Monthly Archives: June 2012

How NOT to Save Your House from Foreclosure

The following post was originally written for this blog on 9/15/2010. It has been updated to be more relevant today, but it is mostly the same. If it’s new to you, then enjoy!

Foreclosure: it’s easy to get into, and oh so tricky to get out of. There’s a common foundation to the stories of how people find their homes being foreclosed upon (job loss, medical bills, financial disaster), but in my years of research, there’s been so few consistent explanations on how to get out of it. The stories are the same, but the outcome rarely is. It’s a world of scams, flukes, ignorance, and fear. All I had to go on, when my family faced it, were a few points that were emphasized over and over again. These are the biggest red flags:

  • Don’t pay for any counseling or mitigation service upfront, before services are rendered.
  • Don’t stop talking to your bank yourself.
  • If somebody tells you they can fix your mortgage and solve all your problems, remember the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

If you want to know more, the two articles I found most helpful were from CBS News and So, armed with this information, we began our hunt.

Our Story of Red Flags

When my now-husband and I first began our search in earnest, a family member had an acquaintance of hers come to our house to talk about our options. This woman is a financial advisor for a reputable nationwide organization and apparently had some experience with this stuff, so it was thought she could help us.

When the advisor showed up, initially she pretty much stuck to her usual presentation, which wasn’t relevant to anything we were going through, but oh well. After that hour spiel, she finally got away from her script and started to focus on our individual situation. She recommended highly this one particular person and his loan modification company, stating that the work he does is “amazing” and that we should talk with his associate here in New Jersey. I’ll sum up a few of the details:

  • They look over your case, and if they think they can help you, you must then pay them $495.
  • You then pay them every month for three months. The money goes into a trust—if the modification doesn’t go through, you get your money back.
  • “The great thing is you don’t have to talk to the bank anymore, they do all the talking for you.”
  • The one case she knew of personally was of someone who hadn’t paid their mortgage in two years, and they managed to get the mortgage modified to about a thousand dollars per month.

Do you hear the warning sirens going off? Good. Because you should.

So, while I didn’t like it, my now-husband was on the fence about it. We decided it couldn’t hurt to at least talk to the associate to find out the full story. Just talk, nothing official. (In the mean time, I found this loan modification company’s website—or should I say, websites. Holy crap. Okay, maybe I’m biased as a web developer, but if you’re going to be a professional company, have a professional-looking website. Not duplicate(!) websites at different addresses that look like they were built in 1997. It was laughable and embarrassing.)

My now-husband called the woman, and our hunches were pretty much confirmed. The topper was when she said that she wasn’t even sure if they were able to write any mortgages right now because of some legislation going on at the state level. (If this is your profession, shouldn’t you know exactly what is going on?)

So, look at this as an example of how not to save your house from foreclosure. And again, note that this lead came from someone who works as a financial advisor at a reputable nationwide organization. Keep your eyes open at all times.

The Success Story

Fortunately, during all this time, I had been doing my own research. I looked through HUD’s recommended list of agencies and then checked each agency at the Better Business Bureau. (By the way, unsurprisingly, that other company was not listed at either site.)

I found one agency in particular that was local, had a good website, and didn’t have any red flags in their information. Also a good sign was when we mentioned this company to people who worked in finance—these people had nothing but good things to say about them. (So, not only had people heard of them, but it’s actually for good things.) We played some phone tag, booked an appointment, gathered our paperwork, and hoped for the best.

Well, the meeting we had with the HUD counselor exceeded my expectations. She emphasized the biggies: Everything is done at no cost to us—even our lawyers! We the homeowners talk directly with the bank, but we are to run everything by our lawyers and counselor first so that we say the right things. There is no guaranteed success, but they will try their best to get the banks to listen to us and understand that we are financially capable of paying our mortgage now.

From September 2010 to July 2011, we had court appointment after court appointment and a constant stream of paperwork being faxed and mailed to the bank, our counselor, and our lawyers. The bank kept dragging their heels to the point where even the bank’s lawyers were actually apologizing to us, saying that our case is pretty straightforward and we should wind up with a modification easily. (There’s few things that feel quite as bizarre as when the big ol’ scary bank’s lawyers are telling you that you’re going to win your case.)

Then, just a month before our wedding, we got the wonderful news—the bank is granting us a new trial period. If we pay our bill on time for three months, then our house is officially pulled out of foreclosure, all the late fees on the mortgage are forgiven, and we get an affordable interest rate for the life of the loan. We could hardly believe that all of our hard work finally paid off, thanks to the wonderful resources that we found through HUD.

Fast forward to today, and all that foreclosure drama that happened over the course of six years is now like a distant bad dream. The mortgage is officially listed as current with the credit bureaus. There’s peace at last.

Can you imagine what would have happened if we went with the first company?

