That time my home saved my life

And what the lessons have taught me about running for the Register of Deeds

Our little corner of Google Maps on Manchester Street.

It was 2008, we had just recently become homeowners and I was preparing to graduate from law school and take the Massachusetts bar exam.

We were no strangers to the recession and it was around that time my family really began to feel the impact. My husband’s overtime had been eliminated and I needed to take a leave of absence from my contracted position with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to study for the bar exam. I would lose months of income. Faced with that reality, my husband and I decided that I should apply for what is called a “bar loan” that would allow us to still pay our mortgage and other bills such as daycare and electricity.

Shortly after passing the bar I took a position with my local State Senator and was making $40k/year. With overtime still not available and my limited income our bills began to pile up and our family had to make the kinds of hard decisions a lot families hit by the recession faced:

Which bills would get paid and which ones would not?

One of those bills was the bar loan.

I was devastated when the countless demands were coming in and I had no money to pay for them or even set up a payment plan that I could honestly follow on our budget. Eventually I began receiving court notices informing me of law suits by creditors. I retained the services of an attorney and offered settle offers and set up payment plans.

When we presented the bar loan creditor with a settlement offer the request was denied because what I could pay would barely pay for the interest that was accruing each month. The payment was requested. Despite my hardest efforts to resolve this issue a lien was placed on my home by the bar loan creditor. The lien ensures that the once unsecured creditor will receive payment if I were to sell my home. Ultimately making them a secured creditor at the attachment of the lien to my home.

For almost a year I have been aggressively tackling my debts and to date have expended over $10,000 settling debts. The lien is the largest debt I have, next to my student kind of course. Recently, my husband and I discussed refinancing our home and the lien again was brought up. Thankfully my family is in a better financial situation today and we are currently in negotiations with the creditor to pay this debt off and move toward rebuilding my credit and regaining the financial freedom I had just 8 years ago.

But in that time when I needed it most, my home saved my life.

I had a homestead put on my home shortly after I brought it and that saved me from having the creditors sell my house to pay off the debt. Being homeless was a real possibility. I had no choice but to take the loan out. We had just moved into the house a year prior and used our savings to make it a reality. We had nothing. I already faced homelessness with my daughter and there was no way I was going back to a shelter. So we made hard choices and as a result we still own our home 9 years later. We may have had our lights turned off from time to time, but the roof is still over our heads, and I’m thankful for that.

Just thinking about some of the challenges we faced 4 to 5 years ago makes my stomach turn. I can’t remember how many sleepless nights I had. I honestly thought I had failed my family.

But these are the hard lessons I’ve learned and the experience I want to bring to this office. Filing a Homestead on my house is the only thing that kept us in it. That protection allowed me to have a safety net when the hard choices came and when I was left with no other options. But I was one of the lucky ones, I had that kind of information available to me and it is why I am still a homeowner today. I want to empower the entire community, from the moment they take on the responsibility of owning property, with the information they need to preserve that wealth.

Because owning a home isn’t easy, but it is the kind of security that families, communities, and futures are built on.

And a day may come when that home saves your life.

My name is Stephanie Everett and I’m running for Suffolk County Register of Deeds.

Stephanie was born and raised in Mattapan, where she currently resides with her husband and children. Stephanie has firsthand, personal experience with the impact properly managed government programs can have at opening doors and changing lives. She was a participant in the METCO program and graduated from the Boston Public Schools. Stephanie holds a B.A. from Northeastern University and a law degree from Suffolk University.

Follow her on Twitter (@SEverettBoston) and on Facebook (SEverettBoston).

For more information on Stephanie’s campaign visit: