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Kim Murphy reports: "It was a bittersweet, even ironic 'homecoming' day for Bend resident Tim Collette who's home is in foreclosure. His son, Aaron, arrived back home on leave from a tour of duty in Iraq. But hours earlier, his house was sold back to the bank."

Army Spc. Aaron Collette is greeted upon his arrival at his father's Bend, Oregon, home, which had been signed over to the bank two hours earlier, 08/11/11. (photo: Kim Murphy/LAT)
Army Spc. Aaron Collette is greeted upon his arrival at his father's Bend, Oregon, home, which had been signed over to the bank two hours earlier, 08/11/11. (photo: Kim Murphy/LAT)

Soldier Comes Home to Find Real Enemy Is Bank Taking His Home

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

11 August 11


On the same day Tim Collette welcomes his soldier son back for leave from Iraq, he loses his Oregon house to foreclosure. But unlike many homeowners, Collette is fighting back.

or months, since he knew his son Aaron would be coming home for two weeks' leave from Iraq, Tim Collette has been desperate to make sure there would be a home to come back to.

But on Tuesday, two things happened. First, a foreclosure auctioneer with a blue clipboard stood on the steps of the Deschutes County Courthouse, as Collette watched in silence a few steps below, and transferred the house back to the bank.

Two hours later, Collette waited in baggage claim at nearby Redmond Airport as a thin young man walked in, wearing Army camouflage, sandy suede boots, and then, a wide smile. A phalanx of grizzled military veterans waved flags.

That Collette would lose his house and celebrate a homecoming on the same day was dismal coincidence. But the 59-year-old kitchen-and-flooring contractor, who has become an expert at testifying before legislative committees, giving television interviews and mobilizing public ire at the banking industry, is determined that, unlike the thousands of foreclosure stories playing out in quiet misery across America, this one will not end quietly.

"Welcome home, son," Collette murmured.

While the rest of the nation kneeled under the recession, Oregon swan-dived. With the timber industry already long enfeebled, the new high-tech sector that had swept in powerfully in its place foundered too. By early 2009, the state's 10.8% unemployment rate was the third-worst in the nation, and Deschutes County's hit 12.6%.

New houses built in the pine-studded, high-desert former boom town of Bend suddenly stood empty. Single-family home prices declined 40% in two years, and Collette's work installing flooring and kitchen countertops evaporated.

Between 2009 and 2010, Oregon had the biggest increase in foreclosure starts in the country, averaging 96 a day.

Losing a home in Bend, Ore., it goes without saying, is no longer big news. But Collette, whose case is described by mortgage handler JP Morgan Chase as a simple situation of a homeowner who didn't make his house payments, has fought back. He has appealed to the state Legislature, won sympathy from a US senator and marshaled the aid of a Portland-based advocacy group, Economic Fairness Oregon, which has used his case to illustrate the banking labyrinths homeowners must sometimes negotiate to avoid having their homes seized.

Through it all has been the image of the young man coming home from Iraq, and the troubling question of what he would come home to.

By the time the neat two-story house on Boyd Court was foreclosed on Tuesday, more than 122,000 people across the country had signed an online petition on urging Collette's bank to give him a break, and an escort of two dozen military veterans on motorcycles showed up at the airport to provide a flag-waving escort for Aaron, a 20-year-old Army specialist stationed in Basra, back to the increasingly-famous house.

Through it all, Collette, who's got work again and insists he's ready to make full payments, has been polite and persistent. He's filled out forms to try to modify his mortgage, faxed over pay records and, except for two payments he says he missed at the bank's direction, deposited at least partial payments on his house every month without fail.

"I've been going over to the capital in Salem to testify for some bills to help people in foreclosure," said Collette. "I told them the biggest problem I have now is my son's coming home from Iraq.... He just wants to come home and sleep in his own bed and be safe for 15 days. And I told him I would make that happen."

JP Morgan Chase, which has been servicing Collette's mortgage (now held by the Federal National Mortgage Assn., or Fannie Mae) offered Collette a series of deals that would allow him to stay in the house at least until Aaron's leave is up - an option that falls short of what he ultimately wants, which is to keep his house.

"Mr. Collette's petition on asked for one thing, to retain his home through his son's leave, which ends in August. We have granted that request," said Chase spokesman Thomas Kelly.

