Broken Relationship, Broken Future?

This week, I’m going to take a look at a few of the longer questions that have been languishing in the reader mailbag. These questions were too long for a regular mailbag post – and deserve a longer answer – but are well worth discussing on The Simple Dollar.

Jennifer writes in with a horror story of a financial entanglement that’s holding back her future:

When I was 20 I was very responsible, great job, went to school full time with dreams of being an attorney and my only debt was from school. All I had ever wanted from the time I was 16 was to own my own house and I had about $13k saved so I decided to take the plunge. Somewhere things spiraled out of control from there.

2 days before I was supposed to close on the house I was told I didn’t qualify for the 30 year conventional loan that my underwriter guaranteed me I would, I was about to back out but somehow he convinced me to add my then common law husband onto the loan/house and to get an ARM so that I could qualify. I was dumb enough to go along with it because we had planned to live together and eventually refinance in both our names anyway.

Well, if that wasn’t dumb enough, I also let the underwriter convince me to put no money down since it “would barely change your interest rate.” So I had one loan for 163k with an interest rate of 5.84% and a 2nd for $40k with an interest rate of 9.69% (yes, I know realize how crazy and stupid that was.) My total mortgage payments were $1,344. I spent the whole $13k to pay off all my debt, closing costs and stuff for the house.

Well, 2 months later I found out my ex had been cheating the whole 3 years we were together, we broke up and fought about whom would keep the house. He made considerably less than I did and wasn’t at all financially responsible so I knew if he kept it, it would definitely go into foreclosure and hurt my (at the time) almost perfect credit. We finally settled that I would pay him about $3000 and I would be able to keep the house and refinance in just my name.

Well that was right around the time that the mortgage bubble burst and I spent a few hundred dollars trying to refinance and it was not happening. My mortgage payments went way up but I was able to modify so that my payments went back down to the original amounts. However, the problem is that the interest rates for both loans are still very high and my payments are barely more than the interest and escrow so now, 4.5 years later I still owe basically $200k.

For the last 4 years I have been doing everything I can think of to keep the house, I barely spend money I have a roommate, I work any extra jobs or overtime that I can but the problem is I just don’t make enough compared to the amount of my house related bills. I have racked up over $7k in credit card debt and spent all my savings trying to just keep my house hoping that the market would turn around and I could sell (even if it was a short sale.)

Meanwhile, everything in my house is falling apart to the point that I even feel guilty charging my roommate rent we have a broken dryer, microwave, sprinklers, swamp cooler…the list goes on and on, but I just can’t afford to fix or replace them. Zillow.com values my house at $185 but I believe it is much lower as the house across the street which is the same size but in much better condition sold for $180.

I’ve considered renting out my house but I really don’t think that I could get more than $1000, I would have to pay rent somewhere else and lose the $400 from my roommate so I would end up paying about the same that I am now (but less in utilities) but it would break me to not have tenants pay for even month. Plus I would have to spend considerable money beforehand to fix up the house and replace appliances which I just don’t have.

I have researched short sales but haven’t had much luck getting info from my mortgage company and people that I know who have tried short sales ended up getting foreclosed on anyways. At this point my bills are about $2200 (this includes barely the minimum on my credit cards, all house related bills, car payment and insurance, the only “extras” are $25 for a gym membership and ½ the cable bill for $25.) I only take in about $2400 (including rent) which means that I only have $200 for groceries, gas and anything that comes up, I have no savings.

I have stopped going to school because I just can’t afford it which breaks my heart and is affecting my future. At this point I just want to walk away and move into an apartment close to work with my roommate which would eliminate my need for a car and many of my bills. I am willing to deal with the hit to my credit as well as the shame and disappointment that comes along with foreclose but the problem is that my ex is still on the mortgage.

I have forgiven him for the cheating (and I am still in the process of forgiving myself for being dumb and easily influenced) and we are now friends. He has been working hard for years to get his credit back on track and trying to get his finances in order. In my research, I found out that the only way to get him off the hook is to refinance which I am unable to do. I really don’t want to hurt him after fighting bitterly to keep the house when we broke up. Do I have any other options? If not what is the best way to present this to him? I really am lost here.

So, let’s summarize your situation.

