***Warning, the stories you are about to read are true and personally vulnerable. I hesitated to post this because of my own (past) shame. If you’re feeling all “judgy” you may want to skip this post. However, the ” judgy folks” won’t skip it because “judgy folks” tend to be quite nosey (yes that was a judgy disclaimer!:))!***
I’ve always been a believer in the value of good credit, home ownership, and uber responsibility in general, but there were times in my life when things were so topsy turvy and spinning out-of-control so fast as to make a ballerina dizzy! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve long since recovered both my good credit and my sanity (quite well, thank you very much). And, I’ve accepted responsibility for my role in the creation of these circumstances. I’ve embraced the lessons I’ve learned and moved on!
Most importantly, I’ve learned that failure does not define me, it inspires me! I NEVER give up, I am relentless! I am focused! I am long since over the shame that I accepted from others and that I placed on myself due to false beliefs about what constitutes failure. As a result, I am a very grateful homeowner today. However, although it is great as a tax write off, and I love my home, having one or not does not define me!
Below are two of my personal (real-life) stories that felt like fresh hot steamy crap on a cracker at the time, but in retrospect were great learning experiences and life disruptions (see my last post (called Self Disruption).
The Mortgage and the Divorce
Somewhere around the end of the 90’s I experienced my first home foreclosure. (Yup, my first, with the implication that there is a second, in case you were wondering…judge much?!). I was married at the time, and we made the decision to relocate back to California after living in Georgia for a little more than 6 years. We owned a cute split level home in Georgia (US) that we bought brand new and decided to rent out both to fund our move and to ensure that our property would be taken care of. We made the deal on a handshake and a substandard rental agreement and rented it to a woman who was a church pastor and who was referred by a friend. The rent was paid close to on time for a couple of years which allowed us time to purchase another home close to my family in the Los Angeles California (US). In our naiveté, we thought we would be fine and only have to fly back in the event of a huge emergency. We also assumed that a person we barely knew would “do the right thing” because we absolutely could not afford to pay both mortgages simultaneously nor could we pay a management company to manage the property.
As fate would have it, our marriage unraveled AND our renter stopped paying! On top of that, she moved without much notice along with all of our appliances (yup… all true!)! Me, being the uber-responsible person, I tried to pay both mortgages to avoid foreclosure and protect my credit. My (now ex) husband who was quite angry with me at the time, straight up left me hanging financially, and refused to contribute at all to the monthly payments of either property! I offered to sign the home in Georgia over to him complete with the equity as long as he took over the payment as part of our divorce settlement. But, he was so angry that he jus† shut me out and left everything up to me manage. Of course, I could not financially manage two mortgages while raising my son single-handedly. He also refused to grant permission for me to sell the home in Georgia (Ugh!). I had the agreement drafted by my attorney, but he refused to sign or respond. Since I was raising my son, I had to prioritize his (my son’s) needs and unfortunately allow the home to foreclose. I was devastated by both the foreclosure and the impending divorce. I viewed them both as HUGE failures based on a series of bad decisions. I beat myself up horrifically for months …nay… YEARS!
The Mortgage and the Inflexible Lender
A few years after the above debacle, I was able to sell the home we purchased in Los Angeles (for a loss FYI) and decided to buy a home (on my own) for me and my son (Not sure why my ex decided to approve the sale of the Los Angeles property, but he did). I purchased the home quickly before the Georga property foreclosure hit my credit report. This turned out to be a great decision (at the time). Don’t get me wrong, I was open with the lender about the situation, and even wrote a letter blaming the whole thing on my ex-husband! Lenders back then were all about just closing the deal, collecting commissions, selling the loans and getting outta dodge! All the lender cared about was what my credit report said. I purchased a property in Southern California (US). I was so proud that it was the first property purchased on my own. I was proud of myself and saw it as a huge accomplishment.
Then I got a new job. Luckily for me, home values were skyrocketing so I was able to sell my first property to purchase another closer to my job. I put so much money down that even my prior forecloser was irrelevant! I loved my new three level townhome and intended to live there for many years. Enter FATE a couple years later … then I got sick! I mean majorly, deathly ill! For the sake of my word count, let’s fast forward to the fact that I became disabled and was unable to safely live in a three level townhome. I was forced to sell it for another great return, but I had to purchase a single level home at the peak of the property market. I had to find a property near my son’s school for his stability and properties were literally selling in 24 hours. It was crazy! Once I found the home (built in 1938) it needed to be customized for me with my (new) disability.
