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Proud Annie in foreclosure, hoping for Christmas miracle

Braden McKinley, owner of Proud Annie Mystery Theatre in Jonesborough, is hoping for a special Christmas Eve miracle this year — an approved loan modification that will save his business.
The theatre, located in the historic home at 920 Old Boones Creek Road, is currently in foreclosure after what McKinley calls a series of bad decisions made after receiving even worse advice.
McKinley’s story is reminiscent of thousands being told daily on the national news.
“When I bought the business, I got a home mortgage. It was a terrible mortgage – eight percent, interest only and adjustable,” McKinley said.
He attained his loan through LendingTree.com and Lehman Brothers.
“Of course, we all know what happened to Lehman Brothers,” McKinley said. “They sold my loan to Aurora Loan Services in Colorado and they’re the ones trying to foreclose.”
McKinley said he has struggled trying to overcome a variety of financial roadblocks.
“I applied for a loan modification over a year ago and they ignored me — totally,” he said. “A real estate attorney advised me to stop making the mortgage payments in order to get their attention, so that’s what I did.”
Dr. Fred Mackara, associate professor of economics at East Tennessee State University, said he is skeptical of the advice McKinley allegedly received.
“I don’t know how common this type of advice is, but it does seem to me that a lot of borrowers, all up and down the income spectrum, who are in bad situations with their debt exposure, are turning to some pretty questionable ways to deal with it,” Mackara said. “People are getting bad advice about how to deal with their debts. I, unfortunately, think you’re going to see more and more of this type of story.”
Mackara said people all over the nation are getting bad advice and “doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do in normal circumstances.”
“Desperate people do desperate things,” he said. “They’re just rolling the dice and hoping they don’t come up snake eyes.”
Acting on his own dose of bad advice was apparently the beginning of a financial domino effect for McKinley.
McKinley says his hope is to get a loan modification that would sustain him until he can sell a home he owns in Santa Barbara, Calif.
That plan could also help McKinley with another problem he’s dealing with at the residence.
Three months after purchasing the property, McKinley said the Federal Emergency Management Agency deemed it to be in a flood zone.
“The house has been here 153 years and has never flooded,” McKinley said. “But because a small corner of the property is in a flood zone, I was required to get flood insurance at $6,500 a year.”
Mary Hudak, a regional spokesperson for FEMA, said McKinley’s flood plane designation is up to local flood management authorities and the mortgage holder.
“We don’t make those determinations,” Hudak said. “The mortgage holders are the ones requiring him to get flood insurance, not us.”
If McKinley sells his California home, the flood plane will no longer be an issue.
“When that sells, I can pay off Proud Annie,” he said. “Then I wouldn’t have to have the flood insurance.”
Even in the face of adversity, McKinley said he still is looking ahead.
He has plans to expand the dinner theatre’s shows to include more holidays, such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and to continue with the theatre’s annual Valentine’s Day candlelight evening.
“That’s where I am with Proud Annie. We don’t know from one day to the next what will happen,” McKinley said. “But when you buy a historic home, you’re not really the owner. You’re the caretaker for the next generation. That’s what I hope to be — the caretaker for this beautiful home.”