My long silence here at Soulbank is due to a crisis.
That is, a financial, emotional, and ultimately spiritual crisis: losing my home. This upheaval is also about realizing how capitalism works; how the Big Banks work; and how little we—the homeowners, the workers—can do about it. Soon, God knows exactly when–a mortgage servicer called IndyMac—a subsidiary of OneWest—will own my home. Some private investors through Deutsche Bank hold the note on my loan. I don’t know who they are, these people behind my loan. I have no idea to whom I actually owe money. It seems that no one I speak to knows, either.
It all started when I realized, in consultation with Real Estate Attorney #2—that the adjustable rate on my loan had a hard to find clause that added 2.75% to my monthly payments starting in November. So, something mysterious called LIBOR fixed the mortgage rate for a year, but those extra percentage points (where did they come from? who decided to add them, and why?) will kick up the payment to an amount impossible to pay. Of course, my extremely strange loan allows me to pay 40% of that payment and tack the extra principle to my loan amount, but at some point the whole thing would recast yet again, and I would have 18 years to pay off a $700,000 loan on a house worth, in the best of all worlds, $500,000. I am not taking the second mortgage into consideration. Add that in, and the payment in five years would be staggering.
So, the question quickly became the following: when would you like to lose your house? You could lose it over the next few months, or you could lose it in a few years, when there will be no more Mortgage Forgiveness Act (for those of you who don’t know, when the bank forecloses on your home, you must pay taxes on the difference between what you owe the lender and what the house sold for at auction; that difference is counted as income, even though you will never see a penny of it), which expires at the end of this year, but will more than likely be renewed for 2014. I realized that my home, my family’s home, the place where my kid grew up and where we threw the annual Halloween party, the house that nurtured my marriage and my spirit, was an impossible dream. This is a tale of two houses, mine and IndyMac’s.
My house is a place of refuge and peace. My house is a home for those I love, a place of great spirituality and beauty. My house is not a commodity, but a sanctuary.
For IndyMac, my house is a bad investment that needs to be disposed of and reassigned to another investor. For IndyMac, my home is a place that no one from that ‘servicing company’ will ever see. It is an opportunity to make money from fees, fines, and impounds. Not only does no one from IndyMac/OneWest/Deutsche Bank care that this property represents my sweat, blood and tears, they count on my sentimentality to make more money. The more desperately I cling to my home, the more willing I will be to pay them whatever they ask in order to keep it.
They have made a complete mockery of the loan modification programs that keep people like me on an endless treadmill of panic and confusion. For almost two years, I tried to modify this loan. I consulted attorneys and financial consultants. Everyone, in the end, told me to run, not walk, from this loan and these lenders. IndyMac appeared to relent a few months ago (after extensive financial counseling through HUD), and after years of refusing to modify the loan, they sent out a package of papers to start the process. We put it together and sent it out. Oddly, they claimed there were ‘missing documents’. I knew that there were no missing documents. That seemed strange. Then I started to research the history of this company and was utterly shocked by what I read. Try typing in “IndyMac fraud” into a Google search, and you will be floored by the overwhelming stories of deception, deceit and manipulation of the loan modification process. I can’t write about all of it here. Suffice to say, only a tiny fraction of IndyMac’s loans are ever modified, and that seems to be only when you harass them daily and involve your senators and congressional representatives in the fight.
I’m exhausted. Never have I slept less and cried more. We decided—upon advice of IndyMac, who said no help would be forthcoming until we had missed two or more payments—to stop paying the mortgage. Not that we believe for an instant that IndyMac will help us; we simply want them to hurry up and take our home, to get this nightmare over with, so that we can move on with our lives and not spend every waking moment in fear. In the end, the best outcome of this monumental game with the banks is for them to take our home, trash my credit, and allow us a new beginning. I used to want to do anything and everything to save my home; but now I realize how high the emotional cost will be of an elaborate chess game with IndyMac that I am 99% certain to lose. Do I put my spiritual well-being at risk for such a small chance of success? I don’t think I can.
The real cost of the recession is, for me, a spiritual one. For years, I did what I was told: pay your loans, no matter what the terms, whether you understand them or not. Then, I was downsized and lost a significant portion of my income. For a time, the same thing happened to my husband. I cleared out all old retirement accounts and every penny we had in savings to pay IndyMac. Finally, when the money was gone and the writing was on the wall, I had to confront some hard truths: your home was purchased with fluff and lies. Your home was never yours. It was a place you occupied until the reality of our national crisis hit hard, and you realized that in times of crisis, your summer school classes, your overload, your winter session classes, were not priorities. All that extra money you poured into your home was wasted, and accomplished nothing but buy you a little time on a sinking ship.
What is the spiritual cost of losing your job, or of losing even part of your job? What is the cost of losing your home? Everything you believed was sacred– Education, Home, Country–comes crashing down around you. In a crisis, no one cares whether or not your students learn a second language. In a crisis, no one cares if you get to stay in your home. Everything seems so strange right now, so contingent and unmoored. It seems like everything solid melts into air. Perhaps all these institutions—work, home—are just illusions that keep us going from one day to the next, contributing to an Economy that relies on our production and property to move it forward . . . but to what? What is the end goal? In the end, my job and my house are not permanent or necessary, just the structure for my life. My life has to be about much more than a place to live and a place to work. Whether one decides that God is your ultimate reality or someone or something else, you certainly can’t tie your life to the vagaries of your college, your office, or your four walls with a roof and a perfect location. If you do, you will go mad when it all disappears, and everything disappears. You can’t hold on, or the continuously moving tide will drown you. Better to die now to this illusion than to live believing that false idols define your identity.
Education as a goal and an ideal exists even when my classes disappear or the administration doesn’t care what I do, or even notice. Home exists even when banks repossess a house. The beauty of nature exists even though you lose your view of the hills. What matters goes far beyond the particulars of your situation to the universal concepts we hold in such high regard.
So: IndyMac, you may sell my house at an auction, but you will never sell the love, the happiness and the sheer joy of the home my family and I created together. That comes with us, and no one will ever, ever take it from us.