Tag: foreclosure

Today We Are No Longer Homeowners!

I know you’re probably cringing for me because it’s such an awful thing this whole foreclosure business but really we’re past that and on to the celebration of starting the new chapter in our lives.

A chapter where people are kind.
A chapter where we aren’t crazy dirt poor.
A chapter where my daughters are blooming from being planted in fertile educational soil.
A chapter where things only get better. (I mean on the whole, I’m sure emergencies will still occur.)
A chapter with hope as the underlying message.

With the weather being so awful-cold he hasn’t worked yet this week so rent is going to be a struggle this month but he’s going to try and figure something out (as am I).

It’s okay. We’ll get there.

In the meantime? No albatross around our necks and $120,000 less debt. Our Net Worth has improved drastically overnight.

Have a great day.

(Technically the court date was Tuesday, Jan. 6th but today is our first full day of being not-homeowners!)

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How A Decision is Born

 

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Who has ten fingers, ten toes, and stayed up far too late on the Internet?

I’ll give you a hint. The same woman who ran through about a hundred potential outcome scenarios based on different decisions we could make and their potential outcomes. While it may be pointless to live in the future, sometimes when there is a big decision it does not hurt to schedule a few hours to travel there and make your best estimates for most likely decision outcomes.

Big thanks to Annaleah because without her encouraging words I would not have had my “A-ha!” moment. She mentioned people being understanding of our circumstances and that made me think how understanding the man on the phone must have sounded and I asked Mr. B about it and he said that the man sounded more like a caricture of a used car salesman – pushy and excited – and not calm and reassuring at all. This led us to a conversation about what he said and we broke down what we thought it meant.

For those of you that have taken a moment to wonder how I slog my way through all these horribly emotional decisions, I present to you, “How Jenny deals with horrible decisions!”

First, you pick your top contenders. Because life is kinder that many people think, there are usually only three major things to choose from. This is one of those cases.

Scenario 1 – Chapter 13 and Refinance

In a perfect world, this would be our solution. File the Chapter 13 to buy some time, come up with the $2400 to restart the refinance process, begin paying the new $700 mortgage payment, and live happily ever after! Of course, the mortgage is probably 40 years and there’s a $30k balloon payment at the end of the 40 years and we are in a house we have come to hate because we wish we could go back in time and rent something instead.

Conclusion: It is a bad idea. We will end up paying almost $200k in principal and goodness knows how much in interest over the life of the loan. A monster debt that we just don’t want to be saddled with. Going through all that to sell it is also a possibility, but it would be sold for so much less than we owed we would be trapped again. The Chapter 13 would make us seem even more financially irresponsible and renting would be that much more difficult unless we were sure to find a place where people wanted to hear your story and not just see how you look on paper.

Scenario 2 – Chapter 13 with New Foreclosure

The “extra shady and morally bankrupt” version of the plan is to go through with the Chapter 13, get a modified mortgage, pay on it for a while and go through this whole thing again, buying us another two years of no payments while this goes through the motions for a second time.

Conclusion: Financially this might actually be the best decision. By the time we got through a second foreclosure Mr. B would be a Journeyman making twice as much as he does right now. We could easily pay rent and save money. Decisions, however, are more than just dollar signs and decimal points and it would be immoral and best and illegal at worst. I want to teach my children to make wise financial decisions and getting charged with fraud is not a good way to start that process. My foreclosure now was not an intended outcome of buying the house, I certainly won’t go into another two years of freefall and sacrifice what morality I do have for the sake of money.

Scenario 3 – Current Plan Continues

The current plan – wait out the foreclosure until the last minute while getting rid of every unnecessary item we own – still seems to be the clear winner. We are taking care of the house and the yard, the interior of the house is in good shape, and the house will be resold fairly easily once we are out. The six month eviction timeframe will allow us to get through Taxmas and have money ready to spend on a new place.

Other Warning Signs

Upon further inspection, the language in the letter we received was similar to the law advertisements. Once Mr. B talked to the man and he revealed he was an attorney with NACA, we realized it may be the case they don’t have to disclose the advertisement because they are not-for-profit and thus it is not an advertisement for profit.

2. The man would not further discuss the class action lawsuit with Mr. B on the phone even though he brought it up and asked for the criteria for plaintiffs multiple times. He did, however, whip Mr. B into a lather with the urgency of needing to get to the federal courthouse first thing in the morning to file the Chapter 13 and call him with the case number right away so he could stop the auction.

3. A Chapter 13 is a restructuring of debt that involves payments. The lawyer made it sound like they would take all the arrears and put them at the end of the modified loan in order to make our payment $700. This now adds a balloon payment at the end of the loan, which is an offer I already turned down because it is not feasable to pay a mortgage another 30 years from this point in order to have a $25k balloon payment on the end.

4. The only way this is actually a good deal is if we get the remodification, pay some payments, stop, and go through another two year foreclosure process. I may be a little hither and thither in the moral compass area but that’s really, really fraudulent stuff.

We have come to the conclusion that the letter was an option but not one in our best long-term interest. I don’t like solutions that only work if I’m emotionally desperate to keep a physical object. Financially it’s a bad deal, but it’s being presented like a Christmas present wrapped in golden paper. I don’t know what the company we would be working with gets or how they benefit but the pressure Mr. B felt says to me there is something beyond helpful people wanting to use their helpful organization to be helpful. While I can’t put my finger on it, I know there’s something wrong.

I keep thinking of that lawyer at the legal aid place. When I asked if she ever saw a circumstance when keeping the house was in the best financial interest of the client and she reluctantly said, “No. Not in my experience.” When a woman who sees hundreds (thousands?) of people doesn’t see one who is making a smart financial decision, it’s my responsibility to make extra sure I don’t make the same mistake if I want my family to thrive.

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Bankruptcy and a Citimortgage Class Action Lawsuit?

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I receive a LOT of junk mail.

Most of it is advertisements from law firms who want me to call RIGHT AWAY to SAVE MY HOUSE. I sigh, because wouldn’t it be nice to actually be able to make a phone call and have something of substance happen? Going through this process has been awful. Even before foreclosure was looming or processing there was the FHA streamline refinance that we tried to do. We couldn’t because there was a HUD partial claim from a 2005 refinance and Citimortgage denied ever helping to process that and did not have the paperwork.

Bummer for us, we have only become people that save things in the last seven or so years, so we didn’t have that paperwork to prove anything.

Our FHA streamline refinance that would have kept this whole foreclosure thing from happening by lowering our payment by almost half? It didn’t happen because we didn’t have the paperwork AND we had no way of getting the paperwork from Citi. It was a bad deal all around, really. I didn’t talk about it too much because it’s a thing that happened and I tried not to focus on it too much since it was water under the bridge and I try to deal with the now, not the then, in order to stay sane and not spend my whole life second-guessing myself.

So when I got this green sheet of paper in the mail it kind of felt like junk mail but it didn’t say anything about advertising on it. The law states you have to state communication from a lawyer is an advertisement on the envelope, I think, because if not I’m sure these law firms would use all the shady tactics in the world. They still manage to imply all kinds of things even when you know it’s an ad.

I handed it to Mr. B and asked him to give them a call and see if it was just another paper for the round file and he asked me if I remembered the number you type in to block yourself on caller ID. (It’s *67 in case you’ve forgotten.) He talked to a lawyer from NACA for almost a half hour and the man gave us advice he said, “…would cost $2000 if you went to one of those places that promise they can stop your auction before it’s too late.”

The advice? File Chapter 13 bankruptcy. I had heard of this technique but thought it was too late for us to do it. I thought it had to be filed before the official foreclosure process started.

