Seeking loan modifications shouldn't make homeowners target of scorn

By Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 8:14 PM

Brett Radosta is not a deadbeat.

And yet to hear many people tell it, Radosta - whose home in metro Atlanta is scheduled for foreclosure by Bank of America - is making out like a bandit because there's a possibility he might get a loan modification.

The criticism I get isn't about Radosta personally, but about homeowners like him.

"Most people with mortgages they could not handle and should not have gotten did not care about anyone except themselves," a reader wrote to me. "They got taken because they were greedy. And now they want everyone else to bail them out, including those who did no wrong. What about those of us who did not give into temptation and lived within our means? What about good old-fashioned personal responsibility?"

Another reader asked - his comments dripping with contempt for those, like Radosta, in foreclosure: "When you buy something, don't you have a personal responsibility to know, or at least think, you can afford it?"

In some respects, the critics are right.

Radosta wasn't thinking about the macro economy when he took out a $412,000 home loan in 2006. He wasn't thinking that he and many like him would become part of the nationwide tragedy of mass foreclosures. He wasn't concerned that his decision - along with other decisions by borrowers and lenders - would help push us into the current financial crisis.

The 40-year-old father of four was only thinking about his family. He just wanted to do better for them. Radosta left his sales manager job at a soft-drink bottler to become an entrepreneur. And for a while, it was working.

Radosta became the co-owner of an eco-friendly day care center that got national attention. He was also buying and reselling homes to low-income families. When he started his business, things were going well economically (or so we all thought). Real estate prices were continuing to go up, and as a result, lenders were handing out home loans like Halloween candy.

So when Countrywide Financial offered him an interest-only loan, he says he believed at the time that he could afford the mortgage.

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