I wrote this post a few weeks ago. I have been tweaking and preparing and waiting for the right time. After everything that is happening in Japan (or any part of the world depending on when you read this) I have a new perspective, however, life is still happening all around us. So here goes nothing.
I am a victim of foreclosure. I am in good company, I know, as part of the real estate bubble became broken in 2010. I am in a steadily growing group of people who are silently being torn apart. Maybe not to the naked eye, and maybe unbeknownst to the one who was foreclosed on, but the ramifications of losing one’s home is wrecking havoc in the lives and families of many Americans and across the entire world.
I am your average Joe. I have been married for 31 years, I have 3 children, my husband is a letter carrier and I am the proud owner of an entrepreneurial spirit. We decided several years ago to try to get ahead in life and invest in some single family rental properties. The banks were happy to aid us deciding we were worth the risk by doing their due diligence. They gave us a mortgage on three different houses in our local market. We became partners with Republic Bank. Not sure they view it quite in those terms, but in essence, they provided the avenue which allowed us to step out of the status quo box. We entered into a business deal with Republic Bank. That business deal, a partnership if you will, is called a mortgage.
In 2008, after owning the houses for four years and making little to no money, we went to Republic Bank and asked for help. We simply asked to renegotiate the terms of the loans, in order to buy some time, gain some equity, create some positive cash flow, and then, down the road, perhaps be able to sell the houses and recoup some of our losses. We were denied.
Admittedly, we made mistakes. We either paid too much for the houses in the first place, or put too much money into the rehab in order for us to realize positive monthly cash flow. Hindsight is indeed 20/20 and the mother of all teachers.
To make a very long story not quite as long, Republic Bank refused to work with us in a way which would benefit us, but offered instead to put a blanket loan on all of our properties (including our personal house) . The terms were merely short-term fixes, advantageous only to Republic Bank. We declined their offer and left the bank, with all parties involved knowing it was only a matter of time until we lost those three houses.
It was a hard time for our family. We had incurred quite a of debt due to maintenance, repairs and down time in between renters, and unexpected life events. Upon the advice of an attorney, and after much agonizing, we determined we could no longer make the mortgage payments.
In 2010 we did indeed lose the three properties mortgaged by Republic Bank, and since they were coming after all of our assets, we lost the other 2 houses and our personal home as well. Not only that, but before the banks “had possession” and auctioned them on the court house steps, where they themselves “purchased” the houses back from themselves for the exact amount the letter of the law allows, they predetermined what we would “owe” them and went into one of our bank accounts and “garnished wages” until we were forced to file bankruptcy.
I can’t even begin to tell you the vast gamut of thoughts and emotions that went on before, during and after this process occurred. I am becoming more and more aware of how we are tiptoeing around the deeper issue of foreclosure like the proverbial pink elephant in the middle of the room.
Granted, people don’t know what to say when you have lost the very foundation of your family’s life. And once you are settled into a new place to live, people assume you are okay. Speaking for myself only, I was not okay. Far from it in fact.
All of the things that I tell myself and others tell me to offer some sort of condolences, are only words. Though in my head I know that “It could be worse”, we “still have our health”, we “still have each other”, “things will work out for the best”, “God is in control”, and “it’s just stuff”, those things don’t quite reach my heart enough to convince it that this too shall pass and remain but an unpleasant memory.
I have had a very knowledgeable person in the business of debt recovery tell me that in 17 years she has never seen a foreclosure done legally. Never! Definitely food for thought. That could very well explain the many class action lawsuits going on around the country. And it’s not just about the “robo signing”, either. There are other “legal” issues I could expound on, but my purpose is to let you see inside the foreclosure, the real people who are involved.
The mental, emotional and even physical stress foreclosure puts on an individual, not to mention a marriage or a family is beyond my ability to describe. The best way for me to relay this is with a word picture. I mean no offense when I say this but the most accurate description is to say that I felt like an aborted baby, who was suddenly ripped from it’s mother’s womb, and left pulsating and throbbing, as the life slowly but certainly ebbed from me. All the life-giving nourishment was simply taken away and I was left to die.
It was four months before I stopped wanting to die. I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t want to be here; I didn’t want to deal with what was left of our family’s life, our things. I didn’t want to find a new normal. I’m not proud of those thoughts, but it is the truth.
In my head I know that there are people who have it way worse than I do. I wouldn’t want to be where they are. But I don’t want to be where I am either. Yet I am where I am but in my heart, I hate this for my family. I hate this for my kids.
There have been countless people who, once they discovered what we have and are going through, have shared with us how close they are to following the path that we forcibly chose to take. I am sorry for those people. There are others who look at us with envy, thinking that our lives are somehow less complicated since we have been forced to scale down. I get where they are coming from, truly I do, but please, dear God, there has to be a better way.
There are also people who look down on us, who pass judgment based on their own personal experience and lifestyle. It’s like they think we somehow committed a hideous sin that we need to make atonement for. To those people I would just ask that you get all the facts, and perhaps walk in our shoes, then maybe you will be in a better position to judge, if you feel you must.
Foreclosure is indeed the silent killer. It is causing people to lose hope. It is causing people to become ill. It is tearing marriages and families apart. It is as harmful as the trauma of a divorce or the death of a loved one, and no one is talking about it, no one is addressing the emotional issue.
Ours is one story, one set of circumstances. Only one. There are countless others. We hear about them in the news. They are the stats and numbers in the business world. But what doesn’t make the news is the real live people behind those figures, with real live stories.
It’s just business, nothing personal. Not true! It’s very personal. Losing your house is very personal indeed. It may be business but it’s not good business. Good business is a relationship between two parties. Forcing someone from their home, take the asset if you must, but to take the assets AND money people need to live on, does not equal good business. And just because the banks have the legal authority to take someone’s home doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
It has become so common-place that it is now just a matter-of-fact part of life. We sigh, we shake our heads but do we really understand?. People lose more than a house when they are foreclosed on. They lose courage, they lose hope, they lose dignity, they lose purpose and sometimes they even lose friends. It is hard enough to deal with day to day living. And harder still to deal with the loss of the actual house itself but when you add the other things into the mix…it’s oftentimes overwhelming.
People are ashamed and embarrassed to talk about their foreclosure ordeal, choosing instead to carry on as if it was a normal thing that happens everyday.
I think about the similarities and difference when someone loses everything in a house fire. People immediately come out of the woodwork to offer whatever resources they have. And rightly so. Losing everything in a matter of minutes is an extremely traumatic event. While foreclosure isn’t as dramatic in nature, people often lose many, many possessions simply because they have no place to put them, except in storage, so it’s just not an option to hold on to the stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, we had lots of people to help us pack and move, store some of our left behind items, give us a temporary place to stay. We even had a few people give us money. To those dear friends and family members, I am eternally grateful.
Even after seven months of living in an apartment with my family, which has often been very challenging, there are times from passing moments to a day or two, that those feelings of intense longing for home and the life we once had, can sometime overwhelms me.
I hope this gives a little insight into the stress and hardship of losing one’s home.