Filing Chapter 13 would buy us two more months for NACA to work with Citi and get a modification worked out. They would need two months of the previous mortgage ($2400) at the end of the two months, but if we did that we would be current on the mortgage and our new payment would be $700. A far more manageable sum of money to come up with every month than the $1200 we were paying. (Yes, the $700 includes taxes and insurance and yes, I’m pretty sure it’s too good to be true.)

I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do. I’m not sure if we could even come up with $2400 in two months. I don’t know how much it costs to file a Chapter 13 in my county. Okay, I looked it up. It will cost $281 to file the Chapter 13 at the courthouse.

So, worst case scenario, we buy two more months by filing the Chapter 13 and it costs us $281. Other case scenario, we come up with the $281 to file and the $2400 for the bank and we get a refinance that keeps us here for the low, low price of $700 a month. (It’s not really a “low, low” price. It just sounded good when I said it out loud as I typed.)

Also, we pretty much qualify to be part of the class action lawsuit. So we’ll get a couple grand and a lawyer will get a shiny new private jet because tort law.

What the hell am I going to do?

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July Net Worth & Budget Update

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Okay, so first I have a question.

If you’re in foreclosure how do you calculate your net worth? Do you get to cross of that line item entirely?

Did my debt just go down astronomically? Did my net worth increase? Did my paper net worth increase but my personal net worth go straight into the toilet?

Before I just keep rambling, I’m going to Google it. Let’s see what “How does foreclosure affect your net worth” turns up!

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So that was disappointing.

Now I feel like the only person who tracks their net worth who is in foreclosure.

Oh well. Let’s update the budget. Guess what? I have another graphic. We’re picture heavy today because pictures are fun.

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I pulled this from my post on priority budgeting with irregular income (if you haven’t read it yet you might want to, it was really helpful for me) and we almost had a roadbump in the path today. When I finally got Mr. Brickie’s check this morning I threw some math together and looked at my sheet and almost decided to change how the list was prioritized.

As I put in the numbers from #3 up there into the bill pay on my bank website I had a passing thought, “I should just pay the whole thing. It’s not that much.” Less than $100 on the Electric and less than $30 on the gas bill. What kind of a difference can $130 really make?”

I have finally learned that when I have thoughts like that I need to step away from the computer (and risk everything logging me out due to inactivity) and try to figure out why I’ve changed my mind. After thinking about it quietly for a few minutes I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a combination of trying to use the snowball mentality to catch up on bills, but also these thoughts I have like, “It’s only a little bit of money. We’ll have more in a week. If it’s not in the account, we can’t spend it.”

It’s also the reason I make my lists in advance before I have the money. When I have the money I get scared and want to get rid of it and pay something so it doesn’t slip through my fingers and not go toward our debt snowball. Then I have forgotten something.

My husband and I are are different people than we used to be. 

We used to be the couple that would actually be able to say (at least once in a while) we have 24 cents in the checking account, I hope nothing goes through before we get paid again! It was pretty much always under $100. If we had money, we spent the money. We hardly ever did anything fun and lived almost as frugally as we do now. We had a serious income problem.

We learned how to save when we owned a business and had irregular income.

Now we have BOTH of these amazing tools. We know how to live frugally and understand the difference between a want and a need. We are in the process of fixing the income problem right now and Mr. Brickie should see his first raise/promotion go into effect next week, to be realized on the paycheck the week after (the check on the 30th, what a great way to close out the month, right?)

Maybe it seems like we must be irresponsible or have priority issues since our house is in the process of a foreclosure. I understand that. I wish more than anything we had found the Bricklayer’s Union years sooner than we did. Or that I had noticed how happy doing DIY projects around the house made Mr. Brickie and translated that into the potential for a satisfying, well-paying blue collar job.

I wish we had thought outside the white collar box so much sooner.

We both feel okay about what’s happening but trip and fall into a puddle of feeling like a failure a few times a day. Last night, we spent a few minutes with our heads on our pillows before we fell asleep listing the things we are grateful for. Things we never thought we would have in life. Amazing things close to our hearts. It reduced our anxiety and helped us sleep.

Mr. Brickie originally went through the training to be a bricklayer at the beginning of 2013 and it was a rocky year last year. Now he’s working overtime and the check we got today for $740 means I get to put money away for Christmas <– yes, I actually really did this today! I think I’m going to be able to do cash for Christmas! If we are able to do cash for Christmas, we can then use the entire tax return next year for moving expenses. I know the decisions I make today – sticking with the priority budget – are going to determine what our lives will look like at this time next year…wherever we live.

So, here is what our net worth looks like today:

Liability Asset
House 0 0
Car 10172 9000
Student Loans 61275 0
Credit Cards 1890  Total Debt
73337 9000 $64,337
How much less in debt we are in since the April update: $45,176

So even though we woke up yesterday morning before the mail came and had a house, now today we don’t. Everything I’ve researched on our loan says the mortgage company doesn’t come after us for the balance so we should be able to walk away free and clear. Sure, our credit will take a hit but I’m not going near credit again. Other than the cards we have and the car we have I want to save up and buy the next car with cash.

Honestly, I’m pretty sure I never, ever, ever want to own a home again. I read about Kelly and her decision to never own a home again and it spoke to my heart in a way that made me realize that if people who have money and aren’t in a tenuous situation are choosing to rent then maybe I can trust my own logic and not doubt myself just because of my bank account balance.

I guess my net worth change is good. It’s better than it was when it was over a hundred thousand. It’s all on paper, though. We won’t know if this was the best or worst thing to ever happen until it’s ten years from now and we can look back with the beauty of hindsight.

I think we’re going to be okay, but maybe that’s just my optimism showing. I’m not usually an optimist, though, so maybe the odds are in my favor.

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Foreclosure, Reality, and Emotional Pain

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I knew we had an appointment in Chancery court on July 11th. I knew we did.

Sort of.

We’ve had previous appointments with the court and they always sent us something in the mail. Mr. Brickie, after the last court date, said, “I’ll just show up at the date they say to. Just in case.”

I am the one who told him to wait for the papers to come in the mail.

I am the one who flicked the first domino and chose this path.

I am the only one to blame.

Chancery court is so far behind in cases (I said) and you shouldn’t have to take a day off work (a day you’re working overtime, I said) to go to a court date that might not even be yours (I said) and get sent home with no pay for the day and no information (the way they do, I said) even if I want just one. more. stay. before they decide forevermore they are going to sell our home at auction (because one more stay would have guaranteed one more full school year, I said) because they have been so good about informing us of our next court date (I cooed into his ear before we slept at night) and he believed me.

I am so rarely wrong, you see. I do my research and I find out the facts and I don’t share untested theories as fact and I don’t rely on “I hope so” and “It’s probably okay” so he had no reason not to believe me.

Really, everyone believes me. I’m a very believable person. I’m right with astonishing accuracy because I hate being wrong. I do not accept mistakes as a natural outcome of the law of numbers. I am better than that (I said) and we will persevere and get through this (I said).

I was mistaken.

I was not just a little bit mistaken. I did not tell my husband to take an umbrella with him on a sunny day. I was mistaken about something wicked important. Our house (which is no longer our house) that I have the papers stating and have to tell Mr. Brickie about when he gets home from work today (his last day as a 40% apprentice.)

The Reality of the Situation

According to the first lawyer we ever talked to (the lovely, young lawyer who paled and stuttered when I asked, “Out of everyone you’ve ever talked to, has it ever been a wise financial decision to fight for the home?”) who told us our time frame from this moment or, rather, the moment from July 11th when the clock (the foreclosure auction sheriff-at-the-front-door clock) starts ticking like something out of only the largest, scariest MC Escher painting.  We have – about – nine months from July 11th to get out of our home. We might have a little extra time but the real clock – the big  TIME TO START OVER Y’ALL clock is now ticking for real and we are no longer living in a state of flux. Or, as I liked to call it, “Our state of grace.”

