Can you even imagine?

Can you imagine laying down on a quilt on the floor at 11:30 p.m. only to awaken at 4 a.m. with your pillow soaked with tears?  The small glimmer of hope and determination you have managed to brace yourself with to make it through each day has vanished with sleep, defenses are gone, and the reality takes over in your dreams.  You awaken confused, fearful and hopeless.  Go into the bathroom and quietly cry it out, then lift your chin and vow that today will be the day when something changes, when you or someone you know will finally come up with some way to fix this depressing situation.  Lord, please.

Can you imagine after months and months of phone calls, payments, paperwork, hunting for forms and statements in the camper and storage unit, trip after trip to banks – FINALLY, you are actually approved for a small mortgage loan.  It’s okay, there are houses a few hours away that are within your limits.  Only to find out in the ensuing months that it was all another dream.  Banks now require homes to be “perfect”, and all you can afford is a fixer-upper. 

Then you find one.  No repairs needed.  It is listed at $31,000.  You can only bid $29,000 as that is the highest amount the bank will lend you.  So you bid, someone else bids $32,000.  Then you find another one.  It is listed at $28,000, with an escrow for repairs of only $800.  You can do this!  But the bank tells you it is a double-wide and FHA will not allow ANY repairs on a double-wide.  On and on, over and over, you watch  the homes go to someone else, or go for $19,000 to an investor as he has cash.  Ten months later, I am no closer to finding a home. 

Or finding one for $15,000 with 8 acres of land, needs a lot of work, but you look at the photos and feel your fingers itching to repair those dilapidated outbuildings and paint those walls.  Cash only.  You have $5,000 saved for closing costs and earnest money.  $15,000 might as well be a million.  I know of no one who can lend me 15 or 20k over 15 years to get a fixer-upper with cash.

Can you imagine your youngest child staying in someone’s basement at a place she can have her horse.  She also has our dog and one of our cats.  She has nowhere else to go and cannot afford to rent elsewhere in this area as rents are very high.  We thought to rent together until I can find us a home, but there is nowhere to rent where we can take our animals.  They are our family.  We cannot abandon them.

Can you imagine calling your dear friend sometimes two or three times a day as the panic and hopelessness once again get a firm grip, the tears begin to leak unbidden, fear wells up threatening to choke you.  A little conversation, laughter, and once again you can make it through the next hours.

Dear friends are trying so desperately to help, it hurts my heart that all their efforts have so far been for nought.  A fundraiser, sending money to buy lottery tickets, writing to tv shows to try to find help for me to get a home; when I feel like giving up they are my cheerleaders.  I spend a week day and night on chip flavors, desperate to come up with one that will be one of the four finalists, with $50,000 (even minus taxes) I can get a home.  Entering the DIY win a home contest, once a day on both sites, maybe my name will be picked.  Dreams, all of it silly dreams, but what else is there?

Homeless on the street or in parking lots, holding signs, saying they are hungry, or trying to get to the next state.  My heart breaks.  A dollar or two, five if I have it.  Bottles of water that are always in my car.  Buying a little bag of dog food in the dollar store for their dog, lunch for others.  I am homeless, yet there are others  worse off than I am.  I cannot drive by or just walk past these people who need help, these brothers and sisters, children, of my heart.  We are all in this together and I must do what little I can.  The pain and fear is mine, mirrored in the eyes of these others who have lost and are searching for a way to survive.

Can you imagine going to a gathering; when it is late and everyone leaves to go home, you drive back to your daughter’s home, get your blankets from your car and slip in quietly to lie down on the floor?  For you have no home to go back to, five years of no place of your own, no bedroom, no private space at all.  But are grateful for the floor, for it is more than some have.

Trying to give my daughter’s family some time of their own in their home, I go to sit on a lawn chair with a book and bottle of water down at the barn.  After an hour or two, I try to think of somewhere I can go, but being ten miles from the nearest town I cannot waste the gas.  Think of taking a walk, but my mishapened, badly bunioned feet will only go so far.  So I sweep and rearrange things in the barn.

