An Open Letter to Bank of America

To Whom It May Concern:

As outlined in your requirements this hardship letter is to summarize the reasoning I’d like Bank of America to accept my request for a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

An Open Letter to Bank of AmericaEight years ago, 6 months pregnant and 23 years old I was proud to have purchased my first home where I would raise my son. I knew that it wasn’t a permanent residence but I was hoping to gain equity and experience to be able to upgrade in the future. I wanted to give what all parents want to give their children, a safe place to live. My job at the time working for the San Antonio Express News downtown was a very short drive from the property. Things seemed fine.

During this time Countrywide Home Loans held the mortgage for the property. I spend a lot of struggle and stress raising my young family as a single mother, further burdened by the maintenance of a house and career. I was able to commission the continued improvement of the home but 2008 happened. Nearly all the equity I had thought I would gain was swallowed by the drop in the housing market. Subsequently less than ethical practices on Countrywide’s part were brought to light, in addition to my own frustration with the handling of my home loan. This, along with the loss of my job meant I had to pursue refinancing.

I continued to barely my ends meet for years but still managed to make payments, improve and maintain the home in which only myself and my young son lived. Around us however the once less than ideal neighborhood began to deteriorate. Living alone as a young female was quite unnerving, but I purchased an alarm system, flood lights, reinforced fencing and established friendships with neighbors. Several attempted break-ins failed due to these measures. Drunkards would pace the street at night in front of my home where the lamps were broken creating a dark haven for them to discard alcohol bottles among other things. The firing of guns were a regular occurrence and for this reason I situated furniture in my home to deter stray bullets. At night it was a chorus of barking dogs, excessively loud music, shouting from passersby or neighbors and the firing of weapons. I lived in real fear and had the police department on speed dial.

I befriended one of police officers, and he would often come pray with me or park his patrol car outside my house on his breaks/lunches. We still remain friends and I’m grateful to him at the time in my life for his presence because I truly believed it discouraged  the scenario I’ll get to in a brief moment. A friend and police officer granted me permission to use him as a reference in this letter as a testament to just how dangerous that neighborhood was and still is.

Years passed sleeping with a knife under the bed, bat behind the door and pepper spray in close reach. I stressed about coming home everyday. I felt like people were watching me, watching what I wore, what I did and who came over to my house – because someone was watching me. The convicted rapist who lives 1 house over from the property, Miguel “Angel” Pastrano 1766 AMANDA

SAN ANTONIO, TX 78210. In fact within a several block radius 8 sex offenders are registered under the watchdog website. This all by itself might not have incited panic but when Angel started telling my neighbor he was in love with me, I definitely felt self conscience leaving the house. He left noted in my mail box  and would question when I had visitors. My neighbors thought it was funny but I was throughly disgusted and angry for feeling afraid. I had to be careful what I wore and I often rushed to get into the house so no one would see me, especially if I wore dresses or nice work clothes. I tried to do my shopping  at times when no one would be awake or outside to watch me carry groceries in the house. Allowing my growing son outside to play was out of the question. It felt like prison.

During holidays like new years I often rented nice hotel rooms or stayed with friends away from the house because of the noise and behaviors by surrounding neighbors. My neighbor across the street has/had his son, allegedly out on a murder charge had no problem bringing is friends to hang out in the front yard. Bonfires from illegal immigrants who rented properties nearby. Letters of 2 recently released parolees, who were using a home on my street as their residence, were sent to me by the state of Texas.  It culminated to several undefinable events but the feeling that I had to get out was overwhelming and I was tired of waiting for something to happen, something to improve. All the money I paid into the house, fixing it up and taking care of was washed away by the tide failed equity, home values and other economic variables.

My son (7) turned to me one day and said, “Mom, I hate this house. I can’t play with friends. I don’t want to live here anymore.”

I started packing that day, I didn’t even know where I was going but I was going to take charge of ensuring me and my son didn’t have to live in fear anymore. I work at a large real estate company and I spoke to the VP of the Marketing Department, my boss and friend. I was conflicted about my ability to maintain the costs of moving, working, taking care of my son and all the daily tasks that weight on a responsible adult. I confided in him about the situation I was living in, and even though I had begun to pack I still felt an obligation to see it through with selling the home before leaving to rent somewhere else knowing I wouldn’t be able to afford both a rent and mortgage… I spoke of my concern about damage to property. He looked in my eyes and said, “Lauren, thats not the worst that could happen and you don’t Nakai to witness something like that.”

Regret free I moved in a single weekend.

The moving however did not stop me from working immediately to sell the home. Let me reiterate, I work for a large real estate brokerage in the marketing department as a graphic designer. I have 6 offices of over 350 real estate agents at my disposal, I’m on a first name basis with many of them. The lady who produces the TV Show for our listed properties sits just one desk over from me and the other coworker of mine who produces the real estate magazine is a good friend of mine as well. I used ALL my resources, favors and inquiries of advice to try and sell this home. Given the positive signs in the housing market I was certain at least one offer would be submitted. I had the house professionally cleaned, lawn maintenanced and I hired one of the professional photographers who works on staff with me to come out to the property after work hours to take high resolution, quality photos. I processed the photos and uploaded them to MLS (#983453) myself. Additionally I designed a flyer which my realtor posted at the property with our company signage that also advertises a SMS Text Messaging system to provide information via text to those who pass by. The flyers were also distributed at numerous other locations around the area.

The house is vacant. I’ve lowered the price 3 times and is now priced so low I would need to bring money to the table to sell it. Even so, I have not received a single offer.

I do not have the resources to continue to maintain my current residence and an extra mortgage payment. I received my income tax and against my better judgement I used money I was saving to put my son in daycare over the summer and made a(the last) payment on the house. But on March 26th foreclosure proceedings began on my loan. I could have lived at the property and saved my money for months, had foreclosure been the route I wanted to go. Every step of the way I’ve struggled to do the right thing and now 8 years of wasted mortgage payments I’m walking away and asking for nothing except that you take the house back so that my credit record isn’t tainted with the long term effects of a foreclosure so one day down-the-line, I can buy another house and have the life I failed to achieve on my first try.

Please consider my request and thank you in advance for your time in reading what is most definitely a lengthy explanation.

Lauren Serrato

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