Chip Parker discusses walking away from your home on First Coast Connect

07 Feb Chip Parker discusses walking away from your home on First Coast Connect

As the managing partner of the largest foreclosure defense firm in Northeast Florida and the only practicing attorney on Jacksonville’s Foreclosure Task Force, members of the media often contact me for my opinion foreclosure issues. Last week, I appeared on local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, WJCT, to discuss “homeowner walk-away” with the host of First Coast Connect, Melissa Ross. Joining me were two Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Lawyers, Allison Albert and James Millard.

Recently, There has been much talk about homeowners making the strategic decision to walk away from houses that are now way “underwater,” meaning that the home value is far lower than the principal balance owed. This is especially relevant in the hardest hit foreclosure states – Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada.

I have consistently advised my clients that the best way to deal with their foreclosure is as a purely dispassionate business decision, realizing how difficult it is to look at a home with cold eyes and think of it only as an investment. Many homes represent more than just a place to park the car – homes symbolize marriage, childbirth, coming of age, retirement and death.

I am still emotionally connected to the home where my mother died. We moved there my senior year in high school with my father, and I spent much time in that home over the next 20 years. It was the hub of the wheel for our large family, and on Christmas Eve, dozens of us would come from all parts of the country to celebrate the season. We would joke that we never called each other – we just called Mom to find out how the clan was doing. Heck, I guess Mom was my precursor to Facebook.

Everyone has a connection to a place just like my home, and for many, the thought of giving it up is too much to bear. This is what mortgage companies bank on when they make their “take-it-or-leave-it” offer. This is their unfair advantage because they know many homeowners will continue to pay more than they can afford to stay in a place not worth what is owed.

After my mom died, my dad could no longer live in our home, and I bought it from him to keep it in the family. I found strange comfort sleeping in the exact spot my mother’s life ended. However, my life circumstances changed, and I had to move on.

What I realized is that I don’t really miss that house. I miss the memories made there, and staying there did nothing to preserve the great times of the past decades. My point is that a home is only a shell for memories and merely a reminder of personal connections we cultivate. Leaving a home does not destroy a family’s bond.

I am NOT saying you will likely lose your home in foreclosure, and I am NOT saying you should give up. To the contrary, every day that I am in this fight for middle class home ownership, I realize that most homeowners have tremendous leverage against the mortgage companies. The banks’ confidence only comes from the fact that most people do not fight. Truthfully, the banks are losing ground in contested foreclosure cases.

So, I say FIGHT YOUR FORECLOSURE! However, keep in mind that, despite having hired a foreclosure defense attorney, you may ultimately be faced with the decision to walk away.

When it comes to the welfare of your family, tough decisions need to be made, and rationality must prevail over emotion. The banks prey on your emotion, and you choose to give the banks that power. The good news is that you can also choose to take that power away by detaching your emotional connection to your home. As the old saying goes, Home is where your heart is – not where you park your car.

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Chip Parker is the managing partner of Parker & DuFresne, P.A., where he represents Northeast Florida businesses and consumers facing bankruptcy, and homeowners facing foreclosure. His firm files more homeowners in the Mortgage Modification Mediation Program than any other law firm in Northeast Florida. Parker is the recipient of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's prestigious Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service. Mr. Parker is an active member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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