Longtime D.C. Homeowner Fights Foreclosure

Eunice Winchester enlisted the help of the AARP to prevent a foreclosure on the home she has lived in for two decades. Winchester tells host Liane Hansen about her emotional trauma.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen. A recent study by the AARP found that Americans over the age of 50 have been hit hard by the mortgage crisis. In the second half of last year there were nearly 700,000 older Americans in foreclosure or behind on mortgage payments. We recently visited a resident of Washington, D.C.

Are you Ms. Winchester?

Ms. EUNICE WINCHESTER: Yes, I am.

HANSEN: Hi. I'm Liane Hansen.

Ms. WINCHESTER: Hi.

HANSEN: Thank you for inviting us into your home.

HANSEN: Eunice Winchester is 62. She's just saved her home from foreclosure. It's a detached house up on a hill on a quiet block near the new Nationals' stadium. She's owned it for nearly 20 years. Winchester had four children. Two of them have passed away. She lives alone. Three years ago she suffered an aneurism. Then she lost her job transcribing medical reports at a hospital. Last spring, Winchester heard the bank was foreclosing. She was told the house would be up for auction. She worked with the bank to modify the loan, but before she could make a new payment she found out it had been sold.

Ms. WINCHESTER: They sent me a letter saying that they were going into foreclosure, and they were going to put the house up for auction. That's when I went back, and they did a modification over the phone. After they did the modification, he told me to hold the money. I said, but I was told to have the money in there before the date that they were going to auction the house off. I believed him, and I held on to the check. And so when I called to give them the money, they said the house was sold. Then that's when I got a letter from the person that had purchased the house. And when I called him, he told me that he was trying to clear this deed up before the end of the month, and that I might as well try to find a place to live.

HANSEN: Winchester sought legal help. She found a lawyer at the AARP.

Ms. WINCHESTER: Immediately, the first thing she did was to pull the deed so that he couldn't get the deed.

HANSEN: What is the status now?

Ms. WINCHESTER: Well, on Monday I'm going to sign the reverse mortgage. So, I'm here until I die. She saved my house. That's all I can say. She really did.

HANSEN: When you thought that you were going to lose your house, what were you going to do?

Ms. WINCHESTER: I didn't want to move. I really didn't want to leave my home. I've been here, raised my children. I didn't want to live in an apartment. And I didn't want to leave this area.

HANSEN: Do you feel you were misled by the mortgage company and by others?

Ms. WINCHESTER: Yes, because I didn't know that they could have given me other options to try and save my house.

HANSEN: Until you lost your job, you'd paid your mortgage regularly on time?

Ms. WINCHESTER: I tried. I'm not going to say I did. I tried, but it was rough. It was just rough. You don't get too much assistance from the government if you are making too much money. To me it wasn't enough. I mean, what is $32,000 a year? But as far as the government is concerned, that's too much. So I couldn't get any assistance. So I was juggling things around and trying to make sure that my light's on, my water's on, gas, because I was - I insisted that I'm not going to give up. You know, I'm just going to keep on. And I just - and I would be late, but I'd pay it. I'd be late. Here is where I want the deck to be, and the patio down here.

HANSEN: Eunice Winchester still has dreams for this house. One day she hopes to make some renovations both inside and out.

Ms. WINCHESTER: This is the house that I chose to live my life in. I can live here peacefully. I'm by myself. I like this being by myself. I like the peace. And I had plans before I even moved in here of how I wanted it. So I may have the opportunity today to do what I want to do with this.

HANSEN: Eunice, thanks so much for inviting us in, and good luck Monday.

Ms. WINCHESTER: Thank you.

HANSEN: To see photos of Eunice Winchester at her home, go to npr.org/soapbox. And while you're on the blog, you can help us out. We're working on a series about how the economic crisis is affecting middle-class Americans and their ability to feed their families. If you have a story to share with us, post it on npr.org/soapbox.

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