Thursday, February 21, 2008

Foreclosure, a personal story

We've all heard about the astronomical numbers of foreclosures currently clogging our courts. All over the US, people are in dire straights and losing their homes. Folks, count us in those numbers. Today, I'm going to tell you our story to put a face on what is happening everywhere.

When we moved to Florida, we had high hopes. We'd live close to my Mom, I'd continue to work for Disney (albeit at WDW instead of the stores) and we'd have nice jobs. We'd be able to pay all but the tiniest portion of our bills with one salary.

Plans changed a little. My regional director was reluctant to lose me to WDW and asked if I would consider staying with the stores. I expected the district manager to be like the three I'd had in the four years I'd been with the company, so I agreed. This changed where we'd look for a home, but not the plans to move.

We sold our townhouse in Maryland with a nice profit. We found a builder we liked in Lakeland, then found that they had a community under construction closer to Tampa, where I'd be working. After paying for moving, we put half of the remainder down on a new construction home with this builder, nearly 1/3 of the cost.

For the next nine months, we rented a house and Ed looked for a job. And looked. And looked some more. This was the big sticking point for us, however, we were able to manage on just my salary. I was NOT happy about this aspect, but I'm not a nagger.

Eventually, the fact that Disney sold the stores and I worked for a district manager who was not an inspiring leader (to put it succinctly, there's a lot more to that story) led me to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

It looked like I'd found the perfect opportunity. A job that combined management and cooking. The compensation package the owners came up with was compelling. The base salary was slightly less than what I was making, but there were many bonuses that had the potential to triple my salary.

At this time, Ed was working for the post office, like he'd done in Maryland. Unlike Maryland, though, his work week was at best, two days, whereas he was working six day weeks before. Basically, what he made covered the day care that was a needed. We paid for a full week because we never knew what days we'd need it.

The new job didn't provide health insurance. I'd thought that wouldn't be a big deal. I was wrong. Gameboy's medications had always been covered by my employer's health insurance plan. Now they were coming out of my pocket, to the tune of $1300 a month. Our mortgage was $1200 a month. I was grossing 3000 a month. Negative financing may exist for the federal government, but for everyday people, deficits are not permissible. Pay bills or medicate my child? I'm a horrible citizen-I'll medicate my child first.

After eight months in a job I loved, I realized that we couldn't exist in this manner. The compensation was based on the sales results of the original location of the business, and it took four years to get it to that level. It'd take me some time to grow the business to the level they required for me to be pull in the three bonuses that totaled about 50 grand. (a side note:I must have made a lot of inroads on that front, because the business runs at a reduced schedule now)

One phone call was all it took for me to return to retail and to health benefits. Okay, this hiccup can be fixed. We refinanced, but we went from a low interest rate to a higher one to roll all the bills into the mortgage.

The new employer did something I've never encountered in all my years of retail management. I was now a manager paid hourly-and I got about 35-40 hours a week. Ed was working for the meal prep kitchen because at least there, he could be out of work in time for the kids to arrive home from school. It was tight.

Then, because Ed took a day off here and there to tend to the family issues in Lakeland (and the fall off of the business after I left, apparently), the hours he was getting dropped off. First he went from five to four days, then two, then one. We were late on the mortgage.

Funny thing about mortgages. When you're late, you aren't allowed to pay a little to at least get something in. No, you have to pay ALL the money you owe. I contemplated cashing in the 20 or so shares I'd had of stock from a previous employer. Ed talked me out of it, saying we'd need it down the road. (now, it's worth 1/4 of what it was back then-I'd take a huge loss if I sold it.)

My health was poor, but I had to focus on trying to work with the pain and keep us insured and some money coming into the house. Ed had found a job as a toll collector. It was supposed to be 40 hours. It was overnights. However, the shift started at 9pm. I work retail, there are nights that he couldn't be there at 9pm. The interviewer told Ed 'No problem, we can work with that', the station managers said "we can't work with this." It was a very tumultuous few months, all for the lovely salary of 7.50 an hour.

