Occupy Marin has taken up the cause of a Mill Valley couple who are trying to avoid being evicted from the home they lost to foreclosure.
Patricia Goff, 60, and her husband John Graybill, 61, were facing the possibility of eviction this week before they received a two-week reprieve Monday from Marin Superior Court Judge Faye D'Opal. Goff has struggled with back problems much of her life and was in a serious car accident during the foreclosure process and has been unable to work. Their house, a two-bedroom converted barn at 608 Eastwood Way, went to auction in October and Wells Fargo Bank, which held the mortgage, assumed ownership.
"It's not just this one family. It's rampant throughout California and the country," said Pat Johnstone, a spokeswoman for Occupy Marin. "It hurts all of us when this happens."
Occupy Marin and Occupy Oakland are both urging their supporters to phone Wells Fargo to protest the eviction, which has only been delayed. Occupy Marin will stage a rally to demonstrate support for the couple at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Fourth Street downtown plaza in San Rafael, and a posting on the Occupy Marin website asks supporters to sign up for a rapid response team that "will be on call to quickly occupy the home if necessary."
Vickee Adams, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said, "Unfortunately, even though we view foreclosure as a measure of last resort, there are circumstances in which we are unable to find an affordable
solution for a customer; that is currently the case in this situation."
Earlier this month, California lawmakers approved wide-ranging legislation aimed at providing greater protections for homeowners facing foreclosure. The new law requires that large lenders provide a single point of contact for homeowners seeking loan modifications. The law prohibits lenders from foreclosing while homeowners' requests for alternative solutions are being reviewed. The law will also allow homeowners to sue lenders to stop foreclosures or seek monetary damages if the lender breaks state law.
Johnstone said, "We're calling for a moratorium on foreclosures until this law takes effect and starts protecting people." The law becomes effective on Jan. 1.
Graybill, a contractor and cabinet maker, said he and his wife, an interior designer, lost their home due to two home equity loans they took out. He said the loans were issued by World Savings, which at the time held the mortgage on their house. World Savings was bought by Wachovia in 2006, and Wells Fargo merged with Wachovia at the end of 2008.
Graybill said that with the encouragement of a World Savings employee they took out a second equity loan of $600,000 - even though the house had most recently been appraised for just $243,000. Graybill said the World Savings employee lied on the loan application indicating that the couple had two new cars and $100,000 in home furnishings, which they didn't have. The loan featured an adjustable interest rate and balloon payments.
"We were foolish. We shouldn't have borrowed the money," Graybill said. "We shouldn't have used our home as a checkbook.
"My parents grew up in the Depression and they never would have done what we did," Graybill said. "My wife and I, like so many others, were betting that things would continue to get better and we would be able to turn the situation around."
C.J. Holmes, a Santa Rosa real estate broker who has founded the nonprofit Home Owners for Justice, said many of the real estate loans issued prior to the popping of the housing bubble were predatory.
"The initial loans that started this fiasco were all toxic. They were meant to blow up," Holmes said. "The lenders structured these loans to force everyone who took one to come back and refinance. It was a fraudulent, bank refinance business model."
Holmes said banks have been dumping repossessed houses on the market at below-market prices. She said this pushes down the market value of surrounding homes and soon the owners of those houses discover that they're underwater: They owe more on the house than they can sell it for.
"Unless you stop this, it is a whirlpool down," Holmes said. "In the end, they'll foreclose everything."
In the first quarter of 2012 Marin County recorded 118 trustees' deeds - filed when a property is lost to foreclosure - down from 146 in the same quarter of 2011.
Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2012 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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