A missed mortgage payment turns costly

March 10, 2008 9:36:51 PM PDT
A Fremont family faces losing their home just a few months after missing a single mortgage payment. Can foreclosure proceedings really happen that quickly? It doesn't happen often, but it can. This isn't a story about a person with a mortgage they couldn't handle. It's a story of a single simple slip up anyone of us can make.

Marie, who asked us not to use her last name, goes through her box of loan papers. For Marie, the prospect of losing her home is overwhelming.

"This is where my children were born. This is the house that we brought them home to after they came from the hospital."

Marie suffers from Parkinson's disease and can't afford health insurance. That means she must spend $1,500 each month just for her medication.

The family also sustained $35,000 in losses when they were defrauded in a property scam in Colorado -- a case now under FBI investigation. On top of that, the family was hit with a $10,000 hospital bill in August.

"The stress of dealing with that property and dealing with my illness put my husband in the hospital," says Marie.

It was also in August that Marie made a mistake that could cost her their family's home.

"We have two loans with the same lender. Ones due on the first, one due on the 15th and I just messed them up."

She went online to make her $1,700 mortgage payment to World Savings, and accidentally applied her payments to her secondary mortgage and none to her primary mortgage.

Within four months, Wachovia, which took over World Savings, would start foreclosure proceedings, sending her a letter demanding $9,000 within 15 days. Wachovia told her to send the full $9,000 dollars or nothing at all.

Jacqui Cosgrove is housing program supervisor with Consumer Credit Counseling of San Srancisco. She says, "here in California you get issued a notice of default, which makes it public record you're behind on your mortgage after three months."

Cosgrove says once you get this notice, the clock starts ticking. You have five months before your home could be sold in a foreclosure sale.

"But up until that point, usually, a bank is willing to work either on a repayment plan or some type of modification," says Cosgrove.

Under a loan modification, the terms of the loan are adjusted to make it easier to make payments. Under a repayment plan, the homeowner agrees to make higher monthly payments for a short period of time until the missed payments are made up.

Wachovia has already turned down for a loan modification for Marie, but after 7 On Your Side got involved, they agreed to look over her situation once again , saying it has been 90 percent successful in preventing foreclosure.

Just last week, Wachovia returned a $7,000 cashiers check Marie had sent the bank as payment for her mortgage. The bank told her it would not accept anything less than 100 percent of the money she owed. As of Friday, the amount owed was $14,000. We'll continue to follow Marie's story, and let you know what happens.