I’ve written numerous times about losing our home in Maine to foreclosure, and while we’re at the point of closure, we’re still dealing with the emotions and guilt that comes with something as big and ugly as foreclosure and the loss of what we considered a dream realized – becoming homeowners.
Well, just because one dream dies that doesn’t negate a person’s ability to refocus and rebuild, and ultimately move forward. While our biggest financial fears are no longer looming on the horizon (thank God!), and the process of digging out is getting easier, there are still issues that come up from time to time in the aftermath of something like this, especially in light of the fact that I’ve written so openly about it and have always used my name. For the most part I don’t regret being so open. For one thing, had I never written about everything we went through with the bank, I might not have known exactly to what degree this was going on with other families across the country, nor would we have ever realized that thousands of mortgages, ours included, were dealt with fraudulently. So many people, including attorneys, reached out to us and explained what was being discovered about what the banks were doing and had done, and what was happening as a result of the fraud being brought to light, and that we shouldn’t just sit back and “take our lumps” like we had been doing.
Ordinarily I probably would have just tucked my tail between my legs and blamed the foreclosure on my general suckage as a human being. I’m not saying we don’t bear some onus in everything that happened (I do blame myself for a lot of what happened, and while I know I couldn’t control the failing economy in Maine and the downturn my husband’s former employer was facing, there were other things I think I could have done – fight my depression a lot harder than I was, for one – my medical and mental health bills were staggering) , but by refusing to ignore everything and instead, put my neck out there and talk about what happened and do a little research, I was able to find out that how we were treated and the fact that the bank was actually providing huge bonuses and “prizes” to it’s employees for pushing owners into further default and then outright foreclosure, and that our mortgage was one of those (two modifications adhered to, yet they still refused to modify or help, yet we met every single listed criteria for approval of a modification – TWICE! They wouldn’t approve a short sale or a deed in lieu, either – even after telling us they would! We always thought it was pretty strange that no matter what we did, the answer was always NO!), we’d probably still be sitting here, none the wiser. At the end of the day, what’s done is done and we can’t go back in time and make the bank do the right thing. Going forward, we can make sure we add our voices to the hundreds of thousands of others that want to make sure epic failures and downright illegal and fraudulent actions on the part of the banks, don’t ever happen again!
One thing I wasn’t prepared for was that people would come looking for us, people who are very interested in buying the house, wanting to know more about it. The house is being sold “as is”, so both Gareth and I completely understand someone feeling like they’re going in blind, not knowing what they’re really getting. A thorough home inspection prior to making an offer is only going to tell you so much- but it’s still the best bet you’ve got when it comes to identifying serious existing or potential issues with a house. Most buyers who see a home that’s been vacant for some time are going to want historical data on the house and that’s information that a listing agent isn’t going to typically be able to provide. I liken homes that have been foreclosed on and are then sold “as is” to mysteries. The savvy buyer will use tools like town records, and now, thanks to the internet, Google, to their advantage in order to try and solve these “mysteries”, which might include things like historical data in regards to the house, system maintenance, age of appliances, updates and remodels, etc. In some cases, and in particular for us , these modern-day real estate sleuths are like so many ghosts floating around, poking sensitive places that are still painful to the touch, trying to suss out information that isn’t readily available any other way. You think everything is said and done. The house was auctioned off, you either get a 1099a or a 1099c, you determine a course of action from there, then it’s all over. You pick yourself up, and you move on. You don’t expect someone to come along and press the sore spots. Ghosts. I can’t think of a better term to use, because you don’t ever see them, but you know they’re there – they make their presence known.
Take a savvy potential buyer who’s investigating a “as is” property, and combine that with a prolific blogger who has openly written about the foreclosure of their family home (and prior to that, I documented our house search, finding the perfect house and then all the ups and down when it comes to being a homeowner – which included some of the hilarity that ensued when we began updating and remodeling the house) and your end product is something sort-of like a ghost that comes around and haunts you and reminds you of your past failures. Big failures. They are able to have what you once had, but because you’re a failure, it was taken away. They’re haunting reminders of that failure. Now that the issues with the title have been cleared, and the home is actively listed on the MLS system , we’ve had several people contact us either directly or via their real estate agent, in regards to the house. Unfortunately a couple of these individuals weren’t who they said they were and didn’t exactly have the best of intentions. See, this Google thing? It works both ways.
I wasn’t even going to write about this until I got another email from a real estate agent yesterday, asking me myriad questions about historical data and questions about various systems within the house and other things that were noticed upon a physical walk-through by his client. After making sure the real estate agent was in fact who he said he was, and asking how his client found me (went to town hall to look up data on the house including previous owners, specifically so that he could contact them and ask about the property, then using the names he found and then using Google to try and find the previous owners. His Google search of the previous owners landed him here on the blog, just like the others who have searched, have done), speaking to Gareth about it, and then our attorney when trying to decide what sort of information we should disclose -if any at all – I decided that it was important enough to me, to write about this. There are hundreds of thousands of homes like ours on the market. Most are sold “as is.” If we were in the same position as the latest potential buyer who reached out to me via his agent, I’d probably take the same exact steps in hopes of trying to glean information about the property. Not everyone who goes this route is going to strike the jackpot and discover that the former owner is a blogger who shares a great deal about her life, including the not-so-pleasant aspects of it, which just so happen to include one of the properties you’re potentially interested in. The real estate agent that emailed me yesterday was very understanding and extremely accommodating when I asked him to provide me with information that would verify that he was who he said he was. I explained to him that I’d need to speak with my husband (and eventually our attorney) about how much we wanted to address about the house, or even if we wanted to answer anything at all.
