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Hope for the Houseless

Battle with the Bank Part II:

In the first installment of this story, I described how I fell for my bank’s misrepresentation of a predatory mortgage when refinancing my island home of over a decade, and the exhausting first two years of trying to get that loan modified.

Two Lawyers and a Letter
Now I was in the second half of my journey, with an attorney to help me and a huge sense of relief at having all the bank’s correspondence go directly to his office. However, shortly thereafter I received the dreaded letter of the sale date of my house. Near certain that disaster was immanent, I met with my lawyer in a panic, and was informed that this letter was not necessarily a bad thing. The rules of the game had changed: now that they were paying real money to their lawyers and had my lawyer to answer to, their runaround would no longer serve them. “Ok,” I thought, “Game on!”
But... there was still another year of hither-and-thither, it was just more expensive. No matter what documentation we provided them, they said they needed something else. It just went on and on. During this time my lawyer retired and passed me on to a colleague. I was apprehensive, but it turned out to be a great stroke of luck. I wish I’d had this one from the start. He was ethical and fair in his dealings with me, explained things in a way that I could understand, and stuck it to the banks until we won! Here’s how it happened...

A Speakerphone on the Table
Another year brought us to the table – me, my assistant for the process (mentioned in Part I), my lawyer, theirs, a mediator, and a speakerphone on the table with the voice of a bank representative in California. For the first time, I was able to look someone in the eye. Well, almost. We went over the same stuff we had told them for years while they looked for any possible nit to pick. Turns out, they needed a document that I had sent them multiple times. (Big surprise!) “I was told that you were actually professionals,” I said, “and that we weren’t going to have to play this game over and over again.” I explained that the document in question was sent to them so many times that the last time I had sent it I made them promise me that it was digitized. All they could say was, “Well, we need it again.” At this point it was becoming clear even to them that they had been, and still were, just plain ol’ screwing with me... or plain ol’ incompetent. Or both.

Incredibly Good News
One month later I arrived for a meeting with my lawyer to find him smiling. He told me that we had received an offer – the best one he had ever seen. I could hardly believe my ears. Not only did I get a monthly payment that was within $5 of what our offer to them was, but they forgave half of the remaining debt, taking me from the very real possibility of losing my home to having reasonable monthly payments – as well as from a house with an upside down mortgage to one with equity.
I was scared to death that there was some sort of clerical error and they’d withdraw their offer at any moment. It wasn’t until I’d completed the 3-month trial period of the new loan and everything was finalized that I knew I could breathe a sigh of relief and get on with my life.

This rollercoaster of dreams and disasters went up and down so many times that, by the end, I was flat-out numb from it all. Day and night for over four years, the thought that dominated my mind was, “What am I going to do if I lose the house?” Every communication with the bank turned up another obscure piece of paperwork I had to find, another hoop I had to jump through, another threat to my home. These banks deal in broken promises, and each one just shattered, splattered and drove my dream further up the line. The endless, dehumanizing battle with the banking juggernaut was the prevailing theme of my life. If I hadn’t cared so deeply about my home and my life here on Vashon, I never would have been willing to fight for so long to protect them.

You Can Do It
The years of limbo were wearying, but in the end the concrete result was beyond my expectations. To anyone in similar circumstances, I support you in your battle. Document and organize like your house depends on it, keep your head up, don’t take advice from the dealer (bank) and find yourself one bad-ass lawyer. The name of mine is below. Good luck.

Thank You
To all my friends and acquaintances who have heard my woes over the years: the story has ended! Thank you for bearing witness and being there. It would not have been possible without the support of Laura Agnew, Professional Organizer who worked with me for four years, keeping the disorder in order and my chin up through the worst of times; Matthew Redfield who trusted me with a loan that helped bring a lawyer to the team; and Matthew W. Anderson, Attorney. I wish I had him from the start. If you’re in need of a lawyer, here’s his info:

Attorney at Law
Law Offices of Matthew W. Anderson, PLLC
506 2nd Avenue, Suite 1400
Seattle, WA  98104-2329
T: (206) 812-9570
F: (888) 293-0775