But Fannie Mae denied the request for a modification of his loan terms, and when Collette in turn rejected Chase's offer to simply take over the house without the stain of a foreclosure, Kelly said it left the bank with no recourse but to call in the auctioneer.

"We offered him what he wanted, but now he's changing what he wants," he said.

Many of the people who hear Collette's story, and by now there have been a lot, are struck by how little he resembles the classic picture of the bubble buyers, those overly ambitious folks who splurged over their heads and hoped the market would cover the deficiencies in income.

"We're not flakes. We pay our bills, we didn't overspend," he told a state legislative committee this year.

Collette's pre-recession income in a town that only a few years ago couldn't build houses fast enough put the $375,000 price well within his means, especially after he put $125,000 down.

Only when the downturn dried up his work in 2008 did Collette ask if he could modify his loan. No, a Washington Mutual officer told him, he had never missed a payment; modifications were for people who were delinquent. He should come back when he had missed two payments.

"I went, OK, fine. I did that, and I applied for modification," he said. From then on, he continued making at least the partial payments suggested by the bank, he said, but they apparently weren't being applied toward his loan. Meanwhile, several loan modification requests were denied - most recently by Fannie Mae last week - and the bank notified Collette he would need to pay the $9,000 he was in arrears or lose the house.

That left Collette at the airport trying to figure out what to tell Aaron.

"I'm trying not to tell him all of it. All I want him to know is we're still in the house, and whatever else is going on, he doesn't need to worry about this. He needs to think about what he's doing over there," Collette said.

Aaron said he was proud to hear that his father was trying to save the house. "This has been my home for four years, but it feels more like home than any place I've ever been, and it's great to have it to come back to," he said.

"But I'm worried about my father - he's the most important thing in my life, and to have to worry that he's going to have to move in with somebody?"

Collette said not to worry, he isn't moving anywhere for the moment. Most likely, he said, he and the bank will end up in court, where he says he will be able to provide clear evidence that his home was taken without legal authority.

"You make the payments, you draw down your savings, you draw down your retirement, and by the time it's all over, you don't have any money left to fight them. People get tired. They hand over the keys and they go," he said. "I'm not going to do that." your social media marketing partner


+9 # jwb110 2011-08-11 12:05
This is an instance where the complaints should not go to the White House. Go for the GOP and the banks that own them. They caused the problem and it should rest on their doorstep.
+8 # Stariel 2011-08-11 12:59
The problem with this suggestion is the GOP and banks that own them will categorically refuse to help. Yes, they are the cause and the folks to blame, but don't go ask the fox to help the chickens.
+6 # angelfish 2011-08-11 13:06
This is DISGRACEFUL! How DARE they do this to someone who is saving their very A**es! ALL these "Armchair warriors" who make these sick decisions should be made to go and serve a few Tours in Iraq or Afghanistan! Maybe THEN they'd grow some hearts!
+8 # Nikoli A. 2011-08-11 14:28
If you really want to get sick at what banks are doing, go to "ConsumerAffair" and click on
"Chase Mortgage" and "Bank of America"
under the heading of banks. B of A foreclosed on a home that had been paid for-- in cash! Owners had to go to court to keep their own homes. I recently forced Chase to let me pay my own taxes and insurance - they went 9 months, didn't pay it, and nearly got it cancelled. I reported them to a national, Federal agency which governs home mortgages. I am now paying my own taxes and insurance, and my mortgage went down by over $50 a month! They even
lied to me, telling me it was 'illegal'
for me to pay those items myself. I told them they didn't get to lie to further their own ends. And they want the escrow of millions of people, in order to garner the 'float' - the interest from all those escrow accounts.
+1 # Progressive Patriot 2011-08-17 04:11
The interest on escrow accounts is supposed to be added to the account and becomes part of the principle from which taxes and insurance are supposed to be paid. The bank is not supposed to touch any of it, except to make payments.

Turn them in to your state's Attorney General, if they went 9 months without paying. They were breaking the law, and they are currently under investigation by ALL of the Attorneys General in all 50 states. It's getting more and more ugly. New York has recently hauled several banks into court for this mortgage mess.