I also needed to sit down and have something of a “come to Jesus” moment and determine whether or not our ultimate decision to finally answer, or not, one of these emails about the house, was based on unresolved anger over losing the house, or if there was some underlying concern that addressing serious questions that potential buyers have, might open us up to some sort of liability?
At the end of the day, yes, there is still a lot of anger and guilt, but that wasn’t what made our decision to not answer questions about the house. It’s not that we don’t want to see anyone else living in the house, enjoying it and filling it with love and laughter the way we did. We absolutely want to see a happy family living in the home, making it their own. The simple fact of the matter is, the house has been vacant for more than three years and during that time, there’s been no electricity, water, or propane running into the house. There have been several individuals traipsing through the house, whether from the bank, or the listing real estate company, and there have been people in there removing what were complete sets of furniture – which was more than evident the last time we were there and looked inside. One of the reasons we left a massive, over-stuffed 3-piece suede sofa, love seat and over-sized chair in the house until the last minute, was because it was a pain in the ass to get it in the house, Stair railings had to be removed, doors taken off of hinges just to get that stuff into the house. From all appearances, it looks like it whoever was contracted to take it out, had an equally difficult time. It took us a long time to find someone that could help us get it back out of the house – that’s why we didn’t take it when we initially moved out, we had planned on returning to get it out when we had more help. We were assured though by the bank’s attorneys, that we would be allowed into the house “at some point” to remove our belongings. The bank ignored all of our attempts to schedule a time to allow us into the property to get our things, and instead, it appears it was hastily removed before listing it with an agent. There might be other things that have happened to internal systems that aren’t as visible to the naked eye, that we can’t speak to. The state of the house as it was when we last lived in the home can’t be promised to be the same, several years down the line during which time the home was sitting vacant.
It’s not in any way our best interest to try and address the questions or concerns a potential buyer might have – questions and concerns that are best answered via a thorough home inspection prior to making an offer. In some cases, as our attorney pointed out, there can be issues of liability. As awful as it sounds, and I know it’s going to be construed as sour grapes, it’s not our place to offer any sort of information that can be used to make a decision when purchasing a home that was once ours, until it was foreclosed on. Some people might see providing this information as being neighborly or helpful. I understand that, I just happen to disagree. Again, I can’t speak to the current state of the house. I can’t make guarantees as to systems, wiring, plumbing, or anything like that. Even if it’s something as innocuous as providing historical data in regards to electric and propane/heating usage, it’s really going to be of no consequence because no two families are identical in make up or personal habits when it comes to how they like their homes heated, or how much electricity they use. It would make me feel even worse if I were to tell a potential one thing which leads to them basing their decision to move forward with the purchase of the house based on information I provided, only to discover upon taking possession of the house that despite me giving a completely honest answer (that was based on how things were with the home in 2010) possession of the home, things are not as I stated. I’d feel awful, and I’d have the added concern of worrying about whether or not I was liable for anything based on what I’d said. As selfish as it sounds, my family doesn’t need that added burden.
Before letting the real estate agent for the potential buyer know our decision, I contacted the listing agent and had a discussion with him about the former contents of the house, and about any questions that might arise from interested parties, about the former owners. I let him know that under no circumstances was it permissible to give anyone our information (I’m not implying he did, but let’s just make sure he knows that it’s not alright to do it, moving forward) and that as much as we want to see the house happily occupied, we are not willing to answer any questions about the house.
We genuinely want to see one of these “ghosts” buy the home, settle in, and make it their own. As much as we might like to help out in that process, we know that doing so is neither the appropriate or right thing to do. We also need to be able to completely let the house go and come to some sort of legitimate closure. Until the house is sold, I know we might encounter more of these “ghosts” and that my blog is the door that allows these ghosts into our lives. Be that as it may, if you’re one of these friendly ghosts looking for information about the property, I’m sorry but we’re not open to answering questions or discussing the home. We do however wish you the best of luck!
If you’ve landed on Barking Mad! after for searching for information regarding foreclosure or what it’s like to go through the foreclosure process (not fun!), the one thing I can tell you is that while it seems like it’s the end of the world, especially the end of your good credit, it’s not! Take a deep breath, have a good cry, hell, have two or three good cries. Have a glass of wine, and then take another deep breath and realize that you will survive it. It’s not in fact, the end of the world. God knows, there have been about a million moments over the last four years when I’ve thought it was the end, and I just wanted a huge hole to open up and swallow me. I know that those of us who find ourselves in the foreclosure process have come to this point for different reasons. However, know this, no matter why you ended up in foreclosure, nothing is insurmountable. You can recover from this!
Seeking the advice of trusted friends and loved ones, and possibly legal counsel if that’s what’s appropriate for your particular situation, can help ease the stress and pain of the situation. Whatever road you find yourself taking while you travel through this ugly process, just know that it does eventually come out the other end, much clearer and nicer than it was when you first started out. We’re by no means completely out of the woods, but those “woods” are looking less and less scary with each passing day.
It’s going to take work, a lot of work (especially if there is a lot of debt), and sacrifice, and maybe even more tears than those initial first few good cries. But my point? Don’t despair. You’ll get through it. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually you’ll look back and realize you’re miles from where you were when you first started. You never know, you might just discover that when you come out the other side, you’re in a far better place than you imagined you’d be.