02/17/2013 02:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Stockton Foreclosure Victim: 'I Didn't Even Know I Was In Foreclosure'

STOCKTON -- The moment is seared, like a scene from a horror movie, in Luz Sauceda's memory.

She came home after picking up her teenage daughter from school in the autumn of 2011 to find a sign on the front door:


She had spent a year working with Bank of America and mortgage lender Countrywide, trying to renegotiate or modify her loan -- and save her house. She believed the blizzard of paperwork, most of it too confusing for her to understand, was going to pay off, that she would keep her dream of home ownership alive.

"The bank said everything was good. It was going to be OK," said Sauceda, a parenting educator with Stockton-based El Concilio (the Council for the Spanish Speaking). "I didn't even know it was in foreclosure. I thought we would have 30 days, but the house already had new owners."

And Sauceda, 45, had no place left to hide.

For months, she had tried to stave off this day of reckoning inextricably linked to an adjustable-rate mortgage. Alone and in a vacuum.

She had kept the financial problems to herself. "My kids didn't know," said Sauceda, adding that she stopped telling her husband, 13 years younger and primarily a Spanish speaker, when he showed physical signs of stress from the financial pressure. "He was not able to handle it."

For five years, the payments were manageable, then the ARM on her loan -- tied to an economic index -- started rising rapidly. It shot up from $1,300 a month to $3,000.

"I started trying to refinance," she said. "I filled out and sent in a lot of documents. They said they were working on it. They gave me hope."

Attempts to obtain comment from Bank of America officials were unsuccessful.

The embarrassing sign on Sauceda's front door arrived like an unwanted visitor. The family of six had 30 days to get out.

"We had to move in with my brother-in-law," Sauceda said. "The kids were crying. We had to leave things behind."

At the end of her 30 days, Sauceda and members of her family returned one last time to clean up the old house.

"The new owners were there, young guys who work in Alaska. They asked if we wanted to stay -- rent it for $1,000 a month. They said we didn't have to pay a deposit."

So the Saucedas moved back in.

The children are happy and, outwardly, things look unchanged.

"We're back on the road again (to buying a home)," Sauceda said. "but the household income is enough to live on, not enough to save. And I don't know about our credit rating. I don't have the courage to look."

Lessons have been learned.

Sauceda went to counseling at St. Linus Catholic Church on B Street and discovered that she is not alone. She has developed a family budget and communication with her husband has improved. She also knows she will be better equipped the next time around. "I'm more mature, and I can handle stuff."

There also is an indirect benefit to others.

In her work, Sauceda comes in contact with many of San Joaquin County's Latino families who have had similar experiences. "I can relate ... now I'm helping others."

Contact reporter Kevin Parrish at (209) 546-8264 or ___