Too Important To Fail

Dear President Obama:

Save the middle classAfter four years of struggling to avoid it, my wife and I were hit with the “F-bomb” last week, 3 April 2012.  And I’m not talking about “firetruck” with five letters removed.  Our dream home, in which we lived only three years and left four years ago for new jobs, was foreclosed.

It was a slippery slope to foreclosure fueled by circumstances which were largely out of our control.  My wife’s company “right-sized” in 2006 due to financial problems resulting from mismanagement, and she and a large proportion of other older employers were let go.  She returned to higher education after 17 years in the private sector and found a part-time position at roughly half the salary.

Two years later she accepted a full-time position in a different city, which meant leaving our home, but more security.  I followed and was able to also find work in higher education.  The net impact on our family household income was roughly a 30% cut.

Our house was the model home in a private subdivision with large lots, lots of trees and a lake.  It has a spacious kitchen, modern kitchen which looks out over roughly half-an-acre of woods, a large den with a functional and enhancing fire place, a formal dining room and large bedrooms upstairs.  And yet there had been fewer than a half-dozen people look at the house in almost four years.  The house was empty for almost 2 years primarily because the economy had tanked and the county had been overbuilt with homes.

And it’s important to note that this wasn’t a “McMansion.”  We bought the house for less than the loan amount for which we were qualified at the time.

After we moved, we almost managed to stay current with our payments  despite our drop in income, double mortgages, lack of rent support, furloughs at the university, and a child with serious and expensive medical issues.  In 36 months, we missed three payments and had made 19 straight payments when the playing field changed.

Then in September 2011, Goldman Sachs was forced to sell Litton Loan Servicing to Ocwen financial services.  And EMC Mortgage, which serviced the second mortgage, was taken over by Chase.

On 1 October, I went online to pay both mortgages and was told by both companies that I couldn’t make the monthly payment until we had paid the three late months.  When I called the “Help” lines, I was told the same thing; either pay the three months past due or no payment would be accepted and we would be four months behind.

As I pointed out to the numerous agents with whom I spoke, had we had the money to make the past due payments, we would have made them.  And the fact that both Litton and EMC had tacitly agreed to let us continue to make payments demonstrated that they had understood the reasons for the three months which had been missed.

I further pointed out that, if Ocwen and Chase would check the home sales in the county for that time, they would discover that home sales were basically at a standstill.  But they had mortgagees who were willing to continue to make the monthly mortgage payments.

Logic doesn’t trump the legal commitments or the banks’ drive to become property owners.  So, we began the process of dealing with the bureaucratic mazes which Ocwen and Chase have created to “help” customers to try and forestall the inevitable.

We asked to have the loan restructured so that the three, now four, now five, now six months of non-payments could be moved to the end of the contract term.  Sorry, you can’t qualify with a second.  We applied to refinance the property.  Sorry, you have too much income.  Or your credit score’s too low because of late mortgage payments.

We laid out our argument for the Ocwen ombudsman.  Sorry, we’ve already told you, pay up or shut up.

Sisyphus’ boulder was the size of a futbol (soccer ball) compared to the rocks Ocwen and Chase gave us.  And Deutsche Bank bought our original first mortgage the day after we signed it.  I can only assume that they’re complicit in Ocwen’s  foreclosure business strategy.

The financial impact: reality.  The mental and emotional drain on us and our family given that we were doing everything we could to honor our mortgage contracts: immeasurable.

So you and vice president Biden can set up a middle class task force and talk about getting the middle class – “the backbone of this country – up and running again.”

That’s only rhetoric as long as the soulless banks and mortgage companies that we as taxpayers helped bail out are driven by profit and refuse to see their customers as more than anonymous numbers on a balance sheet.  We’re resigned to the fact that we’ll never be able to own another home.  The lesson hasn’t been lost on our children.

Dr. Nick De Bonis and Dr. Susan De Bonis



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Dr. Nick De Bonis

Dr. Nick De Bonis

Nick De Bonis has been a college instructor or professor one score and six, teaching undergraduate and graduate classes in marketing, advertising, management, broadcasting and communications. A marketing lecturer at Georgia Southern, he's also taught at Savannah (GA) State, Macon State, the Goizueta Business School at Emory, California State-Fullerton, Texas A&M, LSU and Pepperdine. His professional career includes both newspapers and radio, as a reporter, editor, DJ and salesman. He's also the co-author of three professional trade books for McGraw-Hill. An Air Force Vietnam vet who served on active duty in both the Air Force and the Army, he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Masters from Troy (State) University and undergraduate degree from Flagler College in St. Augustine. He's lived from coast to coast and, although he's been in the South for more than 20 years, his Southern-born wife says he'll never be "one of us."

  1. Not wanting to be a Debbie Downer, I still have to observe that ownership is a crock and a sop.  It’s a strategy developed to keep people tied down and in hock and distracted from the fact that their human rights are not going to be respected. You can own things and you’ve got to be satisfied with that because your human rights are nowhere to be found.
    Owning a house is more trouble than it’s worth, if you’re not going to use it in a productive enterprise. At first, it was the work of men that moved out of the house.  Eventually women followed and then there was nothing left for the house to hold, except sleeping transients. And then they started building structures just for that purpose (residence inns and hotels and quaint motels and truck stops with showers), leaving most of our housing standing empty much of the time.  The 2010 census estimated a vacancy rate of about 20 percent.  While this includes second homes, it probably doesn’t account for transient accommodations  and it doesn’t differentiate between night and daytime.
    Though it’s probably no consolation, you’re part of a problem whose dimensions have not been fully realized. The idea that household formation and dissolution and reconfiguration was going to provide a steady basis for our economy was cockamamie.  But, it fit in with the desire to control a giant diverse population that threatened to take charge of its own destiny. Live and learn. The ’50s are gone, never to be retrieved.
    Trust me.  I know of what I speak.  The spouse and I have owned nine houses and have three left.  Our three children own another four. Houses are a lot of work. Our children can only manage because each has a spouse and one stays home to manage the household. Of course, I happen to think that household management is the microcosm of any economy, but real economists are still convinced that the work of men, which goes on elsewhere, is the important thing.

  2. Lee Leslie

    Nick – your story is heartbreaking and too close to home, so to speak, for so many of us. Brave of you to share. Thanks. Keep your head up. 

  3. Nick – how sad. We experienced about the same thing but are fighting back. Get a good attorney with litigation and defense experience and get a loan audit. You may have more leverage than you think, if it’s not too late.

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