1. You and your ex-husband both have your names on the mortgage of the house you currently live in.
2. You are in a financial situation with poor credit which makes it difficult for you to refinance the home.
3. You can just barely afford the mortgage payments if you squeeze every dime, including abandoning your education.
4. The expense of the mortgage payment is causing you to fall deeply behind on home maintenance, which is decreasing the value of your home.

The obvious solution is to walk away from this situation, but the drawback here is that your ex-husband’s name is still on the mortgage and you don’t wish to sink his credit.

The first thing I would do is play some serious hardball with the mortgage company. I would contact them and inform them that you simply do not have the money to maintain the mortgage at this point and that if refinancing is not available in some fashion, you are going to be forced to walk away from the property and let the home enter foreclosure.

Frankly, that’s the truth of the situation. The situation you’re in is not sustainable over the long term. If you don’t change anything, you’re going to be middle aged, without an education, and with a house that’s in very poor shape around you. That’s a far worse alternative than most of the other options available to you.

If you can, request manual underwriting. Why? If they put your situation into the typical kinds of computer models used by lenders, they’re going to just reject you. Without a deeper look at the situation, there’s no case for refinancing you. Why should they, if you’ve been keeping up with your payments?

What if your hand is forced by the lender? If you cannot convince the lender to refinance, then you’re going to have to sit down with your ex-husband and discuss foreclosure on this house. He may want the house instead of you at this point, depending on what he’s doing and what his skill set is. He may also have other suggestions based on your personal history and relationship that might make sense.

Regardless, you have to leave this current housing situation behind you. If that means simply handing the key to the bank, so be it. The credit impact will eventually go away, but if you stick with your current situation, it will crush your freedom for a very long time.

At the same time, get back to your education. Walking away from your education at your current age is something you’ll regret for a long time, as it will not only negatively impact your earning potential for life, but it also represents other lost opportunities because of the relationships you build during those college years.

How can you go back? It’s not going to be easy in your situation. I would look into community colleges in your area, for starters, until you can resolve your housing situation. Once you’re free, look for hardship scholarships and grants, as it certainly sounds like you would be in a hardship situation.

One final note: I find online property value estimators like Zillow to be almost useless. Over and over again, I find that you get much more realistic estimates by looking at similar homes in your area and finding out what they sell for. Over and over again over the past few years, Zillow has shown housing prices that have been very poor reflections of the realities of specific local housing markets. I think the site has value in a very broad sense, but in terms of figuring out exactly what your house is worth, I’d trust the local market much more.

Good luck. Today is a great day to turn the page on this chapter of your life.

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  1. Hannah says:

    I’m not saying that Jennifer’s ex should be punished, but neither should she feel like she has to shield him from the impact of their house being foreclosed on. They both made an extremely stupid decision in getting a house together, and even if the relationship ended on the best of terms, she shouldn’t feel guilty for him having to suffer his half of the consequences.

  2. Johanna says:

    “I would contact them and inform them that you simply do not have the money to maintain the mortgage at this point and that if refinancing is not available in some fashion, you are going to be forced to walk away from the property and let the home enter foreclosure.

    “Frankly, that’s the truth of the situation.”

    No, that’s not the truth of the situation. The truth of the situation is that the home is going to enter foreclosure whether refinancing is available in some fashion or not.

    To address Jennifer’s actual question: I don’t know if there’s any way to get your ex-partner’s name off the mortgage if you’re not eligible to refinance. Since it sounds like Trent doesn’t know either, I hope some other reader knows.

    And to add to what Hannah said: I understand feeling bad about hurting your ex’s credit after you fought with him over who should keep the house. But that’s water under the bridge now. Whatever mistakes or poor decisions you might have made, you don’t deserve to be trapped in this situation that you’re in.

    As for how to tell your ex, that depends on your personalities and your relationship. If it were me, I’d try to be as direct as possible: “This is hard for me to say, but I want you to know that the bank is going to foreclose on the house. I just can’t afford it anymore.”

  3. Marle says:

    I agree with Hannah. They both decided to buy the house, and it sounds like she’s bearing the consequences of that right now and now him. She can’t shield him from the bad decision they made together, and she can’t keep living like that. She should talk to him about it so it’s not a surprise, and maybe he’ll have some ideas. It’s possible he’s willing to pay enough money towards the mortgage to protect his credit. Not likely, but it’s possible, and he needs to be consulted anyways since he’s on the mortgage.

