Monday, January 09, 2012

In which unexpected developments continue to develop

Yet again, I don’t even know where to start.

I’ve been thinking for a while about things to post. There are lots of things to post about. Marika, for example, is being really funny. She is obsessed with the Israeli happy birthday song and wants me to play it (we have an Israeli kids’ music CD) nonstop. The song is one minute long, so there’s a limit to what a body can stand, but while it’s playing she’s a riot; she literally runs around in circles because she’s so excited. We also have a book with the words to the songs on the CD, and she finds the page with the happy birthday song and shows me. “Yoma yoma dedet mee mee!” That would be, “yom huledet sameach to me!”

Work is going fine. The Bituach Leumi thing has gotten marginally worse; I realized that the accountants (if you want the name of an English-speaking accountant to stay away from, email me privately) had screwed up yet again and submitted my 2011 income incorrectly, and my actual monthly withholding should be NIS 3,000. That, for the record, is a little bit less than we anticipated paying in rent next year. This whole thing has put all of the financial tribulations of the last year in perspective; the rest of it just paled in comparison.

Until Saturday.

What happened on Saturday, you ask?


So on Saturday night, I called back our former upstairs neighbor, who is the head of our condo board (there were only four apartments, he was the only other owner who spoke good English, and the two of us basically made all of the decisions together) and who had left me a couple of messages over the previous week. We’d been playing phone tag for a few days but finally caught each other late Saturday.

He started out with the good news: that the property tax appeal had gone through and the city had agreed to reduce our annual taxes by $300. Not much, but something, although we owed 1/3 of that to the lawyer who had done the appealing for us. Fine.

“And we’re going to do it again for the next property tax cycle because of the foreclosure,” he said.

The what? The foreclosure. There’s a foreclosure?

So. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but one of the families in the building had been kind of problematic for a while. They did not pay their assessments, they had at least 10 people living up there, they did not maintain their apartment and they used an incredible amount of water. They also, apparently, were not paying their mortgage. We had gotten foreclosure papers sent to the condo association a couple of years earlier, but as of a few weeks ago, they were still there and said that it had been worked out; since they had obviously not gotten kicked out we believed them. But, the upstairs guy told me, their apartment was in fact foreclosed on in December. And sold at auction.

For $70,000.

Turns out they had not paid in THREE YEARS. Not only that, but the bank gave them money—thirty-eight THOUSAND dollars—to get out of their apartment by year’s end so that the bank could write off the loss in that tax year. So, almost nothing down, three years of free rent, and $38k to move out. Not bad, if the whole ethical issue doesn’t give you pause.

In the meantime? We paid almost the same for our apartment. Taxes have been doubled and we had to double the assessments as well. We have never missed or been late with a payment, and in fact made (before the crash) a lot of extra payments to principal too. We have a principal of $163k and monthly payments of $1608, counting the maintenance. We’re still paying them, even though the apartment (which is only partially rented out, because we still have all of our stuff there and I go back regularly) now loses us well over $400 a month. We’ve tried to refinance a few times but been told no: first off, our mortgage was sold to a private investor; second off, we have a perfect payment record and savings to boot, so why should the bank want to reduce our payments when we have proven ourselves perfectly capable of making them, and willing to do so even despite, well, everything? No reason at all. For us, the old rules still apply.

We did everything the way you’re supposed to. And because we’ve always played by the rules, we’ve lost so much money on that apartment I can’t even think about it. If we hadn’t bought that place, if we’d stayed in our old rental, we could have bought an apartment here with cash. As it is, we have this apartment that is nine thousand miles away that is sucking us dry and will continue to do so for as long as we remain responsible mortgage-payers.

So. I did the refinance paperwork, again, and explained the recent developments—the husband who has been unemployed for going on two years, the insurance that is now costing us $900/month out of pocket, the foreclosure upstairs. I also called a private mortgage broker today, to see if he had any other ideas. He suggested “letting it go.” As in, stopping payments and letting the bank take it. That, in his view, was the only reasonable course of action given our situation (which I described to him a bit more fully than I describe it on the internet). He agrees that it would make sense for the bank to reduce our payments and principal, but added that unfortunately the way these things work doesn’t often make sense.

Yeah. I’d noticed.

Remember how happy I was when we bought that place? I felt settled. I felt like a grownup. I loved painting the walls and putting in the shelves and feeling like I had my very own home. Like Grandma E said, we could never have imagined this then.

Somehow or other, this will be OK. I was IM’ing with my friend Shanna (who is a divorce lawyer) before and we both heartily agreed that it’s much better to need a real estate lawyer than a lawyer like her. It could be so much worse. It’s just money. Everyone is B”H healthy and we still have savings and I still have my job and somehow or other, b’ezrat Hashem it will be OK.

I joke sometimes that between me and my husband, I do the hishtadlus, he does the bitachon. I’ve done all the hishtadlus I can; now it’s just time for bitachon for both of us.


Jasmijn said...

Clearly the lesson is that it doesn't pay to follow the rules. In fact, you could coin a phrase there: you pay to follow the rules. Amirite?

Soooo, well, there we are, then. I'll come bail you out if you need me to. As long as you don't cost more than my Discover card limit, anyway.

~ Jasmin

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