My Experience with Bank of America, Martin Andelman and Getting My Loan Modified
My name is Chuck Bothe and I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. I am a Licensed Psychologist and an executive coach.
What follows is my story of how going through the foreclosure crisis proved one of the most emotionally difficult challenges of my life. As you’ll see towards the end of my article, I am sharing my story with you, someone who has gone through something similar, for a particular reason.
In early February of 2000, I closed my private practice in Minneapolis, sold my house and moved to Arizona to pursue my dream of living in the desert and starting my coaching practice. I had planned the transition for over a year and it was an exciting time for me! However, less than 30 days after arriving in the desert, the dot-com crash happened; and like so many others, I lost most of my money.
In fact, I lost 90% of the money I’d saved over the course of my lifetime, and as if that was not enough, the stress of that series of sudden and shocking events contributed to my waking up one morning with an illness that would last almost six years and take me out of my chosen profession. My dream was crushed. I made it through by painting houses.
As 2006 began things seemed better. Healthy again, the prospect of resurrecting my practice was well underway. But then, in December of 2006, I was hit with a second illness, this time involving my thyroid, which again took me out of my profession. Of course, I knew I was not the only one that had ever had to deal with this kind of setback, so once again, I found myself painting houses, the same thing I had done to get through my first illness.
I worked on getting healthy so I could return to my practice. And thank God, I beat the odds and recovered from that illness too, with my thyroid still intact. In the fall of 2008, I thought I’d finally be able to return to my chosen profession.
About that very same time, however, Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial crisis was here. People just froze up financially – no one was painting their homes anymore. Adding to the stress, my mortgage payment went up by 50%, and my home plummeted in value. There was no way I could refinance my mortgage now… all of a sudden, I was underwater.
Here I was, finally healthy again, and I had learned to listen to my body and I knew I needed to respect what too much stress might do to me. But with a mortgage payment that went up by 50% and painting work increasingly hard to come by, I knew I’d need help.
Twice I contacted Bank of America about a loan modification and both times the long process led nowhere. My stress level skyrocketed! I finally stopped trying to get a loan modification after 12 months of total frustration with the bank. I eventually came to the point where I stopped making my mortgage payments.
As I had never done anything like this in my entire life, it turned out that not making my payments was way more stressful than making them.
This is the house the remaining 10% of my money went into buying. I certainly did not want to lose my house too! So I kept looking for ways to resolve the issue. I searched online for answers… I even started attending meetings for homeowners in Arizona that claimed to offer help, but all they seemed to be saying was that loan mods were scams and that homeowners needed to sue their banks to save their homes.
I kept looking for answers. I want to say that I never gave up, but the truth is, as the months turned into years, I felt increasingly helpless when it came to saving my house from foreclosure and the most I could do was look for ways to delay the foreclosure that seemed the unavoidable result. I didn’t know what else to do. So everyday I would think of the impending doom that awaited me.
The day finally came. An hour before my house was scheduled for auction at the courthouse, I filed for bankruptcy to temporarily stop the foreclosure process. After I filed the bankruptcy, which I later let be dismissed, I walked up to the auction and watched for a while. That was a surreal experience. The guy who was supposed to auction off my house called it out for auction anyway, even though I had showed him my official filing, which by law prevented him from auctioning the property. No one bid on it that day… pure luck.
Though I am a trained and experienced psychologist there were many days I was no match for the stress I was going through. I felt a lot of anger, depression, disgust and rage. I started having digestion problems that were extremely uncomfortable, so much so that I though of driving myself to the emergency room at times. I was increasingly withdrawn and profoundly sad. I isolated myself more than usual. Even with all my training, this situation drove me (and probably a few close friends) pretty close to crazy.
I understood exactly what was happening to me and to others in my group and the groups I attended. I knew people were losing far more than just their homes. I watched a dozen people break down as I helped them pack everything up and move out of the homes they had lost to foreclosure. These people were my friends and neighbors.
Those were agonizing years, days full of incredible and unrelenting stress. I was no longer sleeping more than a few hours here and there and I was worn out. My mind was working non-stop, trying to figure out the answer; but it started to seem like there was no answer.
There were times that all I felt was this irrepressible urge to burst into tears – it wouldn’t go away – and other times I found myself with feelings of absolute rage. How could this be happening to me… how could it be happening to citizens of this country? It seemed so incredibly unfair, and yet nothing was being done about it.
The shame factor was another undeniable force I had to deal with, as do all the homeowners who find themselves in this terrible situation. I didn’t want everyone to know what I was going through… even my family or some of my close friends, if I brought up the subject of so many losing homes to foreclosure would make it clear how they thought about it… deadbeat homeowners… people who had bought homes they couldn’t afford… irresponsible borrowers… how could I admit that I was one of the homeowners who was now likely going to losing a home? Now I had a secret I had to keep around some people to avoid being judged.
