I got behind on mortgage payments. Now I’m at the courthouse to see if my house is up for auction. My story is a preview of the next, ugly phase of America's housing crash: ultraquick foreclosures managed by a team of mercenaries.
Four years after the housing crisis began, we've held hearings, passed laws, bailed out big banks, cracked down on predatory lending, and created programs to help strapped homeowners. The American dream is safe again, right?
If it were, I wouldn't be standing here on the courthouse steps waiting to see if our home will be auctioned off – mere months after missing a mortgage payment.
My story is a preview of the next, ugly phase of America's housing crash: ultraquick foreclosures managed by a team of mercenaries. And don't think it won't affect your neighborhood. More than 1 in 4 homeowners with a mortgage is underwater – they owe more than their home is worth – while more than 6 million of us are either in "delinquent" status or in foreclosure already.
My family's mortgage was bundled and sold off last spring to a new company. Facing financial difficulty after a job loss, we got behind on payments right after the new year. We finally scraped together funds to make back payments, but instead of taking them, the new company quickly put us on the fast track to "robo-foreclosure." With this comes ever-mounting fees demanded on an ever-shrinking timetable. It feels as if they are driving you to the auction block.
The lender engaged both a processor and law firm, each requesting the same sets of documents from us and neither talking to the other. We did all the paperwork several times over and paid the reinstatement demand. Yet we discovered that our home was still on the auction list when a real estate agent came to our door offering a short sale. (There's no law in our state requiring homeowners be directly notified of these sales.)
My family's case isn't unique. Homes nationwide are being auctioned daily due to a rush to judgment coupled with communication misfires between lenders, processors, lawyers, and homeowners. The same foreclosure steps that once took years now happen in weeks.
I am a woman of faith, and when things started going wrong with our finances and the mortgage company's systems, I was sure it would all work out. But so far, I have been outmanned and outgunned.
Fighting foreclosure isn't just exhausting. It's humiliating. After forcing us to produce detailed bank account and spending statements, my mortgage company knows how much I spend on groceries and toilet paper. No wonder so many people are choosing "strategic defaults" – walking away from their home.
Mortgage companies are in such a hurry to pay back their bailouts and clear the books that they field a host of well-armed mercenaries: processors, collectors, and lawyers all working over the same mortgagee. You don't get people on the phone. If you do, they're reading a script – not listening. If you do not get agreements made via phone in writing, you have wasted your time. You can't get anything in writing unless you submit the request in writing. A company can stop taking your money after a single late payment. Technicalities multiply like bunnies. The offer to restructure can be a sinkhole.