July 22, 2011 - submitted by Meg, Ireland

My Dad can no longer pay the mortgage on the house where he has lived all his life and I have lived all my life and I think tonight he is going to tell our family we are going to lose our home, what should I do?

The Oracle replies:

Gosh Meg, this must be so difficult for you all. I'm afraid without knowing whether your Mum is still at home and the age of you and any siblings you may have (it sounds like you do), I may be way off mark.
Times are tough right now for so many people struggling to make ends meet. It may be the case that your Dad has now told you that you can't continue to live in the family home. He may also have a solution. There are practical suggestions I can offer but you asked what you should do. You'll need to be mature, strong and most of all supportive and sensitive to the situation your family find themselves in. Firstly there is no shame in what has happened so hold your head high and accept we live in a society where the cost of living has rocketed and utilities and food are sky high. Wages are not going up at the same rate and it's easy to get into debt.
I'm not sure whether your Dad needs guidance but if he hasn't asked for help, he could try seeking free legal advice. I don't want to be patronising either as he may have tried everything. There are lots of websites that can help with ideas. Here are a few bullet points he may not have considered, like everyone pitching in to help.
Write an affordable budget that you all stick to.
Keep a log of income and outgoings, work out where you can save.
Change mortgage providers for a lower interest rate.
If not possible, call the mortgage company as they may be able to freeze payments for a short period of time.
Move all credit card debts to one 0% interest card and do not use it for further purchases. Cut other cards in half.
Family members to contribute to household. Extra part-time jobs could help.
Rent out a spare room if available.
Be frugal with food shopping.
The golden rule is if you don't need it or can't afford it - don't buy it!
It may already be too late but think on this: It's always hard to think of a family home as more than a house because of the memories but you yourself are not going to live there forever. Your memories will not die just because you leave whether it be now or later. You will get another place to live but rented or owned, it's the people in it that make it a home. Over to you.

Meg, First off, you have to remember the golden rule: family is everything. I lost my house while I was living with my mom, so I can tell you from personal experience I know foreclosure is very difficult. That house may be your home, but it's only a building. All the memories and love that occurred in that house will go with you no matter where you live. You can trust me on that one. When your father tells your family the news, make sure you show nothing but love and understanding. I know it's hard and it's unfair, but imagine what your dad must be going through considering he was the one who didn't have enough money for the house. I don't know you or your dad, but when my mom lost our home, she was so guilt ridden it broke my heart. You and your family need each other's love now more than ever. Like I said, the house may be your home, but it's only bricks, wires, and pipes. The warmth and cherished moments are in your heart, and you can take them with you to your new home. Hope this helps! I'll be thinking of you! Good luck. Amanda.

First let me say, I am sorry to hear your father is faced with this difficult situation. It is not an easy thing to lose something that holds so much history and memories for both of you. I am assuming this is due to some type of financial difficulty beyond his control? While it certainly difficult given the emotional attachment that you have for the house you must ask yourself: What part of this is in your control? What part of this can you change? Then give your energy to what you can change. The best thing you can do is be there for him and realize that if this is the only option and all else has been exhausted, that yes, you may lose your house but no one can ever take away your memories and experiences there. Remind him how much you love him and how thankful you have been for all he has provided for you. Realize all that you have going for you and accept whatever help and support that others may be able to give you at this time knowing that everything in life is a gift and you have the gift of each other. Sharon.

So many things are out of our control. But the intentional act of love is a powerful force that is in our control. In the midst of chaos, I can imagine your dad is feeling insignificant and alone. This is a scary feeling. And in this state we operate in fear and anxiety. What your dad may need is reassurance and validation. Let him know that material things do not make up your identity as a family. Your home sounds like it was a source of warmth and joy. Try to capture those memories in a practical way: Create a photobook of all the rooms in the house, and write out a good memory you had there. If you have siblings, get them to contribute as well. Then present this to your dad. He will cherish your support and the gift of love. And that is the essence of home. With warmest regards, Amy.

No succes is guaranteed, however you can try fundraising. Of course, it's difficult to raise money to spend on a mortgage, but if you manage to explain people how much the house means to you and your family, you might be able to raise what you need. One tip is to approach the people in many ways, and make it very easy for them to donate. Through a website with a donate button for instance. Money is way to expensive to be the most important thing in life. Sadly it's one of them... I wish you good luck with it! Jan Willem from Holland.