In nine months(ish) we are going to give birth to a new life. I have a feeling it’s going to physically hurt less than childbirth and emotionally tear my brain in half. Maybe I’m overreacting and it will be an easy move. We’ve been decluttering for a year here and there and plans are in place for what will come with and what will go in storage and lists are made. So the focus of the blog will change slightly and we’ll be talking about getting ready to move.

Same family stories, just stories about a family transitioning to a new place, probably a new school system, and all the things surrounding the move and the finances getting us there.

Even when you prepare for all outcomes (and yes, I mean all outcomes, you should see my charts) it doesn’t make getting hit in the gut any less breathtaking. You can know in your head you’re making the best possible financial decision and feel with every feel in you that you’ve lost this round of the game of life.

My breath is taken.

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Wendi’s Story | Hearts & Homes Series | Updated June 2014

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Wendi blogs at Sudden Silence. Her story is ongoing and will be updated when updates are available. 

 We walked in to the Making Home Affordable seminar with high hopes.  Arriving just after it opened at 1 pm, we signed in and took a seat to wait for a rep from our mortgage provider, CitiBank.  As we waited, a video clip played over and over.  We listened to homeowners who had received mortgage assistance last year at this seminar talk about what a relief it was, how important it was to save your home and not let it go into foreclosure.  The various options were described (modification, interest rate reduction, principal write-down) and the basic message was:  You did the right thing by coming here and talking to your lender, because now they can help you.  There’s help for everyone if you just ask!

After waiting for over three and a half hours while other people with other lenders were taken back within five minutes of sitting down, we were finally called to meet with our rep.  (Apparently computer trouble was the reason for the horrible delay.)  We had every document required; we had every form on the website downloaded and filled out…all nine pages of information.  I was feeling unexpectedly hopeful after listening to the video clip for over three hours.  I should have known better.

We sat down and explained that nearly half of our mortgage was currently being paid by the Illinois Hardest Hit Fund, and that agreement was ending in July of this year.  We were hoping to get a permanent modification similar to what we had from HHF (Hardest Hit Fund) – where you pay 31% of your monthly income instead of your full mortgage payment.  We had been doing this for over a year and getting by okay, but we would not be able to handle the full mortgage come August.  We hoped that our track record of 100% on-time payments on all of our debts would work in our favor.

What Do You Do When You’re Only Offered A Bad Deal?

As the rep asked questions that we had already answered on the documents we’d filled out (which were apparently unnecessary), he scrolled through screens and eventually mumbled that he could offer us a 3.5% interest rate.  We’d already explained that we weren’t interested in an interest rate reduction; our rate is currently a low 4.5% already, and a drop of 1% would barely make a dent in our monthly mortgage payment.  He was apologetic, but said we didn’t qualify for any other programs because we have a VA loan, and they don’t participate in principal reduction plans.  Within 15 minutes of sitting down, we were done.  We got up, shook the rep’s hand and left.

We tried to salvage the waste of an afternoon by reasoning that at least we had done what they recommended, and we had tried everything.  We got the information we needed, just not the result that we wanted.  I hadn’t gone into the seminar with high hopes, but I had gotten progressively excited as we waited.  It was very, very hard to leave there knowing we were still facing August with no plan in place.  I had to fight back tears as we silently walked the long, long path back to the parking garage.

This was Thursday, and I really needed the weekend to recover from the disappointment.  I was trying not to panic, trying to really believe things would work out and that whatever happened was meant to happen.  I really, really like having a safety net, though, a Plan B.  I felt so vulnerable and unsure of what our next move should be.  I really didn’t want to foreclose on the house, even though we’d met with a Realtor the previous month and she’d told us we could not sell the house for anywhere near what we needed to pay off the mortgage.  The real estate market in our area of Illinois is still very depressed, and we have lots of houses either in foreclosure or short sale that are killing the value of the surrounding homes.  It was so frustrating – we want to move and sell the house and do the right thing…pay off our mortgage and other bills, then downsize to a smaller house in a more affordable area.   But no matter what we do, it just will not come together.  Everything we try seems to fall apart.

Maybe A Lawyer Could Offer Some Solid Assistance

Dave had made an appointment for Monday afternoon with a bankruptcy attorney.  I knew we’d have to file bankruptcy at some point, since the housing market was so terrible.  Our original plan, back when our house was valued at over $270,000, was to get the kids both through high school and into college, then sell the house, pay off all our debt, and move to a smaller place.  Now, we couldn’t even sell the house at a price high enough to pay off the mortgage; there was no way we could pay off our credit card debt, which had grown to an enormous amount over the past 11 years.

I went into this meeting with a very downbeat attitude.  I expected to find out that we didn’t qualify for bankruptcy or hear some other hope-dashing announcement.  I was hoping to be able to wipe out the credit card debt but keep the house.  As it stood, we could afford to either pay the credit card minimums or pay the mortgage, but not both.  I figured if we wiped out the credit card debt and kept the house, maybe the market would rebound in the next year and we could sell it for enough to pay off the mortgage.

So we met with the lawyer, and he confirmed that we could file for bankruptcy with no problem.  We talked some more about our long term goals and he pointed out that we really would probably need much more time, possibly 10 years, before we could sell the house for what we needed to get.  I kind of knew my idea wasn’t realistic, but it was different hearing it put so plainly.  So we talked about the ramifications of including the mortgage in the bankruptcy.  Even though it seemed like a fairly obvious course of action, I needed some time to digest this new information and decide if it felt like the right move.

By the time we left the lawyer’s office, I pretty much knew that I was on board with including the mortgage in the bankruptcy.  And as some time passed and I thought about it more, I could feel a huge weight lifting off my shoulders.  There were so many things connected to selling the house that were worrisome to me – passing the two inspections (one required by the village, one for the buyer) and how we would afford to make any repairs that were required; all the stress involved in having the house for sale and showings and worrying if we’d ever get an offer on the house that was enough to even pay off the mortgage, let alone pay for the closing costs and leave us with enough to buy another house; all the improvements we still needed to do just to list the house and even have a prayer of getting within $10,000 of the amount we needed to pay off the mortgage.  After that visit from the Realtor in March, I really was not feeling confident that we’d ever sell the house because she seemed to think a LOT of improvements would need to be made before we could list.  Here I was, thinking the house was really in good shape and looked good enough to list just as it was!

My main concern with giving up the house was finding another place to live.  I felt like we could never qualify even to RENT a place with a bankruptcy on our record and the subsequent hit our credit score would take.  (For the record, as of June 2013 my credit score was 749, which is fairly decent.)  I was under the impression that as soon as the bankruptcy was filed, that meant we stopped paying on the credit cards (thank God) but also that we would have to leave the house and immediately find a new place to live…a place that would allow us to bring our four cats.

The lawyer explained that that’s not how it works.  The foreclosure has to go through the courts, and right now that’s taking 18 months.  As he said, “You stay in your house for 18 months and you save the money you would have paid on your mortgage.  (Note:  For us, that’s $1,500 per month.)  When you do have to leave, you’re leaving with enough money to put down six months’ rent or a big down payment on another place.  With so many people filing bankruptcy, they will most likely understand your circumstances.”  Our goal all along had been to find a place in Michigan that we could buy on land contract, which is like a rent-to-own situation.  We could put enough down that we wouldn’t need to make payments for very long, and we don’t have to secure a mortgage through a bank (something we most likely would not be able to qualify for).

Uncertainty Eats Away At Hope No Matter How Prepared You Are

There’s still some uncertainty that makes me nervous, since there’s no guarantee exactly how long we can stay and, therefore, how much money we can ultimately save.  I really don’t want to be in a position where they’re dragging us out of the house and we have no place to go – I’d like some warning, so we have enough time to find a new place and get moved.  But that’s less stress than the stress that would be involved in trying to sell the house in this terrible real estate market, AND find a new place to live with pretty much no money down.  So I’m going for the lesser of two evils.

