Personal experience with homeowner distress
My experiences in personal homeowner distress has led me down several interesting and edifying paths, but the one that has had the largest impact on me is the subject of today’s post:
A little more than a year ago I heard about an opportunity to become a Home Retention Consultant for Titanium, Inc.
From Titanium’s website: “Titanium Solutions is the leading provider of homeowner contacting and counseling services. We work with many of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, primary mortgage insurers, government agencies and counseling agencies to facilitate communication with homeowners facing foreclosure, before it is too late. Titanium accomplishes this by working with experienced real estate professionals who care about their community and have a vested interest in preserving home ownership. Our nationwide network of Home Retention Consultants (HRCs) ensures that homeowners understand their options to avoid foreclosure and help them through the process”
This sounded interesting to me and I decided to move forward with certification. While totally convinced that I could assist people in a real meaningful way, I remained hesitant and nervous about the practice.
The first thing that a HRC has to do is knock on the homeowner’s door, unannounced.
I have this lifelong and inexplicable fear of knocking on doors…I used to make my younger sister do it when we were kids selling fundraiser items!
After struggling with the helping people vs. knocking on doors of strangers decision, I was ready to accept my first assignment.
On a crisp fall Saturday morning I pull up to my first assignment and true apprehension settles in. “I can’t possibly do this,” I think. “I don’t want to knock on this door!,” I cry inside. “What if they yell at me?,” I question myself.
I can do this.
I have already committed to this and I am big on following through with my promises, so I take 20 deep breaths and start the long walk up the front steps.
The door is answered by the homeowner (calling her Maria for this story), who is shocked to hear why I am on her porch, but not unfriendly. I have decided to tell these homeowners the truth of my own past pre-foreclosure and financial struggles. I share the short version of my story with Maria and tell her that I am there to help her.
Foreclosure danger, right here in front of me
Maria responds with relieved shock. “I don’t know what to do,” she explains. She had refinanced and has since gone back to school and her husband isn’t helping her with the mortgage. To make matters worse, this is a two family and the tenant has been regularly late with rent. Maria doesn’t want to lose her home and no one in her household knows she is in danger of foreclosure.
We make a follow-up appointment to fill in the necessary paperwork and she starts to cry and gives me a hug. “You are like an angel on my porch,” she tells me.
I leave Maria’s house feeling bolstered and elated by her reaction. I am already helping…this is fantastic! With this encouraging response I happily point the car to the second home.
What’s behind door number two?
Door number two is answered by a man I will call Tom. Tom has no shirt on, a shaved head and many tattoos. I dive into the same explanation of why I am there, but Tom cuts me off mid-way.
“I already told the mortgage company that if they want the house they have to come and get it and it will be a pile of ashes!,” Tom yells through the screen door.
I try to explain that I am not a bill collector, but a facilitator and in Tom’s case I am in possession of a pre-approved loan modification which will lower his interest rate, payments and restart the loan with no detriment to his credit.
But I want to help. 🙁
Tom is not only not interested in what I have to say, he is angry. He asks me to leave and I readily comply with a sad “I really am here to help.”
I return to my car and am in the process of re-programming my GPS when Tom comes toward my car. He is waving me down with a contrite look and asks me to talk with him. I unroll the window enough to hear him apologize.
“I have been trying for months to get this resolved,” he says “and no one has helped…the people on the phone run me in circles and the problem just gets bigger.”
Tom goes on to apologize for his treatment of me and asks for my help, if I am still willing to give it. We fill out the necessary paperwork, make the phone calls to his mortgage work out department and an hour later his loan modification is in process. Tom turns out to be a very nice man who has been under a lot of stress. He is grateful for my help and is relieved that the issue is finally resolved.
I was able to actually help
In that first day as a Home Retention Consultant I was able to help two thirds of the assigned people (the third home was deserted). It occurred to me that this was a tangible way that I could help not only these homeowners, but the real estate economy as a whole recover.
I have since visited many more homeowners, many of which I was able to help, but the memories of that first day are the strongest and most poignant.