SEWELL MOUNTAIN — One day in 1999, a young man knocked on the door of 78-year-old June Waselchalk’s isolated home on Fayette County’s Sewell Mountain.
“He said, ‘I know you have a mortgage, and you’re paying too much, and your interest rate is too high,’” she said.
“I invited him in.”
He told her he worked for a Charleston mortgage company. “I can’t remember his name,” she said, “but he was very friendly, and I signed a little paper he had.”
At the time, Waselchalk, a coal miner’s widow, had a $26,000 mortgage on her cinder block home.
“My father built this house for my husband’s father,” after he immigrated to Fayette County from Czechoslovakia in the 1930s and started working in the coal mines, she said.
The young man went back to Charleston. Not long thereafter, an appraiser came to inspect her five-room cinder block house. By law, a loan cannot be made for more than the value of a property.
He appraised it for $68,000. Based on the appraisal, Baltimore-based Provident Bank offered Waselchalk a $44,710 mortgage loan. Waselchalk thought it was coming from the Charleston company, Solution One Mortgages, she said. “My husband told me, ‘Don’t ever take an out-of-state loan.’”
“A man from Charleston called and told me to go see some lawyers in Beckley.” She did. “They flipped through a big pile of papers and said, ‘Sign here and sign here.’”
“They didn’t let me see the papers. But they said their mortgage would lower my payments and lower my interest. So I signed their papers.”
Instead, her monthly payments rose by $98. They went from $319 a month to $417 a month, according to the mortgage contracts. “I got tricked,” she said. Her interest rate did drop from 12 percent to 10.75 percent.
Solution One Mortgages received $4,506 of the $44,700 for arranging the loan, about 11 percent. State law now limits broker fees to 5 percent.
“Let me tell you right now, it has not been easy for me to come up with that extra hundred every month,” Waselchalk said. “A hundred dollars a month makes a difference. There’s plenty times I had to do without something.”
In 2005, she tried to refinance, to lower her payments. Citifinancial sent an appraiser.
“He said he couldn’t appraise her house any higher than $30,000, so he couldn’t loan more than that” said her daughter, Renee Waselchalk. “But she still owed a lot more than that on the mortgage. So she’s locked in.”
Mountain State Justice has filed suit in Raleigh Circuit Court against Provident Bank and Litton Loan Servicing, which collects on the loan.
John Asseff, President of Solution One Mortgage, also named in the suit, said he would not want to think his company was given an inflated $68,000 appraisal to work with. “We have to rely on the appraiser’s independent work to perform the appraisal in a manner that is compliant with professional standards,” he said.
He forbids his employees to misrepresent a loan or get borrowers into a situation they can’t handle, he said. “Unfortunately, I can’t listen to every conversation my employees have.”
The young man who knocked on Waselchalk’s door, he said, no longer works for Solution One.