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She’s 85, a Widow — and About to Become Another Foreclosure Statistic

Mortgage Insider tells the sad tale of an 85-year-old widow, living alone with no surviving family members to turn to, who is about to lose her home. Rita Gillam lived in her Orange County, Calif., home for 50 years. It is scheduled for a foreclosure auction sale today.

Gillam, a widow, said she has owned hair salons and baby supply stores for decades. When her baby store hit a rough patch, she borrowed $412,500 in 2005 and then refinanced with Fremont Investment & Loan for $556,000 in 2006. Before those two loans, her home had been paid for, she said.

The $556,000 is gone and so is her business, Gillam said.

“I am broke,” she said.

Gillam has no one to turn to for help, she said.

“I have no family,” she said. “All mine are dead.”

Mortgage Insider’s Matthew Padilla says he’s seeing evidence that more new foreclosures involve people who cashed out the equity from their homes, as Gillam did, and not from people who bought homes at the height of the boom.

The lender in this case, Fremont, was a major subprime firm that went out of business last year, done in by the subprime market meltdown. Fremont was the target of several state investigations into predatory lending, accused of selling high-rate loans to borrowers who couldn’t afford them.

Gillam isn’t alone in her inability to save her house. The New York Times reported that the Obama administration’s housing rescue plan hasn’t rescued all that many homeowners so far. It highlighted the case of Eileen Ulery, who called her lender, Countrywide (now Bank of America), to alter her loan after she lost her job. Countrywide tried to sell her another loan with a higher interest rate.

Ulery is 63 and lives alone in a modest, two-bedroom condo in suburban Mesa, Ariz. She used equity from her home during the boom to buy a car, a Hyundai, and fix her roof. She used to bring home $1,000 every two weeks from her job as an executive assistant at Arizona State University. But she lost the job in a round of budget cuts. She’s not late on her mortgage yet — but she’s headed there.

Ulery should be eligible for a loan modification under the Obama administration’s plan. But a Bank of America spokesman told the Times she was offered refinancing instead because the bank doesn’t yet have a system in place to offer loan modifications to borrowers who aren’t seriously delinquent.

As you go about your day today — maybe buying coffee, going for a run, rushing off to work — it’s unlikely you’ll have on your mind the nation’s housing crisis and the people who represent the statistics behind all those foreclosures.

But sometime today an 85-year-old widow in California will lose her home of 50 years in an auction at a civic center, and a 63-year-old woman in Arizona will prepare to lose hers, with nowhere to turn for help.

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