Vicki Pozzebon

“Hello, this is Grant, from CitiMortgage.” If you have been following the saga of my house (November and May GFT) then you know that this sentence, uttered straight from the mouth of the Loss Mitigator himself was MIRACULOUS and a victory for me.

In May I complained loudly about CitiMortgage’s lack of communication and their inability to process correctly a request for a “deed in lieu of foreclosure” I requested. Turns out I was just another case number to them. Thousands of families all over the U.S. are dealing with the same issues. I felt like I was in good company. Just days after my article appeared in GFT in May I received my summons for foreclosure and more threatening phone calls. I visited a bankruptcy attorney to weigh all my options to get The Bank off my back. My realtor suggested that if I Tweet and Facebook my GFT article I might receive a response, so don’t go claiming bankruptcy just yet.

If you know me, you know I am an intuitive person. I listen to my gut. And my gut said Tweet! I posted a link to my article on Facebook. Within minutes several friends had responded with words of encouragement and advice to keep fighting. If you read my last article you know I threw in the towel long ago; my house was not worth saving, my energy better used elsewhere. I let the tangled web of social media take my article into the cyberworld Nether Regions, watching as it was reposted and shared among friends, wondering if anyone would give a damn. That was a Monday night.

Wednesday morning I received a personal email from Grant at CitiMortgage, apologizing that he’d processed my paperwork incorrectly and my deed in lieu of foreclosure had been accepted and would I please email him photos of the empty house and leave the keys on the counter. “The entire process should be complete in 30-45 days,” he wrote. While my jaw was hitting the floor my phone rang. A familiar number from a distant call center. I didn’t answer. I was receiving about a dozen calls a day from the robocall center to beg me to call them back to discuss my mortgage account. I had long stopped answering them. Why give them the courtesy if they were not extending it to me? Then suddenly a voicemail message appeared along with the familiar ding-ding of my iPhone.

“Hi Vicki. This is Grant from CitiMortgage. I’m calling to let you know I’ve just emailed you that we have accepted your deed in lieu request. Please call me as soon as you can to discuss this further. My extension is 273879.” He sounded like an old friend, like he wanted to catch up with me over cocktails.

NO WAY, I thought. I had just spent two days moving my office, had barely caught up on emails, was ready to file bankruptcy paperwork by Friday at noon. I was what my mother describes as “fed up to here,” but this was a week in which I had made peace with myself, my ex-husband, and my astrological charts in my houses of finance (you know you know what I’m referring to, Santa Fe).

I had stopped lugging all my foreclosure and financial paperwork around in my briefcase after I received the summons because I’d thrown my back out (you try carrying around all that paperwork for eight months) and had no information on me regarding my accounts. You’d think by now I’d have the account numbers memorized after all the phone calls I made. I scrambled through old emails and finally found my account numbers. My heart raced. I dialed (this was now call number 128 for those of you keeping track) with bated breath. “Hello. This is Grant.” HE ANSWERED HIS EXTENSION!

A conversation followed in which he apologized (I think I even heard his remorse catch in his throat) for filing all the paperwork incorrectly and was now going to be “my guy” (he actually said that) and would be working very closely with me over the next month or so. “All you have to do is make sure the house is empty, swept clean and send me the photos. Then you wait for the attorney paperwork. Sign it and send it back to me. Easy.” I heard the smile in his voice, like he had just delivered news of winning the jackpot.

Easy? EASY? “I’m sorry. This doesn’t seem easy. Or real. I was about to file bankruptcy. Are you serious?” Maybe for him it sounded easy but I had been dealing with my house for nearly a year; staging it for sale, calling CitiMortgage once a week with updates on no offers for sale, enduring the phone calls of foreclosures, no responses from customer service, lugging all that paperwork around like penance, and then finally moving out, thanks to inaccurate information I received.

“Oh, no. I’m so sorry. This is a much better option for you. I look forward to helping you. Call me anytime, Vicki.” He was so NICE. So accessible. So sincere.

I scrambled to get a small crew to help me clean out my shed and strip the house clean of anything left behind so I could send photos immediately. It was like the opposite of a community barn raising – the for-sale sign disappeared, my wood pile went to an old friend, my window coverings went to a new friend, my trash was hauled away by good friends, and my prized custom-made iron gate, complete with a dog window was gifted to a dear friend. The house stood alone, cold and empty, but clean. Oh so clean.

Since my May article appeared in GFT I have had numerous people stop me in public, write to me directly and call me at the Santa Fe Alliance to relay their own stories. I hear your frustration. Please know that you are not alone. Of that I am certain. I am fortunate to have a platform with GFT to rant my story. While researching CitiMortgage’s practices for my May story I came across dozens of letters to the editor from newspapers all across the country, recounting details identical to mine. I expected my story to get lost in a sea of articles, never to be seen. I never for a minute believed that my story would have any influence; that my tiny screams in the dark would invoke direct contact.

I have never been the person who wins door prizes or gets called out of the blue with exciting surprise gifts of toaster ovens or has things go smoothly. It is not in my karma to have such things handed to me, so I certainly held no belief in the power of my own story. What difference could I possibly make from a town in New Mexico? I was shocked to hear from Grant from CitiMortgage, but somehow it reaffirmed for me that a tiny voice in a crowd can in fact make a difference. Or so I’d like to believe. I’ll never really know unless I ask Grant from CitiMortgage. For now, I’m holding onto the belief that CitiMortage has employed hundreds of tiny elves to troll the Internet in search of stories taking their name in vain.

I’m still waiting to hear from an attorney for paperwork to sign. But the house is empty, and Grant is My Guy. Can’t argue with that. Maybe if I change my Facebook status to “in a relationship with Grant from CitiMortgage” he’ll call me again.

Vicki Pozzebon is Executive Director of the Santa Fe Alliance, a nonprofit organization working toward building a local living economy through community, local ownership and advocacy. www.santafealliance.com