That’s what drives vulnerable homeowners to look online and attend meetings of other homeowners at risk of foreclosure… we need to find people we can talk to… with whom we can share our feelings and frustrations without being judged poorly… as irresponsible borrowers who had done something wrong and deserved to lose our homes.
Maybe because I live in Arizona finding groups of homeowners that would meet each week to discuss strategy was easy and I went to one quite regularly. I mostly listened and no one had any real answers… nothing was working.
I also found numerous blogs that covered what was going on related to foreclosures… and one was Mandelman Matters. I started reading the articles Martin Andelman would write… they were long and detailed, but they were also often sarcastic and sometimes quite funny. One thing the author of these articles made very clear… the foreclosure crisis was not the fault of homeowners… it was caused by the banks… he didn’t feel homeowners losing homes had anything to be ashamed of and that made him safe to talk to in my mind.
So, one night after reading one of the articles on Mandelman Matters I decided to write to him… he seemed different than the others… he seemed very knowledgeable… and he provided his email address and his phone number to homeowners in case they had questions. I didn’t really expect a response to my email, certainly not a quick one, but he replied to the email I sent around midnight right away… a few minutes later. He offered to speak with me about my situation and gave me his cell phone… said I could call anytime. So I called him and we talked for an hour, maybe longer.
I started reading many if not most of his articles, even the really long ones. And I’d either email him my thoughts when I had something to say about what he had written, or sometimes I’d call him and we’d talk about whatever he was covering at the time; he explained a lot of things to me.
Then one day he called to tell me he was coming to Arizona… I went to meet him for drinks at a local restaurant and bar. He had also invited a dozen or so others… well-respected attorneys in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, several I knew personally from having asked them for their advice in the past. Martin led the meeting of lawyers, explaining developments to them, asking them what approaches they were taking.
It was clear he knew what he was talking about and the lawyers knew it too. We all respected Martin and were looking to him for direction, to lead the way, to find some way, to announce some initiative. The attorneys were among the best and were reporting the obstacles they were running into; they were discouraged and were also looking for support. They were watching briefs they would take hours crafting not even be read by a judge. They were losing. They were just as angry and discouraged as homeowners.
And that night as I left the meeting, I had a short conversation with Martin in the doorway of the restaurant, where it was clear to me how passionate he was about finding a way for homeowners. It was just oozing out of his eyes. At the point where we were all discouraged he was anything but.
Since then, I’ve seen Martin on several of his trips to Arizona… seen him volunteer to speak at homeowner groups for hours… answering everyone’s questions about what had transpired, how we got here, and what was and wasn’t working for homeowners in Arizona and all over the country. Anyone who knows Martin knows what I’m talking about when I say he’s a real fountain of knowledge and information regarding the financial meltdown and foreclosure crisis.
Once he even came to a foreclosure support group I led at a local church and he stayed for four hours answering questions from homeowners. Then we talked a few more hours in the parking lot. Martin wasn’t selling anything and would accept no payment, which I offered, for speaking. He was just trying to help.
Bank of America initiated foreclosure action against me again. They had stopped for a while after I had filed bankruptcy to stop the sale of my home. But now they were coming back and I was a basket case. The reality started to sink in that I would probably lose my home to foreclosure and there was nothing I could do about it. The homeowner meetings I attended came to an end. It seemed the best I could do was try to delay the inevitable another 30 days. It seemed nothing would work. I wasn’t actually doing anything to change things either. I didn’t know what else to do and I was upset and sent a few emails to Martin detailing how upset I was about the situation.
One night Martin replied to one of my rants by asking me what I was actually doing to fight. He asked me if I had the income to make a modified payment, and I told him no. I said I felt so discouraged I had not been motivated enough to generate things at a high level. I was convinced that I was going to lose my home no matter what I did because that’s what Bank of America wanted to have happen.
He suggested I stop beating myself up and stop feeling sorry for myself. He said if I could work hard for three months and be able to document income of $4,500 a month, that he would contact Bank of America on my behalf and try to help me get my loan modified. It wasn’t like he was charging me any money or anything, so I had nothing to lose. That then became my plan – generate 4,500/month and apply for a loan modification, knowing Martin would help if he could.
My past experience with the foreclosure crisis and the process of getting my loan modified told me that I would never succeed given the way things were. And Martin would say, “we’re in a river not a lake… you stay in the river until the river changes.” It’s like he was saying, “Chuck, the river has changed enough and now is the time for you to apply for the loan modification.” I was hesitant. I had tried to put the jigsaw puzzle together so many times and failed. But, at Martin’s urging, I tried it one more time.
