Friday, November 11, 2011

LITTOF STORIES: Choosing Plan D

It's time for another LITTOF Reader Story!

What do you do when Plans A, B & C don't pan out? If you're like LITTOF Reader, Laurie, you choose Plan D.

That's right. That's what survivors do. That's what resilience is all about. And I'm all about resiliency. So I'm very excited to introduce you to Laurie- who prefers that I only use her first name. So, like Madonna she will be known by only one name. Laurie.

She e-mailed me back in January of this year to say that she was glad I had picked up blogging on LITTOF. In that e-mail, she shared that she and her husband began their modification/short sale/ foreclosure process when she was pregnant with their first child. They now have two children – a 19-month-old and a 3-year-old. It really shows how much life can happen in the face of foreclosure! Life goes on. Life is created. Children grow up!

Laurie wrote to me about their trouble and frustrations with HAMP. And her attitude while sharing about the insane runaround they received while trying to save their home, really struck me.
“We may end up in foreclosure and then bankruptcy like you.  It's all going to take time to tell.  Meanwhile, we love our home that we have remodeled and made our own.  But it is just brick and mortar.  We are excited about our future and the lessons we have learned, that we have each other.   We consider it the price to pay for this painful education we have received.”

Laurie and her husband experienced the nightmare of Fed-Exing payments during a trial modification only to be kicked out of the program for non-payment. Has that happened to any of you? I can't imagine. I've actually been hearing about that happening more and more. Yet in the face of that, Laurie remained positive.

So sit back and enjoy a conversation with Laurie about life in and after foreclosure and choosing Plan D...
           
LITTOF: First, tell us about the house. Where is it and how long have you lived there?

LAURIE: We moved into our first home in the spring of 2006. We moved out at the end of August 2011.  It was in a great suburban area of Northern California, the perfect family town.  We renovated and made it out own and really loved our neighbors, the park I walked the kids to every day and our garbage man, Carlo, who stopped by every Friday and took the time to say hi to our very excited son, Max.

LITTOF: What were the circumstances that led to your foreclosure?

LAURIE: My husband is in the construction industry.  When the economy tanked, banks quit lending and builders quit building.  My husband would go without a paycheck for months at a time.  We had really stretched ourselves, spending probably 70% of our income on our mortgage because we had faith that like our neighbors, our investment would pay off, prices would continue to rise, and we could refinance and be ok eventually.  

LITTOF: Please tell us about the process thus far.

LAURIE: In 2008 we knew we were in trouble.  Our home price had dropped by 30% and our income by 50%.  We contacted the bank right away and stayed in touch the whole 2 year process, first trying to modify, then short sale, then foreclosure with bankruptcy for protection.

LITTOF: How long did the process take?

LAURIE: The process took from fall of 2008 until summer of 2011.  Most of that time was in the roller coaster that is modification.  We were told something different each time we called.  

LITTOF: What has been the most challenging aspect?

LAURIE: The overwhelming lack of consistency and communication with the bank.  We were told erroneous information that would take us down one path and then months later, to find out it was wrong.  EX:  We were told our bank would accept a modification if we just entered into a trial mod for 3 months.  For 10 months we kept paying diligently and Fed Ex-ing payment in advance each month. 

I eventually had the case escalated to a corporate level to see what was going on because we were told during one of my weekly calls that we were kicked out of the modification due to non-payment, then again that same day that things were ok, and then again that we were denied the mod but they didn’t know why.  Corporate investigated and determined that our bank, “didn’t participate in modifications.”  What a waste of time.  

LITTOF: What has been your most triumphant moment thus far?

LAURIE: The day we decided to go with plan D.  We decided early on to come up with a contingency plan because we had heard lots of horror stories.  Plan A was a mod, Plan B was a short sale, Plan C was a foreclosure and D was bankruptcy (and foreclosure).

 Plan D became our realization and actually it was very freeing knowing we had really done everything right and tried our best and it was going to be over soon and we could move on.  Plan D allowed us to close a door and start planning for our future.  We knew everything would be ok once we set our sights on our new reality.

LITTOF: How are you able to stay positive?

LAURIE: Actually, I am a worrier and a control freak.  I unfortunately can easily get consumed with things.  I have always been very conscientious about bills and paying on time and my credit has always been excellent. The stigma and what our neighbors would think bothered me at first. I prayed a lot and got support from some girlfriends and made the decision early on not to let this get the best of me.  I am a Christian and so it was important for me to let go of my need to control things and give it to God.  I knew I would do my best to navigate the issues but ultimately I had no control over the final outcome and I knew I would be taken care of.  Things would be ok.  It might not be the way I would want it, but eventually, I would see it was a blessing in disguise.  It has been. 
 
LITTOF: What is your goal in all of this?

LAURIE: To take the road less traveled by.  The norm in our culture is to strap yourself down with debt, trying to have and be what the world tells you to.  We are living on a cash basis now, much more aware of our spending and our goals.  It opened our eyes to a way of life that is not on the rat wheel.  We are free, mobile, and most importantly are dreaming again, with our heads out of the sand.   

We are planning to rent until our kids are through elementary and then live in an RV…probably a 5th wheel toy hauler and travel the country, road-schooling our kids through the middle school years and teaching them by exposing them to things they would have only read about in books.  

It is fun to dream again and to plan our adventures.  We have a big map and put tacks on the places we want to see.  There are so many, we will have to narrow them down.  It’s fun to research them and figure it all out.  We have time, so it will be a work in progress.
 
LITTOF: What have you learned thus far?

LAURIE: Material objects can be a huge burden.  It is freeing to let them go. 

LITTOF: How are you better off now?

LAURIE: I am reminded of the song that goes, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone….I can see all obstacles in my way…Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…it’s gonna be a bright, bright, sun-shiny day.” 

LITTOF: Do you have a plan for the future?

LAURIE: Oh yes, family, fun, experiencing life to the fullest, and freedom. 

LITTOF: What advice would you give to someone who is either worried about losing his/her home or is actually in foreclosure?

LAURIE: It may be the best thing that has happened to you, giving you a new start and a new perspective.  Don’t waste your energy trying to stay aboard a sinking ship, if foreclosure is the direction you are headed, focus your energy on a plan for a new life.  A house is not a home. 

LITTOF: Anything else?

LAURIE: Just want you to know that your blog really helped me in a time when I thought I was the only one. Your honesty and candid thoughts on the subject as if happened were inspiring.  Thanks.

LITTOF: Thank you, Laurie. And best of luck in the future. I love your idea of road-schooling your kids! Keep in touch!

QUESTIONS FOR READERS - 

- Do you have a plan D? What is it?

- Have you experienced the same runaround in a trial loan modification? What happened and how did you handle it?

About the picture- I asked Laurie to send me a picture of what represents "HOME" to her today. And this is the picture she sent. I love it!

Send me your pictures of what represents home to YOU and I'll share them on the LITTOF Facebook Page. You can send them here: loveinthetimeofforeclosure@gmail.com


Here's a story about the trouble with trial loan modifications:
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