By Mary Mobley
Up in the air. Uncertain. Uprooted. Unsure. What do these phrases and words have in common? These are all feelings and thoughts of one woman forced into foreclosure and bankruptcy.
“I have no idea where I’m going to go…it’s up in the air right now,” says West Cobb homeowner “Julie”.
After nine years of owning her home in an upper middle class neighborhood in West Cobb, Julie is forced to declare bankruptcy and foreclosure.
“My house is upside down,” says Julie.
When a house is deemed “upside down,” the homeowner owes more on the house than it is actually worth. Julie no longer has any equity left in her home.
When Julie purchased her home in 2002, her home was worth $281,000. A few years later it was appraised at $251,000. Just a couple years ago Julies home was appraised at $232,000. Currently, her home is said to be worth $213,000, nearly $70,000 less than what it was originally appraised for.
“I owe $238,000,” said Julie.
Only working 34-36 hours per week, Julie is no longer able to afford the $1,100 mortgage payment.
“I’m used to working 40 hours a week, and I just can’t do it anymore,” said Julie.
But Julie says she’s already planning for the future.
“I plan to move into my friend’s garage apartment, and save up money to put a down payment on a townhome,” said Julie.
The number of foreclosures in Cobb County has increased dramatically over the past few months. In March of this year, there were 1,100 foreclosures in Cobb County. In April, that number increased to 1,300. It has continued to rise, and currently there are a recorded 1,900 foreclosures in Cobb County.
“In my experience in the past two years I’ve worked with a lot of people that would like to stay in their homes,” said tax attorney Ed McMullen.
McMullen explains that many people in today’s economy are unfortunately losing their jobs, are unable to afford their mortgage, and subsequently unable to stay in their homes.
“They made enough money at one time, they qualified, but now their circumstances have changed and they’re no longer able to stay in the house,” said McMullen.
“I feel like I’ve failed…again. I feel like I’ve let my family down,” said Julie.
This isn’t the first time Julie has had to rebuild her life and start from scratch.
In 2000, a request for a divorce from her husband of nearly 30 years blindsided Julie. She was, again, forced out of her home, but this time along with her 11-year-old daughter.
“We literally had nowhere to go,” said Julie.
Julie remembers having to ask her friends that lived down the road from her if she and her daughter could live in their guesthouse until she “got back on her feet.”
Eventually Julie did get back on her feet. But now, she says she feels she is “right back where I was 11 years ago.”
“It has been hard for her to admit she has to do this all over again,” said Sandy Carman, a close friend of Julie’s for five years.
“This is nothing one should feel is a personal failure,” said McMullen.
Julie admits that she is still emotionally attached to her home. She has spent nearly a decade building memories with her friends and family, but now says she has to “let that all go.”
“I have to think of it as something that’s good for me and try to take the emotions out of it, and think of what’s best for me financially,” said Julie.
Julie says the best financial decision for her right now is to “move on from a bad situation.”
Tax attorney Ed McMullen explains that banks and mortgage companies sometimes make it incredibly difficult for homeowners to complete the necessary steps to refinance their homes.
“We’re talking about lowering an interest rate from, say, seven and a half percent to three percent. If they could do that, the people would be able to stay in their homes,” said McMullen.
After refinancing her home twice in an attempt to lower her interest rate, Julie still was not able to afford her home.
“Sometimes it makes sense if you owe more than it’s worth to just cut your losses,” said, Carmen.
So that is what Julie is doing…cutting her losses and rebuilding her life.
“I know I can do it, I’ve been through worse,” said Julie.