  4. J.O. says:

    @ Johanna

    “No, that’s not the truth of the situation. The truth of the situation is that the home is going to enter foreclosure whether refinancing is available in some fashion or not.”

    Why so?

  5. Briana @ GBR says:

    I definitely feel horrible for Jennifer; it’s a terrible situation to be in. At the same time, I think she should do what’s best for her. Yeah, it sucks, her ex is still on the mortgage, but he’s in a better situation than she’s in at this point. Go ahead Jennifer, walk away from the house, take the hit, and work vigorously at putting yourself in a better financial situation. Things that hurt now won’t hurt as much later. Good luck.

  6. Johanna says:

    And another thing, since I’m sure we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the commenters talking about the bad decision you made: You (and your ex) are not the only one(s) who made a bad decision here. Yes, you chose to take on a mortgage that you were never going to afford to pay back, but the lender also chose to offer you that mortgage. And when lenders start thinking that it’s good business to lend money to people who can’t pay it back, either the lenders are being stupid or the system is broken. I think it’s a bit of each.

    Now, the tea-partiers are probably going to show up and start shouting some nonsense about how I don’t believe in personal responsibility and don’t think people should be responsible for their actions. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t feel you have to shoulder all the guilt here. There’s plenty of guilt to go around, and plenty of shoulders to take it. So please try not to beat yourself up too much.

  7. spaces says:

    I don’t think Jennifer owes her x anything beyond a month or two notice that foreclosure may occur. That will give him time to arrange his affairs so that his credit needs are met. To the extend that his credit has other problems, those aren’t her fault. He did a deal for the house and the house lost value. It happens.

    Agree with Johanna about the bank. More than any other parties, the banks did these deals to make money. And they were in the best position to understand and control information. If ‘personal responsibility’ is an issue, then the banks, as corporate persons who enjoy a slew of statutory and constitutional rights, need to put on their big bank underwear and own the deals they freely entered into.

  8. Johanna says:

    @J.O.: Easy answer: Because that’s what Jennifer said in her letter than she intends to do, and I believe her.

    More complicated answer: Because I don’t believe there’s a refinance in the world that will make this house affordable for her. Excluding her roommate’s rent, her mortgage is more than eight times her income. If you assume $200/month for food, her required expenses are eating up 100% of her income – more than that, even, if you count the maintenance that’s not getting done.

  9. Johanna says:

    “big bank underwear” – LOL!

  10. jim says:

    Unfortunately you really can not afford the house and you need to get out from under the burden one way or another.

    Here’s what I’d do:

    1. Explain to your ex that you can’t afford the house and will probably default then ask him if he wants to take over the house or help in some other way. If he wants to take it over then cool, if he doesn’t want to take it over then he knows you’ll default and he didn’ chose to help stop it. Worst case there is he defaults on it, which is where you’re headed anyway.
    2. Look into the government making home affordable program. They may be able to help you refinance or modify the loan. Not sure you’ll qualify or not.
    3. Tell the bank you’re scrapping by and can’t afford the house. Ask the bank if they’ll do a short sale. If they’ll let you try a short sale then try it. That is better than foreclosure. Your debt is not too far over the market value so I think you’ll be better candidate for short sale than most.
    4. If the bank won’t do a short sale or it doesn’t succeed then stop making payments and let the bank foreclose. Not much else you can do with no money in the bank and barely enough coming in to pay the bills.

  11. jim says:

    No I’m quite sure you can’t get your ex’s name off the mortgage now. You two co-signed on the loan. You can’t “undo” a co-sign. You’re both responsible for paying the debt. If they simply remove one of the responsible parties without the debt being paid then that defeats the purpose of co-signed loans. They want both parties to be held responsible.

  12. Roberta says:

    I would like to focus on a different aspect of this situation and that is the remark that reads “I have forgiven him for the cheating . . . and we are now friends.” While it’s noble, as well as constructive and emotionally sensible, to forgive him, the fact that she calls him now–in the present tense– a friend shows that her judgment is still impaired. She is worried about getting HIM off the hook and praising him for getting HIS finances in order. Until she changes her thinking and her perspective, she will find herself in other and more financially ruinous situations. This man has used her and has not proven himself worthy of her trust or friendship. And she says that SHE doesn’t want to hurt HIM. It’s quite sad, actually. Financial strength begins with personal strength, and each builds the other. As finances improve, so does personal integrity and confidence, which, in turn, support more financial wisdom and good choices. At least IMHO.

