Ware, who lives in the desert town of Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, said she had trouble making payments on her four-bedroom house after she took in some relatives whose parents were having financial problems of their own.
Ware started missing payments and tried to get a better rate through various loan modification companies, she said, but none was able to help much.
After the house was auctioned off, Ware said, she thought there was nothing she could do. But one of the companies Ware had talked to mentioned Omaira Muñoz, who lives in Tracy, and said she might be able to help. At the time, the family had been evicted, Ware said, and was living in a motel.
Muñoz told Ware about something called the right of redemption: Once a trustee’s sale finishes, the homeowner has a year to catch up on payments, Muñoz said. Realtor Ken Allen, who lives in Mountain House, said that often, homeowners don’t work with the bank after auctions to try to get their house back.
Muñoz, a mother of five who worked in the mortgage industry before she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, talked with the vice president of the bank that owned Ware’s home and got to the point where Ware could negotiate a better rate.
“We both have a fighting spirit, but it’s a tough battle and you really need support and you need a person that’s there for you, and Omaira was that person,” Ware said. “She was able to speak to the banks in their language, while most of us are not.”
Ware said that when she bought the house in 2007, it was worth about $450,000. Today, her home is worth about $165,000. She said she was able to get her mortgage payment down to about one-third of what it was before she talked to Muñoz.
Ware is one of many people who have been helped by Muñoz, a stay-at-home mother who works with people like Ware as if it were her full-time job, but asks for nothing in return.
“How do I say no to a family when I was in the same position?” Muñoz said. “I was grasping for straws when I was in that position, and there was no one to help me. I can’t put another family through that.”
Muñoz said she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease Sept. 17, 2006, and she took a few months off from her job as a senior loan processor with Mortgage Funding Associates in Fremont to get a handle on the disease. When she returned, she said, the market had completely flopped, and there was little business for her.
By 2007, Muñoz’s home was in foreclosure, and she felt she was getting no help from loan modification companies she hired and figured she’d be better off trying to do the work herself. Muñoz found out about the right of redemption after her house had already been auctioned and sold to the bank.
After that, she said she spread the word to friends and relatives who were in similar foreclosure trouble. Her services have become popular largely through word of mouth, Muñoz said.
Muñoz said she bought her house planning to raise her family in Tracy, and she was willing to do whatever she could to make sure it stayed that way. Now, she’s banding together with other local homeowners to fight banks who might be giving people the runaround, she said.
However, things will probably get tougher for Muñoz in the future. Her husband worked at NUMMI in Fremont, but now that the plant is closed, he’s out of a job. Muñoz said she will do what she can to make ends meet and still help people for free.
“She’s very determined,” said Jason Woo, a real estate appraiser in Lathrop and a friend of Muñoz who said he helps her when he can. “She won’t back down for anybody.”