Sandy closes chapter on beloved house

#536 in a series of true experiences in real estate
August 2007, Hills Newspapers

Chapter 1. We met Sandy about 15 years ago when she was looking to buy her first house. She’d saved money and found out a lot about loans and had spent months driving by houses she could afford and considering the neighborhoods they were in. Finally she had located a house she thought would work for her.

The house was in a lower cost Berkeley neighborhood. Sandy walked around and talked to everyone she encountered. She asked if they lived there and how they liked it there, and people told her the truth. There were women who didn’t go out after dark but there were also families who’d been in the area for years, were raising children there, and they were happy.

She wanted to make an offer on the little house but first we all went to see it, considered the smallness of the living room and talked about what would be involved in adding a fireplace. The bedrooms were small, barely large enough for Sandy’s king-sized bed, but the kitchen windows looked out to the garden and that was a big bonus, plus the garden was wide and deep and contained old wooden lattices and trellises and best of all, a gazebo.

The structures had all been built many years before and were not in great shape. Some pieces were missing or broken, some sections were leaning where the nails had pulled out. But roses and vines grew around and on top of them and Sandy was in love and we could see why.

We wrote an offer for her and we got the house. The seller was an older gentleman, a do-it-yourselfer who insisted on completing some work that he had begun on the house and garden. Sandy agreed and a time limit was set. Everyday she went to the house to see what was happening. Nothing was happening.

A day or so before the work was to be completed, the man showed up at the house with a friend and paint spray equipment. They sprayed white paint on all of the lattice and the trellises and the gazebo – and on the bushes and roses and vines. Sandy saw it and called us, what could we do, she wanted to know, but there really was not anything to do. She bought the house with the white garden.

Chapter 2. After that, a few years later, when the garden had been made right again and the gazebo had been repaired and used quite a lot for sitting in, Sandy met her true love and they decided to get married. The little house was too little. They bought another house just around the corner and lived there for a few years before on impulse, while vacationing they bought a house in Mexico and decided to move there.

They came home, called us to tell us what they’d done. Within weeks they’d shipped what they wanted to the new place, given us the keys to the bigger house and gotten on an airplane. We sold that house but Sandy kept and rented out the little house.

Chapter 3. A few weeks ago we heard from Sandy via email asking for our help. It seems that she had forgotten to pay last year’s property taxes on the little house in Berkeley. Because the tax collector had accepted payment for this year’s taxes she hadn’t suspected anything was wrong. The problem came to light when her bank statement showed that her mortgage holder GMAC had refused her most recent automatic mortgage payment.

She emailed GMAC and received a reply saying that GMAC had paid the previous year’s property taxes (this was news to Sandy). And as Sandy was in default, they were proceeding to foreclose on her loan. At that point Sandy asked for the amount she needed to pay. She tried for a week but there was no response.

Sandy asked us if we knew an attorney she could hire to help her and we did contact two real estate attorneys but one couldn’t help because he was just leaving on vacation and the second said he was too busy.

Our next calls were to the title company and to an agent friend who works with foreclosure property. We learned some very interesting things: GMAC had just moved their offices from an eastern state to Texas and because of this, getting through to them was nearly impossible. GMAC doesn’t handle its own defaults and foreclosures anyway, they turn them over to one of hundreds of California companies that do. We needed to know which company was handling this default and the way to find their name was to look on the Notice of Default which surely, Sandy had.

She didn’t. Whether it had been mailed to her but never reached her in Mexico, or what, we never learned. But the Notice of Default is recorded with the county the property is located in, Alameda County in this case, and according to our friend at the title company, not long ago Alameda County posted their recordings on their website. We could search there.

Executive Trustee Services had been named to handle Sandy’s default, and our agent friend supplied phone numbers for them which we emailed to Sandy. Unbelievably, Sandy was able to talk to a real person at the trustee service, was even told how much money she needed to pay to bring her account up to date and release her property. She had about 2 weeks to get them a cashier’s check. No other form of payment would do.

Bank of America is Sandy’s bank but for some reason they just could not grapple with issuing a cashier’s check. She asked if we would get a cashier’s check and Fed Ex to the trustee service. She would transfer money directly from her account into one of our accounts.

So, with our own money, we got a cashier’s check in the amount of $8,798.40 and we sent it via Fed Ex. Bank of America would allow Sandy to transfer to us $1000 per day. That was ok until they informed her that she could move no more than $2500 per week.

Chapter 4. It took awhile but Sandy was finally able to get the money back to us and the little house is no longer threatened by foreclosure or tax lien. I’ll bet she never forgets to pay her property taxes again.

This entry was posted in Information for Both Sellers and Buyers. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

  • Sign up to receive our newspaper columns: