled it was time to go. I figured with my resume and skills, I could find a job in no time. I had my last paycheck, about three weeks of vacation pay, and the payment from the totaling of my car (I still miss my Saturn, it was the perfect car for me). I knew that I would be fine for at least three months while I looked for a new job.
All I could find was the call center job. $9.50 an hour. I told myself that I could make do on that, I could probably still pay the bills and be okay. I couldn't do it. One paycheck didn't cover the mortgage and the HOA. One paycheck barely covered my student loan payment from four years of college plus a mistaken tryst with the University of Phoenix. I was able to get those deferred, but that really just delays the inevitable, doesn't it? I tried my hand at freelance writing to make up the deficit, but SEO articles don't really pay the bills, and you can only write about various things you know nothing about for so long before they all start sounding the same.
I continued the job search, hoping to find something better or something that I could do part time that would supplement my income and make things work. But, I couldn't get in anywhere. I was able to float myself with a small inheritance from my Tia when she passed away before the holidays. In February 2010, I knew I was in deep trouble. I had one more month I would be able to pay at that was it. I called both companies and was told that because I wasn't in default and my payment was not more than a certain percentage of my income, I didn't qualify for any kind of modifications or considerations. I couldn't even get a refinance because my credit was so bad (thanks credit cards of doom!).
I decided to stop paying. I couldn't afford it anymore. As it was, the income from work covered my student loans, credit card consolidation (via debt counseling), cell phone, utilities, and my car insurance. I had just enough left over to buy food, gas, and the occasional pair of shoes or items of clothing. And that is when the calls started.
I saved the numbers in my cell phone and set them to silent ring tones so I wouldn't be bothered with them calling during the day while I was asleep before I had to work my second shift job at the call center. I read the letters that they sent promising me solutions if I would just call and work with them. And I did call and was rebuffed. "Sorry, you don't qualify."
My second mortgage even went so far as to tell me that they could work out this fantastic deal with me only to turn me down again. I gave up. Then I got the letter that I would be going to foreclosure in February 2011. I called and asked about deed in lieu of foreclosure as a small way to save my credit from taking a huge hit. The only way I would qualify is if I attempted to short sale the house.
I found a realtor on Craig's List (I know, right!) and made an appointment. She was a wonderful woman who barely concealed her disdain for the housing crisis and the banks while we chatted. She walked me through everything I would need to get (most of which I had readily available for her) and we set a price: $39,900. I paid $75,000 in April 2006. March of 2011 brought us to $39,900. I had to pack up my personal belongings to get the house ready for staging. I packed away photos that I had looked at everyday for the past five years. Bought a safe to keep my laundry money and medications locked away from potential buyers when they came to look at the condo. To walk in my home.
I wanted to be there when they walked through to highlight the positives and explain the negatives. I would show them the flaws, but focus more on the tranquility surrounding them. And the wonderful proximity to the laundry room. :) Of course, I couldn't be in there when people came in, and that was okay, I guess. I had two offers on the house within a week. We went with the first offer that agreed to the asking price and started the transaction. This was March 2011. The paperwork was accepted by the first bank and the auction date was postponed pending the transaction.
It all fell apart in June 2011. You see, the first bank was only willing to pay the second $1500. The second said, "Sorry, we want $2400. That's 10% of the loan." The buyer was days, seriously, DAYS, away from signing the contract when this bombshell dropped. He was asked to cover the difference, as the first bank refused to budge on their offer. He refused.
My realtor and his realtor offered to pay a third each if he would just pay the last third. Nope. I called the realtor and offered to cover his portion of it, with the stipulation that I would get to stay in the home until X date due to not being able to move into an apartment I had found until that date. Nope. He said it was the principle of the situation. Dude. I'm all about principles, but for real? Fine. The deal fell through. My realtor started to scramble to find another buyer, because the first bank said, "Whelp, looks like we'll just schedule that auction again."
