Okay I admit it…
Yahoo had recently shut down a lot of the member created chat rooms in the wake of all the negativity and sponsor lawsuits. Lets face it…The public opinion of chat rooms was not good. I was a virtual unknown person to most chatters because I stayed away from the “in person” socials but, that all changed one morning. Here is what happened:
A room regular was talking on “voice” and venting about his house early one morning and I was listening a few steps away making my breakfast. This is what “Monte” said, “I got this letter from some attorney who says he is going to sell my house! How does he think he can do that? He doesn’t own MY house so, how can he sell MY house?” My head spun around so fast that I almost gave myself whiplash. I ran to the computer and grabbed the microphone to speak in the room and here is what was said…
Jim: Monte, what is the name of the law firm that sent you that letter?
Monte: Uhmmm, it says ummm.. Barnett, Burke & Associates.
Jim: Would that be BARRETT Burke?
Monte: Yeah, that’s it.
Jim: Monte, email me your number. I need to talk to you NOW.
(That law firm processes nearly 40% of all foreclosures in the state of Texas)
Within a few minutes I was on the phone with him and I told him that I was a local foreclosure expert and taught classes at Foreclosure Listing Service in Addison. I told him I needed to meet with him and his wife right away because, the letter he got was his notice that his house was in foreclosure and he had less than three weeks left before it would go to the auction. He was shocked and claimed he had no idea (I didn’t know how he could be shocked after missing nine payments). Two hours later I was at his house and explained all about the foreclosure process to him and his wife and what options he may have to save his house.
I remember how bad I felt while explaining the situation because his wife just sat there, staring at me with her eyes wide open, not able to say a word. She had no idea the mortgage was past due at all. She had not seen any letters from the lender or taken any call from them. Monte never told her early on and the situation only got worse as the missed payments added up.
After going over all of the possible solutions, I decided that bankruptcy was likely the best option for them and they agreed. I made a call to Hariett Langston, a friend of mine who is a bankruptcy lawyer in Dallas. Monte and his wife were overwhelmed with the situation and asked if I would go with them when they met with the attorney and I told them I would.
We met with Hariett that same week and everything appeared to be set to stop the foreclosure. All Monte needed to do was pay the bankruptcy filing fee.
A week before the foreclosure sale I went to their house and was a bit surprised to learn that he had not paid the filing fee. I asked him when he was going to file and he just shook his head and said he didn’t know. I remember pausing for a few seconds and it dawned on me why he had not filed. I said, “Monte… You don’t have the money to file, do you?” In a very humble manner, he looked down at the floor and shook his head. ($500 was the amount he needed to get the bankruptcy filed)
As I drove home I thought to myself that it would be simple if I just wrote a check for the $500 but, I thought that he really needed to pay something so important himself. I got an idea about that time and sent an email to one of the chat room regulars who organized the chat room socials. I recall stating in that email that online chat rooms have such a negative public image and went on to tell her about Monte, his situation and I asked her if she could set up a fund raising get together. It would be our way of proving that normal, everyday people go to chat rooms and this was a chance to show at least one chat room could do something good. I told her that he only needed $500 and all it would take is $5 here, $10 there and a $20 from a few… $500 could be raised.
She arranged to have a Dallas chat fundraiser social for that coming Saturday night. I called Monte and told him about the fundraiser. He asked me to not do it (his pride was the obstacle) but, I told him that we were going to do it anyway and it would be nice if he attended. He later told me he was so choked up that he couldn’t say anything but, he did finally say he would attend.
I expected a handful of people to show up for the fundraiser but, I was wrong. Much to my surprise… At least 50 to 60 regulars from that chat room showed up and contributed. At the end of the night, ordinary people from a Yahoo chat room donated more than $700 to help save someone from losing their house.
The next day I gave the proceeds to Monte & his wife and they quickly paid the attorney the fee to file their bankruptcy and their house…No…Their “home” was saved.
The story got another interesting twist a few days later. I got a call from a reporter who wrote for a well known local media outlet. They had heard about the fundraiser and thought it was a great community effort story that should be told and asked if I wanted them to write about it.
It took only a few seconds for me to process my answer but, I remember thinking that such publicity would be great for business and my classes would see a boost in attendance. Then I thought about the possibility of other homeowners that would read the story and what would my answer be to them if they contacted me and asked me to do a fundraiser for them as well?
I told the reporter that as wild as the story was, I never expected things to unfold as they did. I told them that I had to pass on their offer because, I had done it to help someone and wouldn’t feel right about profiting off of someone else’s stressful and humbling foreclosure experience. They understood and that was the end of it.
I have to admit . . . Of all the positive experiences I have had in real estate, helping Monte might rank as number one. What stands out in my mind was the fact that so many people pitched in to help save a family from losing their home and they did it for someone most had never met or only knew of by screen name…That’s what made it so great.
This happened in 2005 and two days ago I got a phone call from Monte. He just wanted to give me an update and I was happy to hear they still have their home.
During the call I told him about the reporter. He was surprised I hadn’t told him and more surprised that I turned them down. At the end of the call, Monte told me that three years was long enough and he encouraged me to tell the story of how a bunch of chatters from a Yahoo chat room, came together and did something good.