But sometimes life seems to throw a bunch of crap at you and it is mighty difficult to keep things in perspective. Take for example my current housing situation. As I have mentioned, I attended a “Save Your House” event last week put on by Bank of America. I spent over a year trying to modify my loan about a year ago, only to have them deny my modification because they couldn’t figure out a way to make my payments manageable for me. Yes, I was denied modification because the bank, who controls the amount of my mortgage payment, couldn’t figure out a way to lower my mortgage payment. Huh. This denial came right around the time that the internets were rife with rumors that WikiLeaks next big dump would have to do with Bank of America, and within two weeks of receiving the denial, they started sending me emails saying they may have been too hasty in making their decision and I should try again. Whether these two things are related or not, I have no idea, but I like to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, so I am going to continue to believe they are directly tied to one another. I attempted to start the process over again, but every number I was given put me in a continuous, increasingly infuriating loop of recorded messages that hung up on you when you tried to get to an actual person. So, I did the only thing that will make a bank talk to you. I stopped sending them money.
This kicked things into motion. I re-submitted the large volumes of documentation they required, and began waiting for things to get going. When they sent me an email invite to the Save Your House event, I figured I would go so that I could show them I am taking the situation seriously and would do everything in my power to save my home. I took the day off work and headed there last Thursday. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. with a dear friend in tow (seriously, how awesome does a friend have to be to attend one of these things with you? You’re the best, Tam!) for my 9:30 appointment, made the week prior. We sat through an introductory orientation and were then filed into a holding room to wait for our number to be called. Finally, around 10:45, we were led into a larger room to sit down one-on-one with a loan counselor. After 30 minutes with her, most of which was spent trying to retrieve documents they had not asked for on the pre-seminar checklist (which I had gone through meticulously to ensure I had every single thing they asked for), she told me, “Oh, you have an FHA loan. There is nothing we can do for you at this event.” Several hours in, after having checked in with 3 different people, as well as registering online, only to be told there was absolutely no point in me coming. Awesome.
If only this had been it, I would have left annoyed but at least confident in knowing that I was doing my part to work things out, which I hope counts for something. But no, the loan counselor kept talking. She read to me, directly off her computer screen, that she could see I had tried to modify before and that the bank denied my modification because I brought my loan current. If you remember from above, this is most definitely not the reason they gave me. In fact, they had been telling me all along that it was imperative for me to bring the loan current as an act of good faith since the bank was working hard to restructure my loan. As I was in pretty dire financial straits at the time, the only way for me to bring the loan current was to take a hardship withdrawal from my 401k account, which I did. Even though these withdrawals are heavily taxed and I requested that all taxes be taken out off the top, the 401k company did not do so, so I received an additional tax bill, due this month, for over $3500. To boil it down, I drained my retirement savings and got slammed with a huge tax bill to bring my loan current, and THIS is why the bank denied my modification. My actions were the worst possible things I could have done, and now I am scrambling to figure out how to budget in all the additional expenses, on top of a huge mortgage. The tears of rage flowed freely that day, my friends. I was (am) so angry, both at the bank and my own naÃ¯vetÃ©, that I could barely speak.
Lessons learned so far:
1. The banks have their own self-interest at heart, not yours. If you find yourself in a situation like mine, always assume this to be the case, first and foremost, no matter how nice and understanding the person on the phone seems to be.
2. Keep meticulous notes. If you are attempting to negotiate with a bank, there will be a large volume of phone calls and paperwork. Write. Down. Everything. Who you spoke to, what date and time, as well as what was discussed. This is actually a good lesson for many parts of life. We always think that we will be able to remember if the time comes, but trying to pull back details from phone conversations 6 months back is nearly impossible for most of us. I wish I had the names and dates of the multiple times I was told the loan needed to be brought current for them to continue to work on the modification.
3. If at all possible, talk to someone who has experience with banks, whether it is a banking attorney, an accountant, even someone you know who works for a bank that will speak candidly with you. When I took the hardship withdrawal, I was so humiliated that I couldn’t take care of my business on my own that I floundered around and didn’t seek the advice I should have. In speaking with one of the attorneys in my office about my current situation, he just kept saying “I wish you would have talked to me before you did that!” I should have, but my pride stopped me from getting the help I desperately needed. You are not alone if this is something you are facing. People all over this country are going through the exact same thing and there are resources to help.
4. Don’t fall for the mortgage scams that are everywhere right now. I receive letters almost daily from various attorney offices and companies claiming they can help with my mortgage troubles. Many, if not most of these, are scams, charging you money for things you can do yourself. I have had multiple people I know contact me asking about these since my office practices real estate law, and every single one we have looked into has been a scam, pure and simple. Please see this article for more information.
To sum up, life could totally be worse. I have a roof over my head, I have a loving family, I have a good job, and I am really lucky in many ways. However, sometimes one thing can drag us so far down into the dumps that it seems like it eclipses all the good things in life. One good thing came out of all of this, and that is anger. My anxiety over all this has lessened so much since I realized the bank has been trying to screw me the whole time they were pretending to help. Just like real-life relationships, it is always easier to get over somebody if they did something to piss you off or hurt you. The rage has made me stronger in my position to negotiate. I am not going to allow them to steamroll me or offer me an option that only benefits them. My resolve is steeled and ready to fight for what’s fair, as opposed to what will line the banks pockets more heavily.
I promise to you all that I will have something more lighthearted for you next week, perhaps dealing with puppies or kittens. Enough of this downer crap.
Or maybe puppies and kittens?!?!