I’m writing this over time, adding on as things progress.  It’s now the second week of June and we’ve given the lawyer the retainer fee and the paperwork he needed, and we’ve taken the online Debtor’s Education class that we’re required to take.  That was a hoot and a holler, and deserves its own special section!

The first thing that I found amusing was that you have to pay for the online class…with a credit card.  Which is one of the main things that got us in trouble in the first place!  We aren’t using credit cards anymore, and we had to come up with a way to pay for this class.  Thank God for PayPal; I was able to use our PayPal debit card for the payment, since it’s a MasterCard.  (I don’t let PayPal pull from our checking account to cover debit card transactions; if the money isn’t already in our PayPal account, the transaction won’t be approved.  I prefer the extra security in case someone nefarious gets a hold of the number.)

Once we figured out the payment issue, we settled in to take the class.  It was a timed class, 60 minutes, and there was a timer at the top of the screen so we could keep track of our progress.  You weren’t allowed to finish the class in less time.  We’re both fast readers, but we read through each screen slowly and then got up to do things around the house to kill enough time on each screen.  Most of the information I already knew; we didn’t get in this situation because I’m an idiot and have no self control.  I know how to save, I know the right and wrong things to do with credit cards, and I use a budget.  We don’t have ANY extra expenditures.  We never go out, we don’t drink or smoke, we don’t eat out, we never buy clothes (except, rarely, at Goodwill).  But I went along and read the suggestions, basically just to confirm that I hadn’t missed some kind of magical way to save money that I didn’t already know about.

Along the way, we plugged in our monthly income and monthly expenditures.  I didn’t bother with the credit card payments because we already knew we were filing bankruptcy and wouldn’t have to deal with those much longer.  I mainly wanted a budget we could follow once the bankruptcy was filed.  I did enter in the mortgage payment, just out of curiosity.  Again, we knew we were giving up the house and wouldn’t be making the mortgage payment, but the amount we plan to save is just about exactly the amount of the mortgage payment.  I wanted to see if that was something we could really handle financially.

Saving Money By Doing Everything You Were Already Doing

As we went along, the class gave us suggestions on ways to save money, all of which we were already doing.  But I was surprised at how little advice we really got; there are many things we did to save money that were never suggested in the class (increasing deductibles on home and auto insurance comes to mind).  In fact, the main thing the class advised was to get a second job.  This advice was given to those who had already lost their ONE job and couldn’t find another.  Just get a second job!  Everything will be fine!

It got to the point where Dave and I were just laughing out loud at each new screen, as the timer counted down.  I suppose this would be a helpful class for someone who was absolutely clueless, but for two intelligent adults, it was really a waste of time (and money).  We learned nothing, except that our mortgage should only be 30% of our income and ours is currently over 80% of our income.  All it did was solidify our decision to let the house go, save our money until we absolutely have to leave, then find a more affordable place to live.

At this point, we’ve received the bankruptcy papers and had to go over them to verify all the information and make sure nothing was left out.  This was my job, and it was very hard for me – I was in the throes of monthly hormonal turmoil, which didn’t help.  I basically sat in front of the computer, reading along with tears dripping down my face as I silently sobbed.  I know this is the best move for us; really, it’s the only move for us that makes any sense.  I know this.  It was still very hard to see it all laid out in black and white.  It makes me feel like a complete failure.  Dave keeps telling me to look at it as a business decision and to keep emotion out of it.  I know he’s right.  I just can’t help myself; it feels like I’m getting a big fat F in ‘Life.’

Cut to July 13

We are officially filed, as of June 30.  It took a while to get the official document in the mail (which contained our case number).  Then things started rolling along briskly.  Bank of America canceled our cards, as well as American Express (which is pretty funny, considering we had a ZERO balance on that account).  We also started getting lots of offers for car loans in the mail, for people with ‘credit problems’ and things of that nature.  The sharks start circling pretty quickly, don’t they?!

We were surprised and happy to see our creditors’ meeting is July 23, just a couple of weeks away.  I’m a little nervous about this, just because, not for any specific reason.  It should be short and painless, though.  After that we wait; creditors have 60 days to dispute things in that time period.  After that, we should get a notice that the bankruptcy has been discharged, providing nothing crops up to screw with the process.

We had to take a second and final debtor’s education class online within a month of the filing date, so we decided to get that out of the way quickly before we forgot.  Again, it was $9.95 with payment method via credit card which just seems ridiculous when they know you’ve filed bankruptcy.  (We used the PayPal debit card again.)  We figured this class would be an hour long like the first class, but no – it was TWO HOURS long.  Still, though, if I have to waste two hours of my life I’d rather do it at home than in some class at a physical location with other people.

I was sort of looking forward to this class, since it was meant only for people who’d filed bankruptcy.  I thought we’d find out what to expect in the bankruptcy process, maybe learn some ways to help repair our credit, or at least find out how it would affect things for us in the future.  But no…instead, we sat through two hours of the same unhelpful ‘budget advice’ from the first session.  We couldn’t believe it!  Parts of it were even exactly the same as the first session.

When we realized what we were in for, we knew we’d be killing LOTS of time to make this last for two hours.  I don’t understand how they expect people to take two hours to read through this material; we could have done the whole class in 30-45 minutes easily.  It’s timed, though, and you can’t finish with any time left on the timer.  We ended up turning it into an exercise class; we would read the screen, get up and jog around the house a few times.  For every screen, we did something after we finished reading: calisthenics, jogging, walking, check the mail, go to the bathroom, check on the garden.  It was really silly but it was the only way to kill two hours on a class that you could finish in a quarter of that time.

So we finished, got our certificates, and then we had to rate the class.  Now, you have to understand that the class was not helpful AT ALL.  I mean, the budget advice was condescending and didn’t apply to us at all; I am the queen of budgeting.  What got us in this mess was mostly the horrific real estate market in our area, since we aren’t able to sell our house to pay off the debts like we planned to.  Of course, living off the credit cards didn’t help but I also didn’t plan to go deaf and incur huge medical bills, and we never planned for our business to take a nosedive after Google changed its algorithms a few years back.  It all mushroomed from there.  But yes, I know how to live on a VERY tight budget and we were doing things way beyond what the class was teaching.  We certainly didn’t get into this situation by buying designer clothes and Caramel Macchiatos all the time.

I wanted to be honest but Dave refused; he didn’t want it to jeopardize anything.  So he gave the class high marks across the board while I sighed in disgust.  I guess I could see it being helpful for someone very young, just starting out in life and basically clueless, but I think most adults already know this information.  Who knows, though?  Maybe other people find the classes immensely helpful.  All I can say is, thanks to the class I got a nice workout that day.  *rimshot*

Get Me To The Judicial Building On Time

Skipping ahead to the last week of July here, and our 341 Meeting of Creditors is now behind us.  Even though I’d read over and over that this was nothing to worry about, and I hadn’t really been worrying about it (just a little anxious when I thought of it), I found myself seriously nervous the day before and in the hours leading up to the meeting.  I just felt that if anything was going to go wrong here, it would happen to us.  I mean, all over the US we’re hearing about real estate booming back and people selling their houses right away, and for us it is the worst it’s ever been, with no chance of our house selling for near what it’s worth.  So I figured even though nobody else ever has any creditors show up at this meeting, they would be there for ours.

We got to the judicial building with plenty of time to spare, went through security and up to the second floor to look for the room we needed.  We walked past a man in a little cubicle area and Dave stopped, backed up, and asked, “David?”  To my surprise, the man nodded and stepped forward to shake Dave’s hand.  I had no idea what he looked like; we met with Stuart initially and never saw his partner.  I found out later that Dave had seen his photo on their website.  Smart!

