Monday, November 19, 2007
7 News Investigations: Foreclosure - Forced Out
Imagine this: The home you saved so long to buy, that you worked so hard to fix up, is taken from you. You are tossed out when a bank forecloses on you. It is happening all over South Florida is record numbers. There are many reasons but one sad fact, it's horrible to experience and watch. Tonight Patrick Fraser rides along with deputies as they have to end people's dream of owning a home.
WSVN -- Police officer: "Hammer the front door."
Second Police officer: "Miami-Dade Police! Police!"
It is a knock one wants to get.
Erika Barrero: "It is stressful, very stressful. You are thinking this is the end of the world."
Police officer entering home: "Police! Miami-Dade police."
A knock no-one wants to deliver.
Major Larry Buck, Miami-Dade Police: "It's a hardship for the officers because they have to see kids getting thrown out as well as the individual who purchased the home."
Another police officer entering another home: "Police! Miami-Dade Police!"
A knock No one wants to see.
Patrick Fraser: "Nice lady?"
Julia Lautrey, neighbor: "Very nice lady."
Patrick Fraser: "Sad to see?"
Julia Lautrey: "Yeah, I feel very bad for her."
The knock is the sound of foreclosure. The sound that means your house is no longer your home.
Patrick Fraser: "In two days this house will no longer be yours."
Hortense McGilvary: "No."
Patrick Fraser: "How does that make you feel?"
Hortense McGilvary: "Sad, because we invested all our little money in it."
Hortense and her husband thought they had achieved the American dream.
Patrick Fraser: "Were you excited when you closed?"
Hortense McGilvary: "Oh, yes, I was excited."
Then Joseph had a major stroke and couldn't work. Hortensia had to quit her job to take care of him.
Hortense McGilvary: "It's like a bad dream, and I'm hoping it will go a away, but when I really get myself together, I realize it's real. It's not a joke."
Hortense is not alone. The number of foreclosures are skyrocketing, more than 200,000 in Florida in the last year. One of the worst places in the country: South Florida, and, as bad as it is, it's going to get worse.
Auctioneer: "Welcome to the mortgage foreclosure sale."
Each week, hundreds of properties in foreclosure are auctioned off.
Auctioneer: "Home Equity Mortgage Corp. vs. Butler."
On this day, for the first time in 21 years, not a single property sold, the banks had to keep them all.
Luis Valdeon: "The banks lent too much money. They did first mortgage and second mortgages, and they're completely off of what the price really are, and that's why everything is so high; you can't sell them."
And the foreclosed properties are piling up.
Judge Thomas Wilson: "So you just need some more time? Yeah, OK."
Judge Thomas Wilson used to have two or three foreclosures on his calendar, but now ...
Patrick Fraser: "What does it tell you when half your cases are foreclosures?"
Judge Thomas Wilson: "It tells me that people were lending money they shouldn't have been lending, people were buying when they shouldn't have been buying."
And those people who got in over their heads or got sick and couldn't make payments are scrambling to save their homes to avoid ruining their credit and falling into bankruptcy.
Erika Barrero: "Sleepless nights, crying very upset, I tried not to have my daughter see that."
As Erika and her husband struggle to save what they thought was their dream home, they have found getting help is hopeless.
Erika Barrero: "They can't even give us answers, they won't give us answers, the mortgage company won't give us answers."
When Hortense didn't have the money to make the monthly payments her bank did offer a solution: just pay a lump sum of $56,000 to cover the back payments and interest.
You can blame the banks. You can blame the buyers. You can blame the appraisers who jacked up the value of homes and helped them sell for more than they were worth but pointing the finger doesn't solve the problem.
Barry Habib: "There's no simple solution."
Barry Habib is a nationally known mortgage expert. His advice? Get out before you get in trouble.
Barry Habib: "If they have equity in it, they've got to find a way to protect that equity. Put the house up for sale. Don't be greedy. Don't try and put it up at an unrealistic number. Homes sell, and they sell very quickly if they're priced right in every market."
That will help people just getting in trouble. It won't help Erika. Her home was appraised for too much. She now owes $75,000 more than it's worth and wishes she had never achieved the American dream.
Erika Barrero: "I would have never, ever, ever bought the house. I would have kept renting."
Meanwhile, at our final stop of the day with police, a house that was occupied until that morning.
The bank had asked the family to leave for days. They apparently didn't believe they would be thrown out and fled, leaving behind their TV, their children's toys, even their bikes. Heartbreaking but also irritating to the people who had to throw them out.
Alex Macau: "And you think to yourself, 'They left kids' stuff behind.' What kind of parents do that, let this happen to their kids?"
And then, the final insult. By law all the former owner's property has to be moved into the front yard. With a child's stroller on top, it started raining. Just when you think things cant get any worse.