'Real Housewife' Averts Foreclosure on O.C. Home

Ah, to be a Real Housewife of Orange County. While many of her O.C. neighbors are being sucked down the foreclosure drain, Alexis Bellino -- she of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" fame -- and her husband, Jim, have been spared the pain and humiliation of losing their home in default of their $4.6 million loan. Perhaps there is enough pain and humiliation associated with starring in this show and the forces of karma needed to restore balance to the universe? It certainly isn't an everyday occurrence that Chase Bank gets to be a shining knight in loan-modification armor.

The Bellinos reportedly were behind $83,000 in payments on their Newport Beach home, according to TheOrange County Register. The 4,200-square-foot house was set to be auctioned off on the old courthouse steps earlier this week, but the Bellinos were able to seal a loan modification deal with Chase. The newspaper confirmed the arrangement with Jim Bellino.

Their story appears pretty typical, up to a point.
The Bellinos bought their home at the peak of the market in 2007 for $4.56 million, believing its value could only continue to appreciate. A month after they closed escrow in August 2007, the county's median home price struck an all-time high. Since then, it has plunged 42 percent, which has got to be a slow kick in the gut for the Bellinos and everyone else in the same sinking boat.

What makes this last-minute rescue a bit unusual isn't that a TV personality fell into hard times, but that someone on the planet actually got a loan modification. The federal program has been widely labeled a failure, with about half the applicants aborting the process in frustration and describing it as a bureaucratic nightmare.

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"Chase Bank has been great to work with on my modification," Jim Bellino told the Register. "The trustee sale has been canceled and the modification has been agreed upon." My cynical pen says that Chase sped up its morass of paperwork so that they could plaster those words across a press release. My less cynical side hopes that they'll do the same for a few hundred thousand others who need the help just as much and don't have the high visibility as the Bellinos.

The house that was just rescued has five bedrooms and was built in 1951, according to Redfin. It has a workout room, home office, theater, wine room and rooftop deck with views of Newport Harbor. The Bellinos attempted to sell it for $5.8 million in May 2008, indicating that someone wasn't paying attention to the direction of the market.

As for those wild and crazy housewives, Bellino -- the newest cast member, who is described by Bravo as a "32-year-old spicy blonde" -- is just the latest one to stumble and fall into the real estate pit. Housewife Tamra Barney sold her 4,300-square-foot Tuscan-style home in a short sale earlier this year and Jeana Keough avoided foreclosure through a loan modification herself. Maybe the girls can start doing public service ads for the loan-mod program?

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