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Another cautionary tale

This is another story about someone who ignored his foreclosure problem. Don’t let this be you.

A man bought two adjoining pieces of property in a bad neighborhood about twenty-five years ago. He didn’t pay too much for these two buildings. They’re on a semi-main road – there are stoplights on the street – and one of the buildings features a bar/restaurant. He took out a small mortgage when he bought these two properties, but in around 2006, he refinanced the mortgage to pay off some tax liens (property taxes – who knew you actually had to pay those?) and to do some work to the buildings. He continued to rent out the residential units and the restaurant downstairs and collected a lot of rental income. By the way, in those years since the man bought those properties, the value of the properties skyrocketed. The neighborhood was no longer a bad neighborhood. It went from bad to “up and coming” to a full fledged hipster paradise.

Now, his first clue that it was time to sell at least one of the properties should have come to him when he needed to take out a larger mortgage to pay his property tax liability. But it didn’t, and he continued to fall behind.

After a few years, he fell behind on his new mortgage. Instead of taking this as his second clue that it was time to sell and move on, he decided to sue the lender and the title agent because the mortgage proceeds were used to pay taxes and other charges that the property owner failed to pay. That lawsuit got promptly dismissed, and the property owner was now facing down a foreclosure.

He did do something, though. He got into a repayment plan. That was a good thing – make your new payments for 12 months and get fully modified. He couldn’t do it. That was his third clue.

He then put his head in the sand. The property value was in the stratosphere at this point, but he didn’t try to sell the property. The indebtedness also skyrocketed. This was a commercial mortgage on commercial property (there was a bar/restaurant, remember?), so there was all kinds of default interest tacked on there. When it came time for the auction, he didn’t do anything. The bank took the property back after a bidding war that ended just below what the bank was owed, and the bank took title to one of the properties.

After about two years, the bank was finally able to sell the property to a real estate investor, who immediately commenced an eviction action to get the bar/restaurant tenant out and the borrower, who lived in one of the residential units. Finally, the former homeowner woke up and decided it was time to do something.

This is an ongoing case, so I can’t tell you what’s going to happen for sure. I can tell you that the former homeowner’s new actions are a case of too little, too late.

This guy could have avoided foreclosure altogether, taken probably a few hundred thousand and not had to worry about his housing situation for the foreseeable future. A guy who had about a million dollars’ worth of equity in his property lost it because he failed to read the clues.

Don’t let this be you.

Jason Sackoor is a real estate attorney in Queens. Contact him at (718) 767-3333 to find out how he can help you.

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