OAKDALE — Karen Salbeck lives in dread of FedEx deliveries.
"My dogs bark and I just run to the door," said Salbeck, who has memorized when the FedEx delivery route weaves past her home. "It controls my life. I'm afraid someone is going to come to my house and give me a 48-hour notice to leave."
Stan and Karen Salbeck have been trapped in a foreclosure nightmare since 2007.
"We're up to 31 months without making a payment on this house," Karen Salbeck said. The couple's been battling nonstop with their lender over a mortgage modification, exchanging correspondence via FedEx.
"We don't know what phase of foreclosure we're in because it starts and stops," she said.
What doesn't stop is the stress, especially for Karen Salbeck, who doesn't want to lose her home of 17 years. Negotiating with lenders, filing paperwork, logging phone calls and monitoring legal notices has evolved into her full-time job.
"I wish I could detach somehow, but I can't. It's almost become an obsession," said Salbeck, 47. "I wake up in the middle of the night and think about it. Then I can't go back to sleep."
The emotional strain has hurt her health.
"My anti-depressant (prescription) has just been doubled, and now I'm on anxiety medication," she said. She also has become hypogly- cemic. "My doctor said stress brings that on."
The Salbecks' home was supposed to be the couple's sanctuary, not their downfall.
They bought it new in 1992 for $159,000. But they refinanced it several times, including in 2005 at the peak of the housing boom, when they tapped the home's equity and agreed to a nearly $500,000 mortgage. That loan was fixed for two years, then converted into an adjustable-rate mortgage.
Forced to retire after injury
Soon after getting the loan, Stan Salbeck got injured, forcing him to retire from his well-paying job as a Stockton firefighter.
"My income went down by $3,500 a month," Stan Salbeck said. "I didn't anticipate getting hurt like I did."
Then the Salbecks -- like homeowners throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley -- watched their home's value start sliding. At first, the decline was gradual, so they tried to get their lender to accept a short sale.
They found a buyer willing to pay $472,000 for the home in January 2008, but the Salbecks said their lender, Countrywide, rejected the offer. Since then, their home's worth has plummeted to about half that value.
At one point, the Salbecks and Countrywide agreed to a loan modification that would collect $2,775 per month from the couple until the outstanding $492,362 debt was paid off.
The Salbecks said they're still willing to abide by that agreement, and they can afford that payment. But the now-defunct Countrywide inexplicably pulled out of that deal, and instead demanded more than $4,000 per month.
"I keep thinking I'll find that one person who can fix this at Bank of America (which took over Countrywide)," Karen Salbeck said.
Until then, she'll watch for FedEx deliveries.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2196.