Adding yourself to the AG's file could be a big benefit to you in the long run.
+9 # tuandon 2011-08-11 14:50
Typical Republican banking stuff. Screw the little guy, including the man they sent to fight a cruddy little war designed to make Republican bankers, and other Republicans, more money. Class war is looking better all the time.
+13 # Capn Canard 2011-08-11 15:03
THIS IS AMERICA land the greedy and home to slimy conservatives ideology.
+5 # lark3650 2011-08-11 15:31
This young man has put his life on the line and this is how he is treated? He has to wonder what he is putting his life on the line for....shouldn' t that count for something?
+6 # propsguy 2011-08-11 21:27
oh, but he's fighting to defend our way of life! you know, poverty, homelessness, joblessness, all that good stuff
+2 # Electricrailwaygod 2011-08-12 12:17
Welcome to the "New World Order"! This is only but a part of this corporatocratic nonsense! This country is headed in a National Socialist (Nazi) sort of mentality. Save only the very few wealthy elite and everyone else be damned! (Such as the "extermination camps" of the streets and elements!

This is what America has indeed degenerated to! It shall not be long (unfortunately) but what has been taking place in the UK this past week shall eventually find its way to the States! Just one racial incident, and the 1991 Rodney King incident shall appear pale in comparison to what may happen. (Remember it ALREDAY happened in 1965 with the Watts Riots, remember)?

Human lives are nothing to pawn or play around with! Foreclose on human life, and the First World Civil War may very well jump of the big silver screen of Hollywood and into real life!

Like a steam boiler, seal up the safety valve, the boiler shall eventually explode! That is what this corporate elite are doing now, sealing up the safety valves! UK just exploded this past week -- and is still continuing to "explode"! May this be a lesson.
0 # reiverpacific 2011-08-12 18:23
Must agree with "Electicrailway god" except in one essential point.
The UK has had much to fight for in the past -like a good health service, rail system and a strong Labor history, especially in Scotland and Wales (Prior to Thatcher particularly -but NOT represented by Blair-the-holy Catholic-turnco at's crowd) and several European nations can still bring their countries to a standstill if the government gets too chuffed with it's own power.
I don't see this happening in the "Fragmented states", as Big Business and their interests ARE the government.
If this travesty of anything even remotely human were to happen in many European countries (which have had their own problems including the current Eurozone financial crisis), there would be riots and sit-ins around the Collett home and the government would HAVE to step in and at least mitigate.
Americans have NEVER had much of a safety net to fight for, are too cowed by their own military and cops -almost indistinguishab le any more, bury their heads in their flickering big-screens, let the powerful tell them what is (or else!) and vote, if at all, against their own interests if the ripples from the true resisters come too close to their credit-furnishe d caves.
Sorry but that's how I see it.
And I really do want to see the Collettes win! perhaps some other soldiers will take this to heart.
0 # jOHN flys 2011-08-13 21:28
And this is why the "the great unwashed masses" revolt. The top dogs are so far removed from reality they have no idea what misery the masses are going through, but much worse is they do not care. "Let them eat cake" it is rumoured Marie Antoinette of France had said. And the French people did, as they watched the "top dogs" heads being removed by the guillotine.
It happened in Russia, then China, Cuba, South Africa, Iran, etc. etc.
History just keeps repeating itself.
0 # Gringaryan 2011-08-14 07:30
He put $125,000 down for crying out loud!!!!... plus, I resent the idea that there is a "classic bubble buyer who reached over their heads etc etc" This whole mess was CAUSED by the mortgage sellers and Wall Street. They lied and hooked people in to create their AAA mortgage backed securities schemes.. They were predatory lenders, advertising "lyer loans" no down, no doc, 125% of value. Where was the regulation protecting and uneducated public or else the education of this same public in the ways of this kind of marketing.. having neither just feeds the lambs (the innocent public) to slaughter.. Those mortgage criminals advertised everywhere making loans look like an easy, safe thing to do. Selling this crap to a poorly informed public is despicable. The documentation ran pages and pages of legalese and the mortgage brokers just sat there saying sign here no problem.
0 # PharoahUsury 2011-08-14 13:30
Anything else new under the sun?

One of these days 'we're going to realize that what we are dealing with [behind all the party, national, or assorted other boogey-man masks] is really just a modern manifestation of the 'oldest trick in the book' (USURY- and its myriad downstream money games).

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