YARMOUTHPORT — Donna Legere was sitting at her computer yesterday morning when the cars started pulling up in front of her home.
A man who declined to identify himself, or the company for which he worked, told her he was there to conduct a foreclosure auction on her house, she said.
Legere tried to explain that she has been in the process of seeking to modify her mortgage and had every reason to believe herself eligible. She told the auctioneer she had a letter from GMAC asking for more documentation about her situation.
"He said that his company told him to go ahead and do it," she said. "They got the go-ahead from the bank."
And shortly thereafter, her home was sold at auction to an investor.
"I was just looking for a little bit of lower payment, to save my house, so I can make it as affordable as possible," Legere said.
In 2009, completed foreclosures were down in almost every month, according to numbers from The Warren Group, a Boston-based real estate data firm. A report released by the company yesterday, however, shows that foreclosure activity picked back up on Cape Cod in December, with the numbers of initial petitions, auction notices and completed foreclosures all increasing over the previous year.
These numbers come just a week after the U.S. Treasury Dept. released a report that many say demonstrates that the federal government's mortgage modification program is failing to adequately stem the country's tide of foreclosures.
"They've just had a lot of frustrations in getting responses from servicers," said Dana LeWinter, program manager for Citizens' Housing and Planning Association, a Boston-based housing advocacy group. "In general, there's a lot of frustration across the board."
There were 49 completed foreclosures in Barnstable County last month, according to The Warren Group, an increase of 26 percent over the December 2008 total of 39. Foreclosure petitions, the first step in the process, rose by 63 percent; auction notices more than tripled.
Last week's Treasury numbers revealed that, nationwide, just 3.4 percent of those mortgages eligible for modification — representing 112,500 homeowners — had been approved for a permanent change as of the end of the year.
An additional 1.16 million mortgages have been placed in trial modifications. There is, however, no way to be certain that a trial modification will work out, especially when a borrower's income has taken a hit.
"Once they're in the trial modification, it's not going to be a guarantee that that's something that sticks," LeWinter said. "It might not be sustainable."
Modifications may just be delaying foreclosures, rather than dealing with the circumstances that brought a borrower to the brink of losing his or her home in the first place, Nancy Davison, vice president of operations for the Housing Assistance Corp . in Hyannis, said in an interview earlier this month.
"We're still seeing 100 new people a month," she said of the undiminished demand for the agency's foreclosure prevention services. "If (the modification plan) has done anything, it's at least prolonged the foreclosure."
A further frustration, LeWinter said, is that "there's not necessarily a lot of communications between the foreclosure department and the modification department" within individual lending companies.
It is this dynamic in which Legere seems to be caught.
"I don't know how they can tell the lawyer to go ahead and foreclose when they haven't reviewed my information," she said.
GMAC spokeswoman Jeannine Bruin could not comment on Legere's specific case, but said that it is the company's policy not to postpone foreclosures until it has received a completed package of financial documentation.
"Once we have the completed documents back, we do the analysis about whether they qualify for a modification or another kind of workout option," Bruin said.
For now, Legere remains in her house. The investor who bought the property talked to her about the possibility of finding financing to re-purchase the property or about having the foreclosure sale rescinded, because she was in the process of seeking a modification.
Her situation, she said, has nothing to do with unwise borrowing. She never stretched her financial limits but fell on hard times when two cancer diagnoses left her with a pile of medical bills shortly before she lost her job at Bank of America.
Now back to work full time, she is just trying to find some way to keep her home.
"It's not a grandiose old house. It's small, but it's mine," Legere said. "Or it was mine."