Can you imagine being 64, applying for jobs online and in 4 years the only positions that even replied were to sell vacuums door to door and a 3 week part time job for Xmas ?  That you get less than $800 a month on social security, that is all you have to work with, and after helping with electric and food where you are staying, paying your few bills, you can manage to save 100 to 150 a month toward a home, barring an unexpected vet or car repair bill? 

If you have been here, I am so, so sorry.  It is not an easy place to be, or get out of.  If you have not….can you even imagine?cry

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Leaving the farm behind, on to North Carolina

We drove away,  Megan and I not speaking much, as our hearts were broken and there were not words to change a thing.  We went to Raleigh to stay temporarily with my second daughter and her family – hoping to figure out what to do next.  Valentine, Megan’s horse, was boarded near our lost farm until we could locate a place in North Carolina to take her.

I know some may wonder why I kept her horse.  I had given mine away, and had my own heartbreak.  My daughter, then 16, lost everything too – her home, her bedroom furniture, her security, and the only thing I could do for her was not make her lose her horse, too.  Perhaps what I chose was not the best idea, but it was all I could do for her. 

We made calls to see if it would be possible for us to put a single or double-wide on land that my oldest daughter’s husband owns, but the cost for the septic and well alone in the county and area they are in was over $12,000.  There was no way I could do this.  Our options with little money were few.

We were in Raleigh for less than 6 weeks when my second daughter’s family had to move for his job. So we all packed up and headed north of Charlotte two weeks before Christmas.  In February, I heard about job openings with the US Census.  I had worked for the 2000 census as a supervisor and trainer, so I called about it.  A week later I heard back from them and was told I would be notified when a training class was begun in the area.  Yes! 

We moved Valentine down to North Carolina, and waited for the next call.

The job did not begin until the middle of April.  After a week of training classes, many of the days were part time, only 3 or 4 hours.  By the beginning of June, I had worked a total of 34 part-time days.  And it was over. My second daughter’s family would be moving once again, to Alabama for his work.

So I called my oldest daughter and sent up a thousand dollars for them to get us a little camper.  With little money and nowhere else to go, we headed back up into Virginia to stay with her family.  071wuah

The photo is of our old truck pulling a small trailer with all we had left.  Our dog and cats were inside the camper shell. 

Mortgage pre-approval! (but the joke is on me)

In October of 2013, I began the long and arduous task of getting pre-approved for a home loan.  Three months later, I was turned down for various reasons on my credit report, but no one at that bank told my why. So I went to another bank, and it took the loan officer half an hour to ascertain the difficulties.  For some unknown reason, although the home loan for my farm had been marked “paid in full”, that bank had a note on my credit report that stated they had seized the property and sold it themselves to procure the funds to pay off the loan.  In other words, that would be considered “foreclosure” and I would not be eligible for a home loan for…alas, I do not recall exactly, but I believe it was 7 years.

Eventually, after many, many calls to various departments in that banking system, as no one could locate paperwork as I no longer had any account with that institution – many trips to a branch of theirs 25 miles away – weeks of waiting for the credit report to clear – the statement was removed.  I also had one back bill that had been sold to a collection agency.  Unfortunately, it had been sold again and it took weeks to locate the present holder and get that settled and removed from the records.  Weeks, frustration, tears, phone bills, gas, settlements, credit institution calls when items remained that should not have been posted there; finally it was done!   In late June of 2014, I was pre-approved for a home loan for the amount of $29,000.  (My income is just under $800 a month now on social security).  I had enough saved for closing costs and was set to go!

A couple of my friends and I were so hopeful, as we had been perusing the HUD site and realtor.com for weeks, and had found quite a few suitable properties at the amount I would be able to pay.  We had to watch for taxes and also look for homes with private septic and well to keep the bills down.  But we were very excited!  The search was on!

I had a few requirements – an acre so there would be room for the horse, preferably a private well and septic, and some sort of shed, barn or building.  I still do not know if Megan will be moving with me, but she is renting in the basement of someone’s home. She has Valentine, our dog and one of our cats with her.  I have our other 4 cats (all strays that we took in) and also our 3 chickens.  I need a place where she can come, for if anything happens where she is presently, she will have nowhere to go with the animals of ours that are with her.  I am not comfortable with getting a home where the animals could not go.  My dream, since our farm was lost in October of 2009 was to get us a new home.  To get us off people’s floors and couches, have a bedroom once again, a place where I can make my crafts, my herbal salves and preparations, cook,  plus a place to put my clothes and not have to keep them in the trunk of my car. 

