Vera Johnson, owner of the Village Green Nursery near White Center is facing foreclosure by Bank of America despite attempting to get a loan modification to make it possible to pay her mortgage. A divorce and loss of spousal support made her previous loan terms impossible to deal with.
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UPDATE 2: Facing foreclosure, Village Green Nursery's Vera Johnson hopes for the best
Petition now has over 3000 signatures; First fundraiser now taking shape
UPDATE July 21:
The economic justice petition begun by Vera Johnson, and aimed at Bank of America has gained more than 3000 signatures and continues to grow as the story of her imminent foreclosure spreads. But Johnson is hoping to make progress on an alternative plan. She has scheduled a meeting with SCORE (a division of the Small Business Administration) to gather the facts and data about potentially transforming her garden and nursery into a wedding facility, her long held dream. The meeting with Bank of America was postponed earlier this week and as yet has not been re-scheduled. Johnson is hoping to have at least the basic facts about changing her loan to move in that new direction before the meeting.
But she's also anxious. She noted that recent publicity about a soldier returning from Aghanistan, whose own petition against Bank of America halted foreclosure proceedings only had a temporary effect. "So, we shall see what happens," she said.
She also disclosed that fundraisers for her home and business are now firming up. She will let the media know and post it on her own website once details are in place.
She has another meeting with other homeowners facing foreclosure on July 31.
You can now join those rallying around Village Green on Facebook on the Community Action Benefit Rally to Save the Village Green page.
Local bands, The Rats In The Grass and Squirrel Butter are committed to play in the first fundraiser but as yet a venue has not been secured. An event organizer said he, "hopes to serve Full Tilt Ice Cream at the event."
On another note acclaimed guitarist Del Rey will play a show at Village Green on Aug. 28 from 2:00 pm to 4:30pm at the nursery itself on 26th s.w. The cost is $10, prepay with limited ticketsThe Facebook page for the event is here
Del Rey plays concerts world wide and also presents a concert/lecture on women musicians called Women in American Music.
For more information visit her press info here: or read some quotes about her here.
You can hear a sample of her music here.
Original post from July 18
As banks and businesses alike face economic pressures it is usually the banks that prevail. One White Center area business owner is hoping for a positive resolution as she faces potential foreclosure.
Vera Johnson and her husband at the time went to Washington Mutual Bank in 2001 for a loan to purchase what would become Village Green Nursery at 10223 26th Ave s.w. near White Center. This was a standard 30 year mortgage since they planned to live in the house on the property but it was also a business. Her husband was a fisherman, often traveling to Alaska, with a reasonably steady and high enough income that the payments were not a problem.
The house, and the 7/8ths of an acre of land would come to be filled with what Johnson had planned on for a long time. Perennials, old roses, herbs, and many more plants all for sale, providing the income to sustain the nursery. Her dreams for the property were bigger than that, but it was a good place to start.
In time Village Green Nursery began teaching classes, hosting camps and conducting educational tours and working with other local businesses.
The couple refinanced in 2003 with what they later came to see as a predatory lender. "It turned to be one of those really bad loans." The terms were too much to deal with so they managed to refinance again with CountryWide a year later.
"Business was ok, we were having community events, the economy wasn't so bad," said Johnson.
Then 2008 arrived and the recession began to drag down many businesses. "The value of our home dropped and Bank of America bought our loan from CountryWide. But that loan was a 7 year ARM, interest only."
That same year the couple separated and later began divorce proceedings.
As 2010 arrived, the divorce was not final and Johnson, knowing that her husband's spousal support would stop once the divorce was final, tried to get her loan modified. But after "months and months of paper work" she got rejected.
"When my divorce was final in October, and my spousal support dropped I started making partial monthly payments." That meant sometimes half of the required amount. It's all she could afford without some kind of redress from the bank.
"They told me on the phone when I was pre-qualified, 'Based on your income this is hopefully what you will get your payment down to, no promises no guarantees."
The nursery is a seasonal business obviously so over the winter she had to budget carefully and made the payments she could. "I sent them in via registered mail and they were cashing the checks, and meanwhile I was still pursuing Bank of America for a loan modification."
In May of this year, things changed. The bank stopped taking any partial payments.
