11 Oct A Good Foreclosure Story
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that foreclosures are at record levels. That’s true all over, but it’s even more of a problem for folks in Michigan. Caught between the real estate meltdown and increasing globalization of manufacturing, things haven’t been this bad since the Great Depression. Unemployment is at almost 15%, and foreclosures abound.
In the midst of all this, a good foreclosure story just came out of Holland, Michigan. Holland is a beautiful town of about 30,000 people located on the Lake Michigan coast in Southwest Michigan. It has sandy beaches and a bright red, iconic lighthouse locals know as “Big Red.” Holland—as you might have guessed—was settled by Dutch immigrants, and their descendants keep Dutch culture alive. With its location on Lake Michigan and its Dutch heritage—complete with annual Tulip Festival—Holland is a great place to live.
But even Holland has not been spared from the downturn in the economy. It’s had its share of unemployment and, in turn, foreclosure. That was the case with Claudia Zomoria, a divorced mother who lived with her children in a modest home on West 16th Street in Holland. Claudia bounced from temporary job to temporary job, but was unable to make the $1000 mortgage payments on her home. Predictably, the bank foreclosed. Claudia and her children moved into an apartment. All told, Claudia and her children lived in five different places since she lost her home to foreclosure three years ago.
But then something really odd happened. The bank didn’t pay the property taxes due on the home it bought at the foreclosure sale. Someone told Claudia that her home was going to be sold to pay the property taxes. The bank hadn’t paid taxes for three years, so with penalties and interest Claudia needed $10,000 to have any chance at being the successful bidder at the tax sale. Fortunately, she managed to borrow the money from relatives and a friend.
Then when she appeared to bid on the property, the auctioneer asked if anyone was there to bid on their own home, and Claudia raised her hand. After the bidding began, Claudia was the only bidder for the property. All other bidders declined to bid on the home, allowing Claudia to buy back her home.
In the three years since Claudia lived in the home, it had become run down and vandalized. But she and her children now have their home back and are making a new life back on West 16th Street.
As bankruptcy attorney, Claudia’s story amazes me. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop a foreclosure sale. However, the homeowner must be able to afford the monthly payments plus and additional amount to cover trustee’s fees, attorney’s fees, and the mortgage arrearage. The Chapter 13 plan must be feasible with enough income to make the necessary plan payments. With Claudia’s situation, this does not appear to be the case, so bankruptcy would not have helped her save her home.
Claudia Zomoria is a tribute to single mothers trying to do the seemingly impossible job of working, maintaining a home, paying the bills, and caring for their children. She also represents the grit and determination of a city and state ravaged by a declining economy.
This is truly a good foreclosure story—likely the only one.
Source: The Holland Sentinel
Special thanks to my mom and dad, Mel and Sue DeMott, Holland residents, for calling this great story to my attention.
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