Finding Hope

There are a lot more scam artists than trustworthy people out there, unfortunately. Foreclosures bring out the bottom-feeding predators because they know people are desperate. Keep in mind you may not have the same outcome as we had because of my and my now-husband’s unique situation. However, the most important thing I want you to take away from this is to look out for the red flags. Keep a checklist of them for yourself. Don’t let people take advantage of your weakened state, always think logically, and listen to your gut at all times. Use HUD and BBB to your advantage. If your home is beyond saving, but you throw money at someone who’s promising you the world, then you’re just going to wind up without a house AND without a lot of your money.

I wish you much luck!


Questions To Ask Your Partner and Yourself Before Living Together

The following post was originally written for this blog on 4/16/2010. It has been updated to be more relevant today, but it is mostly the same. If it’s new to you, then enjoy!

I’m an advice column and self-help article junkie. Before and after I moved in with my now-husband, I kept track of all the ways we were proactive in making sure living together was a positive experience for both of us. This blog post is the fruits of that labor. I hope this helps you as much as it helped us.

I’d recommend these questions be asked over the course of a few months, at least. That’s because you’ll probably have a full blown discussion with each question and be emotionally burnt out by the time you’ve hashed even one out, let alone the rest. Plus, you’ll probably be revisiting these questions more than once as you learn more about each other and yourself.

Things To Ask Your Partner

How do we handle the finances?

Someone has to pay the rent/mortgage! Make a list of every expense you’ll have: rent/mortgage, utilities, food, home maintenance, cars, pet care, etc.

Who will be responsible for paying the bills in full and on time?
Will you take turns paying for food?
If you’re short on money for your next car insurance payment, is your partner willing to help you out?
How will you keep track of the due dates together?

The answers may seem obvious to you, but your partner may presume something else entirely. Don’t complain that you’re the one doing all the food shopping if you never discussed who’s supposed to be in charge of it.

Do we merge our finances? Are there any liabilities that make you a risk to me?

One of you may be comfortable merging everything right away. The other may want separate bank accounts all the way to the grave.

Continue reading

Homeowner To-Do List: June 2012

Matt and I have a five year plan for various renovations, additions, and purchases we want to make for the house. Every month, we’ll be posting what our to-do list is for the upcoming months. As the months go on, we’ll hopefully be crossing things off and adding things on. For now, I’m keeping it simple, but I’m hoping for these monthly posts to get more elaborate as time goes on.

Here are the current goals on our to-do list:

  1. Get quotes on tree removal for dying tree in backyard
  2. Repair outside pipe
  3. Clean and open pool for the summer
    1. Make repairs as necessary
  4. Replace older boards in deck
  5. Add new handrail to stairs going to second floor
  6. Get headboard for master bedroom bed
  7. Adjust kitchen layout to accommodate new appliances
  8. Get quotes on upgrading electric
  9. Investigate getting new dryer
  10. Purchase small shed
  11. Look into getting UPSes for office and for living room
  12. Get quotes on gas-powered generator installation
  13. New curtains for living room
  14. Fix coat hook in kitchen

Not too bad of a list for the next few months. Some of the hold-ups come from style differences (Matt and I have different tastes on railings and headboards) and budgeting (the UPSes, the shed), while others just come down to finding the time and the right people. June isn’t too hectic of a month for us (whereas July will be pretty filled), so we’re hoping to make some good progress over the next few weeks.

Welcome to the Revival of My Broke Ass Life

After seven months of throwing around ideas and soul-searching, My Broke Ass Life is back. We’ll be taking on a more focused direction, bringing back a few of Jess’s old posts that fit our mission, and adding new content from Jess and our new writer Matt.

What We’re About

The mission of this blog will be to produce content that relates to domestic living within a budget, whether it be for homeowners, apartment renters, or those just finding their way to live independently. It’s a lot to cover, but the writers here have eclectic skills that they’ve been wanting to blog about, and hey, it turns out that it all falls nicely under the “domestic living” label.

What to Expect

We hope to cover a good variety of stuff, such as:

  • dealing with mortgages, loans, and banking
  • home and yard repair, along with things to look out for to prevent problems
  • cohabitation and relationships
  • cooking tips and recipes
  • budgeting, collaborating on to-do lists, and scheduling
  • sites and apps that increase productivity
  • time management and keeping yourself motivated over the long haul

We’ll also have a monthly feature where Matt and Jess track their own personal progress in their homeownership to-do list, as well as journal entries (marked as such) that discuss events that relate to the blog’s mission. (Well, it may get a bit off topic once in a while… No promises!)

Interested in Writing?

We’d like to eventually expand the writing staff, or at least host guest posts. Leave a comment if your interested in submitting, and we’ll send you email to discuss further.

Special Announcement on June 4

Come back after 8am tomorrow for a special announcement regarding this site!

After having it sit idle for seven months now, and looking back at the amount of money I’ve invested in it, I think it’s ready for something… What’s that something? We’ll introduce it to you tomorrow!