Still Pushing for Going It Alone in Foreclosure
This summer, Bellverie Ross led seminars on how to avoid foreclosure. The former MBNA executive worked one small audience like an energetic motivational speaker. "One of my things is I'm always out helping people. That's very important to me, so I developed this seminar. It is based on my own experience and a lot of research that I had to do," said Ross. The petite 47-year old described how trying to sell her $660,000 home snowballed into a foreclosure crisis of her own. She said, "I got an offer on the house and then the house fell through it didn't close. And I had moved. So here I am with two mortgages, the house sat empty for 9-10 months and then l let some people move in. Whoa, that was a big mistake!' Ross says her tenants would pay the rent on her 5,000-square-foot lake home, west of town. Just not all at once. It would come in dribs and drabs throughout the month. And that put her behind on her mortgage. She asked the bank to modify her loan but instead it foreclosed. That's when the mail started. She got hundreds of offers- for hefty fees- to help her get out of foreclosure. But she shoved them aside and also bypassed non-profit housing counselors in favor of digging herself out. After a lot of research, Ross managed to lower the monthly payments on her current home and started a short-sell on her lake house. A short-sell is when a bank agrees to let homeowners sell their house at a lower price and give the proceeds to the bank. That was in the early summer but unfortunately the short-sell fell through. The bank foreclosed and now she's preparing for a legal fight with those buyers. Through it all, Ross remains an optimist. "I believe that taking charge of your life empowering yourself and saying, I'm going to do something about that, is critical. It's like anything else. You can lie down and get stepped on or you get up and keep going," she says with a laugh. Her seminars are on hold indefinitely because Ross doesn't have the money to run them. With the weak economy, she's busy trying to keep her fledgling events promotion business afloat. Ross says, "I'll get a call, sometimes it's from a little old lady. It's sometimes very sad. Unfortunately, I would love to have the power to go out do seminars, teach people so they can get through the day. But I've got to make money so I can stay in the house that I'm in." Sometimes Ross gets calls come from mortgage bankers in danger of losing their homes. She's not fazed by this irony. "Because we buy our dreams today on credit and everybody does that. We're a country where we look at ourselves and say I need, I need, I need. I have to have that," she says. None of those mortgage bankers would talk for this story. They were too embarrassed. But Ross is very proud of her track record of helping others. In fact, just last week she resolved her sister's foreclosure. She says, "I haven't heard one person come back and say that their primary home, that they've actually lost it. I haven't heard that. I've basically now been able to negotiate terms or to help people negotiate." "And unfortunately there aren't enough people like that," says Ira Reingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. "Trying to manage it on your own with a few helpful hints- You can try! But it's really, really hard. You really need someone who can help you." Reingold says anyone in this situation needs to find a well-versed housing counselor. About four million homeowners across the country have skipped at least one payment, and that number is expected to rise. More and more people might have to abandon their pride and seek out help whether it's from a housing counselor or people like Bellverie Ross who've been through it themselves.