Fighting Foreclosure: Ernesto and Maria Rivas
On October 5, 2009, Ernesto and his wife Maria came to CARECEN to request foreclosure prevention and budgeting counseling. Three years after purchasing their dream home in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC, the couple found themselves struggling to pay their mortgage on time and in danger of losing their home.
CARECEN’s Housing Counselor, Anabell Martinez, recalls that when the couple came to CARECEN they were “very frustrated.” Their two home loans required monthly payments of over $4,000, leading Anabell to believe that Ernesto and Maria had been the victims of predatory lending.
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Maria was working with an office cleaning service and Ernesto, a landscaper, was getting only a few hours of sleep each night because he had taken on a part-time second job. Still, the couple
could barely pay the monthly interest on their home loans. Fearful that their mortgage payments could soar even higher and that they would fall behind on their payments, the couple came to CARECEN for help.
At CARECEN, the couple received not only foreclosure prevention assistance but also credit and financial literacy counseling. Ernesto and Maria attended several of CARECEN’s foreclosure and financial literacy workshops to become better informed about their situation, and Anabell helped them develop an action plan that included budgeting assistance. Ernesto and Maria worked hard to reduce their expenses by cutting telephone costs and buying groceries at less expensive supermarkets.
While the homeowners sought to limit their expenses, Anabell conducted negotiations with the bank to modify their interest-only loans. She spoke with bank officials nearly every week on the couple’s behalf. When the bank repeatedly claimed to have misplaced the couple’s financial documents, Anabell patiently resubmitted every required form.
Her perseverance finally paid off two years later, in December 2011. In that month Ernesto and Maria received a modification agreement that reduced the monthly payments on their first loan from $3,165 to $1,276. After further negotiations, in April of 2012 Anabell was also able to secure a modification for their second loan that reduced their monthly payments from $970 to $254.
Ernesto and Maria were excited and relieved to receive these modifications. “Maybe now he will stop working his part-time [second] job,” Anabell recalls Maria saying.
After two and a half years, Ernesto and Maria can now be confident that they will be able to make their mortgage payments and preserve their house. As for Anabell, she is also glad that her hard work helped the couple to save their home. “All of these hours that I have been working have had a good result,” she says with a smile.