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My 82-year-old stepmother, Jackie, has been living in her current home since 1987, when she and Dad moved there.  Now, she’s been told that the bank will sell the house on Aug. 16th.

Jackie’s health has been poor for years between a deteriorating spine, diabetes, and  assorted gastro-intestinal issues.  She’s been in and out of the hospital over the last several years, and even when she’s home, she’s sometimes barely able to care for her cats.  In one of life’s quirks, she had actually been doing better than any time in the last two years over the past month.  Then, her back acted up, and this all got dumped on top.

She lives on a ridiculously small social security stipend considering she and Dad had both worked since in their teens.  Her only additional “income” is food stamps.  We only recently settled a bankruptcy, an agreement that has us making payments on that for the next year, so we aren’t in a position to help directly.

Jackie has dealt with this small bank in a small town for a long time, and things were great up until the bank president retired a few years ago.  He was the one who always treated her well, the one who could be trusted and who knew that she could be trusted to make her payments.  Things began looking different not that long after the new president took over.

Then, when her adjustable mortgage was coming up for renewal this time around, they told her that it wouldn’t be renewed.  They also told her that the payments had been set too low on the last renewal, and her payments had not actually been covering the interest.  They felt that she was responsible for the difference even though it had been their mistake.

Since Jackie had rolled various other small loans into the mortgage over the years, the amount of the mortgage is really more than the house is worth.  In truth, the house is currently worth little because it has major structural issues.  There’s no way she would be able to get any other bank to finance the loan.  (Last month, we replaced 3 floor joists in the kitchen and much of the floor, but it all needs far more work to be worth selling.  We’re just trying to hold the house together because that’s where Jackie wants to live as long as possible.)

About six months ago, a bank representative came to the house and asked if she could take pictures.  She then said that as of a meeting that morning, the bank intended to do whatever it took to keep her in the house.  She gave no reason for the change, no specifics for the plan, and nothing in writing.

Jackie had paid the mortgage through its active life, but we were now in a period when she had no official agreement with the bank, and even if she continued making payments, technically the bank could put the account into foreclosure.  Rather than possibly wasting that money, which seemed somewhat likely since the bank had not proven all that trustworthy, Jackie spent it on other things, such as getting her car roadworthy.  Although she can only drive short distances, at least the car would be available for others to drive her places when needed.

After that bank representative said they would do whatever it took to keep her in the house, Jackie waited for more information.  None came.  Yes, she should have contacted the bank, but her health was up and down during much of that period, and she really didn’t want to push the issue.

In all that time, she got no additional contact from the bank, no letters, no calls, no visits.  That changed when she got the letter saying the house would be sold on August 16th, 30 day notice.  It’s a rather dramatic turn from doing whatever it takes to keep her in the house.

Now, our options are few.  She’s trying to get in touch with the former bank president, who is still on the board, to see if she can get more information, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to help at this point.  I’ll have to dip back into the emergency fund and drive over at some point in the next few days, but first I’m trying to lay groundwork here.

Moving Jackie out of the house is a significant problem because there’s no way I want to force her to give up her cats, and there’s no way any landlord is going to let her move in with six cats (one of which is old and weakening and tends to pee where he shouldn’t).  We don’t have the space, not nearly, (and four cats of our own), and I really don’t want to take Jackie 400 miles from her friends and doctors.

The other option is to somehow raise the money to buy the house when it goes up for sale.  If the bank doesn’t set a minimun, that might not be a lot compared to the money owed, but it’s enormous compared to how little money we have.  There is one person potentially interested in the property who might buy it at the sale and let Jackie stay, but I don’t know how interested or how high he could go.  It’s shakey.

Right now, I figure I’ll try contacting talk shows that offer help (and I see that the Ellen Degeneres site has an appropriate...sort of....category).  The other thing I’ll try after we have a better idea where things stand is asking for small donations in an attempt to raise enough money to bid at the sale. I think the actual loan amount is over $40,000, but it will never bring anywhere near that much.  If the bank doesn’t set a limit, it may go for $15,000-25,000.  Yeah, not an easy amount to raise.  If it comes down to that option, I’ll be asking that you send the word to everyone you know in every way that you can. 

For now, I just thought I’d give a warning of what may be coming down the line.

Forrest