  13. Amanda says:

    @12 I don’t disagree with you.

    This is her ex boyfriend Trent, not husband. Which, IMHO makes it an even sadder situation.

  14. deRuiter says:

    “common law husband” means they were never married. $7,000. in credit card debt, the house falling apart, and owing more than the amount of the mortgage means the house will be foreclosed. Do it now, get it over with, mail the keys to the bank, stop paying rent, and when they toss you out, which may take a year or more, you will have saved up enough to move to an apartment. This was stupid from the get go, you could not afford that house to start. Stop sounding like a professional victim and worrying about this man who helped land you in this financial mess by screwing around on you. Never mind the hearts and flowers, “we’re good friends now” nonsense, he has rotten moral fiber and you’re looking for a way to get back with him into another sick relationship where he cheats on you. DON’T DO IT, FIND A GOOD MAN WHO WON’T RISK YOUR LIFE AND HEALTH (AIDS, CHLAMIDIA, ETC) WHO MIGHT POSSIBLY IMPREGNATE SOMEONE ELSE WHILE YOU ARE GIVING HIM ANOTHER CHANCE, thereby making you look even more foolish and clueless. You need to stop reveling in being a victim! Stop payments on the house, dump this loser who fascinates you so, go back to school.

  15. Not that it matters much, but the biggest thing I see here is unscrupulous mortgage lenders.

    God, am I glad I’ve got someone that I trust in that industry!!

  16. Gretchen says:

    I totally agree with number 12.

    You don’t need to be a jerk about it, but if he wasn’t a cheat you wouldn’t even be in this situation.

  17. Bill says:

    Why the rush to get him off of the mortgage? He should be contributing to the mortgage as long as his name is on there. Why did $3,000 absolve him of the $600,000 this home will wind up costing after 30 yrs of mortgage interest.

    Get him to help you refinance, fix the place and sell it.

  18. Johanna says:

    Well, *I* disagree with #12.

    “the fact that she calls him now–in the present tense– a friend shows that her judgment is still impaired.”

    First of all, what’s up with the “still”? When was her judgment “impaired” before? When she chose to be with him in the first place? Are you saying it’s her fault that he cheated on her? Because, no.

    Second, Jennifer was very, very young when she was with this guy, and I assume that he was about the same age. It’s been four years since they broke up. People in their early 20s can grow and change quite a lot in a few years. I think it’s fairly arrogant to proclaim that two people can’t possibly be friends when you’ve never met either of them.

    Anyway, Jennifer: If this man is indeed your friend, that means that *he* also cares about *you*. He would not want you to be stuck in a crumbling house under a mounting pile of credit-card debt. And if the only way for you to get out would be to hurt his credit, he would understand that. He’ll probably be unhappy. (Who wouldn’t be?) But if he gets angry at *you* or if he tries to talk you into a course of action that’s better for him and worse for you, take that as a sign that maybe he’s not such a good friend after all.

  19. DougR says:

    Not disagreeing with anything here, but just to add: mortgage writers have a burden of due diligence to make sure the people they lend to have the means to pay. You used the phrase “talked me into” a lot, and it sounds as if you’ve been exploited to some extent by the mortgage co. so their profit would be higher. (Multiply this by millions of families nationwide.)

    Your facts are still your facts, but if your mortgage was sold or transferred to another servicer, it’s possible the paperwork was (deliberately, for the convenience of the servicer) executed incorrectly. Who has your original note? If your mortgage was transferred, was it done correctly (many weren’t). If there’s anything hinky about what your mortgager did with your paper, it might buy you some time. Doesn’t change the facts or your situation, just something you might look into, to buy you some time.

    Also, I think your boyfriend (or ‘friend’ or whatever he is) is just going to have to cowboy-up here. You can’t carry all this on yourself, nor should you have to. Possibly (just speculating) you believe that since you talked him into cosigning because YOU wanted the house so much, therefore it’s all on you, but he’s an adult, and responsible for his signature, and it’s time for him to know what cosigning means.

