Hey Chase, should we burn the house down?

My home is priceless to me, but as of 1/31/10 the assessed value of my modest two-bedroom, one bath house is $159,800. I designed and built the all-wood, metal roof home and it is unique. Unique, however, does not mean saleable, or even rentable, as my realtor friend had made abundantly clear.   

In an all-wood home the possibility of loss by fire is a concern, especially after a raging fire destroyed 39 Avalon, NJ condos in December 2003. Coupled with an article I read about the importance of insuring properly for “replacement value”, I’d kept a close eye on my property insurance.  

By January 2006 I worried I might be under-insured and took a closer look at my policy. The replacement value seemed low and I feared that if my home burned to the ground I wouldn’t be able to replace it. I requested an increase to a dollar amount I thought was more realistic, only to get push-back from the insurer.  I pressed the point so Selective Insurance Company sent out an appraiser who set the replacement value at $285,000. This was still low in my mind, but in mid-February 2006 we compromised at a value of $425,000. 

I escrow my insurance and property taxes. Once comfortable with the replacement value on my home, I moved on, until I pulled the policy for review in December 2009.  I was stunned to find my home insured for $905,000, more than double the figure I’d reached with Selective. Of course the payee was Chase, and as I followed the paper trail I saw the folks at Washington Mutual had upped the value of my home on me. So now Chase thinks I’m living in a $905,000 house. Hey Chase, I love my home but in Avalon parlance, it’s a “tear-down”. Is that why you won’t work with me on a loan modification? Do you think I’m living large in some big house? I’m not. I’m living very small in my tiny home on the bay.

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