Maybe A Mortgage Modification

Pardon me as I take a sip as I try to decide where to begin. Ah, a homemade herbed vodka martini. Today I get to celebrate, or at least breath a big sigh of relief. Skip any more suspense. I get to keep my house. It has been almost a year and a half since I had to stop making payments, but we (the mortgage servicer and I) have finally agreed upon payments that I can begin making again. But of course avoiding foreclosure is more complicated and less certain than today’s event and I didn’t do it alone.

Looking forward to days on the deck again

Looking forward to days on the deck again

For those tuning in late, or tuning back in after months of less-than-obviously-positive news, I suggest reading the back posts tagged with mortgage or foreclosure starting with Mesmerizing Mortgage Mediation Meeting. Yes, this story is bizarre enough for the movies. Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert could have a fun time with this tale, and mine is simpler than most.

Last week I teased with a hint of good news that I couldn’t pass along because I’d heard it fourth hand. Considering that Facebook has proved that there are less than 4 degrees of separation between all of us, the news wasn’t exactly direct. And yet, it was correct. My mortgage counselor (paid for by Washington State) had heard from the mortgage servicer’s attorney (one professional to another) that the mortgage servicer (which is not the same as the mortgage holder, which is Fannie Mae) had approved me for a trial period for a mortgage modification. Did you follow that? Imagine trying to keep track of that in real time during a phone call. The offer sounded good, but it was a phone call from an email from a reading of a package that no one had a public copy of. Imagine my enthusiasm and reluctance. I went home, took the night off, drank some champagne, ate a lot of popcorn, and wandered around my house, – my home – and began planning again.

This week I had the audacity to answer my home phone. I haven’t done that much for months. The first episodes with the mortgage servicer convinced me to go so far as to work from another location, preferably use my cell phone because caller-ID let me identify client calls, and tend to only pick up home phone messages after I got back from work. But, this time I worked from home and they called and I answered. They wanted to know what I thought of the package. I figured that “this call is recorded for quality assurance” so I made sure I kept my answer to only what I knew, which wasn’t much. What I did know was that there was a mediation meeting planned for Thursday that included the mortgage servicer, their attorney, the mediator, my counselor, and me. I suggested that if I received the package before then, maybe we could reach an agreement and not have the meeting. They’d dropped this very important document into the regular mail. No Express delivery. No FedEx. They wanted to fax it. I don’t have a fax. I suggested they fax it to my counselor who would scan it and then email it to me. That was how we left it.

Today we had a technological breakthrough. The package was emailed to everyone! Yay! It was emailed within hours of the deadline to call off the meeting. The terms looked good.

I am not surprised when people think that everything is resolved in one event. Avoiding foreclosure because of a modified mortgage sounds like working from a pile of paperwork as thick as any home purchase. That comes later. The “package” was basically a single page that said if I pay said amount by said dates for the next three months, I’ll be eligible to be considered for a modified mortgage at approximately those payments. That’s when the big package arrives. In the meantime, I have to make payments by April, May, and June that are about half of my initial mortgage. Ah. That is just about what I would have to pay in rent for a smaller place. Of course, Yes.

This process is not simple, emotionless, controllable (except with sufficient funds), or uncommon. The only way I’ve been able to navigate my way through has been from a State supported non-profit (Parkview Services) and the long-suffering yet effective coordination with my counselor who they appointed, Ivy Willis. (She’s getting a raise, right guys?) I was lucky enough to make the one call to the one phone number that I had the courage to find in the paperwork that led me to working with free (to me except through taxes) professionals. If I’d tried to field every phone call, try to decipher and answer every letter, and handle the logistics of taxes and insurance I’d probably be much less healthy physically and mentally. Even with such support, friends have suggested that I am experiencing some of the symptoms or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I am not surprised to hear the impact this experience can have on people who try to do this without help.

After the last of the phone calls and emails this afternoon I got back to work. Every hour spent handling the negotiations is an hour spent not making the money necessary to pay the mortgage. I poured a cup of tea and served myself a macaroon made by a friend who owns and runs a chocolate shop (Chocolate covered macaroons are marvelous, but I don’t eat enough of them to justify her keeping them in stock. Even the naked ones are good. But thoughts of good food make me digress.) While I stood at my makeshift standing work desk I felt muscles relax. As each relaxed it became obvious how much tension I’ve constrained for years, probably ever since my financial Triple Whammy in August 2011.

I have to thank the people who’ve listened to my tale. Those who, when they asked, “How are you doing?”, actually cared about the answer and listened without judgment. I also thank (gee, this is sounding like the Oscars) the clients who stepped up and were happy to give me more work (particularly New Road Map and HCLE). It has been gratifying. (Hmm, I just realized that I also have to thank myself. I couldn’t have done it without me.) I also thank my fellow taxpayers, and the people who worked at enacting and enforcing such legislation. A lot of people are involved, but there are a lot of us that need the help.

There are chapters of insights and revelations, but I’ll save those for introspection and maybe for subsequent posts. There are months of “trial period” and tentative arrangements within which to pass along anecdotes that may aid others.

For now, it is time to stir the chicken and vegetable soup I’ve made from homemade stock and broth, and then sit quietly absorbing the event, and the moment, and where I stand in the process of returning to not just sustaining, but thriving. And then I’ll have some popcorn – and maybe plan a party. Oh, this really could be good. Thanks for staying tuned.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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5 Responses to Maybe A Mortgage Modification

  1. Pingback: Maybe A Mortgage Modification | ▇ ▅ █ ▅ ▇ ▂ ▃ ▁ ▁ ▅ ▃ ▅ ▅ ▄ ▅ ▇

  2. ideaworth says:

    Fantastic, Tom!!!

    I am so glad you have worked through a solution successfully on this. It has been a long and challenging chapter for you and, fortunately, in the end, the butler didn’t kill anyone.


  3. Liza Loop says:

    Yeah, Tom! Do you think it helped that I lent the money we talked about to my son? He’s in the movie business so his fortunes are even riskier than your investments. Lucky I already own the house he lives in. But then, I’d be saving the cash for him to inherit anyway — unless I lent it to you. Now he’ll inherit his own debt if he doesn’t pay it back before I die. And if I’d lent it to you? He’d inherit your note if you didn’t pay it back. All of which makes me think about how we set up the boundaries between our “family” gift economy and our “outsiders” market economy.

    I’m beginning to think that we Americans should reestablish the concept of the jubilee. According to Wikipedia:
    “The biblical requirement is that the Jubilee year was to be treated like a Sabbatical year, with the land lying fallow, but also required the compulsory return of all property to its original owners or their heirs, except the houses of laymen within walled cities, in addition to the manumission of all Israelite indentured servants.[10]”
    Contrary to popular opinion, each of us (including the government) is free to forgive debts if we so choose. We commonly do that within families but it happens much less often in general society.

    I don’t think your mortgage company is engaging in a jubilee since it still wants you to pay back all of the principal. But it is forgoing some of the interest it would otherwise collect – sort of a mini-jubilee. I guess we should be thankful for small favors.

  4. Steve says:

    So wonderful! And so sad that it took all this time and effort to do something they could have done months and months and months ago. And and…happy I am dropping in from across the country in a few weeks so can celebrate in person. Perhaps you can get some chocolate covered macaroons on order…

  5. Dori says:

    Tom, I am so happy and relieved for you! It has been a brutal and oftentimes baffling journey. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you had symptoms of PTSD! I lift my mug of tea to you and wish you much calmer waters ahead.

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