Monday, September 2, 2013

Morton Salt & Bitter Lemonade

     In 1914, Morton Salt, inc. created their first advertising campaign for a series of ads in Good Housekeeping Magazine. What they came up with was a picture of a little girl carrying an umbrella and a box of salt under her arm, pouring out onto the ground behind her. Along with that picture came one of the most widely recognized slogans, "When it rains, it pours." While this slogan was intended to show the salt would pour under damp conditions, it has been found fitting to describe the tough circumstances that we seem to go through at different times in our lives. And right now, there is an absolute downpour in our neck of the woods.
     First, let me just take you on a little trip back to the beginning of the storm. We have two rental houses in Springfield, Missouri that we haven't sold because we bought them at the height of the market and we owe more on them than what they are worth, but with an upturn in the real estate market we decided we would try to get them ready to sell so we would have one less thing to worry about while living across the country as a military family. We had some renters at our East Avenue house that had done a sufficient amount of damage so we worked on it while Jeremiah was on leave in Missouri before he deployed to Afghanistan. After a few days of work we decided we didn't want to spend our last few days together as a family stressed and working on the house, so we hired it out. Most projects on the list were small but the one big one was fixing a buckle in the dining room floor. When they the tore the floor up, the found a problem-a huge problem.  The foundation, sill plate, and rim joist were completely rotted. Just in case you don't know, that is just about everything that normally holds a house together at the base.  This had allowed the house to settle several inches. Now, the entire center joist of the house is resting on the main drain pipe. The estimate to jack up the house, dig out a new foundation and replace all the rotted wood, just a mere $26,000!  Aside from the amount that it would cost to fix, the worst part may be that someone had attempted to fix it before but we would have never known that if we hadn't torn the floor up.  This part of the house couldn't be seen during an inspection. The house was a HUD house when we purchased it, which makes me wonder if the person that allowed it to go into foreclosure, knew exactly what they were getting rid of- a lemon, a very sour lemon. 
     From there we called our insurance company, not really expecting them to do anything, but thought it was worth a shot.  They determined the damage was done prior to the time we had it insured with them, and said there was nothing they could do.  The next step was to call the bank and work on it from that end.  We bank with Bank of America and that alone can be a nightmare in itself at times.  Over the course of the past few months, I have been in contact with them, sending them their required documentation for their borrower's assistance programs, but it hasn't been doing me any good because these programs are all intended to keep a borrower in their home.  We could choose to foreclose or see if we could do a short sale, but besides the fact Jeremiah and I both feel it is irresponsible to do that, he cannot take a negative hit to his credit in order to maintain a Top Security Clearance for his job.  So, that pretty much leaves us with our hands tied.
     Now, if you'll remember, that was just the background, here is what has happened most recently.  Friday night I got a call from the neighbors at this house and they informed me it looked like someone had broke in the back door.   I called the police, filed a complaint, and they went out and checked it.  They didn't see where anyone had broke in, but I still felt a little unsettled about it, so Sunday evening my mom and I headed to Springfield to check it out.  We pulled in the driveway just as the sun went down, and when I opened the front door I heard water rushing.  I ran to the neighbors to find a wrench and a flash light to turn the water main off.  I finally found the guy across the street home, and he offered to come check out the house with me, so we didn't have to go in by ourselves.  There wasn't anyone inside, but someone had definitely been there, and I don't think it was Goldilocks...unless of course she has gone into the scrap metal business.  Whoever broke in, ripped the heater apart and stole the coils, ripped out the copper pipe fittings on the hot water heater, cut a pipe on the refrigerator, and busted out a main water pipe in the bathroom as well.  However, they were kind enough to try to stuff a shower curtain over the pipe, like it might actually stop it.
     The walls were drenched.  The crawl space was completely flooded which resulted in the carpeting throughout the house to be soaked, and the floors in the bedroom to buckle.  Here's the real kicker, when the insurance adjuster came out, he said none of it would be covered because the house had been vacant for more than 30 days prior to the incident as clearly stated in our policy.  If only honesty wasn't something I valued, I could have maybe got something out of them.  Instead I am left with a house that is in even worse condition than it was before and worth even less than it was before.
     When the adjuster was telling me they wouldn't cover it, I felt like I could puke or pass out, but I held it together.  I didn't even cry until after he left, and I was a good twenty minutes down the road.  I hated to tell Jeremiah the terrible news, but he of course took it in stride and assured me that it was okay.  "It's just a house," he reminded me.  As I drove back home, I prayed and cried out to God, singing, "I need thee, Oh I need thee.  Every hour I need thee.  Bless me now my Saviour, I come to thee."  As I got home to my momma's comfort, I told her in some strange way, I am almost glad this has all happened while Jeremiah is deployed.  It has been a good reminder to me that a house is not the most important thing in life, that money isn't the most important thing.  While I have a house with some major issues, I still have so many blessings.  I will continue to push forward, to not let this get me down, to find ways for God to use this bitter cup of lemonade for good.
     My mom keeps telling me I need to make a YouTube video explaining my situation and just ask people to send $1 to help us get rid of this house, but that's just not me.  What I would like though is if you have any sound advise or know of someone in the banking/ housing industry with Bank of America that could give me some direction instead of the run around I would greatly appreciate it!