He asked if we had any questions, and my only real question was about the mortgage.  For whatever reason, on our bankruptcy filing they had checked off that we were interested in a loan modification for the mortgage.  This really baffled me, but I figured it was a way to drag out the foreclosure and give us more time in the house; the lawyers did know that we planned to include the house in the bankruptcy and not reaffirm the mortgage.

Because of that checked box, the mortgage company had been contacting us (with Dave’s approval) to try to get information for a loan modification.  (Which cracks me up, by the way, considering that we ALREADY DID THIS, YOU IDIOTS…don’t they keep any of the copious paperwork they make us fill out?!)  So I asked the lawyer if we should be doing anything regarding these attempts at contact – was it okay to ignore them or were we supposed to be playing along and acting like we wanted to try (AGAIN) for a modification?  He confirmed that if we weren’t planning to keep the house, we should just ignore these attempts at contact.

He went off to meet with a couple other clients who were waiting, along with us, in the hallway.  Things were behind, so we spent about 30-35 minutes sitting on a bench.  I eyeballed everyone who came down the corridor, trying to see if they looked like a Creditor who might possibly be arriving for our meeting.  Luckily nobody seemed to fit the bill, and when our name was called (‘KAST!’) we were the only ones who walked into the room, other than our lawyer.

The room was small, with a basic table and a few chairs.  A woman sat behind the table with a laptop, and a younger girl (assistant?  trainee?) sat next to her, silently.  We took a seat, took an oath that what we declared on the bankruptcy papers was true, and then answered the questions that were quickly volleyed our way.  No, we didn’t have valuable jewelry or coins, no stocks or bonds (other than my meager IRA CD), nobody had died and left us money.  I explained about my failing candle business.  We confirmed the general value of the house and what was owed (although Dave said I heard incorrectly and told her what the house had been valued at, $150,000, was what we still owed on the mortgage; we really owe more like $160,000).  Even with my little screw-up, the questions went by quickly and less than 10 minutes had gone by before the trustee said, “Okay folks, I’m finding No Assets.  Thank you and have a good day.”

As we left the room, David told us that we’d be getting a letter in about 60 days telling us that our discharge was final.  He said we probably wouldn’t be hearing very much from them in the meantime.  Now, I know that during these 60 days our creditors can object to the discharge, so I won’t breathe easy until we get the official letter.  David’s attitude gave me the feeling that objections don’t happen very often and that they don’t expect anything to happen in our case.  Hopefully that’s true!

As of this date, we’ve gotten letters from American Express and Bank of America canceling our accounts.  Every day we get more offers for car loans.  I checked online, and our Chase and Discover accounts appear to be canceled even though they didn’t notify us.  Of all those accounts, only American Express had a zero balance so I expected the accounts to be canceled.  Out of curiosity, I checked today to see if I still had access to my Kohl’s account, which had a zero balance when we filed for bankruptcy.  It’s still there and I still have access.  It will be interesting to see how the credit card accounts play out when the discharge is final.

Dave signed up for a Credit Karma account yesterday and it shows the bankruptcy (called a Derogatory Mark).  Even with that, his credit score with TransUnion is 710 right now.  We’ll keep an eye on our credit scores over the next year, obviously.

No mention was made of the Parent Plus loan, which we’re due to begin paying back in November.  I know student loans aren’t included in bankruptcies and Stuart said they are only discharged in rare instances, so I expect to be paying it back.  It will be a good way to rebuild credit.  But I can’t lie … if we found out it had been discharged, I would be pretty happy!

September 2013

The bankruptcy is discharged!  Now we just have to make sure we don’t win the lottery or come into some money (an unknown rich relative dies and leaves their estate to us) for the next six months.

We consider the credit cards to all be canceled, which is fine.  A couple show up as still active (Sears, Kohls) on credit reports, but my online access is gone so I cut up the cards.  The Parent Plus Loan is still there (sigh) but the $50/month payment is doable.

October 2013

We decided to apply for secured credit cards, because having NO credit cards is really a pain.  We don’t plan to charge them up, but it’s nice to have a credit card number for places that require one.  Dave got a $200 secured Capital One card with an $80 deposit.  I tried for an unsecured Capital One card and was approved (!) with a $3,000 limit.  Color us shocked!

March 2014

We are now free and clear from the bankruptcy; those unknown rich relatives can bestow their riches upon us left and right.  The few things we’ve been charging on the credit cards (mainly the monthly TiVo bill of $7.95 and random things that we can’t pay for with PayPal) are paid off in full.  It feels so weird to have no debt beyond food, utilities and car insurance.

The car has acted up twice since we filed bankruptcy – it figures.  In July we had to fix the AC to the tune of $700, and this month a cable for about $200.  We also had to replace tires and wheels in January, so that took another $450.  Since we paid cash for all the repairs, it cut back on our monthly savings.  In the months that have no big setbacks, we’ve been able to save between $1,000 and $1,300.  We live very frugally, trying to save every penny to put down on a new place to live.

Dave is watching houses in Michigan, many of which can be had for under $50,000.  We can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage, so it will be renting or (ideally) a land contract for us.  We aren’t sure we’ll be able to rent because of our four cats (we refuse to give them up).  That’s probably my biggest worry right now – will we find a house on land contract?  It’s not like we can just rent an apartment in the meantime; I think it will be very hard to find a place to rent that will accept cats, especially since they aren’t declawed.

The next step is a trip to Michigan in May, to check out the towns we’re interested in and hopefully find a realtor we can work with.

Right now we feel like we are in limbo, just biding our time.  I’m no longer worried that the Sheriff will knock on the door and drag us out of the house; I finally realize that so much has to happen before it reaches that point (plus, they try to avoid scenarios like that because it looks bad and costs the mortgage company money).  But I am itching to have this all behind us, to know where we’re going to land.

June 2014

If you remember, we stopped paying the mortgage in July 2013. We got the actual Notice of Default in Jan. 2014. Everyone in IL seems to get about 2 years from the NOD before they get an auction date, so we assumed it would be the case for us too. We were planning to look for a place in Michigan in early spring of 2015.

Luckily, my husband was checking the DuPage County foreclosure auction website every day, just to be safe. And on June 6th, he found our name on the list with an auction date of August 12, 2014. !!!! (And, BTW, as of today we still don’t have an official notice from the mortgage company or anything — I think they will wait until August 12, and then give us a notice saying we have 30 days to move. Nice, huh?!)

Let’s just say that I became hysterical. That’s putting it mildly.

We’ve been saving, but didn’t have near as much as we planned to have. On top of that, we have pets (cats) and a bankruptcy, which makes renting in a complex basically impossible. All the cute, cheap little land contract homes in MI suddenly disappeared. We had NO IDEA where we could move.

We spent some time looking at super-cheap mobile homes ($5,000 to $8,000) that we could buy, since we did have that much saved. Lot rent in that area of Michigan is around $350-$400/mo. so I figured I could keep saving if our housing was that cheap. It was so depressing, though — either the mobile home was really trashy, or the park it was in was trashy, or both. I was crying every day, it was so depressing and scary.

Finally we started looking for houses to rent. We didn’t think we could find one that would allow the cats but we figured we’d try. I’ll spare you all the details, but on Monday we went to see a place about 2 hours away in Michigan. It’s tiny (the two bedrooms are 9.8 x 9) but in great shape, on an acre of land, has a full unfinished basement so we can store all the furniture that doesn’t fit upstairs, and we can bring the cats. We had to wait a nerve-wracking 24 hours for her to show the house to 4 other people and then decide who was going to get it (yikes!) but we found out yesterday that she picked us. I am afraid to consider it a done deal until the lease is signed (hopefully we’ll get it later this week).

