LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A WINK News investigation uncovers a problem with short sales of homes with Chinese drywall. One woman says a paperwork mistake is inflating the price of her home making it nearly impossible to sell.
Helen Powell says Chinese drywall forced her, her daughter and two grandchildren to move out of their home and into a rental. Now the foreclosure she's facing is ruining her perfect credit and she tells WINK it feels like the bank is holding her hostage.
"They had no idea and I still don't think they know what Chinese drywall is. They have no idea. It's like this lady just wants out of it," Powell explains.
The Property Appraiser's office in Lee County says Helen's house is worth nothing because of the tainted drywall. Two offers are pending for closer to the market value of around $100,000, but the bank wants much more because of the mortgage insurance.
Powell's realtor, Lisa Gottesman tells WINK, "Lo and behold they want $180,000 because if it forecloses they get that number. If they do a short sale for $100,000 they lose 80 grand."
It was one year ago that Helen moved out. Her problems started six months earlier when her grandchildren complained of stomach aches and sinus problems. Then the air conditioning went out and when she got it repaired, right behind the handler, she saw, 'Made in China' on the drywall. Until that discovery, this was to be Helen's last house; big enough for the kids, small enough to keep up when they're gone.
A last minute discovery might finally end the problem. Helen made a big enough payment in 2008 to cancel the private mortgage insurance, but it never was. Without the P.M.I. as most buyers know it, the bank's $80,000 reason to foreclose rather than sell, doesn't exist.
"The very thing that she was paying for but should have been removed is the same reason she can't short sale her property," Gottesman, explains.
Armed with that information, uncovered since WINK News got involved, Gottesman is hopeful that she can finally get a deal to close.
WINK News has both called and emailed the bank holding Helen's mortgage, GMAC. They have yet to respond to any of our requests for information or comment about Powell's situation.
For a map of all the properties with Chinese drywall compiled so far by the Lee County Property Appraiser, click on this link.