She contacted the buyer who had made the other offer back in March. They decided that they would wait until foreclosure as they figured they could get it cheaper at that time instead of paying the asking price. We reduced the asking price: $34,900. Over 50% less than what I paid for this home five years prior. We got another offer. This guy seemed ready to go and was willing to sign an addendum agreeing to pay up to $1k towards the second mortgage if necessary. Excellent. I spoke to the buyer's realtor (he was calling to set up a time that I could be away from the house so that his client could look at it) and he told me that his client was a businessman from California who visited Tucson frequently. He was looking for a place to buy instead of staying in hotels all the time. I figured he would be a great neighbor for my neighbors who loved quiet and had odd sleeping schedules.
Paperwork was signed and submitted in July 2011. And that's when the true fuckery began. My realtor would repeatedly call to get updates from the first bank. Essentially, she got to leave voicemails. A LOT of voice mails. I left voice mails. I got a letter from them stating that they had been unable to contact me. I found this to be quite odd as they had made no attempt to contact me. I guess that was why there unable to contact me. When my realtor FINALLY got to speak to SOMEONE they told her that everything was fine and that the auction date had been postponed and they were looking for someone to review and underwrite the paperwork.
The second bank started to make some noise. They wanted to get this pushed through and seemed to think that we were causing the delay. I finally spoke to my "relationship manager" with the second bank and explained that WE weren't the cause of the delay, it was the first bank dragging their feet.
The second bank tells the realtor that the file will be "closed" on my property on the 20th unless we close the deal OR I begin making payments. Huh? Why would I make payments on something I am trying to get rid of and can't afford? I call to get a better explanation. I am told that unless this is done, the file will be "closed" (she just kept saying that, as if it would make sense to me) and that was that. I explained to her that if the house foreclosed, her "client" would get zero, nothing, bubkis, nada, zilch. She "explained" that the client had been patient and helpful throughout the process and I began to laugh. I told her that if they had been a bit more helpful in April of last year, I would never have had the pleasure of speaking with her (this, of course, is a paraphrase. Also, it was never a pleasure to speak to this woman) and that if they were unwilling to wait 7 more business days, then they were being ridiculous.
She then told me that I could begin making payments to keep the file open. I said, "Fine. I can pay you $50 a month."
"You have to pay at least $200 a month towards this."
"You need to realize that I make $8 an hour and can't afford to pay that much, which is why this property is in this situation now."
"If you can't pay that, then we are going to close the file."
I was livid. As far as I was concerned, this was extortion. I called my realtor, and she calmed me and told me that we would just play it by ear until we heard from the first bank. She would call again on the 19th and try to talk to SOMEONE to get an update.
My "relationship manager" from the first bank finally called her on the 20th. At 9 a.m. I can only assume this is how it was said, "Hey, this is the relationship manager for locakitty. I'm calling to inform you that the property will be auctioned today. We never received the paperwork in time to postpone the auction date. I know that people were telling you that things were moving, and I'm pretty sure I probably said the same thing at some point because no one really updates notes in our system and various departments use different software, so they can't read the notes left by other CSRs, and that probably really sucks. But, you know, oopsies and shit. So, yeah. Just thought I'd drop you a line and let you know that everything you have been working on for the past two months wasn't worth shit, because, honestly, we didn't feel like reading things. We were hanging out in the break room and talking about Kim Kardashian and watching the Royal Wedding and what not. K, chat with you laters! Bye!!"
I was flabbergasted. Is this what it came down to? Really? I had a huge wave of conflicting emotions. I was pissed that they dragged their feet and lost so much paperwork and just didn't give a flying fuck about a person. I was sad because dammit, I was losing my home to an auction. I was happy because it was all finally coming to a close. I also felt like a failure.
A first class failure. I took on an obligation and I couldn't fulfill it. I worked so hard to get something and to do it and to make it work and it all fell apart. If that's not failure, I don't know what is.
