My husband and I went through a foreclosure just a few years after we were married. We'd made the mistake of purchasing a home at an adjustable rate, one that we could afford before the economy downturned. After the rate skyrocketed, we had no hope of keeping up with the ridiculous payments and had to foreclose. It was a difficult, emotionally draining experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone. The stress of the foreclosure and the financial implications tested our relationship like nothing ever had. However, through it all, I always had him to lean on. Almost three years later, I am happy to say that we are stronger than ever.
These are five ways that foreclosure strengthened our relationship:
No. 1: We didn't blame each other for what had happened. When our notice of foreclosure came, I'll admit that it was difficult not to point fingers. What had we done wrong? What could we have done different? This was the first conversation my husband and I had with each other that awful day. Ultimately, we realized we weren't the ones to blame. Neither one of us had been laid off. Our financial situation hadn't changed; the bank's situation had changed. In a weird way, that made us feel better and kept us from blaming each other.
No. 2: We know we can go through anything together. Going through such a turbulent experience will test the strongest relationship. Not only was there a big, fat foreclosure notice on our door for all the world to see, but we were desperately trying to save our home. We didn't want to give it up; it was ours and we were building our family there.
Despite working overtime, the late notices were piling up, bill collectors were incessantly calling, and we were making payment arrangements on our payment arrangements. We finally realized it wasn't working for us, and it wasn't ever going to get any better. What was the point working to the bone when we never got to see each other in the house we were trying to save? After many mornings of waking up worrying about not having water, electricity, or gas, we decided that we didn't want that quality of life for our little family. After going through months of this financial roller coaster, I know that my husband and I can go through anything together.
No. 3: We were forced to become smarter about finances. At least the foreclosure made us take a good look at our finances. We were young when we bought the house, just in our early 20s. Now, we're wiser about interest rates, borrowing smartly, and managing budgets. Against our parents' advice, we chose a 6-percent adjustable rate on the house because it was less expensive than the fixed rate. We could not imagine how quickly that could turn around. That ignorance will literally cost us for several more years thanks to what the foreclosure did to our credit. In the meantime, we've committed ourselves to doing everything we can to recover our credit so we can buy another house when the economy is better.
No. 4: It made us more communicative. This situation forced us to talk about everything concerning finances together. Before, we'd never thought to tell the other when we spent small amounts of money. Once finances became so tight, we had no choice but to talk about every little financial decision, whether it was how much gas we could afford that week or what our grocery budget was. Even though finances are better these days, we still budget together. We use a simple spreadsheet to calculate exactly what comes in every month and the household expenses, like rent, utilities, food, and car payments before any other money is spent. Since we budget together now, we're both responsible for the finances.
No. 5: It made us better decision-makers. The experience taught us a lot about what to look for when buying a home. Never again will we buy a home at an adjustable rate, even if it is lower than the fixed one. We never thought much about it when we bought the house, and that is a decision we will regret for a long time. Our adjustable rate initially saved us hundreds of dollars every year, so it seemed like a smart financial decision at the time. After experiencing firsthand exactly what a bad economy does to adjustable rates, we will never take that route again. Our financial decisions are definitely better these days. We never take on more than we can afford because we don't ever want to find ourselves in the same situation again.
Advice for couples facing foreclosure:
- Don't point fingers. I think if my husband and I had decided to blame each other, our relationship would have shattered. Blame is not a good mix to financial stress.
Save your house -- if you reasonably can. No one wants to see their house and the dreams they made in it go, so save it if you really can. However, if everything else is falling apart because of the foreclosure, ask yourself it it's worth the suffering.
Get your finances in order. After we decided to leave our house behind, we had a good three months before the bank kicked us out. We used that time to save money and catch up on our utilities so we could start fresh elsewhere.