All while employed in that job, Ed was looking for something more lucrative. He interviewed with Verizon. He got to the coveted fourth interview and then got the "thanks, but no thanks" letter. He found a temp job in the tech sector he'd left behind in 2001. He'd be replacing an employee who was reentering the military. That lasted three weeks, until the employee decided he didn't want to play in the sand box, after all.

We were still in arrears on the mortgage, because the lender wanted ALL or nothing. I didn't know where it was going to come from. The rumbling in the media was that George W was going to rescue those in danger of foreclosure. The announcement came: if you aren't currently in arrears, we'll protect you. If you're not in arrears, then you're not at risk of foreclosure. Help would not be coming for us.

So, for months, we've been waiting for the ax to fall. We knew it would because the lender wouldn't talk unless a lot of money (that we didn't have) came their way. Short of an unknown rich relative leaving us money or the Prize patrol showing up on our door, there was no money. There would be no happy ending.

The ax fell yesterday.

We have to be out by March 6th. Ed's full time job right now is to pack this place up. We started looking for rentals today. We're a practical lot, considering how much we have to go over to Lakeland, we're looking over there. Rents may be cheaper and there are a lot of older communities.

In fact, we found a house right around the corner from Ed's mom's house. This house is a little more than I'd said we could afford on my 40 hours alone (but I've been getting 25 hours). That is a problem, but probably short term. The homeowner is a realtor and we were upfront about why we're moving. He had answers and names of employers in Lakeland that Ed could try.

It makes a lot of sense to rent the place-it'd ease the stress that led to Ed's mom's stroke. If they're not up to marketing or cooking, or need stuff done, we'd be right there. I think it'd reduce my stress, because I wouldn't be wondering when I'd be called on at 2am to drive 30 miles. If Ed found a job that had hours that overlapped mine, the kids could possibly head over to Mema's.

I'm looking for a new job myself. Something recession proof. They exist in retail, as I've had them before. Something that will give me the 40 hours I am accustomed to getting.

Right now, I'm sad. All the reasons for moving to Florida: WDW, Mom and a house? I don't have a single one of them.

I'm sad, I'm depressed and I'm heartbroken. I'm a former homeowner.

19 People talked back:

sort-of grown-up said...

Suzanne!

It's sad to read about so many unfortunate things piling up on just so like that on you guys.

I hope you get some good breaks soon. The rental nearby the family sounds like a good plan.

--kate

paulapngg said...

Suzanne - your strength and resolve shine through - you have put your story out to all - so eloquently - . Yes folks - she is telling us that this can happen to anyone....
Standing by with support for all of you.
Always, Paula

daysgoby said...

I'm thinking of you tonight.
Will it seem (slightly? any?)better in the morning, do you think?

Allie Bear said...

I'm so sorry, that really sucks, with all this going around it makes me really scared to buy a house. Try and stay positive and remember, "this too shall pass."

Mike Golch said...

Suzanne,I am truly sorry that you have become one of the victims of 1) recession(oh i forgot that does not exist)2) a mortage market that rips off people.
I truely hope things turn around for you.
Here is a BIG BWAR HUG for both you and your hubby.Mike

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you!
www.mamamatters.wordpress.com

Suzanne said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Kate, I think the rental is a good plan for reducing everyone's stress long term. It's just the financial aspect to figure out.

Paula, sweetie, thank you for everything. I'm lucky to have you as a friend.

Daysgoby, it is better today than yesterday and tomorrow will be a little better. If Donna comes along to comment, she'd say something about my resilience. Thanks for thinking of me...

Allie, I feel like my mom came to visit through you-that was her phrase. Don't be scared of buying a house, just make sure you've got money in the bank after you buy it.

Mike, I am so with you on the elephant in the room. Thanks for the hug, dude!

Mamamatters, thank you!

projectmommy said...