Meg, hold your head up and remember that family is family and things are just that- things. As long as you can stay together, that is what is most important, what makes any house a home is the people inside. Help out- get an after school babysitting job- always in high demand in our town- and contribute to the family funds. It may not be much, but when you all work together, a little can go a long way, as well as make you feel better for contributing. Lean on each other for support and remember, this too shall pass. To quote the boys: "When I counted up my demons, saw there was one for every day, with the good ones on my shoulder, I drove the other ones away". Hang in there sweetie! Wendy, Louisiana.

Dear Meg, it's just a house....You can get a new smaller one. Your love is going to make this one your special place. Your love is to each other is much more important than things. Good luck, Antoinet.

First of all I am very sad to hear about another home owner who may be losing their home. This is happening far too often these days. I will not bore you with the million plus reason 
why the housing market took a major fall, but what I can say is things are getting better. (Slowly)
If someone is losing their home the very first step should be communicating with their mortgage 
lender. Now that we have been in this debacle for almost 4 years the Government and Banks 
are finally realizing that with so many defaults that they had to do something. Many Lenders 
now have programs and processes in place to help facilitate things. After talking with your Mortgage
Company they will help guide you on what your options are. (Possible Loan Modification/Deed in Lieu/Short Sale)
If they mortgage cannot be paid at all, it may be a good idea to sell the property as a short sale. If you decided to do this you will need to seek tax/Legal advice to be sure that it would be ok.
(This is a Case-By-Case situation) Anyway, hopefully this will help out. Good Luck to you, and again very sorry. Eric (Real Estate Executive).

One thing to remember in all of this is that family is the most important, most vital part of your life. Although the home has strong sentimental meaning to you and your family, at the end of the day, a loving and supportive family far outweighs the temporary heartache and shame of losing one's home. So many people are going through a similar crisis right now, and while your sadness and the situation are unique to you, know that you are not alone in this. The best thing you can do right now is to be there for your father, be strong for him, and offer to help him sort things out in the aftermath. Encourage him in whatever steps he decides to take - whether that means fighting for a reinstatement of the mortgage or helping him pack up and find a new place to live. Above all, let him know that this situation doesn't change your love for him. I'm sure he's feeling pretty low, but he's lucky to have a daughter like you. Sincerely, Erin in Michigan.

Coming to terms with the fact that mortgage payments are no longer realistically possible to maintain is an extremely important step to take. People see it as "defeat", and it's never easy to admit defeat, especially when you have a fighting spirit. But don't think of it as "defeat", think of it as "surviving" Gerry.

First you need to understand the value of appreciation not merely just on the sentimental value of your Dad's feeling toward his house and how it effects your whole family feeling. Appreciation is in everything from by him having you and your whole family in existence in the first place.
Second you need to understand that life is about moving forward yet rekindle the bittersweet memories of the past. If happens your Dad lose his beloved house. He still had you, your Mom and your siblings.
Third you need to be realistic in helping your Dad. Be prudence in managing your personal finance at an early stage to cultivate the habit of being accountable for family economic.
Fourth you need to realize that we are the creature who constantly changes from time to time, sometime we fortunate and sometime we are not. Keep on optimistic with yourself and your family going concern.
Solutions are indeed within the problem. Hazim.

I cannot fathom how bad you may feel that your situation is, but the first thing to do here is to not panic. It simply is the smartest, bravest, and strongest thing to do right now. Instead, it would probably do you real good to help out your parents by doing many things: keep their spirits up, help them out whenever there is a need, inform your siblings of the hard times that may be headed toward your future, support your family in any way possible, and (finally) love everyone unconditionally.
Your situation hits home very closely because my parents have undoubtedly the same problem and have come close many times. The one thing I find that helps is if you care and understand for them, then you're not losing anything at all. Aman from U.S.A.

Thank you all so much. The sentiment was the same: support your Dad, show him love and seek practical solutions to help. This week I received an unprecedented number of emails. It was such an overwhelming response that it was impossible to include every one. Many thanks to all who got involved. Please do try again and submit your replies to this week's Team Oracle question.