I went to the auction and was taken aback at how it was handled. Just some people with mobile offices sitting on the courthouse steps reading about legal property information and accepting bids. I asked a guy about my property. He told me that it didn't sell. No one wanted it. While he could have been a bit more tactful, I was glad to hear it. Although, I felt a little bad for the guy who did want to buy it and really bad for my realtor who had just spent the last six months trying to sell my wonderful slice of heaven with the light switch of doom.
I went back to my former home, now owned by the bank, and got ready for work. I didn't want to go to work, given that I was emotionally drained, but you know, kind of had to work so I could get some money to pay for the upcoming move and you know, rent. I called the bank and tried to get some information. They were clueless as to what was next or who handled what. I heaved a sigh at the ridiculousness of this system.
A week later, I had bright yellow papers taped to my kitchen door from a realty company that was "in charge" of my property. I contacted them the next morning to find out what was the next step. I was offered "Cash for Keys" in which they pay me a sum of money and I agree to clean the place out and not gut it. I was fine with that. I had a move out date. FINALLY.
All I wanted for six months was a freaking move out date. I wanted to find an apartment. I wanted to stop living out of boxes. I wanted to cook a meal in my home and not have to worry about doing the dishes right away because someone might want to see the house. The realtor's key safe finally came off my door. I was able to come and go through that door without having to maneuver around that stupid thing. It was finally over.
Or so I thought. The week after the auction I received a phone call AGAIN from the second bank. They wanted payment. I explained that I did not need to pay them, nor would I pay them. It was the same woman as before. Her tone changed in this phone call from her previous calls to me. She would not listen to what I was saying, so I hung up on her and promptly made an appointment with the attorney that would have handled my bankruptcy had I filed. He gave me a letter and mailed it for me essentially telling them that they were violating federal law by contacting me regarding this debt as it was uncollectable. Excellent. I received a letter from them about two weeks later telling me that they would cease and desist. Yay!
I received another phone call from a different agency regarding the second mortgage and explained AGAIN that I was under no obligation to pay them due to Arizona state law. She said she understood and that she was merely calling to see if I wanted to pay so that it would not effect my credit in a negative way. I told her that my credit was already ruined thanks to the foreclosure, so one more hit really didn't make a difference to me. We bade each other a good day and moved on.
So, that's what happened. A part of me still feels like a failure. Did I work hard enough to try to keep the house? Did I explore all my options? I know that I didn't after reading an article about three weeks after the auction talking about a state agency that had been set up a few years ago to help homeowners. More than likely, I wouldn't have qualified. I never qualify for things. There is always one thing that throws out my candidacy.
I am still sad. That was my home for five years. I painted that home. My friends helped me paint that home. They helped me move in. That was Loretta's first home with me. I walked through on the last day before the inspectors showed up to make sure I didn't steal the water heater and pay me for the keys and remembered all kinds of things that happened there.
I gave three of my neighbors thank you cards for being great people while I lived there. I miss the laundry room that was close by. I miss being able to smell the fabric softener when my windows were opened. I miss hearing the trains at night while I drifted off to sleep. Hearing the crowds during an event at the park across the street. Seeing coyotes in the wash late in the night. Walking out my kitchen door and looking up to see the night sky. The light switch of doom. That I couldn't use the microwave and the coffee pot at the same time. I miss all of these things.
I kept my key to the house. I turned in a copy someone returned to me. I kept the key because it was my first home. The first home that I worked for. Worked on. The first place that I dreamed to change and mold into what I wanted it to be, but for whatever reason, never found the time or the money to get it done.
I know that failure makes us great. But that doesn't lessen the hurt that it brings. I know that hindsight is 20/20. And if I had planned a bit more carefully I wouldn't have been in this mess. I bought it at the wrong time. But, I fell in love with it. It was perfect for me. I'm sure there is another place somewhere out there that is perfect for me. For the me that I will be when the time comes to find it.
For now, the apartment I am renting is cute. We are still getting used to each other. I am learning the little sounds it makes and the sounds of my neighbors. I'll make it work. I usually do.