Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 7, 2013

Foreclosure numbers down, but still painful

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Bob Rienas looked at the contents of his foreclosed home that workers had piled up in a trailer.

“Look at that,” he said. “Twenty-six years of my life.”

Rienas recently recounted his plight as traffic whizzed by on Hammond Road. He said a modified mortgage for the house was approved in 2010, but J.P. Morgan Chase foreclosed on his loan in May without explanation.

As consolation, he received two checks last week that totaled $6,500 — thanks to an audit commissioned by the Federal Banking Reserve.

“At least I got compensated a little, but I feel that J.P. Morgan Chase should have worked with me,” he said.

Seventy-seven homes have been subject to foreclosure this year in Grand Traverse County. March and April averaged 13, down significantly from the monthly record average of 33 in 2008, according to the Grand Traverse County’s Register of Deeds.

The fall-off might be due, in part, to increased short sales — when the bank allows a sale at a lower price than the loan balance, said Tim Reid, a real estate agent who inspects vacated homes for lenders.

“The government has pushed banks for alternative handling, and it’s become more perfected and aggressively pursued,” Reid said.

Rick Robbins was at Rienas’s foreclosed home to ensure everything had been removed, his job as 13th Circuit Court officer.

“I tell people, ‘Spend a week with me, and I’ll show you what America is really like,’” he said.

At one foreclosure last week, Robbins said he filled five, 30-yard dumpsters of refuse from a family who left about two months ago.

“I had to run a conveyor belt to get all the garbage out from the basement,” he said. “It was waist high and there was dog (waste) in the three-year-old’s bedroom.”

He said reasons for foreclosure vary. Some drink or gamble too much and sink into credit card debt. Others can’t come up with a balloon payment that’s built into the mortgage, he said. Others lost work or fell ill.

“The house cost them $200,000, it’s worth $130,000 and the bank won’t refinance them. They’re good people,” he said.

Rienas, a freelance carpenter, said an adjustable interest rate mortgage on a refinance deal was his undoing. At one point, his interest mortgage soared to nearly 10 percent. He regrets folding in $16,000 of credit card debt. Work also dried up for him in 2008 when the housing market crashed, although his wife at the time had a steady job.

After the bank foreclosed in 2010, he made no more payments. He was unable to convince J.P. Morgan that a modified loan had been approved.

“Every time I called the 800 number, I talked to somebody different,” he said.

Robbins credited Rienas for maintaining the home even after it went into foreclosure. He’s seen others strip their foreclosed home of copper pipes, kitchen cabinets, light fixtures, and aluminum siding. But Rienas pushed the envelope when he refused to pack up and leave when he received notice on April 29, he said.

“I’ve only had to put out four people on the street in twelve years,” Robbins said. “I’ll even loan them a trailer if they need it.”

Rienas said he’ll put a mattress in his station wagon or sleep at friends’ homes until he figures out his next move.

“I’m just flopping around,” he said.