Yesterday I got The Call, the call from the mortgage company when they switched from good cop to bad cop. The call was expected. The tone surprised me. My options are clearer now.
The call was expected because October’s payment was very short, and didn’t get to them within the grace period. I knew it was going to be short, but I thought I’d mailed it on time. Some of my backup plans for generating money are gaining traction: my consulting and art revenues are up; and the sum of “we’ll call you about work when we get a few things sorted out“s should add up to something significant soon. The primary plan, my stock portfolio, hasn’t been doing so well. Selling stocks has been the source of almost six years of living expenses, including mortgage payments. All of them are trading at less than $3/share, despite buying them at far higher prices and holding them through profitability (except in two cases). I continue to advocate for Long Term Buy and Hold (LTBH), but I’m running into personal Long Term limits. Plan D, the plan in place in case Plans A, B, and C don’t succeed, is selling the house. Even a price drop hasn’t generated any traffic.
What surprised me about the call wasn’t apparent until after I hung up. It was intense, ungracious, and accusatory. It wasn’t until the phone was parked in its station that I realized that we were trying to have two conversations. I was trying to discuss a financial arrangement, my circumstances, possibilities, contingencies, and intent. She accused me of playing hardball, of living in their house for free, basically trying to cheat them out of their due. Her half of the conversation was directed at the negative and emotional. The sneaky part that made me recoil in the moment was when they insisted I give them access to my checking account, as if they should have more control over my funds than I do.
This was a shock, especially the morning after a Happy Thanksgiving.
I learned a few surprising things.
- One, I know that I don’t expect to live here for free either, and in good faith I paid what I could. It turns out that any partial payment is ignored, put into escrow and not counted for anything. (Yes, Stephen, you were right.)
- Two, she was adamant that, while people have been living in houses for free recently, that no longer happens and that they will remove me. (Anyone have any evidence of that?)
- Three, that they never referred to the terms of the mortgage agreement, specific clauses, paragraphs or legalese.
It’s that last one that strikes me now. It’s taken that long for the emotional turmoil to ease for me to see our different points of view. I see buying a house as a financial arrangement. We agree to terms. We each do our best to meet the contractual obligations. If for some reason those aren’t met, then the contract contains clauses, contingencies, and procedures to rectify any shortcomings. I plan to abide by those. They never mentioned them.
So, as I sit here typing, and my chest tightening a bit as I replay the event, I wonder what those terms are and whose paperwork applies.
I bought this house, the only house I’ve bought that I have truly called home, in January 2007. (Thank you, Kathryn Hawkes. It only took us a year to find this place.) So, in almost six years the mortgage has gone from my preferred local bank, Whidbey Island Bank, to Crossland Mortgage, to Bank of America, to Green Tree, who just UPS Expressed Enveloped a letter to transfer my mortgage to Quicken Loans (at a very nice interest rate). I’m pretty sure I only signed paperwork once, with my local bank. Do those terms and conditions apply? If I’d asked, would she have had the appropriate terms and conditions available to her? If the terms and conditions have changed, then what is the validity of the subsequent contract if I never signed off on the changes?
I suspect I’ll be finding answers to these questions, unless I make enough money from my stocks, my business, a job, a windfall, or by selling the house.
I’m glad that a logical part of me survived their emotional onslaught. The assault was successful enough that it ruined a day, and caused me to cancel a meeting with a friend who is rarely met except through facebook. I’m saddened when I consider the effect their tactics must have on people who emotionally respond to the threats. No wonder some people literally spend days under the covers after some of these encounters.
I never expected to witness such an event. I expected companies that succeeded to have stocks that succeeded based on the worth of the company. If that was the case the mortgage would be paid off by now. I expected fifteen months of applying for jobs to have resulted in a job that pays at least well enough to maintain my frugal lifestyle. And as an entrepreneur and artist, I am an optimist and know that what I do and what I create is worth more than enough – though that isn’t fully reflected in my bank account, yet. And I know that this house is worth what I am asking. The view alone is worth it. (The view within a short walk is even better.)
Once upon a time I was assured that I would succeed in unexpected ways. Well, the unexpected is happening. Next comes the success.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, a few hours after the call I was thankful that, even though I’ll take almost any job, I wouldn’t want hers. I felt sorry for her. Either she’s had that tough of a life, is required to act that tough, or uses it as anger therapy venting herself onto strangers. How many people like her have such jobs? I don’t want to know.
Stay tuned, because we’ll both find out how this plays out. And thanks for reading.
Now for a mental and emotional sorbet go look at some pretty pictures (they might as well be mine) and then read the upbeat post by reading Affordable Luxuries.