Post Exclusive | Homeowners Seeking Lifeline – Underwater Owners Try to Beat the Bank
By Kimberly Miller
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
By the time the stranger called that Thursday in March, suburban Boynton Beach homeowner Marcie Lowe was out of options to fix her failed real estate wager.
The savvy 78-year-old played her hand well for years in the home-buying game, picking up properties in California and Key West to rent to kids in college and bartenders serving drinks on Duval Street.
But she got caught with a 10 percent interest-only loan on her gated Valencia Isles home, which is now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the $571,000 she paid in 2003.
“What would you think of this?” Lowe remembers the caller saying.
He proposed a fresh strategy to end-run the banks — a complex legal plan that begins when you deed your home to the Fort Lauderdale-based Fidelity Land Trust Co. for an average fee of $2,500.
Conceived, at least in part, by a man barred by the state from engaging in consumer debt-related services, the trust then sues the bank to cancel your mortgage while offering a new contract with lower payments.
“He said more than 250 people were already set up for this,” Lowe recalls.
Fidelity Land Trust has quietly amassed about 80 Palm Beach County deeds since it registered as a limited liability corporation with the state in December.
The firm is the owner of record for another 76 properties in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to clerk of court records.
If the trust is successful in canceling the mortgage through a quiet title action, the homeowner is still responsible for the loan debt, or note, but the trust then tries to buy that debt from the bank for pennies on the dollar.
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