    I’m so sorry for your situation. But personal guilt feelings don’t help at all, just focus on the facts, leave the “story” to the side, do what needs to be done, and the more pragmatic you can be, the better. I would also say, keep your dreams alive, because you WILL get thru this and you’ll need something to build toward.

  20. Roberta says:

    Re: 18. Her judgment was impaired when she took on the house that she ultimately could not afford (see details in the post itself). That risk turned out to be unwise. Befriending and throwing one’s lot in with an untrustworthy person is also an unwise risk, it seems to me. Of course young people make mistakes, but part of growing up is not repeating those mistakes, and in knowing when to cut one’s losses and move on.

  21. DougR says:

    Just to be a little clearer about the paperwork issue: as I understand it in most localities, NO ONE can foreclose on you except the entity (bank, mortgage co., trust, whatever) that now holds your note. If, as is apparently frequently the case, your mortgage was ever sold, transferred, securitized or whatnot, WITHOUT the note being transferred, and paperwork being executed correctly, you might be able to use that to buy time to figure things out. Research this online, esp. as it pertains to your locality.

  22. Katie says:

    Second, Jennifer was very, very young when she was with this guy, and I assume that he was about the same age.

    Not that it matters that much, but since we have relatively little information to go on and are all speculating here, I think it’s relatively unlikely that they were near the same age. When she was 20, they had (a) been living together long enough to be “common-law” married, so at least a couple of years, and (b) his credit/financial wherewithal was good enough to get the mortgage while hers wasn’t despite the fact that he has apparently demonstrated less financial discipline. Combine that with the age disparities in relationships that are fairly common in our society, and both those things suggest to me he was probably a reasonable bit older than her. Since he also appears to be much less mature (or was a couple of years ago), I’m feeling even less sorry for the credit hit he’s likely to take on this house.

  23. getagrip says:

    If the mortgage company won’t work with you, I suggest in this case you may want to look into strategic default strategies as part of your forclosure decision. You would need to contact a lawyer to ensure you know your rights and to make sure they are foreclosing properly, and I’d recommend a lawyer even if you’re doing a short sale. Depending on the state you live in, the way your loans are structured, etc. there are decisions to be made during the foreclosure and you need to be informed about them and not be counting on the same people who screwed you in getting you to buy the property to look out for your best interest now. There are a number of websites that discuss strategic default (usually with an eye to selling you something), but at least you can get an idea of what foreclosure involves prior to sitting with a lawyer.

    With respect to the “shame” end of it. You were sold a questionable bill of goods, and you were expecting significant emotional and financial support from someone who took advantage of you. Your plans in this particular case have failed and despite that you’ve made an honest effort to honor your commitment, but that honest effort is failing. There is nothing to be ashamed of here. Anyone who says there is is trying to get you to keep paying for their mistakes, be it the ex who never planned on a long term relationship and hoped to reap a profit from you down the road, or the lender who massaged the system to gain a greater percentage profit. It’s time to cut your losses and move forward.

  24. Callie says:

    Keep your head up Jennifer! You can do it! You have already learned so much. You’re ahead of the game in some terms. Just keep going and you’ll be okay.

  25. Johanna says:

    @Katie: “his credit/financial wherewithal was good enough to get the mortgage while hers wasn’t despite the fact that he has apparently demonstrated less financial discipline”

    I don’t think the fact that she could only qualify for the mortgage by adding him says anything about what his credit was at the time. Maybe his credit was terrible, but his *income* combined with hers was enough to qualify for the larger mortgage. Or maybe the lender was just making stuff up in order to issue a mortgage with two people responsible for it instead of one.

    “I’m feeling even less sorry for the credit hit he’s likely to take on this house.”

    Oh, I don’t feel sorry for him at all. My point was not that we should all feel sorry for him – it was that Jennifer could be right when she says that they are friends now.

  26. par717 says:

    I think the common theme in all the advice here boils down to:

    Step 1 – Contact the ex and let him know what is going on.

    Step 2 – Do what is right for you NOT for him.

    Step 3 – Depends on step 1 but could be walking away.