"On May 14 I went to the bank to make a $2000 payment." At that point she was $10,000 behind on the mortgage. "They wouldn't take the payment. So I sat down with a loan specialist for an hour, the kids and I (she has two children), while they made phone calls to their home office trying to figure out why they couldn't take this partial payment." They couldn't resolve it.
Johnson went home and contacted her loan liaison, Carlos with Bank of America who said that, "No, they were not accepting partial payments and that he had locked my account because he needed me to be so far behind in my payments before they would kick into a real active loan modification."
Throughout this already stressful period, Johnson was "Fed Exing, and faxing documents repeatedly to them. You know, 'this paper didn't get signed, we need copies of this again,' and we need refreshed copies of that."
"Then Carlos left the scene and Hilda Samayoa came on as my loan liaison. On June 21 she told me she needed a specific document, a Quit Claim deed on my property." A Quit Claim deed is a legal instrument that lets the owner of a piece of real estate transfer interest to a recipient.
"My ex-husband and I had signed the documents and had them notarized but for some reason he did not take it to the county and have it filed with the assessors office. When they asked me for it, he was off fishing in Alaska and
I did not know how I was going to get that document. Miraculously he came home very early, by about two weeks, out of the blue and and we got the document and faxed it from the Westwood Village Bank of America to their home office. I got the confirmation fax. July 5th was the date they had to have this by. I sent it on June 28th. On July 7th they sent somebody to my house from Titanium Solutions (a collection agency) to obtain additional documents. He claims he knocked on my door but he didn't even have to knock I was standing right by my door. I talked to him, he gave me the documents, and I had already turned these same documents in numerous times. I said, 'You can come back tomorrow and I will have these filled out,' and he asked to take a picture of my house. I called Hilda and she told me, 'We never received those documents,' so I told her I have a confirmation fax.
She told me, 'We closed your file on the loan modification, but I will open the file again and re-submit."
Frustrated and and stressed, Johnson happened to read an article on Change.org about a soldier in Afghanistan with banks foreclosing on his house. "His story was exactly the same as mine, that they had locked them out of making any payments, so it caught my attention. They lock them out until it reaches a point where they can actively pursue foreclosure."
Last Monday, July 12, Johnson got a Notice to Accelerate on her foreclosure, "If I don't come up with $14,888 by August 6th. It doesn't say anything about lack of documents. It just says I'm in arrears this much. I'm not in foreclosure yet though."
She started a petition on Change.org you can sign and she joined a group of like minded people on Saturday, July 16 who marched in protest outside Chase Bank in White Center (the Manager did not come out). She's also urging people to join other protests against banks.
The media have picked up her story which has apparently prompted Bank of America to get in touch with Johnson. But it only gets more confusing with various parties from the bank claiming they did not or did receive the necessary paperwork.
She has a meeting with Bank of America on July 19, hoping to resolve the issue. "There will be an underwriter in the office so when I turn in all the documents they keep asking for, they will not get lost in the shuffle."
NOTE: The meeting has been postponed until Johnson can secure all the necessary paperwork
"They haven't put up a foreclosure note, I don't have a sale date. Those are the good things. That's why I've been working to pre-empt any of that."
To make it, under the bank's current terms would mean she would need to sell another $20,000 a year or more she estimates. Not impossible, but not easy for a seasonal business. Which suggests that her original vision for the property made more sense than what was originally set up.
That vision was to make Village Green a place for weddings. "People tell me all the time that they feel like they are on Orcas Island when they are here but it's here in White Center." The property is large enough, there's enough parking, and Johnson, who is a garden designer too, has clear ideas on how that might work.
"There are a lot of ways this might come out in my favor," she mused, "I'm actually feeling pretty positive. If the bank decides to help me stay here I'm benefitting the community directly which would look good for them and I can create more jobs. There are a lot of outcomes possible and I don't see them being negative."
Johnson added on July 19, "Bank of America assigned Crystal Nguyen to call me last Friday at 10am, she did not call me until 4pm.
I had requested she EMAIL me any requested docs/paperwork, which she did not do UNTIL MONDAY at 5:17 pm, after I had made SEVERAL requests for the documents to be emailed, so I would have time to fill them out.
Now they are giving me 24 hrs to procure docs for this meeting, and I am working today, hosting a garden club, and my meeting is at 4pm downtown."
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