At first there were a few.  I found a nice place with a very pretty double-wide, 2 acres, a big shed and some fencing.  It was listed at $31,000.  I put in an offer, sight unseen, for $29,000.  That property sold for $35,000 in 5 days. 

We found another, similar on a Friday evening.  I tried calling 4 different realtors over the weekend, and when I finally spoke to one late Monday morning,  I was told a contract had been signed that morning.

We also found several that were being sold by banks and not FHA HUD homes.  Nice places that needed a little work, such as fix a deck, paint rooms or put down carpets or tile, all of which I can do.  What I did NOT know and was soon to find out is that banks will no longer give loans on properties that need ANY work at all.  And banks will NOT put carpet in that one room with the subfloor.  Will NOT put in the required stove and will not allow a buyer to until it is purchased and after closing.  The other problem is that more and more of the low  priced HUD homes are listed as “uninsured”, which means FHA will not back the loan, so the home has to be purchased with cash.

So these properties are available ONLY to people who have cash or to investors.  One that I really loved and was listed at $25,000 was sold to an investor for $17,000.  Okay, the bank took a lot less, but no mortgage, no loan, off the books – easier for the bank.  But where does that leave low-income people who are desperate for a home? 

I cannot afford to rent.  Rents here where I am presently are $700 and up for an apartment,  $950 and up for a house.  I only get about $800 a month.  I could not even afford the rent without utilities, phone or internet.  Without food or water bill.  Even if I would move south of here to a depressed area where it is cheaper, I could not rent for $400 and pay utilities.  And there certainly is no place to rent with our animal family.

A home at the $29,000 I have been approved for would be about $230 a month, insurance and taxes included.  This is my only chance to get a place to live.  A house, a HOME.

I did put in an offer on a house about 3 1/2 hours from here and my children.  The house was a HUD home, needed some work, but there was an escrow amount which goes to the bank for repairs, and it was low enough that I could do it.  (For those who know something about mortgages, I have a 203b, not a 203k loan approval).  The house was listed with 1 1/2 acres and in an area I am somewhat familiar with.  I got a call from the realtor and my offer was accepted!  However there was a problem.  The land that was on the listing did not go with the house.  So there was approximately half an acre which was all trees but for the small front yard.  I was heart broken.

Months went by, searching frantically on every site I could find, day and night. I finally decided to try a different route.  I went to realtor.com and for each area put up the LOWEST price houses.  I needed one with a decent roof and good foundation, but many repairs I can do myself.  There were (are) a couple that  I really like, however, they are selling for anywhere from $14,000 to $20,000 and payment has to be cash.  My $5,000 that I have for down payment and closing costs is not nearly enough.

The other idea my friends and I discussed was someone purchasing one of these very low-priced homes for me, me giving them the $5000 I have, then making payments to them for a few years like a mortgage, all of which can be set up with just an attorney.  We found a few problems with this, as the home would not be their primary residence.  Taxes and insurance would be higher (which I could not afford), and they, too, would have to have cash for the remainder of the purchase price.  No bank would lend to them on one of the “fixer upper” homes, and any loan would add back  the price of closing costs.

8 months of looking, making offers, finding out a home doesn’t have a carpet in a room so it has to be a cash deal. 8 months of hopes dashed, frustration, despair and tears.  And still no home.  My loan is a joke.

The photo on this blog is of a home for sale last week.  Pretty nice on the inside with over an acre of land. A friend of mine found it and sent the link, but I was unable to get out due to the ice, snow and flooding here.  It is already under contract.WPpondview

Stranded on the island

It is not exactly an island, but it is encompassed on 3 sides by bends in the river.  The fourth is a mountain.  The only way in is a low-water bridge.

198This is on top of the hill down to the bridge.  Across it is the

“island” which has approximately 40 houses on it.  Most are now vacation houses for people in the city (Washington, D.C.).  There are only about 8 full-time residents.  My daughter and her family is one of them.