Long story short, it worked! I got my loan modified! And not only that, Bank of America gave me a principal reduction of over $100,000. My interest rate is fixed at 3.5% percent for 40 years and my payments, which were $3,000 a month, are now under $1500.
The feeling wasn’t like anything I could easily describe. Part of me wanted to scream out with joy. Part of me wanted to sit down and cry, like at the end of a long hard fought battle. And part of me wasn’t sure it was completely safe to be happy. Part of me was afraid that they might take it away and I knew I couldn’t face that kind of disappointment. I was thankful and realized how many others needed what I had received.
The next day Martin called me. I laughed and told him that yes… Bank of America was modifying my loan and the terms were even better than I ever expected. I thanked him a few times for his help. And he shared with me that he has helped hundreds of people just like me, one at a time. He pointed out that like me, most people create imaginary demons that stop them from taking the very actions they must take to save their homes, that people no longer know who they can trust or what they can do that will work.
I also knew that as bad as I had done, I had done my best in a situation that was almost impossible to navigate. I was just lucky to have had Martin’s help. To have read so many of his articles on Mandelman Matters and seen him speak to so many groups of homeowners that when it came down to the wire, I was able to trust him enough with something very big to me to try something my mind still said would never work.
Remember how I said I was writing this article for a particular reason? Maybe you already figured it out. Actually, I wrote it for a couple of reasons.
One reason is that I know Martin. I know many of you don’t know him beyond reading his articles. I know how he was influenced by the death of Martin Luther King; we talked about that at great length. Martin is tireless in his pursuit of the truth and in his efforts to find solutions where injustice currently prevails. He truly believes the only way to help people is to educate them and he works very hard to do that and has been doing so without being paid for his work for a very long time.
I’m writing because I’ve been a witness to his dedication; there have been many times when I’ve emailed him after midnight and he’d email back to call if I wanted or he’d call me. And what would he usually be doing? He’d be working on another article.
Martin has the ability to tell you what you don’t want to hear without ever judging you. He gets attacked a lot by people who don’t know him and his first response is to not take it personally, but to keep doing what he is doing. He is a good mix of accepting people and directing them to fight in the best way possible.
Does he do all this for people without getting paid? I can tell you that there have been several instances when Martin admitted to me that he couldn’t come meet with homeowners at a meeting in Phoenix, which is only a six hour drive from his home, because he couldn’t afford to make the trip. And on one of his trips to Phoenix, I happen to know that he slept in his car before making the drive back home. He is not on the payroll at some giant bank.
I’ve personally seen Martin spend hours talking to homeowners and never seen him sell anything or ask anyone to pay him or anyone else a dime. He certainly never even suggested that I pay him for anything that he did for me over all those years. I think you can trust Martin Andelman, as he has done nothing to lose my trust and has kept the trust I gave him. In doing so my trust in him has grown strong.
I’m especially writing this because, as a coach, I believe in what is possible and I am an expert in helping people bring what’s possible into their worlds. But, when it came to my own personal crisis, I was no different than anyone else. I needed someone (Martin) who could help me see possibility where I saw no possibility.
If I could talk with each one of you who would tell me loan modifications don’t work, I’d say, “Yes, I hear you and I get it. I know you have tried at least once before and it was a stressful, frustrating and unsuccessful experience.”
I would continue, “Look, I want you to run this marathon before you, I want you to attempt another loan modification. With Martin’s help, and with your own effort, and because times are different now – because the river has changed – I think you just might have the experience I did and be able to get your loan modified.”
I wrote this to you and other homeowners because I’ve been a witness to what Martin’s help can lead to and what a homeowner can accomplish even when that homeowner has stopped believing that anything can work. Just because you think something is impossible, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right.
Are you inspired to act? To achieve something you don’t expect to be able to achieve?
Whatever is in the way of you choosing to be that person, I invite you to give that up, even, and especially, if what is there is the belief that getting the best possible result with your mortgage is impossible. Be willing to prove that belief false in your own life.
Don’t stop now. Line up one more time. I’m sure you can contact Martin for direction – it was his coaching that made the difference for me. You don’t need to go it alone.
Can you see what’s possible? I hope so! That is the main reason why I wrote to you – to create what’s possible with you! If you can grasp it, if you can see it working for you, then choose to run your best race and finish! Experience the breakthrough of making real what you knew to be impossible.
I wrote this article not for Martin, but for you. Experience the breakthrough of making real what you knew to be impossible. There’s magic and power in being that person. Do something you know you can’t do! It will become your access to being able to do anything.
Chuck Bothe is a Licensed Psychologist and an executive coach living in Scottsdale, AZ. This letter was his idea and are his words alone. And you should feel free to email Chuck@firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 480-221-8488.
Oh, and Chuck… I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve written here… it makes it all worth it.
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