A Spoonful of Foreclosure…

I saw another movie about foreclosure over the weekend.

I’ve already seen The Big Short, 99 Homes, The Grapes of Wrath. This one fit right in: Mary Poppins Returns.

You read that correctly, the new Mary Poppins movie centers around the Banks family (um, I just saw the irony in their name) struggling to keep their home. Good ol’ Disney has added foreclosure to its repertoire of tragic plot lines.

Of course the foreclosure in Mary Poppins Returns is unrealistic and much more nightmarish compared to how foreclosure actually works here, in the U.S. and in Connecticut.

The themes were similar, and they got one right, but most of them wrong.

They nailed the main theme: when a crisis hits and causes financial struggle, usually a household can survive that; it’s when a SECOND crisis hits when the mortgage goes unpaid.The first crisis in the movie was the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I won’t give away what the second crisis was, but any fans of Disney can take a wild guess…

The movie gave the impression you have little to no time to work out a solution with the bank or find a solution that is better suited for your household. You don’t get a notice nailed to your door with only five days to pay up or move out like the Banks family did. You do get notice of foreclosure and a relatively reasonable amount of time in Connecticut to work things out with your bank. We even have a mediation program that slows the whole process down.

The Banks family focused on one possible way to solve their problem. You might think you have only one option too, but time and again my meetings with homeowners end with us making a list of solutions to getting out of foreclosure.

The bad guy in the movie was the head of the bank: he sabotaged the family’s attempt to solve the foreclosure, he was eager to foreclose not only on their home but multiple others, even setting quotas of foreclosures for the bank’s attorneys to fulfill. He went so far as to say he wanted THEIR home. This is how most homeowners in the U.S. feel who are in foreclosure—I’ve written about it before, it feels personal when it really isn’t. No, your bank
doesn’t want your house, but despite that I can’t explain the zeal with which they move to foreclose.

And you have a lot of stuff; years worth of stuff to sort through; so moving is going to be tedious, take you weeks or months, and be very emotional and difficult. The movie got this totally wrong with how it portrayed the Banks family’s resignation and bright attitude about leaving their longtime home; it was – like Mary Poppins’ henanigans—unrealistic, without the feel-good magic.

Last but not least, the family had no lawyer. This allowed the head of the bank to conceal valuable information from the family, to deny them any options other than full payment. They had no one to speak for them, to keep an eye out for other ways to solve the problem or to negotiate a payment plan. I see this a lot—a homeowner will just take a bank’s word for it when they are told what their options are or what they have to do and by when. This usually ends up with a shorter timeframe for leaving the house- and when you’re facing a deadline, five months
can feel like five days, the amount of time the Banks family had to pay up or else. The movie got that right—without help, you’re on your own, scrambling for a solution while fighting the clock.

I guess all the exaggeration makes for better on-screen drama. But who needs that in real life?