Dynamic times. And yet, “Hurry up and wait” is the theme, at least when it comes to my house and possible foreclosure. Thursday was another rush to get paperwork together for a meeting. Friday’s meeting was worth the effort, even if the majority of the papers were never noticed. I learned a new meaning of the word “forbearance”, and it possibly leads to good news – or at least a delay in the bad news. Bureaucracies can be maddening, but accommodating them long enough to get to a real person can produce unexpected results.
June? How did we end up here? It is the sixth month of the year and about six months ago is when I stopped pay my mortgage. That happens when a person starts running out of money. Through a well-practiced process, a Notice of Default was taped to my door a week or so ago. I called the Washington State hotline included on the note and finally talked to a professional (from Parkview Services) who wasn’t the mortgage company or a collection agency. It was a relief. They strongly suggested I attend a Fannie Mae event, which I attended yesterday. If you want the more detailed story, read through my most recent posts.
The unknown is fertile ground for fears. Walking into the meeting was a guess at what papers to bring (despite their well-documented list I knew background data would be handy), a guess at whether Parkview’s representative(s) would be active support or on the sidelines, and a guess at what kind of person would represent Fannie Mae.
Walking into the unknown to discuss personal failings makes it easy to drop back into childhood fears, except this meeting wouldn’t be about detention but about the possibility of eventual eviction. That’s why I got there early. That’s why I planned to find the hotel meeting room and walk by to get a glimpse and some sense of control. That’s why my attempt at balance was interrupted by a pleasant person from Parkview stepping out into the hall and welcoming me in by name. Oh well, if I’m going to give up my plan, it might as well be to a pleasant smile.
For those who never have to consider going through such a meeting, skip ahead a paragraph or two. For others, it would be a disservice if I didn’t tell you what it was like. It was fine – or at least as fine as such a topic can be. The meeting was set up largely between just Parkview Services (from what I could tell) and Fannie Mae. After it was over I could tell that they had a simple process: 1) sign in, 2) meet with a housing counselor or two to make sure all of the paperwork is in place and so the counselor can prepare the homeowner for the meeting, 3) meet with an official representative of Fannie Mae with the counselor there at least part of the time, and 4) an exit survey, which explained the guy sitting at a table to the side who seemed the least stressed person in the room.
The entire meeting, at least for me, was simply about two questions: A) Did I want to keep the house? and if I wanted to keep it B-for-keeps) How much of a mortgage modification was required to make that happen considering my finances? or B-for-sell) Well, I don’t know those questions because I want to keep the house. Very quickly they reached the same conclusion that I had reached months ago, and that the counselors reached last week. I need to make a lot more money.
The logical part of me looks at those numbers and shrugs. Facts are facts and data are data. Evidently we all had the same factual point of view. We’ll come to the same conclusion, right?
The emotional side of me steps in though and looks at probabilities and possibilities, borrowing some statistical skills from my logical side, and says, “Yes, but everything is improving. Stocks, business, part-time jobs, and serendipities are all heading in the right direction. Even the housing market is improving, maybe the house will sell on the market. Balance the bad luck in the recent past with good luck in the near future and I can return to financial solvency, even comfort.” I expected no one but my friends and me to agree with that logic. Even with Parkview’s assurances, I expected the foreclosure calendar to continue marking off the days. So, of course you can guess that I was surprised by the man from Fannie Mae. He listened. He was human and he listened. At various times all of us said the same thing in different ways. There isn’t enough money now, but the best bet for everyone is to give me more time by delaying the foreclosure process by three months. It is called a forbearance. I’d never heard the term used that way before, and was glad to learn a new definition within my vocabulary. After about two hours of meetings I was tired and relieved; and in a bit of a silly moment went around to everyone I’d talked to that day thanking them for their time, knowledge, and experience.
Getting there early meant they weren’t tired yet. They were going to be in meetings for two days, and dealing with over 100 cases, which means many more than 100 people. My case is simple: Single guy, one house, one mortgage, about six months of non-payments which don’t total to very much considering typical salaries or even the possible appreciation in my portfolio. Others there were families, homes tied to houses tied to businesses or renters, and some as late as two years. I got the impression that I was one of the few to actually act after only six months. Some begin immediately, but evidently some find ways to delay the process for years. Maybe they were happy to start the day on a high note.
There almost seemed to be an odd common feeling. There are four main parties involved, and only three were there, on purpose I think. Fannie Mae, the investor; Green Tree, the servicer; Parkview, the counselor; and me, the homeowner. Despite the three parties in attendance, the servicer holds a lot of power in terms of deciding how to service the loan, how to proceed. Fannie Mae controls the money, but they can only strongly suggest what Green Tree should do.
Here is where “Hurry up and wait” happens again. At each of these stages, reams of papers are rapidly printed and distributed. There’s a flurry of activity, and then a wait as policies, procedures, and processes are followed. Multiply my efforts by 100, and bump it up from there for everyone else’s complexities, and repeat every few weeks or months. Escalate that across the nation. Enormous costs are involved, both financial and in terms of time and emotions.
Within the next few days I’ll be asked to put together another package. Each package is similar to what it takes to buy a house, so it is like buying a house every few weeks; but with the same subject each time. Oh yes, and it’s a new month, so the packets must be updated for the most recent bills, the most recent profit/loss statement from my business, and hopefully to include whatever good fortune has come my way.
Stay tuned for that news, because writing about good fortune will be fun for me, hopefully you too, and even for those folks who want to see it in numbers. That will be the ultimate foreclosure forbearance.
Since the economy is coming back and housing has taken off again, it may be only a couple of years before housing appreciates to the level it was before the crash. I wonder if the mortgage powers that be will come looking for some money back when your home appreciates similarly.
Your continuing saga documenting the vagaries of the process, incompetence, inomprehensible rules, outright lies by some people in the process, and general craziness of how it works is quite a story. The difficulty you, a well educated, persistent, and generally upbeat fellow has had with this makes me wonder what those with less knowledge and ability to fight back are going through. I expect there must be a big rise in depression and all that this brings. And then there are the ghouls working hard to take advantage of the misfortune of others.
What amazes me is the industry-wide application of what you described in your recent blog post, “Yuck“. Instead of the waste and inefficiency of a waitress apologizing continually for weeks or months possibly with the result of losing customers, we have a nationwide industry engaged in inefficiences multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of cases possibly resulting in people deciding not to buy houses. Fewer people owning houses and an industry wasting millions or billions of dollars are probably not contributing to a long-term recovery.