I can’t wait to get moved and put this all behind us. I’m ready for downsized living, to be honest. And I really, really hate Citimortgage. They can kiss my ass!!

Jenny here…I know I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of Wendi’s story as it unfolds… how about you? 

Mr. Brickie Goes to Chancery Court (May 2014)

chancery-court-update

Part 1 – The Pre-Court Portion of the Blog Post

The saga of our maybe-foreclosure continues….

Yesterday, Mr. Brickie went downtown and basically dropped in on the legal aid department from Partners In Community Building (they also have a Facebook Page). Luckily, the receptionist was out and the door was answered by the amazing lady-lawyer we talked to the first time we had to file something with the court. (You can read about our first encounter with the young, smart lady lawyer on this post down to the section that says the Helper and the Lawyer.)

She told us we were on the right track and that the thing to do today was to ask for more time to file a response. I thought – all this time – we were filing an answer to the motion they filed last time. I was dead wrong. Even with Google and the plethora of law resources all over the Internet, I was wrong. Thankfully, we asked the lady lawyer and she told us we were going to ask for time to file a response. Considering the lady lawyer remembered our situation exactly when Mr. Brickie saw her again, I am holding out hope the judge recognizes Mr. Brickie as well. Considering the judge thought Mr. Brickie was a lawyer last time he was there (because he’s the only one who bothered to wear a suit and call the judge Your Honor) I think the judge will remember him and that will work in our favor, because the judge knows we are doing our best to follow the process exactly how it is supposed to go.

It helps that we have a new specialist at Citimortgage and they are starting the hardship program all over again. So we have a bunch of documents that need to get into their system by June 4th so they can process everything and decide if they are going to give us a refinance or whatever they call it when they just redo your mortgage. Of course, when they redo it they’re going to add in about $40k in lawyer expenses (the last time I checked) so we would essentially be paying a lot more for the privilege of staying in the same home. It’s a bit confusing. It would be a lot more confusing if I was emotionally invested in this house and was completely blinded to the raw numbers and how that looks.

All this would have such a different look about it if Mr. Brickie were, you know, working. The season starting late is driving us both a little batty. It’s scary and difficult to have faith no matter how much we know there is no reason to despair. It would even look better at court if he just had a few paycheck stubs to throw out there instead of a record of odd jobs and unemployment.

I’ll know later what the overall outcome was at court. His appointment is for 8:45am so he will probably get an early start and be out pretty quickly. Last time he had an 11am court time and he was out pretty quick, too. They schedule people as best they can at Chancery Court, but there are so many foreclosures happening that when we come up with our files and proper etiquette and a plan for what we are doing next, it’s just easier for the judge to give us another court date in 30 days (which, inevitably turns into 90 days because the court is so backed up). That extra three months will give us time to have an appointment with legal aid and have them look over the affidavit I’m sure is a lie from the Citimortgage side. It will give us time to find the proof that they blocked our chance for getting an FHA streamline loan before we ever missed our first payment. It will give us time to print all the emails and show the deceit and lies that were told to us over and over.

We may subpoena the Citimortgage phone records for gems like the call where the guy told me the wrong numbers and then told me he was reading someone else’s numbers and then gave me my numbers which were way more awful. Then I asked him if I could get that in writing to look it over and he promised I would get everything in writing. Of course I did not and when I asked him about it he said we got in writing what we were supposed to get and would not be getting anything else.

I’m not sure how these things help. I really don’t. The only two options I know of are:

  1. Keep the home after getting a loan modification.
  2. Leave the home and start fresh with none of this monkey on our back.

In the beginning I really wanted to just get a loan payment we could afford (we could afford the original loan amount of $975 but over the course of 10 years with a fixed rate loan we were paying $1275 a month. I could never figure out how that happened even calculating escrow. There was also this $75 fee we had every single month. They never explained what it was for and told me it would never go away. I’ve been frustrated for a long time but you just put that to the back of your mind and pay the bill. It’s our house. We paid the bill.

Until we couldn’t.

Now I just have to wait until he gets back from court so I can finish this post with what happened. This is like the pre-court think-aloud portion of the post. There is still a whole post-court part of this I’ll update when he gets home. In the meantime I’m going to go work on another post. The Insurance Bill That Ate My Family. Feel free to read that one when you’re done here if you haven’t.

Part 2 – The Post-Court Portion of the Blog Post

Ooooh…well first of all the big bad lawyer from last time wasn’t there. We were up against the guy with his name on the door the last two court dates and today there was some Junior Attorney instead who didn’t seem to know what was going on.

His 8:45am appointment got him in fourth or fifth to see the judge. First off the judge noticed we didn’t have the head of the legal firm anymore. He totally noticed we were now dealing with a Junior Associate or whatever.

I wish I knew what that meant. It seems like it has to mean something, but maybe it just means the big guy was busy with some other case. *shrug*

They accepted our request for more time to file a response!

The judge wanted to do a straight 30-days until the next court date but Junior Attorney was all, “Your Honor, I can only come in on Fridays.” LOL! So it got pushed out. But the last two times it was supposed to be 30 days exactly it wasn’t so who knows how long it will be until our next “has to be on a Friday” court date happens!

Now the more sketchy not-quite-good but absolutely-not-bad news. We have to file our response by June 10th. If they have a brief reply the mortgage company has until June 24th. Our next court date is 7/11 (Feeling lucky? LOL) The thing is, the last time we were given 30 days, it turned into 90 for the next court date. So that July date might turn into August, September, or October. I’m not sure. We never know the actual next court date until we receive notice in the mail. So we are kind of back to being in limbo like before we got the court date for this meeting.

I know. I repeated myself there. I’m trying to let it all sink into my brain so I can understand what our next best steps are.

So now we have to get the stuff Citimortgage wants to them by June 4th and the stuff has to be filed downtown at the courthouse by June 10th. Plus Mr. Brickie is expecting a call to go in to work any day now.

Things are about to get hectic around here.

The last mortgage payment we made was in August of 2013. We were told to skip three payments so we could apply for the loan modification. It was the worst advice we ever took. So in three months we will have our year-long anniversary of no mortgage payments. It’s still possible to stay here, we just have to file all that paperwork we filed before all over again so they have up to date records of everything.

Mr. Brickie ran into the opposing council in the case and they talked for a bit. The opposing council Jr. Lawyer said to Mr. Brickie that the mortgage company doesn’t tell them anything so they keep showing up and just finding out as they go along. He told Mr. Brickie to email over what we email to the mortgage company because if we are in the middle of negotiations for a modification they aren’t able to proceed with the foreclosure stuff because of that dual-tracking law. So we might be able to go to court less as this goes along.

That would be nice.

Of course as it is right now, we don’t qualify under that dual-tracking law because it’s taken so long to get to this point. But the fact that they started sooner than 120 days might cause some problems. I mean, I don’t know what the outcome of all these problems is…do we just get more time? Is it more court dates? Is it more delays?

It’s confusing.

Unfortunately, if we don’t have paychecks from Mr. Brickie working, the only modification they’re going to offer us is the one where we modify our living arrangements and get out of this house because they don’t care about our savings account. They only care about the income. Not that we would have any savings to show after the next couple days. We have to completely drain it.

So we are still on a tightrope and the best thing I can say about it is either way we have a plan.

You know how I am about planning, though, did you expect I wouldn’t have plans? LOL

But my drained savings account (or, technically, my about-to-be-drained savings account) is for tomorrow’s blog post. Something came up and while we have the money for it, it’s a huge gouge in our finances. (Oh, hey, if you don’t want to miss that story you can put in your email address and hit submit over there on the right and you’ll get my posts right in your email so the next chapter of the story comes right to you!)

