Yesterday, the Globe ran an article about a woman who owns a three-family home on Callendar Street (actually, Callender Street), in Dorchester.

Still home for Christmas – By Donovan Slack, The Boston Globe

When dawn broke Christmas morning, Kendra Jackson smiled as she watched her 11-year-old daughter tear shiny, red wrapping paper from a gift. Then she began to cry.

“I’m so blessed,” she said.

It was the first Christmas in years that Jackson, an Amtrak worker and single mother, wasn’t in fear of foreclosure on her Dorchester three-decker. “I see all those people who do lose their homes, and I just say, ‘Lord, thank you.’ “

Heartwarming, but I believe the Globe (the reporter? her editor?) left out a lot of the story.

The public record fills in some of the gaps.

According to the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds website, the owner purchased the home in 2001. The cost was $253,000 and the owner took out a loan for $251,016, or 99.2% of the purchase price.

(At the time, the property was assessed by the City of Boston at $139,000. Not uncommonly, the lender thought the property was worth a lot more. Over the past six years, the assessed value of the home has skyrocketed. The city now considers the property to be worth $550,700.)

And, during this time, the value of the loans taken out by the owner have skyrocketed, as well.

The article says that the owner needed to borrow a lot of the money in order to make repairs and to remove lead paint from the premises (she has a young daughter, as reported in the article).

The City of Boston loaned the owner $34,148, in order to remove the lead paint (I believe this is still outstanding, in addition to the new loan mentioned in the Globe article). Meanwhile, it looks as though the Boston Homeowners Services Collaborative (?) lent the owner another $66,205, presumably for repairs (I believe this is still outstanding, in addition to the new loan mentioned in the Globe article).

The article says this debt was incurred by the need “for repairs and de-leading of [the owner’s] home.”

However, the article also states, emphatically, that ” … during the real estate market boom a few years later, [the owner] refinanced the mortgage in an effort to lower her payments and get a better interest rate.”

Er, not quite.

If the owner had done that, the loan of $251,016 would have been paid down and there would be considerably less owed, today.

Instead, there are now has three loans – one for $34,148, in order to delead, one for $66,205, in order to make repairs, and … one for $395,250, of which $251,016 was the original loan and the other $144,234 is for … reasons that remain unclear.

One of the more unfortunate parts of this whole thing, for everyone involved, is the “market” loans taken out over the years probably did nothing but enrich the mortgage bankers who wrote them (including Ameriquest … now where have I heard that name before?).

Here’s a list of the loans, as taken from the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds website:

10/01/2001 $251,016 First Mortgage Trust, original, fixed rate loan, rate not available, paid off with subsequent loans;

12/09/2002 $14,500 Codman Square Neighborhood Development, for repairs (?), rate not available, paid off with subsequent loans;

04/07/2003 $295,100 Full Spectrum Lending, refinance, adjustable rate loan, 7.375%, paid off prior to first reset scheduled for May 2006;

10/27/2003 $348,000 Ameriquest, refinance, adjustable rate loan, 8.990%, paid off prior to first reset scheduled for November, 2005;

05/10/2004 $397,000 Homestar, refinance, adjustable rate loan, 5.990% (sweet!), not paid off prior to first reset scheduled for June 2006, may have reset to 8.990% in June, 2006 (increasing her monthly payment to $3,192), and possibly to 9.990% in December, 2006 (increasing her monthly payment to $3,481), and perhaps to 10.990% in June, 2007 (to $3,777), right before the owner refinanced;

(This, presumably, is the part in the article where it says, “her existing adjustable-rate mortgage … just kept adjusting upward, sending her monthly payments from $2,377 to more than $3,600 in only three years.”)

07/12/2004 $66,205 Homeowner Services Collaborative (a front for the Codman Square organization), for repairs (?), rate not available;

11/17/2004 $34,148 City of Boston, lead paint abatement program, rate not available;

07/02/2007 $395,850 Bank of America, refinance, fixed rate loan, 6.0% (monthly payments of $2,369.00).

(I’m not sure of one thing – the Globe therefore reported that, “Bank of America eventually agreed to give the owner a 30-year loan with a 6 percent interest rate and monthly payments of less than $3,000 that will never increase.” … I may be off on my calculations or missing something … $2,369 is a lot less than $3,000. I assumes the Globe includes the other two (now subordinated) loans in its numbers?)

So, the way I see it, a total of $496,203 is still owed on this property. This isn’t outrageous, when you consider it is still assessed at over a half a million dollars. (Plus, with a monthly payment of under $3,000, the owner has it pretty good – this includes her own “rent”, plus income from two tenants; it should easily cover her loan payments.)

(Actually, the City of Boston gave another $4,000 to the homeowner, as part of its “Historic Homeworks” program, in November, 2005. This is also outstanding, but I’m not going to redo the calculations, above …)

Hmm … on another, unrelated topic – a fair question to ask is: This is a three-family home (originally, a two-family …); although the owner lives in the property (and (legally) takes the city’s resident property tax exemption), is it more accurate to call her a “homeowner” or a landlord? – meaning, is the city’s program (as well as others) set up to help homeowners or to help small business owners.

But, another fair question to ask is: Does it really make a difference? Having people lose their homes (or investments) is not a good thing, and destabilizes neighborhoods. Perhaps these programs are necessary, in order to “make things right” again?

I don’t know. I do fear this, as reported in the article:

Her sister, who rents the third floor, is thinking of moving out. Her tenant on the first floor just gave 30 days notice. She’s not sure how she’ll fill their spots. The new paint on her front porch is peeling and a falling tree damaged a gutter on the side of her house.


And, the kicker:

“It seemed like everybody was refinancing,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know anything about the adjustable rate.”

All three times, I guess!



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