One of Schild’s prospects is Joseph Hernandez, a disabled U.S. Army veteran married to a housekeeper. The couple are living in a hotel and saving money by eating only two meals a day. Schild has made them a painful offer. If they walk away from their two-bedroom house, worth $127,000 before Hurricane Harvey, Schild will pick up the mortgage payments, paying nothing else. Although he says he sympathizes with the Hernandezes’ plight, he thinks the offer is fair because he figures the home is now worth less than its $65,000 mortgage.
Hernandez is in a bind. He didn’t buy flood insurance because his house wasn’t in a high-risk area. He can’t afford to rebuild, and he’s been told he’s eligible for only $23,000 in federal assistance. If he turns over the deed, he’s looking at losing the entire $60,000 in equity he had before the flood. “It’s blurry, what’s coming,” he says. “We’ll probably have to sell to an investor, and that’s not good. We were forced out.”
Hernandez isn’t ready to take Schild’s deal. But Matlock, who rescued his disabled wife from chest-high water, is tempted by the investor’s $120,000 offer. Their home, now stripped to the beams, has flooded twice in two years. Schild says Matlock should be able to recover much of his loss on the house’s value through federal flood insurance.