Refinance Deal a Relief to Franklin Couple
By DENIS PAISTE
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — Ernesto L. and Joy Gonzalez of Franklin are thankful that refinancing of their first and second mortgage has warded off foreclosure.
Both will be in their 90s by the time the last payments on their new 40-year mortgages come due in 2050.
But their monthly payments have been reduced by $856 a month since refinancing, and that makes their home ownership manageable — and brings the couple out from under the storm clouds of uncertainty that were shoved into the Gonzalez’s lives by the fraud and failure of Financial Resources Mortgage Inc.
“We still get to keep our home, so we’re happy about it,” Ernesto Gonzalez said in a telephone interview. “We consider ourselves really blessed.”
The laid-off high school teacher first approached the New Hampshire Union Leader for help in telling his story last spring as he sought to forestall a foreclosure auction on his West Franklin home at 13 Upland Drive.
Gonzalez had previously financed the home, in 2007, through FRM, of Meredith, and believed that loan transaction had improprieties and was “predatory” in nature.
In October, Scott D. Farah of FRM and Donald E. Dodge or CL&M Inc. pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges for their roles in the mortgage business-turned-Ponzi scheme that bilked more than 150 investors of tens of millions of dollars.
In plea agreements negotiated with federal prosecutors, the men could face prison terms of up to 10 to 20 years. Sentencing is set for January.
Although initiated through FRM, the Gonzalez loan was sold on the secondary market.
With the help of Timothy M. Stull, co-owner of Fresh Start Legal Network, the Gonzalezes were able to refinance both a first and a second mortgage.
The first mortgage, through America’s Servicing Co., a Wells Fargo subsidiary, went from 30 years at 6.5 percent to 40 years at 3 percent; the second mortgage, now held by Real Time Resolutions, also went to 40 years at 3 percent.
Stull, of Arizona-based Fresh Start, said, “Real Time Resolutions closed the case; they were real cooperative. Wells Fargo started getting squirrelly in the middle of it.”
Although he is not a lawyer, Stull personally intervened in the Gonzalez case. “In Ernesto’s case, it was pretty hairy and I had to step in and get involved,” he said.
Representatives of Wells Fargo and Real Time Resolutions did not respond to requests for comment.
Both Stull and Gonzalez view the experience as a cautionary tale for others facing foreclosure.
“Even though the banks have come out and said don’t get anyone else involved in these cases,” Stull said, “when you bring in a third party, all of the emotion and the collection gimmicks that the banks try to throw at people go out the window.”
“If you can afford an attorney, that’s your best bet, and if not, try to use HUD counseling to the best of your ability,” Stull said. Attorneys typically charge a flat fee of $2,000 to $3,000 for a mortgage modification, he said.
More than 3.73 million modification arrangements were started between April 2009 and the end of August 2010, which was more than double the number of foreclosure completions during that time, according to a joint report from the federal departments of Housing and Urban Development and Treasury.
Gonzalez said he and his wife defaulted on their mortgage payments in December 2009 after he was laid off as a Spanish teacher from Coe-Brown Northwood Academy. Gonzalez is still looking for work.
He and his wife, Joy, do volunteer driving for Medicaid patients, and their only reimbursements are mileage expenses.