So This is What Took So Long. . . .
The short version of the story (the version I've been giving squeamish friends) is that my experience with mortgaging, refinancing, and foreclosure began with stark ignorance and ended with stupidity.
The slightly longer version is that, because of my (poor) credit, when I wanted to refinance my home at a particular time, I allowed myself to be talked into an interest-only loan. And then when, because of my (better) credit, I was able to apply for an FHA loan, I allowed myself to be talked into an ARM.
See the ignorance turning into stupidity?
When my mortgage rose $500 more a month, it took me a minute to figure out how I'd pay it. I could, but by the time I knew I could, I was behind. And the mortgage company wouldn't work with me. For months, I ran between home and Western Union, trying to catch up, getting farther and farther behind. Finally, the mortgage company wrote me off and gave me about a month to move out.
The girls and I, when we weren't at school, scoured the classifieds for rentals, townhouses, and apartments. Nothing I could afford panned out, primarily because of the dogs. Nimue would fit any landlord's criteria, but Frody definitely would not. And then, of course, there was my (sucky and getting suckier) credit. Eventually, the mortgage company enlisted one of its realtors, aware of our financial situation, to find somewhere for us to live.
The best prospect, for a while, was a townhome about forty miles away from our current home. And in a city zoned for different schools. But (I was told at the time) that the neighborhood would take our dogs. The girls and I had to decide where our priorities were. Actually, the schools in the new place had a much, much better reputation, better network, and better facilities than the ones Juice and Goobs were currently attending, but Juice and Goobs, of course, did not care: Juice is in her penultimate year of high school, and Goobs is in her last year of middle school. Both of them are cultivating a dubious and nebulous concept they call “rep,” which, apparently, would have to be redesigned, or something, if we moved to another school zone.
Discussions about priorities became rather heated.
We finally agreed that it was more important that we not have to put Frody back in the animal shelter, and we met with the property manager about the townhome. And then the property manager told us that Frody would have to go if we moved in: he was too big. Goobs immediately burst into tears. The property manager asked me how I’d feel about having to give up the puppy. I pointed out that we had just rescued him, and so it’d hurt to abandon him, “But beggars can’t be choosers,” I added. Then the property manager asked Juice what she thought.
“I’m angry,” she said. And many other things did she say before I cut her off. And then the property manager said that since I was going through a foreclosure, my security deposit would be substantial. And then, two weeks later, the rent would be due. "Will you be able to handle all of this?" He asked. We all decided that the girls and I needed to get together and talk everything out again. We did it in the car. Somebody (I think it was Goobs) suggested that we apply at another apartment complex, one that would take big dogs.
So we went to one, obviously a last resort. I began filling out the application. I had no hope, to tell you the truth. I knew my present credit would get me blown out of the water, we’d have to put Frody in the Young Dogs’ Home, and we’d have to start all over in a new school zone. But the girls and I, for some reason, were in a good mood. Personally, I believed, in spite of everything, all appearances to the contrary, that everything would be all right. I finished the application and gave it to TPTB,* waiting to be rejected.
And then my cell phone rang. It was the property manager. He said, “Ms. G., I’ve decided to take $800 off the security deposit.” He didn’t explain why he’d decided to do that. Of course, he wanted the townhome rented, but it was really, really nice, in a lovely neighborhood, with great schools in the vicinity. It wouldn’t be on the market long. I thanked the gentleman profusely and hung up. Told the girls that the security deposit wouldn’t be as huge as originally planned.
We waited some more for the application to be rejected, laughing and joking. We were sitting in a lovely, spacious lobby, the furniture all white and plush. The sliding door opened onto the pool. It was a beautiful day. All was right with the world.
My cell phone rang again. It was the property manager. He said, “Ms. G., God is on your side. We have a house in your city, a three-bedroom, two bath, that will accept both your dogs. I just remembered it. I had been saving it for someone else, but that person keeps jerking me around, so. . . .Here’s the address. Here’s the directions. Go look at it and call me back.”
Tears actually filled my eyes. I thanked the property manager more profusely. Hung up and thanked Jesus even more profusely, told the girls, got up and began walking out of the lobby. The apartment landlord was walking our way.
“We can’t take your application, Ms. G. Your credit history. . .”
“Thank you, then, for your time,” I said, and the girls and I ran out to the car. We found the house. It was wonderful: a little smaller than the one we were leaving, but big living spaces. Siding and brick. Quiet, clean neighborhood. Huge back yard, with pear, apple and fig trees (first time I’d ever seen one of those).
Of course we took it. And now y’all are up to date**.
This is my advice, if you're ever in the fix I got myself into:
1. Contact these folk. Early.
2. Ask somebody ELSE for help if the mortgagor won't work with you. I realized, too late, that this kind of trouble is what family is for. But I was too proud to ask.
3. If all else fails, sell your house before you get too far down the road. It's better than having a foreclosure on your credit. But be careful: don't sell it to just anybody, or you might find yourself still obligated to the mortgage, though somebody else has your house.
*The Powers That Be
**Because I’m not telling you about moving. Nobody should have to suffer through that story, much less the experience.
Thank you, Jesus, for Your brand-new mercies and countless do-overs.