Fred Schulte, Ben Protess and Lagan Sebert of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund write that foreclosures aren’t just hitting people with hefty mortgage payments, but also those who can’t pay municipal bills that are often less than $500. The team tracks the story of Baltimore homeowner Vicki Valentine whose $362 water bill ballooned to more than $3,000 because of legal fees and interest. They write:
“Running out of time, Valentine scrambled to pack up clothing and mementos. The home had been her family’s for nearly three decades, and her father had paid off the mortgage in 1984. ‘It’s hard to say goodbye to this house,’ she said. ‘It’s like someone forcing you out of something that belongs to you. I don’t get it.’
Valentine lost the two-story brick row home after the city sold her debt to investors through a contentious and byzantine legal process called a ‘tax sale.’ This little-known type of foreclosure can enrich investors as growing numbers of property owners struggle to pay their bills.”
The story cites information from previous Baltimore Sun articles, as well as information from Bloomberg News. It includes this fact to broaden the story beyond Valentine:
Today’s Tip: Many problems have more than one cause.
Although many people have lost their homes through foreclosures because of lost jobs or shady mortgage lending, those aren’t the reasons for everyone, as this story shows. Instead of just asking what happened and expecting one answer, ask, “What three factors do you think may have caused this?” and “Is there anything else that may have played a minor role?”
These questions easily applies to earnings stories, disasters such as the oil spill, Toyota’s sudden-acceleration problems and stock market changes.