032 copyThe snow began around 6 am this morning.  I took this photo at noon.  Precipitation  is estimated to end near 6 pm this evening.  There is no state maintenance in here.  It is private. The one-lane dirt and gravel road may be plowed after the snow ends, but quite a lot of snow will remain as it cannot be plowed too low or all the gravel will be removed.  Also, the hill in the first photo is covered with ice which will make it difficult to get out.

However, this is not the most serious detriment.  The river gauge many miles below us beeps a warning to my daughter’s cell phone when it goes over 5 feet.  The water takes about 8 hours to reach us from the area where that gauge is located.  Once it reaches 5 feet, the likelihood of flooding at this bridge is great; over 5.5 it’s a given.  The last time I checked, the water at the gauge was 6.30 feet.  Now even those with 4-wheel drive will not be leaving the “island” until the water recede.

SEND1 A photo of previous flooding.  The road out on the other side is visible in this pic.

044My daughter, Megan, checking the water on Valentine last spring.

flood; sepia, framedPlaying around one day.  I like the sepia tone, and added a frame.

It floods here many, many times a year.  Sometimes several times a month.

Ice, sleet, snow, flooding – we have all this week!

Attempting to save our home

When I re-read the last post, I realized that I written nothing about the many attempts to save our home in those last months.  We did not sit idly by.  Many good people stepped up in an effort to help.

When I first defaulted, the bank sent me a letter stating that if I paid $8,000 on the loan that they would refinance the remainder.  A friend of a friend called me and told me not to worry – that he would come up with the money for the refinance.  A stand of timber was being sold and the money from the sale would be put on the house.  This unfortunately did not work out; the timber deal fell through.  Also, the bank asked for an income statement from me and deemed my income inadequate for the refinancing. 

I went to many places to ask about work, but was told I needed to apply online.  I received neither calls nor e-mails.  It was frustrating and depressing.  Impossible to get hired when no one will call you for an interview.

After this, my oldest daughter 220 miles away went to get a loan to buy my property. The payments would have been approximately $200 a month.  She called me several times to let me know the paperwork was going through and then one day I answered the phone to someone crying.  The loan was denied, even though her income was more than adequate, for she was one who pays in cash.  She did not have bad credit, just NO credit history.  And as this home would have been her “second home”, the loan was not approved.  My heart broke to hear her distress, for she had done all she could to help.   Another plan that did not work out.

We were boarding a horse for a family down the road.  They had purchased a horse that had many health problems and Angel was with us while my daughter Megan doctored her and while her owners put up a fence.  John (name changed)  had just heard that we were going to lose the house.  While we were standing at the fence watching Megan treat Angel’s hooves, he told me that he would buy my six acres with the barns and house for the $25,500 owed to the bank and Megan and I would be able to stay there.  He told me he sure wouldn’t mind owning it, and that it would be a good investment for him. John said for me to give him a couple days to work out details, and not to worry. 

Two days later John was again leaning on the gate as I walked outside and sadly told me how sorry he was, but that the night before he received a call. A big contract had just fallen through.  He would not be able to buy the house.  I thanked him with all my heart for trying, for his kind offer. 

Each time my hopes were soaring, and as one idea after another failed,  my heart broke.  I was on the phone every day calling places in the town, government agencies looking for some type of aid. All to no avail.  Someone told me about an online “help” site, so I started an account and told the story of my dilemma.  Kind strangers ( I made some wonderful friends the years I remained on that site) as well as friends of mine helped us to keep gas in the car and the phone paid, but the huge miracle I needed to keep our home was not forthcoming.

It was over.  There was nothing left to do but contact a realtor and list it at a super low  price, hoping to have a couple thousand instead of allowing the bank to auction our beloved home and leave empty handed.  So people gathered on the courthouse steps the morning of the auction to bid on my home, but no bidding took place, as a sales contract was signed the evening before. 

Looking back, I still do not understand how every attempt was thwarted, why nothing anyone tried worked out.  I still hurt for all those who tried and felt they let me down.  I wish them all the blessings their lives can hold for wanting to help us, for caring, for their attempts.   I lost our home, but I was richer for the people who were there beside me, caring.  Heart hugs to each of them

FUND8 copyWPThis is a photo of Valentine, Megan and her nephew Gavin in one of our pastures on the farm.