Marianne Gentry, 66, lives with her disabled husband and desperately ill son. And they're about to get kicked out of their home.
Gentry, a customer-service representative for Home Depot, faces foreclosure on the four-bedroom house in Fountain Valley, Calif., her family has occupied since 1996.
Their lender, OneWest Bank, denied the Gentrys' application to have their mortgage
altered through the Home Affordable Modification Program
, under which the federal government effectively pays banks to help keep people in their homes.
They were originally given until March 9 to clear out, though now a bank executive says the bank is re-evaluating the case and may be able to offer an alternative to foreclosure, such as a short sale or rental arrangement.
If Marianne Gentry's calamitous personal circumstances are unusual, her experience trying to save her home is anything but. Indeed, such stories often have a depressing sameness: bewildered borrowers; a Kafkaesque loan-modification process; indifferent or even hostile lenders.
In 2009, 2.8 million homeowners lost their properties in foreclosure, according to market research company RealtyTrac. Millions more face the same fate this year. Nationwide, one in four borrowers owes more on their home than it's worth, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Part of the blame lies with the federal government's administration of HAMP, which has failed to evolve along with the changing nature of the financial crisis. But most of the problem stems from mortgage lenders and services, which tend to favor foreclosure over other options. In many cases, these companies lose less money by repossessing a home than by easing someone's mortgage payments. That puts servicers and borrowers at odds.