In 2006, after saving every dollar she could from her earnings as a retail manager with a national department store, Sharon was finally able to make one of her life’s dreams come true by purchasing a two-family home. She delighted in being a homeowner—whether it was painting and redecorating, planting flowers, fixing a leaky sink, or otherwise making the house her own, she knew she was investing in her future and adding to the value of her home. She rented out the second unit in the house, the income from which covered about half of her monthly mortgage payments. Life was good.
Then, about two years later, a hurricane destroyed her mother’s home, where two of Sharon’s children also lived. With no other options, Sharon’s mother and the two children moved in with Sharon and her other two children. With two adults and four children in the home, it soon became clear to Sharon that she would have to stop renting out the home’s extra apartment and use the space for her own family. Without the rental income, Sharon was forced to tap into her savings to continue making mortgage payments of $4,065 each month. She used credit cards for day-to-day purchases like groceries and other household bills, so that more cash would be available for the mortgage.
Realizing she needed help, Sharon contacted several companies that offered “mortgage assistance,” only to discover they were scams. For a full year, which she describes as a “year of hell,” Sharon attended an assortment of seminars and workshops trying to find a solution to her problem, with no success. In November 2010, Sharon missed her fist mortgage payment. “I was at my wits end,” she says, “when a co-worker suggested I get in touch with Bridge Street Development Corporation.”
“Sharon’s case, though heartbreaking, is unfortunately not unique,” says Imelba Rodriguez, a certified foreclosure counselor and BSDC’s senior program director. “Many homeowners experience an unplanned financial event such as a medical emergency, accident, or the loss of a job that quickly snowballs to the point where they get behind on their house payments.”
In one-on-one counseling sessions, Ms. Rodriguez evaluated Sharon’s financial situation and recommended that she apply to her mortgage servicer for a loan modification—effectively, renegotiating the terms of her mortgage to reduce interest rates or extend the term of the loan. Ms. Rodriguez helped Sharon gather the required documents and submit the application. But that was only the beginning—servicers are notorious for dragging their feet on modification applications, so Ms. Rodriguez called them every week or so to check on the status of the application and see if they needed any additional information. “Imelba was on top of them,” says Sharon. “She was passionate about helping me keep my home. It was clear to me that this wasn’t just a job for her, she actually cared.”
In January 2011, Sharon was approved for a 3-month trial modification which was made permanent a few months later. Her monthly mortgage payments dropped from $4,065 to $2,008. “Now I have some breathing room,” says Sharon. “I’m paying down my credit card debt and will soon be able to begin saving again. Imelba and Bridge Street Development Corporation helped save my home.”