September 9, 2010

Welcome Home.

Friends have asked me for an update on my foreclosure situation, and today I received a phone call meriting one.

It’s been a good home! I have a cozy home office. It’s powered 100% (more or less, depending on le soleil) by solar paneled gazebo in my backyard. The front yard is xeriscaped (you know, climate-appropriate plants only, no watering necessary, ever). My home itself is filled with fixtures from a home recycling center named ReSource. Furniture was culled off craigslist and from great local, eco small businesses. and fixtures. Through my elephant, I’ve been able to “greenovate” on the cheap. It’s a home I’ve hoped to grow old and have a family in and all that good stuff.

The good news: With thanks to @Askciti, looks like I’ll be able to keep my home, make payments again, and avoid foreclosure.

After deciding to turn my elephant magazine into an online-only publication—and losing six years of steady growth as a magazine, my income, my staff and offices two years ago—elephant journal is now once again a viable and growing business.

We’re at 250,000 unique visitors a month according to Google Analytics, with an additional 200,000 pages read last month. And my income has begun to stabilize, though I have yet to buy my first Tesla…or take a weekend off or travel anywhere, ever.

The last two years have been the most depressing, stressful, and hopeless years in a fortunate life. After killing the profitable magazine mainly because such a thing as eco-distribution doesn’t exist, I quickly cut every expense I could. Still, after putting my home sweet home on the market, and receiving no offers (none, the market had collapsed and foreclosures have kept prices down nationally) I began to fail to pay my mortgage about a year ago. Only six months ago, I counted change like a college kid all over again (I don’t have any credit cards, and my personal and business accounts were both at zero for three straight months). Then, finally, CitiMortgage declared foreclosure and, according to my helpful and generous Boulder County mortgage advisor, very few mortgage modifications were being made by any corporations. Something like 97% of those in foreclosure wound up getting foreclosed on. My mortgage loan was and is held by Citi—who apparently wasn’t accepting the Obama Mortgage Modification Plan at all, for anyone (or HAMP).

So, humiliatingly, I opened up about my failure to the world and…community came forward and made noise about it. A lot of noise. Enough noise that Citi heard, and to their credit and with my sincere appreciation, listened.

Today, only a few months after I first opened up and blogged and tweeted and facebooked about Citi’s insistence on not letting me make my payments again, they confirmed that they’d let me stay in my home of four years.

Why did Citi reverse course and allow me to make payments again, instead of foreclosing? A great part of it was you, my friends: elephant’s many followers on twitter made noise—enough that I suddenly found my phone calls and emails returned, and a few of Citi’s excellent staff did their utmost to expedite the piles of forms I had to find and fill out and fax in.

The good news is that anyone of us can do this. Social media offers a free, immediate means to a new and more balanced relationship between the consumer and the corporation. Just get on twitter, or facebook, or your own blog, or youtube…and make your case known. Make it known fully, and fairly. Be sure to leave room for Comcast or United or Citi or Wells Fargo or Blockbuster or whatever corp has ignored your case to be able to right themselves, save face, and be the good guy they should have been in the first place. And make sure you can back up your case, in the first place.

Your indebted friends (yes, literally),

Waylon Lewis

PS: I will 1) have a huge house-re-warming party with plenty of champagne and 2) I’ll be able to host a few eco-minded roommates, now, knowing that I won’t have to kick ’em to the curb.

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