GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — In a last-ditch attempt to save her Golden Gate Estates home, Cynthia Balterman erected a big, red-lettered golden sign that stands 6 feet tall and spans 12 feet wide. It's to Wells Fargo Bank, her lender.
In all capital letters, it screams, "I want to keep my home! Please stop the foreclosure sale and work with me!"
But it all may for nothing: Balterman's home is headed for a foreclosure sale today at the Collier County courthouse. She plans to be there to see who buys it.
"Then, I'm going to have to start packing," she said, sadly.
She took other last-minute steps to save her home off Fifth Avenue Southwest, including producing a YouTube video that asks Wells Fargo to have a change of heart. She emailed the bank's executives, pleading her case, and she set up a Twitter account on Sunday to send out tweets she hoped would catch the eye of her lender and the media.
Balterman was successful in getting the attention of Wells Fargo. But she didn't get the answer she hoped for, as her lender for a third time denied her attempts to get a loan modification that would have allowed her to stay in her home.
"The bank just called and I was turned down," she said Tuesday afternoon. "They were worried about affordability and I had other debts. They said they were sorry, there was nothing they could do."
She was also told there was no way the lender could stop the sale because it would have required a 20-day notice to the judge.
On Monday, after getting the attention of Wells Fargo through a barrage of emails to executives, a customer service agent was assigned to her. Balterman had hoped to get the foreclosure sale delayed. She was told the lender would review her case again and she was asked to fax her updated financial information, including recent check stubs and her last three months of bank statements. But that wasn't enough to change the lender's mind.
"We have been working with Ms. Balterman since 2010 to try and find options that might help her remain in her home. Unfortunately in this case we were unable to find any options that would allow her to maintain homeownership," said Veronica Clemons, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
"Even when foreclosure is inevitable, we will continue to work with our customers to help them as easily as possible transition from the home."
With a monthly income of nearly $3,300, Balterman said she thought she'd be able to work out a compromise with the lender.
"I'm showing consistent employment," she said minutes after getting the final word from Wells Fargo. "I'm trying to reason this out in my head, as my daughter is crying in the other room."
Her custom-built 2,556-square foot home, with four bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms, was her dream home. Balterman, 54, has lived in the home with her daughter, who recently graduated from Gulf Coast High School, for more than a decade.
Over the weekend, she built the sign in her driveway out of plywood in the rain, which asks Wells Fargo to give her another chance. As she was putting it up on Saturday afternoon, a prospective buyer drove up because he'd heard her two-story home would be auctioned off this week, she said. She asked him to leave immediately, trying to control her emotions.
Before she put up the sign, she produced the YouTube video – her first one.
Her financial problems started in the spring of 2009. She was going through a difficult divorce and the electrical contracting business she owned with her now ex-husband went out of business, leaving her with no income for many months, she said.
She now works at a Walmart pharmacy, she's receiving child support and she's searching for a second job. She said she's paying down other debts, including the money she owes to the IRS.
Her final judgment is for nearly $257,000. Her mortgage was $2,275 a month, with an interest rate of 6.875 percent.
At this stage, she is three years behind on her payments.
Balterman is also losing a condo in East Naples to foreclosure. She bought it for her father, who helped pay the mortgage until he recently died, she said.
"That's going back to the bank," Balterman said.
__ Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden