Despite adversity, couple battles to stave off foreclosure in Garden Valley

By: Andrew DiLuccia, Managing Editor
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“When we found this place it was almost magical.”

Unfortunately for Donna Futrell and her husband, Shaun, that magical moment of finding the home of their dreams has transitioned into a nightmare they can’t wake from as they battle to fend off foreclosure after a slew of tragic events.

The Futrells join millions of Americans who are facing, or have been through, a foreclosure due to a mixture of plummeting home values and unforeseen circumstances. Now, after a bankruptcy that has helped them get back on their feet financially and more than year of work seeking a loan modification, the couple of 23 years hopes they might be one step closer to keeping their home.

Nearly 12 years ago the Futrells came across their dream home in Garden Valley. A three-bedroom, two-bath home just under 2,000 square feet on 5 acres of land off Garden Valley Road that was owned by an elderly couple who was selective about who they would sell to. The couple grew fond of Donna Futrell and her husband and sold the home to them.

“I wanted this house more than anything else before, except for Shaun,” Donna Futrell said. After nearly $40,000 in upgrades and a lot of property maintenance after years of neglect, the Futrells had created what they thought was the last place they’d call home.

“We were really trying to groom this place to be the home that we would be in forever,” Shaun Futrell said. “We had no intentions of ever leaving here.”

Then Donna, 52, got ill. After the birth of her first child, Donna needed a blood transfusion and believes that during the transfusion she contracted Hepatitis C. After years of it going unchecked, Donna’s liver was being attacked, to the point where she now has stage four liver disease and is on the list for an organ transplant.

Not long after her illness was diagnosed, and the couple’s income reduced because she could no longer work as an order writer for AT&T, Shaun’s business partner at his boat shop, SOS Marine in Granite Bay, died after a fast-moving Staph Infection took his life at the age of 39. Shaun’s partner, Jory Moos, was skilled at high-end engine repair and brought in a large portion of the income for the business. With him gone, Shaun Futrell’s shop suffered.

Facing two blows to their income, the bills began to pile up and making the monthly house payment of $2,895 along with their other debt obligations became too much, and the Futrells fell behind.

“We’re not saying we were great, perfect customers,” Shaun said. “We had some problems, just like a lot of other people.”

As they began to fall behind Shaun began to pursue a loan modification with Bank of America in 2011, but was unsuccessful. And as the stacks of bills grew, the Futrells had to file for bankruptcy. After coming out of chapter 7 Shaun had to start from scratch and kept at seeking a loan modification, and after more than 20 calls going into August of this year, the Futrells were still not able to receive help and their home was slated for a foreclosure sale on Sept. 4, which was later rescheduled to Oct. 4 and most recently to Nov. 4.

During his quest to seek a loan modification, Shaun says he was constantly shuffled around to a different bank representative each time he called to inquire about a modification. The California Homeowner Bill of Rights, which designates a single point of contact when a borrower is seeking a modification, will not be law until Jan. 1, 2013.

In his conversations with Bank of America representatives, Shaun, 44, was told everything from, if he paid the $58,663 he and Donna owed in fees and back payments Bank of America would reinstate their current loan, to that he wasn’t eligible to get a loan modification because his house payment was more than 31 percent of his income.

“If my house payment was 31 percent of my income, I wouldn’t be calling (for a loan modification),” Shaun said.

Facing the reality that they might have to move, the couple turned to a friend for help.

“I was appalled,” said Regina Griffith, a case manager in a bankruptcy law firm in regard to how the Futrells were being treated.

Griffith, who was facing foreclosure herself with Bank of America and finally got the process going for a loan modification after taking her case to a TV station, helped point Shaun in the right direction in as far as who else to reach in Bank of America and how to contact the media to let people know of their plight.

Griffith faxed out the Futrell’s plea throughout the region and to Bank of America.

“I have told Shaun I can do anything I can to help him because I know the stress that it’s causing Donna,” Griffith said. “And personally, I know how much stress Bank of America can dish out.”

While Griffith is helping the Futrells anyway she can, she feels that the loan modification will just be a band-aid if the arrears (money owed), is not erased and there isn’t an actual reduction in principal, which is currently at $358,000 (the home is currently valued at $178,000 according to Shaun). In some cases, according to Griffith, when a lower payment is reached in a loan modification, the borrower still has to pay the entire amount of the loan and whatever arrears there is, which in some cases results in a balloon payment at the end of the loan.

“The only winning in it is you can stay in it for now,” Griffith said. “But at least then Donna will live in her home. That’s really a hard situation. I’ve only seen one (modification) where’s there’s been a principal reduction.”

When contacted multiple times by the Journal about the Futrell’s attempts at obtaining a loan modification, and the experience they’ve been through involving multiple representatives, Bank of America responded with a statement.

“Bank of America is committed to exploring all home retention options for customers who are facing difficult times, and we continue to work with Mr. and Mrs. Futrell in this spirit,” the statement said. “Under program requirements, including documentation, we have been unable to complete previous attempts to provide a permanent loan modification. At this point, a home retention specialist is in ongoing contact with the Futrells, we have received necessary documentation, and a modification review is under way. While an outcome cannot be assured until the review is completed, we are working hard and remain hopeful that we will be able to provide them with an assistance plan that fits their individual circumstances.”

As of Friday morning, Shaun Futrell said via email that Bank of America is preparing a modification offer on his home and will be sending documents in the next couple of days.

“I am not sure if it will be a mod that will help us or not. I am hoping to receive the documents as soon as possible so I can figure out what they are offering,” Shaun Futrell said Friday morning. “It seems that the media involvement has expedited their review of our situation.”

For now, the grim outcome of having to leave the home of their dreams remains a possibility.

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