A Letter to the New Owners of My Old House
This is the story of a house. A beautiful house.
To the new owners of my old house:
This is the story of a house. A beautiful house. A house that was made just for my family. Well, okay, it wasn’t actually built just for us, since we bought it used, but it was ours none-the-less. It’s the only true home I’ve lived in as an adult, and it’s where my heart still lives.
I’ve been mourning this house for longer than seven years. Seven years. That’s a really long time to keep a band-aid on the pieces of your heart. Today, I will finally get closure so I can heal.
We bought our house in 1992, before we even got married. My husband lived there until we got married, and then I moved from my parents’ house into my house. My own house. It was beautiful, and we had a great time celebrating the firsts of our life together in that house.
We loved to host parties there. The family room, living room and dining room were all open, with a double sided fireplace in the middle. People would come over and hang out, and happiness would echo through the whole place. It was a great house.
We got such a good price on our house that we built up a nice amount of equity quickly. When our pottery business started suffering from the economy, we used that equity to keep it afloat. We refinanced and then refinanced again. I think we even refinanced again. On the last time of refinancing, my husband said to me, “You realize, if this doesn’t work, we’re going to lose our house, right?” I said I realized it, but in my heart of hearts, I didn’t realize it. I really didn’t believe we could lose our house. I didn’t believe I would ever leave that house. It was our plan to stay there until we died. We loved our house.
Months later, the economy declined even further, and we were really struggling. We had never been late on a house payment, but it wasn’t looking promising. We called and talked to the bank and asked if they could help us. We had been hearing about programs that were starting to be available for people who were struggling to stay afloat because of the economic decline. The man at the bank said there was nothing he could do to help us since we were not behind on our payments. He said we would need to let the house payment fall three months behind before assistance could be given. We took his word for it, and we let our house payment fall three months behind. This allowed us to catch up a little on some of the late accounts we had accrued while trying to pay our house payment on time.
The snowball quickly turned into an avalanche.
After three months, we called the bank and asked for assistance. They said there was nothing they could do to help us. They said we would either need to catch up on the payments or lose the house. We prayed and cried. We really loved our house.
The financial snowball continued, and stress built. We tried a debt counseling program to get caught up on our bills and restore our quickly declining credit rating, but we just couldn’t keep up. There were days when no one – no one – even walked into our store. The cash register sat empty and unused.
Finally, we knew there was no other option for us, and we started the process of filing personal bankruptcy. We chose the option where we would pay off what we could of the debt we had built up. We moved out of our house – our home - and we tried to give the deed back to the bank in lieu of foreclosure. Bank of America refused to accept it.
People said we should just keep living in the house, but we did not feel right about living there and not paying for it. In hindsight, we should have just done it.
We have no idea what could have caused track marks like this on the tile floors. There is no telling what's living in that house after 7 years of emptiness.
That house sat empty and unused. It grew older and older and more and more run down. The roof started to leak. The drywall starting growing black mold. The tile got dirty and dusty. The toilets turned black. Our house was alone. What you see now is not the house we used to love.
Several times during the early years, we contacted the bank and tried to work with them. We filled out paperwork upon paperwork and jumped through hoop after hoop, just trying to get our home back for our family. Each time, they strung us along and then denied our request or (even worse) ignored our request for assistance. And still, our house sat alone and empty.
At some point, between one of our many moves over the years, we needed a place to store things. We began putting boxes and junk in the house. We figured, if we couldn’t live there, we might as well use the shell of a house for something.
For years, we periodically received letters from the bank telling us how much we owed them. We always found those funny. “Write us a check for $280,000, and your account will return to good standing.” Sure, no problem. Will you need to see a driver’s license with that?
My favorites were the letters that said, “We mean it! If you don’t pay us, we are going to start the foreclosure process!” Really? Seriously? You mean you’ll start the process that we tried to end 7 years ago? Ohhh…we’re scared.
There was the period where the bank reps kept sticking signs on our house saying they were going to winterize it. These usually came around February or March. In Florida. Um, yeah. Winterization is definitely necessary. They would go into the house (break into to OUR house) and open the front blinds, so the world could see our stored belongings inside. We thought that made a whole lot of sense.
Through the years, there have been court filings. The lawyers would file a form and withdraw the form and then file the form and withdraw the form. For seven years, we’ve been playing this game, and for seven years, my heart has been shattered over and over again, with each reminder that my house was not my home anymore.
How many times can you cry over losing your home? I’m not sure. I’ll let you know when I’ve hit the maximum.
The best part was when they changed the locks. To our house. Our house – the one they would not take back when we tried to give it to them. I guess they thought new locks would keep us out. Apparently, they had not met my husband, Mr. Everything. The nickname “Mr. Everything” is because the man can do, indeed, everything. That “Everything” he can do includes expertly and quickly picking locks. My child, the Beetle, also inherited that super power. (Let’s hope he only uses his powers for good and not evil.)
So, various locks, lock boxes and deadbolts have not kept us out. We’ve repeatedly asked for a key, but they repeatedly would not give us one, though it was actually illegal for them to change the locks on our house – the one they had not yet foreclosed on – without giving us access.
Finally, the foreclosure was completed about 4 months ago. It happened so quickly! It only took 2 weeks from the time they filed the form. Well, I guess technically, it took 6 years, 11 months and 2 weeks, but who’s counting?
With the foreclosure completed, we knew it was only a matter of time before we had to move our junk out. We don’t have room for much of it, so we figure we’ll leave the rest as our parting gift to the wonderful Bank of America, who has served us so well. It’s the least we can do for them, with as much as they’ve done for us over the years.
Sorry about your luck.
Well, I guess, now Bank of America has given this blessing to you, since you will be the one to clean it all out. Good luck with that. When I say the house has a mold problem, most people think I’m referring to the black mold growing on the drywall. Actually, I’m referring to the fact that we once owned a pottery business, where we made our own inventory, using molds. Best wishes moving all those molds out. I would recommend you wear gloves to avoid pinched skin and blisters. Sorry about your luck.
I do want the record to reflect that we originally left the house spotless. It was only after much frustration and much yanking of our chains that we reached the point that we really did not care. We’re sorry you’ll have to be the ones to move it all. We aren’t sorry enough to come help you with it, but we are sorry. When you make deals with the devil, er, um, Bank of America, this is one of the prices you have to pay.
I wrote you this letter to tell you a little bit about us. I knew you would look at our house, well your house now, and assume we were “low life” people who did not pay our bills. We weren’t.
The sign we had hanging in our house pretty much sums it up.
We were a family who loved our house. We worked hard, and we did our best. We failed, but that does not mean we did not try. We are not ashamed to admit this defeat as we know it has helped us develop into the people we are. We don’t know why we needed to lose our house, but we know, even after many prayers, we still lost it. Therefore, there was a reason.
Maybe our loss was for your gain. We hope and pray you and your family, or whatever family moves in, will love that house as much as we did. We hope our sad, lonely house will see returned days of echoing happiness. We hope the memories that are held in those walls will carry on in our hearts, and the joy that was found there will carry on into your hearts. We wish you the best future possible in our old house.