Strangely enough, just as I was setting up to launch this blog, I got a call from my loan servicer, the third such call, asking for my father, who died on july 16, 2009. Since late July, I have been living in the house, as I am the only heir with any interest in keeping it and the administrator of my father's estate.
Even though there's a mortgage of roughly $82,000 on it and the appraisal ordered by my attorney came up at $81.500, the house is quite livable for me, a single white guy, and I've been keeping up the routine maintenance though mortgage and tax payments, to this point, have not been made. Currently, the mortgage is 7 months in arrears.
A little bit of background is necessary to understand how and why I came to be living in this house and why I have decided to not pay the mortgage. The taxes are another item altogether.
Right off the bat, readers should understand that if there was a reasonable mortgage on the house, or, if the two other heirs with equal rights as mine had any interest in keeping the house and making the mortgage payments, that arrangement would have been made. However, since that never was the case, and the mortgage, taxes, insurance and utility bills were far too much for me to bear on my own, I decided, on advice of the estate attorney, to reside in the house, or, as he put it, "protect the asset."
When my father died at age 84, his financial affairs were not in the best condition. Somehow, he had amassed a great deal of debt over the past few years, especially after my mother passed away in 2006 and her Social Security payments stopped. In 2007, my father rolled all of his secured (he did have a home equity line of credit, or LOC) and unsecured debt into a first mortgage on the home.
While doing that cut down his payments somewhat, it still left him with quite a large monthly mortgage bill for his circumstances, as he received only SS payments and a smaller monthly check from the state retirement system. Dad also liked to "play the market" and the losses he incurred over the "lost decade" of 2000-2009 were significant. So much so, that when he passed away, he left mostly debt behind (managed to run one credit card up to $23,000), but there were some stocks (bought on margin) and the house, which, as I have pointed out, was almost 100% financed, leaving no equity.
I had been very close to my father; he was my best friend, and when I found his cold, lifeless body on the floor of his bedroom on the morning of July 16, 2009, I had an epiphany moment, knowing that my life was about to undergo radical change. That my father had been not in the best of health for many years prepared me for what was to come to a degree, but I can truly say now that I was never prepared completely for the aftermath of his death and the continuance of my life.
Having been his closest confidant and also his gardener, butler, sometimes driver, and general handyman for the better part of the last six to eight years, dealing with the various chores involved with the upkeep of a 1600-square foot home were a tax on my time, though they were chores from which I never shrank and which I generally took on with an air of duty. My parents, especially my father, had been very good to all three children, including me. Taking some time out from my schedule seemed a small price in comparison for the years of support and love they bestowed upon me. I had no idea just how much time I had been devoting to his care and upkeep of the home, but I knew he wanted me to keep the house upon his passage and I set out to do that.
I had originally planned to write this blog as a kind of diary from day one, but my circumstances were so uncertain - especially in the early days - that I never quite found the time to do it. Now, with snow on the ground and a fresh perspective, I am ready to post regularly of my experiences, with hope that others can learn from them. I will try to post on a regular basis, a few times a week, because what I've learned and am learning as the process unfolds may be quite an unusual story.
That's about it for background, for now. Suffice it to say that I am living in the house I grew up in, a source of contentment and pleasure for me, and, so far, it hasn't cost me anything more than paying utility bills and insurance, some of that covered by the estate.
I should add that my father's legacy will be preserved to a degree, if only by the fact that I am occupying the house and not allowing it to deteriorate further. There are quite a few repairs that would be compulsory if the house were to be sold, and I - and the estate - have neither the money to pay for them nor the expertise to do them alone. The things he left behind, his personal affects, have been sorted and maintained and I know that he would want me to do the things I am doing.
As for that call from the mortgage servicer earlier, well, I waited on hold for the requisite three minutes and hung up. I know that this house is not among their priorities and that this particular mortgage servicer has an enormous backlog of delinquent accounts, pre-foreclosures and foreclosures, probably more than any other financial institution in the country. That should give you, the reader, a very good idea of who they are and maybe a little bit of insight into why I'm in no particular hurry to engage them.
I'm waiting for them to do what they have to do. I submitted the required forms back in August of 2009. The ball is in their court.