    Does it matter how old the boyfriend was at the time or why she got this terrible loan? No, what happened, happened and it can’t be changed. I think it is great that Jennifer is seeking to move forward in her life and it is slightly annoying that comments are focusing on the past.

    Jennifer, good luck, you’ll be fine. Whatever happens will make you smarter for the future. Worst case scenario you have to rent for several years until the foreclosure’s effect on your credit diminishes. In the mean time you’ll have something money can’t buy – peace of mind.

  27. R S says:

    @Jennifer (original post), I second what Trent says about Zillow being off in estimates. One of the problems is that Zillow doesn’t really find direct comparables, as an appraiser would (you’ll need an appraisal for a refi, mine last year cost $400.. whether or not you go thru with the refi). Zillow often uses similar sized homes in different neighborhoods, which may have different property values compared to where your house is.
    Before I sunk money into my appraisal for a refi last year, I talked to my original agent who helped me find the home in the first place.
    She provided me with a list of homes that had sold in the last year in my neighborhood, with all the pertinent details such as:
    # bedrooms, # bathrooms, total sq. ft, garage, etc. The other piece of info that’s really important was the seller contribution. Some sellers provided towards closing costs.
    Zillow does not have access to this information, but an appraiser will subtract that value off the sell price off a home to come up with your appraisal.

    Anyways, any Realtor would be able to provide you with info about comparables that have sold in your neighborhood, so if you’re worried about appraisal value, that might be a good place to start without having to sink any $$ into it.

  28. Jessica says:

    It sounds like Jennifer was living in la-la land for a few years. My husband and I married at young ages and bought our home at the age of 24 and now at the ages of 31, it’s paid off.

    Things fall apart. In the past week (yes, WEEK) we had to replace our furnace/heat pump AND the washing machine- both unexpectedly died- there went $7800. The value of our home too has gone down.

    If this guy is still on the mortgage, HE NEEDS TO BE FINANCIALLY CONTRIBUTING. Take him to small claims court if you can’t get him to do it as a “friend”. Get him to replace the broken stuff. Find a second roommate.

    I highly believe in personal responsibility. Both of these people made foolish decisions and need to take responsibility for it.

    As a responsible citizen who bought less home than I could have and paid it off early (sacrificing many things along the way), it really irks me when people voluntarily walk away from their obligations.

  29. Johanna says:

    @Jessica: This is not “voluntarily walking away from their obligations.” This is a ticking time bomb. Jennifer cannot afford this house. She’s only been able to hold out as long as she has by spending all her savings, taking on a ton of credit-card debt, and neglecting maintenance. Before too long, she just won’t have the money to pay the bills, period, and then it will be a plain old involuntary foreclosure. Would that be any better?

    I believe in personal responsibility too. And the responsible thing for Jennifer to do is to get out of this situation before it wrecks her life even more than it already has.

  30. Michelle says:

    @ Jessica – don’t you think there is a difference between someone who can afford their home and has a legitimate foreclosure versus someone who can still afford their home but chooses to walk away because they are under water? The morality of the latter has been debated here quite enough (I’m not trying to get into that again).

    Jennifer had an unexpected life event that significantly altered her ability to pay the mortgage (her partner leaving) combined with some dubious lending practices on behalf of the bank. She has made every effort to honor her responsibility toward repaying her debt. Sometimes responsibility is about knowing when to abandon the sinking ship.

  31. Michelle says:

    That should have been “can’t afford their home…”

  32. spaces says:

    Jessica, I believe in personal responsibility, too. The bank made a risky loan to a young, unmarried couple and needs to take responsibility for it. Also, it’s charged them for years for the risk (that’s called interest).

    I don’t get why people only apply “personal responsibility” to individuals, rather than to all legal persons who enjoy statutory and constitutional protections and rights.

  33. Sharon says:

    Two days before closing the bank changes the offer from only her with a fixed 30 year to needing him and an ARM. And tells her that she doesn’t need a down payment? Let’s all repeat the mantra:
    “The bank is not your friend. The bank is not your friend”

  34. socalgal says:

    A short sale does not necessarily stop the bleeding. In many states the bank can come after you for the difference between what the home sold for via short sale & what was owed on it. I know people who are now being hounded by collection agencies a year after a short sale. You really need the advice of a good real estate attorney before making any decisions & see what laws apply to your situation.

