By: David Dayen Wednesday February 9, 2011 8:45 am
I attended a Huffington Post Mortgage Madness Meetup in Los Angeles last night, which suffered from some late planning, the buggy nature of the Meetup tool and the general difficulty of self-organizing. Only a half-dozen people showed, and most of them were either media (a guy from NPR’s Marketplace) or interested observers in the foreclosure mess. In fact, the one homeowner with a story to tell arrived late and almost didn’t make it because he went to the wrong location initially. But oh, what a story he had to tell. And while I’ve heard a lot of these HAMP horror stories in the past year, I’ve never heard anything like this.
Jeremy Fletcher is a swimming pool builder from Northridge, California. His business jumped along with the inflation of the housing bubble, as people bought new homes and made improvements. He made enough money in those years to purchase a $900,000 home for him, his wife and two kids in late 2007. “Ironically, the reason I was doing so well ended up tied to the same thing that got me in this mess,” Fletcher, a surfer and former musician who lived with the Lovin’ Spoonful growing up, told the group.
As the bubble popped, his business tanked. He went from $250,000 in sales in 2007 to $40,000 in 2008. By early 2009, “I was totally broke,” paying for his $4,200 mortgage out of savings and barely hanging on.
He called his servicer, Citi Mortgage, early in 2009, when HAMP was announced, to see if he could get help. “I thought I was being responsible, looking forward before I got into trouble,” he said. The servicer didn’t see it that way. Citi told him they wouldn’t help because he hadn’t missed a payment and showed no sign of default.