Other bad news. My computer totally died yesterday but turning on the air conditioning saved her. I guess she just needs perfect weather conditions to work. I’ve crashed a few times today already but as long as the air is cool she starts back up eventually.

I really need a new computer. Someone needs to set up a GoFundMe for my birthday or something so everyone I know can kick in a few bucks and I can have a computer that works and is reliable. I know it’s a pipe dream – especially because there are so many people with those GoFundMe accounts that are homeless or hungry or doing so much worse than I am – but you know the pipe dreams keep me entertained, and that’s something. 🙂

chicken-border-bottom

Mr. Brickie Goes to Chancery Court (Feb 2014)

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A mildly inebriated Valentine’s Day house update.

I love the idea of Chancery Court. Mostly because it sounds like some kind of thing that landed gentry or uppity English people would be part of as a social thing. “Oh, Bitty, let’s go to Chancery Court!” and Bitty would reply, “Regina! That idea is tops! Let’s do!”

Then there would be gin and jazz, which would make me want to stab my eyes out in normal circumstances, but I’m sure jazz would be ever so much more wonderful if I didn’t have anything to compare it to and I was living in the stone age where people are regularly named Bitty and jazz is this new thing no one has heard before.

Do you FEEL me? 

So Mr. Brickie went into Chancery Court today. This is the very unreliable but almost entirely true account of the situation as it stands now in our lives.

We learned that being in the middle of a short sale does not forestall your eviction. So you’re welcome if you ever need to know that. This tidbit was learned while Mr. Brickie was waiting for his turn with the judge.

When it was Mr. Brickie’s turn the judge – being a smart sort of chap – didn’t try and pronounce our last name and after the third letter Mr. Brickie realized they were going to spell his last name. He stood up and right off the judge mistook him for a lawyer. Which was either great or horrible, no one will ever know.

Then the proceedings began.

Also, today we found out that the lawyer handling the mortgage company on our case was, like, the ONE law firm who pretty much had their shit totally together for everything and was totally on point. Lucky us, right? Other lawyers are making rookie mistakes and scrambling around but the lawyer we are dealing with was all. “Oh, hai, I’ve been here doing the right thing all along.”

Is it wrong to hope the building that law office is housed in burns down to the ground? It’s okay, you can be honest.  

Except when the judge busted him doing NOT the right thing. That part was fun as all get out.

Mr. Brickie, at one point, informed the judge he had filed a motion. The lawyer for Citi said, “Oh no you didn’t!” Mr. Brickie said, “It was filed on the 7th.” The lawyer for Citi said, “Oh no you didn’t! It was filed on the 6th!”

The judge looked at the lawyer from Cit and said, “Uh…you need to read these motions, dawg. You just busted yourself out.”

You know this is all paraphrased, right? I hope so. Lawyers and judges do not talk like that.

So the lawyer said nothing and was all looking like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar.

BUSTED.

Mr. Brickie was all, “Uh huh THAT’S RIGHT” (in his head, you can’t say that to a judge)

They filed a continuance and we get to do this sexy rumba again in a month.

Bur, for now, we are still here with nothing progressing toward foreclosure.

So, there’s that.

 

Trains, Courthouses, and Exhaustion Beyond Coffee

metra-rail-train

This morning we took the little one and hopped the train and went downtown.

We really had no idea what we were in for.

Armed with a messenger bag full of tax returns, paperwork, and electronics for the preschooler (that, seriously, you know she never touched, right?) we trekked off on our train adventure.

Lucky for us, most of the rush hour passengers are gone by the time we got there for our 8:11am train. We were able to score seats across from each other and the little one sat on our laps – trading off whenever she got a little bored – during the journey. I knew we were keeping her indoor voice going strong when people leaving the train stopped to tell me how adorable she was. She ate it up and always said, “Thank you.” which made them melt.

She’s going to be dangerous, this one.

We got off the train at Millennium Station and decided we were going to try and get to our destination via the Pedway, so we wouldn’t have to spend extra money on a taxi.

Since we aren’t moles, we totally got turned around and walked for like five blocks underground before starting to get freaked out and feeling like maybe we’d never see daylight again. We saw a staircase that said Washington Street and were like, “Sunlight! Yea! It can’t be worse out there than it is down here!”  Also, I might have been having a problem with my very friendly daughter talking to every single homeless person underground. I didn’t stop her because they’re human and deserving of interaction because it has to be hard being invisible while hundreds of people swarm by. It still made me mildly uncomfortable, though, in the same way it would if she were talking to pretty much anyone else in the Pedway. She just happened to engage with the people who were sitting (more on her level) talking to the crowd (she’s really responsive) or playing music (because that’s pretty cool). Basically, she was interacting with the most social people in the city and while I wasn’t about to stop her we had an appointment and I couldn’t let her get sucked into a half hour conversation with anyone.

The Helper and the Lawyer

The first place we went was to Legal Aid across from the Daley Center. They were super nice and we went upstairs and filled out some forms and were introduced to a very nice lady (who shall remain nameless for privacy purposes) who collected and scanned all the documents we brought while telling us her life story. Okay, not her life story.

She told us about her condo. She lived at her condo for 17 years and then she lost her job. After she fell for a couple scams and finally got help, she ended up with a new 30-year mortgage and a payment that was higher than before. So after 17 years, she has made less than no headway. She decided she wanted to work for a company that made sure that didn’t happen to other people.

I’m not sure why, but this did not leave me feeling either inspired or hopeful. It left me sad. We filled out many more forms, found out that we were supposed to bring in 2012 W-2 forms but everything else was scanned and accounted for.

Our next stop was to talk to the lawyer.

She was in her twenties if she was a day. I mean, this girl was young. Not only was she young but she was at Legal Aid (that means pro bono) wearing some of the most expensive clothing I have ever seen. Cream colored cable knit sweater, black tights, and gold ballet flats. She was business causal in a way that I have only seen in catalogs. She was also very direct and on point.

She walked us through what happened up until we got there, what will happen next, and gave us a timeline.

She said two things that caught me off guard:

1. She flat out asked me what I wanted. When I asked her to be a little more specific, she said, “I want to know if your goal is to stay in your home or stay in your home as long as possible until you are foreclosed on.” Oh! “I can tell you that?” Yep. So I told her I was on the fence. Staying would be easier but I’m not going to be in a situation where I pay more just for the privilege of not having to move.

2. She told me if the car was sold outright for less than it was worth, the mortgage company could legally come after me for the difference. I asked, “I thought with FHA that didn’t happen.” She said it did. Mr. Brickie asked, “Isn’t that what mortgage insurance is for?” She said, “I don’t know how mortgage insurance works, I’m trying to inform you of your rights and responsibilities.

So I was confused because every resource and every lawyer and even people who ask questions on the Dave Ramsey show hear that if you have an FHA loan, no one comes after you for the difference.

She handed me a piece of paper to take over to the Daley Center and submit at the clerk’s office.

I asked if I could ask her one little question. Her mouth said yes but dang if her eyes said no. I ignored the eyes and asked, “Has anyone ever chosen to keep their home for a reason that was not emotional? Is it ever a better decision financially – from what you have seen – to fight for and keep the house?”

It took ten minutes but she finally got to the point and said, “No. The reasons are always emotional. Well, that and your credit rating but even with that your credit rating is hurt almost as much by a short sale or a deed-in-lieu than a full-on foreclosure.”

Well, crap.

To the Daley Center

daley-picasso

Yes, he IS looking at you. In case you were wondering. That’s our famous Daley Center Picasso. Or, “The Horsey” to pretty much any kid on earth.