After living in it for a few years, reconstructing it, and learning how expensive it was (and is) to be disabled, my finances were quickly depleted. I attempted to refinance, but I had a couple of late payments AND my property value was upside down by almost $200,000 (yup, YIKES is right). Those two factors meant that it was not an option for me to get an interest rate that would have lightened my financial load. My loan had been sold multiple times in just a few years as lenders opened their doors, made a bunch of money then closed. This was around the middle of the 2010’s when homes values across the US were taking a nose dive! Still trying to get a hold of the situation, I did a bit of research and learned that (in the US) there were programs available to help with this nationwide problem and I applied for ALL of them! I was assigned a case manager. I attended classes. I followed ALL of the guidelines. The lender, however, could have given two shits about my situation. I wrote letters, I made phone calls, I sent emails but the lender refused to budge! The case manager told me that although the US President was mandating certain things, some lenders found loopholes and were just taking properties! She suggested that I request a short sale. So…I did! The lender returned a letter (that looked like a two-sentence form letter) informing me that they would not allow a short sale either! Sooooo….I landed in foreclosure yet again!
Don’t worry, I’ve never been homeless, and my son has always been taken care of. He had no clue what was up at the time. He just thought we were moving after his 5th-grade graduation. We found a cute apartment, even closer to my job and he changed schools as he started 6th grade. All he knew, was that our new place had a pool! He never saw my tears, anger or frustration over the situation.
The Lessons I Learned
I felt horrible about myself (I know better now) because I was at a place in my life where I thought things like good credit, fancy cars, and home ownership defined me. I was frustrated about things like “fairness” and couldn’t understand why (especially as a disabled person) I wasn’t rescued from the circumstances. I expected my (ex) husband to do what he agreed to do and take responsibility for his part of the financial obligation. I expected my renter to pay her bills as promised. I expected the lender to play fair with me since some Americans were successfully getting out from under bad mortgages. Why were they able to get out? I was a judgmental jerk who didn’t consider myself one of THOSE people who bought a home that they couldn’t afford. I could have afforded it, (I thought) were it not for this darn disability, this jerky lender (blame, blame, blame, shame, shame, shame).
Boy-o-boy if I knew then what I know now…
- When things we label as “bad” happen in life, accepting responsibility for our own role and not blaming others is instrumental in pushing through the circumstances!
- Life doesn’t see anyone as “special” despite circumstances. Expecting others to treat you differently or give you special consideration for ANY reason is a recipe for disappointment.
- Expecting others to “play fair” or to see THEIR role in a situation is in fact BLAME! You can only control your own actions…and reactions!
- Being angry with people for doing…whatever… is a waste of time! No person can MAKE you feel angry, unhappy, sad or even happy. These emotions are a personal choice!
- Avoid financing anything that you can’t afford on your own.
- Credit does not define you. Do your absolute best to honor your obligations and commitments and learn from your financial mistakes. But if you think you are your 800 point rating, all it takes is medical bills, or an ill-timed lay-off and BAM!
- Failure does not define you! Oh, it may knock you upside the head like an exploding airbag, but keep focused, learn, get up and keep pushing forward!
- Owning a home is great, but a home is a material thing that does not define you.
- Being house poor sucks! If homeownership limits the quality of your life really think about it carefully.
- Know your credit! Keep watch over what is reported and make sure it is accurate and not compromised. Although it doesn’t define you, it can make things difficult unless you’re uber rich.
- In the words of Brené Brown: ‘Embrace the suck!”
Today more than 10 years later, I have recovered from the credit zapping consequences of the above stories. Through tenacity, focus, the relentless pursuit of my personal goals along with the fact that (for me) paying rent is like throwing money into the wind. I am a homeowner again. I have used these (and other) failures to catapult myself into a clearer understanding of what is really important.
Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable. I hope my stories inspire you in unexpected ways!
Love, Light, and Failing UP!
Thank you for reading, I appreciate you!
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