I'm so sorry about losing your home. So sorry! I can't imagine, because I've never owned one (besides my fantasies every night about it, lol). Hopefully your luck will change. I know things will get better for you. Me and my hubby always loved the saying; It always gets worse before it gets better. Because that is our entire life. Just when you think it could not get any worse or you couldn't possible bear anything else, it gets worse. Just as soon as that happens, it gets a litle better. I hope I am making sense right now and not rambling on. Okay, I'm tired. Anyways, I'll be thinking of you...

klasieprof said...

Thank You SO much for writing this. I know, and when I say I KNOW..."I KNOW". I've had the duplex I got stuck with in a Divorce in Forclosure about 4 times.
They WILL NOT WORK WITH YOU.
The payment is 960 a month. NO they WILL NOT take 600. NO.
Its STILL LATE. It really is devastating. There is no way to make it feel better. It just SUCKS.
When I called my Tax guy to ask him a question, and tell him it was in foreclosure, he said, "AGAIN???"...Right keep in mind, I've been out of work about a year and a half, subbing at 1/4 of my pay 1/8th of the time, I have 3 kids to feed, bills etc. SORRREEEE! assholes. Opps..I just swore on someone else's blog....
Just thoughts:
anyone you can borrow from? mom, Uncles etc?
I cashed out the LAST of my retirement 20 grand last summer to try and get things caught up. It is scary. NOTHING left, but the future and my ingenuity.
I'm Hugging you as I write this.

((Huggssss))), Ok and an ass grab just to make you giggle.

Geggie said...

Oh gosh, I'm so sorry to hear about this. You and your family will be in my prayers. Things WILL work out for you!

Suzanne said...

Mommy, as I get used to this, I realize things could be a lot worse. I have my family. Thanks for thinking of me.

Klasie, no one really can help, heck, I've got some siblings who have never owned a home (or kept a decent job). Thanks for the laugh!

Geggie, you're right, things will work out. I just felt it important to share the story, because most of us are so darn embarrassed about it.

Bonnie said...

Thank you for posting this. I have the same mortgage company that a few friends that have that are facing this same issue. The thing that bothers me the most is they will not take partial payments. IMHO ... a few partial payments put you not so far behind.

I wanted to switch to bi-weekly payments with my mortgage company because in my head that payment is easier to manage. They screamed that it would cost them more money ... and wanted to charge me several hundred dollars to do so.

Homeownership is not all it's cracked up to be. The company that actually owns your house has a tight hold your (theoretical) balls. If I didn't love my house so much and could sell it, I'd go back to renting so I wouldn't have to worry about snow removal or repairs.

Bob said...

Suzanne,
I really don't know what to say except the usual; Hang in there...
It's always darkest... you know the sayings. I'm also sending a hug and a prayer and is there any way I get in on that ass grab?


Bob

Suzanne said...

Bob, thanks for really making me laugh! (do I need to put a new picture up for you?)

Just think, this means we'll be very close by. Ed and I are already expecting you folks for dinner!

Gypsydoodlebug said...

OH, Suzanne, I'm so sorry to hear this... Stay strong and know I'm thinking about you guys.

imaginary binky said...

Holy cow, woman! I go out of town, and then the proverbial cow poo hits the fan. I'm SO sorry you are going through this. It's the last thing you needed.

We are facing a predicament that is not quite the same, but very related. Perhaps you and I should commiserate offline...

Many hugs.

rich said...

Sue, I am so sorry. I knew things were tough, but I didn't realize how tough. Hang in there. Lakeland sounds like a decent plan, with everything that's going on. You know how to find me if you need to chat.

-rich

Sarcastic Mom (aka Lotus) said...

We're former homeowners, too. Our story is a bit different.

I'm so sorry this is happening. I just said a little prayer for you and I'll continue to keep you in them.

Hang in there, Suz.

Rebecca said...

Suzanne,

I found you through Sarcastic Mom's (Breast)feeding Carnival. I'm glad I did. I'm sorry for your recent trouble... but I'm glad to have found a new blog to read. :)