  35. chacha1 says:

    Sharon, exactly. The bank is NEVER your friend. Even if the banker is friendly!

    If you are feeling “maybe I can’t afford this” and a lender is saying “no, no, look – we can make it work by doing THIS” you are getting scammed. Walk away.

  36. Johanna says:

    You know, I suspect that no matter what had happened with Jennifer’s relationship, this house would be destined for foreclosure.

    Suppose that Jennifer and her partner had remained together. Then she would have her partner’s contribution to her mortgage instead of the roommate’s rent. But since her salary was larger than his, he would have been paying less than half of the household expenses – so probably not much more than $200 more than she’s getting from her roommate now. And an extra $200/month is not going to make the house affordable.

  37. Enid says:

    Jessica has sacrificed a lot to keep the house. She has sacrificed her education, spent all her savings and gone $7K into credit card debt to keep it. Her ex profited $3K from it when he left. He could have used the $3K to get off the mortgage when he left, but chose not to. Now, he is still legally responsible. Jessica should not feel badly for him- she has gone above and beyond to keep the house. This will be one of life’s lessons to the ex that his choices do have consequences.

    As a side note, I think it’s interesting that people can be so down on individuals like Jessica who made a poor decision to purchase a house they couldn’t afford, fight valiantly to keep it, and then walk away. Yes, we are responsible for our actions, but so are banks. They are the professionals here and knew exactly the risk they were taking. It is their job to know if someone is a good risk or not. My bet is that if the lender actually held the mortgage, she would have never qualified. The banks are facing the consequences for their irresponsible business practices. Even God designated every 7th year as one to forgive debts (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). This gives the poorer people in our society some reprieve from bondage to debt. I would hate to live in a society where people were still imprisoned or sold as slaves to pay debts.

  38. Gretchen says:

    How long were they living together that they were commonlaw married? What state is that?

    (in PA, it was 7 years, now it’s not at all.)

    Also, she had this commonlaw husband/boyfriend and was going to get the house only in her name until 2 days before when she didn’t finally qualify?

  39. Tall Bill says:

    Jennifer; You’ve “Forgiven” your ex? OK but; just how many pennies has he contributed while you’ve struggled with BIG DOLLARS over the years earning you NOTHING. Since his name is on the Morgage & you’re at the end of your rope, RUN to him with the keys & then send a note of surrender Certified Mail to the morgage company explaining that you are abandoning it & that your ex has the keys. Give then your ex’s info ie: address, contact info, etc.

    RUN don’t walk – things are getting even tougher.

    Since you appear to be getting along with your roomate, move to that apartment close to school & get enrolled in whatever your can to take a step twards your degree while working. Once you see a table of potential earnings, what true costs your ex burdended you with & loss of earning potential during this hassle, you’ll feel like he really got away free, when in fact he’s still on the morgage.

    Time for him to MAN UP & for you to get on with it. Clocks ticking, do it now.

    Take Care;

    Tall Bill, WA

  40. jim says:

    “How long were they living together that they were commonlaw married? What state is that?”

    I was curious on that too. According to wikipedia entry theres 10 states & DC which still allow common law marriages. New Hampshire is the only state that seems to have a specific minimum time requirement to be considered married. Usually they just require ‘cohabitation’ & intent.

  41. Daniel says:

    How many bedrooms/bathrooms are in the home? Could you take on a couple more room-mates? Even at just $100 or $200 per month each, this would give some much-needed extra cash to begin getting those credit cards under control. With the credit cards paid off, you might be able to convince the bank to refinance. At the very least, you won’t feel like you’re up against the wall quite so much.

  42. Ryan says:

    I’m usually part of the “don’t walk away crowd”, but not in this case. That amount of debt is too much for someone who just isn’t making enough money.

    It’s going to take the bank a while to actually foreclose and kick you out. Use that time to save up an emergency fund.

  43. Fawn says:

    Trent~
    I love reading these situations! You should write more of them. Thanks for the post! :D

  44. Jose De Landa says:

    what about the ex paying extra, he was also in the deal originally.

  45. I love all the input that Jennifer is getting. Though not everyone agrees it still provides the basis for her to consider all the options and then make a decision. It is a bad situation and very much a classic of what is going on right now.

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