Photo: America Underwater
Some of the 11.1 million homeowners with negative equity have started sharing their stories on a Tumblr called America Underwater.”There’s so much shame where people feel like they’ve been tricked and feel like their banks have mistreated them,” said Ian Kim, director of campaigns for the economic justice group behind the blog. “But putting a face on the housing crisis was very necessary.”
Kim has found a common thread in these stories: homeowners who played by the rules “got tricked by the banks,” and banks were reluctant to throw them a lifeline, even when they were clearly struggling to make their mortgage payments.
“These are paying customers who got their hours cut back at work, and who called to ask the bank to work with them so they could pay on time,” Kim said. “Over and over, I’d hear about banks giving customers the runaround, losing paperwork, saying one thing and doing another. It’s a form of torture that’s disempowering.”
With America Underwater’s permission, we’ve picked out some highlights.
'This was my first home and a new marriage.
I lost my job, my husband and $23,000 --which was most of my down payment.
The bank did nothing for me except rewrite my mortgage after two years into it.
They made me start all over for another 30 years, and added a $30,000 balloon payment due in 20 years.
So much for the American Dream.'
'My dad tried to get a loan modification and his file was 'in processing' for two years with Wells Fargo.
He'd been in the hospital for months.
The stress of the foreclosure shut him down. He was buried the day they auctioned off the house. We couldn't even mourn him properly as we rushed to get his personal belongings out.
The entire country's welfare and health cannot implode because of the housing industry people. Is this all America is, corporations and lobbyists, really?'
'My name is Eulette Arrington, 89-years-old. My husband Chat is 90-years-old.
We have lived in a small 1000 sq ft home on 128 Shriver Ave for close to 20 years in Massillon, Ohio ... We have attempted to improve the property while living here. However, I cannot say the same for JP Morgan Chase Bank.
In March of 2005, we attempted to refinance our loan because of the high interest rate. I was very happy when someone at the local Chase Bank said we could refinance ...
I should have known when the person was from out of state and when they showed up late at night, but reassured us that this refinance was a good deal.
After a year or so, I noticed that the principal was not going down. I asked my daughter to check ...
To my surprise, she discovered we had a conventional 30 15 Balloon, interest-only loan, and that in a few years the whole note would come due.
Yes, we are still alive; I believe they were hoping we would be dead. We first attempted to get our loan modification, but were turned down; my daughter also spoke with someone at our local Chase bank and was told they did not know who held our note and could not help us because our house would be not appraised at what we owe.
It appears we owe more on our house than what it's valued at.
We asked if my husband could use his VA--he served time in World War II--and had assumed that we used it when purchasing this home.
Chase seems to have issues with using VA too, and we were told we could not and would need to bring money to the table ...
We are not asking for any handouts, but would like to get a lower fixed rate so we could continue to stay in our home. This is truly a subprime loan.'
'Wells Fargo Bank personnel helped the $203,000 contractor and consultant steal $32,000 from my construction budget.
Now, since having to liquidate to cover the loss, and the loss of a job six months after closing on my home, I owe more on the home than what was paid and the original loan amount.'
'This is my condo. Paid $90,000 down, all the money from my divorce settlement because I needed a place to live with my teenager and our pets.
I am now $128,000 under water (120%).
I don't have a picture of me in front of it because this afternoon I moved the last of my things out, and I can't bear to go back.
Last year, I 'explored my options' with Wells Fargo. They told me they 'couldn't even talk to me' until I stopped paying.
I asked about principal reduction and they said, 'Wells Fargo doesn't do that.'
One year later, I made the awful decision to give up my perfect credit rating because I will never, ever have a penny of equity in this place if I paid until I was 80.
I am now 55 and very worried about the future. Condo is up for short sale, but in terrible shape because I could not afford repairs.
I cannot understand the greed of the banks/lenders.'
'Despite having a good credit history and making all my payments on time, the lender won't talk to me about principal reduction.
They seem ready for me to walk away from the home I had planned to keep until death do us part rather than lower the principal.
The housing market will eventually improve and upon my death, the lender won't have lost a dime.
They would simply get back a well-maintained home that they can resale at a market price well above the current market rate.
Principal reduction would benefit the lender as well as homeowners.'
'I relocated to Florida to work for a bank. When the downturn hit, I lost my job.
My former employer and mortgage holder refused to modify or re-finance while we continued to use all our savings and credit to pay the mortgage.
They 'lost' our modification application five times.
Former colleagues at the bank told me confidentially to stop paying because they we're tossing any applications that weren't 'in trouble.'
Finally we stopped paying and they started to foreclose, and then we were able to short-sale the house ...
At 62, I've lost my life savings, have racked up $70,000 in debt and have borrowed on my 403B. I'll never recover, never retire, never stop shoveling snow.'
'I applied for MHA trying to get a principle reduction and a reasonable interest rate. I was told I did not qualify, the best they could do was to extend my loan from 30 to 40 yrs, interest from 6.5 to 4.25.
All of the lenders expenses were dumped into my loan inflating it from $256,000 to $298,000. All that was accomplished was reducing my monthly payment from $2100 to $1600.
I will have to pay PMI for at least the next 15 years. I will have to work until I am 95 to pay off the loan!'
'We are bankrupt, now living in an apartment. This house is in a short sale.
Our family home was already foreclosed on last year.
This one was our investment for retirement. All gone.'
'THIS WAS NOT AN INVESTMENT or a 'FLIP.' We simply needed a place to live.
I placed my life saving on the down payment, only to have it washed away ... Dealing with an autistic daughter, much of my income is going to therapy that insurance does not cover.
Due to the downturn I can no longer afford to pay for both therapy and mortgage ...'
'No savings, no college fund for my three kids, no retirement.
Building industry collapse caused hardship. US gov't and big banks are to blame.
Bank Of America won't work with me for a loan modification because the mortgage is in my ex-husband's name.
Quicken loans did a refi with no documents and without my knowledge, consent nor my signature with $66,000 extra put into the loan. I have been foreclosed on.'
'My house is way underwater and since the housing crash, my home has dropped in value by at least $200,000.
My taxes have done nothing but gone up. I'm behind in my mortgage by $70.000 on top of the late fees they want to tack onto my loan.
I have been asking the bank to modify my loan since Sept 2009 and still NO HELP! ... At the closing of my loan, they knew I was living on a fixed income and i was told,''don't worry ... we will get you your home!'
After renting out several rooms to keep up with the extremely large 80/20 split balloon mortgage, things became unbearable to keep up with, and my dreams have been destroyed.'