In the midst of a year-long battle to save their home of 18 years from foreclosure, the Baker family of Windham, Ohio made a pact: if they saved their home, they would plant a cherry blossom tree in the front yard. After Litton Loan Servicing first rejected a modification request and then a short sale offer from American Homeowner Preservation because it allowed the family to stay in their home with a five-year affordable lease and favorable option to repurchase, weeds were more likely to sprout instead of a cherry blossom. However, five days prior to the sheriff’s sale, Reuters’ financial blogger Felix Salmon publicized the Bakers’ plight, scolding Litton and their parent Goldman Sachs for opting to lose money by foreclosing and evicting the family rather than recovering more by approving AHP’s offer. As a result of the publicity, Litton postponed the sheriff’s sale, approved AHP’s offer and the short sale was completed last week. Now, the Bakers are selecting a cherry blossom.
The AHP short sale was a victory for both the Baker family and Litton:
Even more important than the financial benefits to all parties are the social ones. “This home is not perfect, but it is perfect for us” says Cammy Baker. “We tailored the house for our family and made it our home. Our children were home-schooled, they always had friends over, we always entertained – our children love everything about this house.” Families like the Bakers take pride in their homes and communities, in turn strengthening the social fabric of America's neighborhoods. With millions of families at risk of foreclosure, America is already seeing entire communities shredded. No matter how many renters and first-time homebuyers replace these families, the social fabric woven over decades cannot easily be restored.
What's more, the stress on families at risk of losing their home is traumatic. “You feel like your foundation is crumbling,” says Mrs. Baker. “It was gut-wrenching. In the end, we knew we still had each other, but we could not walk away until we did everything possible.” With the AHP sale completed, “The uncertainty is now gone. We can plan for our future here, the kids are planning to paint their rooms, and my husband is doing things around the home. The overwhelming stress is gone. We are all very happy and relieved.”
The Baker family is one of the few success stories to emerge from the housing crisis. There could be many more if Litton and other servicers would make wise decisions without requiring a public chastising. If so, America’s future may be filled with neighborhoods brimming with cherry blossoms instead of weeds.