From December 2003 through December 2012, millions of Americans watched Ty Pennington and the crews from Extreme Makeover Home Edition, sweep in and rebuild a new home for some deserving family. Many of the tragic and needy stories touched the hearts of viewers who cheered as the busses were moved to reveal a new glamorous home.
In most cases, the new home was mortgage free, but not always. If the person or family had an existing mortgage on their original home, they still had to pay their monthly mortgage bills unless the crew of Extreme Makeover was able to raise enough money to pay off the existing mortgage.
Around 2001, Tim Nickless was a nurse at Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, Michigan. He was pricked by a needle that had been contaminated by a patient with hepatitis C. Tim struggled with the disease for seven years before dying in January 2008.
In September 2008, the crew from Extreme Makeover showed up at the home of Tim’s widow, Arlene. They built her a new home to replace the problematic home she was living in. Along with the new home, Arlene was also given a new 2009 Ford Flex.
Around 1,600 volunteers showed up at the old (1860s) farmhouse, packed up the belongings of Arlene and her three kids, demolished her old home and built her a new home in only a week. The new home was 3,300 square feet with four bedrooms. The house had dark wood floors, retractable flat-screen television, indoor water wall and stone columns outside.
Like in many of the new home makeovers, Arlene’s three sons had fancy personalized bedrooms. One had a Lego theme, another was covered with blueprints and her youngest son’s room was airplanes with an airplane bed.
While Extreme Makeover Home Edition built her a new home, this was one of the instances where they did not pay off the existing mortgage on the old home. At the time of the makeover, Arlene still owed $140,000 on the existing mortgage. With help from state and bank officials, the mortgage was re-written and taken down to only $30,000, a seemingly manageable amount.
However, the property taxes went from $2,000 a year on the old home to $7,500 on the new home. Along with the increase in taxes, the homeowner’s insurance premiums also increased. Both the taxes and insurance were paid through a mortgage escrow account, resulting in higher monthly payments, which Arlene found difficult to make. By end of 2016, her $30,000 mortgage had ballooned to $113,000, quadrupling her monthly mortgage payments, which she could no longer make.
At first, Arlene was keeping up with her mortgage payments, until being injured in an auto accident in 2010. Due to her injuries, she missed a number of payments. The home was then listed to go to a sheriff’s sale, but Arlene averted losing her home by filing the proper paperwork. She was told that if she could manage to pay $15,000, they would mark the mortgage loan paid in full.
However, before Arlene could do anything, Ocwen Financial purchased her mortgage and the deal was no longer available. She tried her best to make her monthly payments, but found it very difficult. She applied for mortgage assistance programs, but the home’s new equity disqualified her from those programs.
She tried contacting the new mortgage company, but found it near impossible to reach a live person. Arlene stopped making her mortgage payments in 2011 because she wasn’t sure where to send them and could not reach anyone to speak with at the new mortgage company. In the meantime, Ocwen paid the yearly taxes and insurance on the property, which is now valued over $275,000.
The mortgage company believes they have no choice but to foreclose on the home. This past week, Arlene and her kids were busy packing up their belongings and moving to who knows where. She has nowhere to go and not sure what the future holds for her and her kids. Her dreams of using her place as a summer camp for kids also got boxed with the rest of their belongings.
Her dream come true in 2008 has now turned into her nightmare.