June is Homeownership Preservation month. That’s why earlier this week experts from the U.S. Department of Treasury Homeownership Preservation Office, HUD, and NeighborWorks America went on Twitter to answer questions about homeownership retention, mortgage relief and foreclosures. Even though I am 5 years deep into my own foreclosure nightmare after participating in the #MHAchat myself I decided to put my money where my tweets were and not give up. Recognizing that mortgage relief is ever evolving I decided not to assume that even at this late date there isn’t hope for me in the guys of a program that could lighten my load. So I let my fingers do the walking and logged onto the Making Homes Affordable website.
The Making Home Affordable website was an easy find and an inviting set up. Great drop down menus that seemed to anticipate my questions and my needs. I must admit I was only glancing over many of the programs but it didn’t take long for one to catch my eye, the HAFA program. At this point I really don’t believe given how deep in arrears I am with payments, that there is anyway to keep my house. I have shed the tears and have resigned myself to a short sale or deed in lieu fate. But if I could have such a transaction be brokered and protected by a government sanctioned agency that would help me sleep better at night. The HAFA program looked to be just that on the website. But I needed to determine if my mortgage handler, now Nationstar, (previously Bank of America and before that Country Wide), was one of the 100 mortgage companies that is participating in the HAFA program. So my fingers moved from my computer to my phone and called for HOPE, that is 1-888-995-HOPE.
I was first processed by an intake customer service person who took down all of my particulars. She gently inquired about my current mortgage standing. When I told her that payments are behind she was very empathetic and gentle with her further questions. She went out of her way to make me feel heard and understood. No shame at all. It was very encouraging.
I was given a 5 digit customer service code and then put into the pool for transfer to a counselor. Within seconds I was connected to and put on hold with consumer credit counseling of dallas. The digital recording gave me the repeated option to stay on hold or leave a message for callback. I rode it out. Ten minutes later I was connected to Mirabella and we immediately got down to business. I gave her all of my personal and financial information. We went deep exploring what brought me into my financial crisis and how I am supporting myself and my family. She had me break down monthly income, living expenses, debt repayment, loans, my divorce agreement and more. No stone went unturned. She even did a soft pull on my credit report to jog my memory along the way. She never let me feel unsupported or condemned. I felt completely at ease confessing my very personal details, at that is no small accomplishment.
An hour and a half in we had filled in all of the blanks about my financial past and present. and Mirabella had assigned me a fresh case number and access code which she told me would be emailed to me for future access and support. But she wasn’t done with me yet. She put in a call to my mortgage company in hopes of conferencing in an agent to discuss some options for my case. Considering I have already made the decision that my family must move out of the city to heal both physically mentally and most definitely financially, The counselor and I were in agreement that getting the lender to agree to a deed in lieu program would be in my best interest. The big question was whether or not the lender would agree to it. The even bigger question was would the investor be willing to participate in the HAFA program which would let me leave the house without any claims being filed against me now or in the future. You see my state, Illinois is a deficiency judgement state. Not surprising to me at all since this state loves to collect from it’s inhabitants, particularly those of us on the lower income earning bracket. But that’s information for another blogpost.
JC from Nationstar came on the line after a five minute wait. We made introductions all around, privacy waivers were verbally acknowledge, account information was confirmed and then we were off and rolling.
My entire phone call lasted a total of 1:52 min. JC, Mirabella and I didn’t get to a final agreement or solution, but I still consider the phone conversation, the counseling session, successful.
I have to tell you, the landscape is so much more amenable and customer friendly than it was back in 2009 when I was first hitting a wall with my mortgage. There were no social media chats for me to get suggestions about programs. heck the programs didn’t exist at all in the first place. What there was was an abundance of shame. Sooo much shame that it was even more overwhelming than the debt that inspired it. So I made huge mistakes, I know now. I used my credit cards to pay my inflated mortgage for several months which completely decimated my finances and put us into an even deeper hole with no ladder in sight. the vultures started circling. making it impossible to climb out in fact with that dirt. I didn’t get advice and I certainly didn’t get help. I taught myself a thing or two or 6 along the way that has allowed me to stay in this fight for such an unusual length of time, but nothing about it has been easy or particularly hope inspiring. My story is going to end with the loss of my house, hopeful as a pleasant exchange thanks to a HAFA program. (Fingers crossed). But having spent time reading through all of the MHA information I know that had I only just started getting into mortgage trouble today wight he sees programs available for relief, my story would have a very different ending that would more than likely take place in my home instead of in the car saying goodbye to it. And that is significant. That is what HOPE can do.
So, from one home owner to another I wanted to share my personal journey with you. Hopefully despite the less than stellar ending to my story you are inspired to seek a happier ending for your family. Don’t get bogged down by shame. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can handle this alone. And don’t NOT ask because you think your question is unanswerable. This is not the time for playing it safe or close to the vest. Gather your financial documents, dial your phone and tell your story to someone trained to help you. What have you got to lose that is more important than your house? Yeah, exactly.
Disclosure: Miss Lori served as a consultant for the structure and strategy of this Making Home Affordable social campaign.
If you enjoyed this post please read 13 Things To Do When Fighting Foreclosure, How To Choose a Primary Care Physician, Qualifying Life Events Re-Open The Door To ACA Health Insurance, and 10 Things To Do Before Filing For Divorce.