On our way in Mr. Brickie has a minor meltdown because it’s a courthouse in Chicago and we have cell phones and headphones and the LeapPad and he’s thinking we’re never getting past security. I completely ignore him because I’m too practical to engage in that kind of paranoid, right? I walk up to the nearest security person (police officer?) and ask if cell phones and everything else will be a problem getting through security. I even showed her my FitBit (I’m pretty sure she’s going to buy one now, you are very welcome Fitbit company) to make sure it’s not going to make me look suspicious.

Everything was fine and we sailed through security.

The lawyer gave us a sheet with floors and room numbers so we knew right where to go. The first place was on the 28th floor and we now know that DD freaks out on elevators. The More you Know™ right? We turned in our fee waiver and the judge signed it. We took the whole shebang down to the filing room and got everything turned in.

Next Steps

We got back to the train station with a little less than a half hour until our 1:30pm train left. DD ate the cake pop I bought her at some Starbucks along the way. I’m not usually a food reward kind of mom, but she was as perfect as a four year old could possibly be all day. Polite, engaging, friendly … if she had wanted a pony instead of a cake pop I might have tried to make it happen. I was so proud of her.

We have another copy of the answer to the foreclosure and I just have to mail it to the  law office handling the foreclosure for our mortgage company.

If we don’t choose to keep the house, that piece of paper is going to give us an extra 4-6 months of being in the house on top of what we already have. If we do choose to keep the house, it lets us become more financially solvent so we can pay mortgage payments. A complete win-win.

You might be wondering why I haven’t already mailed that piece of paper since I’ve been on the ball this whole time. Funny story…I sat down after I got home and immediately fell asleep. Not a quick nap, either. I woke up with my mouth hanging open with drool all over the place. I was exhausted!

I wanted to update you first, so I wrote this as soon as I woke up. After I hit “Publish” I’m going to fill out an envelope and go mail that letter to the lawyer.

Tomorrow? The follow up phone call with NACA. We have two companies we are going to use to get us through this mess. That’s two better than zero, for sure.

Also, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the emails, comments, posts, and notes with warm wishes. Knowing I’m not all alone in the world makes this so much easier to deal with.

Really….thank you.

The Mortgage Company Won’t Be My Valentine

clockwork heart

This is the part where you act all shocked and surprised in an attempt to be supportive.

Come on, you could look a little horrified. Okay, maybe not.

But we have things in the works, my friends.

Before that (and hopefully before I double-enter seventy more one-line paragraphs) I wanted to update you on The Credit Card Fiasco that Created Christmas. It’s a quick update because the tax return is going to take care of them all and I’m going to tuck them ever-so-gently into my little zipper pouch that I hide on the moon and not use them again.

Crisis averted.

In addition I have enough to pop into an online savings account (out of sight, out of mind) for first/last/security in case that becomes a necessity. No homeless shelters for me!

One of the things that I learned is that there isn’t actually anyplace we looked at that has all three (first/last/security) because they either have first/last or first/security and because I have three names in my head I got all confused and thought it was x3 when it’s not. I’m still saving x3 because then we have a little extra or in case we have to bribe a landlord to ignore my credit report because what’s happening with the mortgage is going to make a landlord that checks that kind of thing cry.

Of course, we aren’t planning on going a traditional route. We are hoping to get a place to rent from a friend of a friend and hopefully that will avoid the whole fiasco.

But every month we postpone that. Every month we don’t have to move is another month closer to Mr. Brickie moving up in the apprentice program and getting those big raises. We have to get through two raises. It’s like a mantra I repeat to myself almost daily. “Just two raises, we just need two raises.”

He is 14 work-days from his first raise.

Thanks so much for asking! Yes, it does make it more painful to be SO close and not there yet. It really does. he should be able to get through it pretty well come Spring but there’s still a ways to go before Spring and breaking ground happens on the next job. (The bright side, of course, is that the next job is already scheduled for Spring so there won’t be any confusion or scrambling to get Mr. Brickie on a job when the weather breaks. Small mercies, right?) In the meantime we keep on keepin’ on.

Back to the Mortgage Stuff

We received thick packages from a law office letting us know there is a court date where all the nasty things begin to happen like sales and transfers and auctions. This means two things happened simultaneously.

  1. We all had panic attacks. I don’t care how prepared you are that is a stressful letter to receive.
  2. We now qualified for programs that wouldn’t talk to me before I had said court date.

Mr. Brickie got on the phone and started making connections. We had heard about NACA a while ago thanks to a friend of mine, but they aren’t really able to help unless you have a court date. Well, it’s possible they could have helped us sooner, but I’m not sure. We filled out the forms and Mr. Brickie had a phone meeting this morning and now I have to fax over a bunch of paperwork to them today.

He has a second (and final) phone interview scheduled with them tomorrow but tomorrow isn’t going to work for us because we have to go downtown to talk to the county legal aid. We can tell them what we’re doing with NACA and figure out who can best help us. I kind of want Mr. Brickie to reschedule the “let’s all go downtown on a train” appointment and keep the “calling on the phone” appointment but he seems to think it’s better to do it the other way.

I have to remember to ask him why. I’m pretty sure he won’t have a good reason. He just goes with things without thinking them through sometimes. He can be so frustrating sometimes because he wants to defend his opinions even when he’s not sure why he’s having them. I get it, he feels like I’m second-guessing him. But I wouldn’t need to if he thought through his decisions in the first place.

You know that last paragraph is totally one sided and he would tell you that he does think things through, right? Don’t take this as gospel. That last bit was mostly venting.

I can be so human sometimes. Ugh. Mostly I can be so, “I don’t want to go downtown on a train with a four year old and I’m going to do everything in my power to convince you that it’s a bad idea because stress, anxiety, and panic.” I hate public transportation. I hate it even more in winter. I hate it EVEN MORE during rush hour. Bringing my child with? We have just entered a whole new stratosphere of stress. Like, punching people stress.

Luckily I have lovely legal drugs given to me by my lovely doctor for that kind of anxiety. I only take them “as needed” so they don’t get a lot of use since most of my life is these four office walls right now. But for this? Oh you can bet your butt cheeks I’m going to consider that a needed moment in anti-anxiety pill land.

Oh! I asked Mr. Brickie about rescheduling the Horrible Train Experience™ and he had a totally valid point I didn’t want to hear. He just told me, “No, we can’t reschedule the “go downtown” appointment because the one we got tomorrow was a cancellation.”

I still don’t want to go. But driving through rush hour will be so much worse than the train. Plus parking is so expensive downtown.

Of course, taking the train is going to be $31.50 round trip for all three of us, plus the taxi we are going to take from the train station because it would be inhumane to make the 4yo walk four and a half (city) blocks in downtown Chicago during rush hour when everyone is power walking to work on auto-pilot, not paying attention to their surroundings. She’ll get totally stepped on and then I’ll get all mama bear and getting arrested won’t get me to the appointment now, will it?

So train + taxi = getting to the law appointment on time.

I have no idea what any of these people are going to do to actually help us. I do, however, know that having help is way better than having no help, so I’m all over it and will happily pop pills and get into crowded trains if that is what it takes.

In case I haven’t mentioned it, both of us have to be at the appointment. If I could just send Mr. Brickie and stay home with the young’un I would totally do that. He would probably prefer it that way, too. On the bright side, I’ll probably get some cute Instagram pics of DD because I’m not going to be able to resist taking her to a Starbucks or Au Bon Pan or Corner Bakery downtown.

How could anyone?

Oh, I forgot to tell you! The reason the mortgage company doesn’t want to be my valentine is because our court date is on Valentine’s Day! Har Har! But also, because once you work with NACA, they do all the talking with the mortgage company and because they do this kind of thing for a living the mortgage company doesn’t get to run them around and give them bad deals like they tried to give me.

It never makes the mortgage company happy when NACA gets involved because another homeowner has stopped trying to DIY and got some professionals involved.

Boom!

Can you think of anything else I should be doing to try and make sure I’m not messing this all up?