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Mansion foreclosure stopped
An impending foreclosure of the historic Daniel Whitmore Mansion has been called off - for now - as Bank of America reviews an offer by the city of Ceres, according to Acting City Manager Art deWerk of Ceres.

City Attorney Michael Lyions said the city formally made a short sale offer of $375,000 to Bank of America last week. As a result, the bank's sale date of July 17 has been called off.

The Ceres City Council decided on May 29 to proceed with an offer despite believing that the offer is a long shot.

The privately owned 1903 mansion, considered the gem of downtown, has encountered financial struggles with keeping up with mortgage payments. The slow economy has impacted income from rentals for weddings and private functions.

Cary Pope, who owns the mansion with wife Nancy, recently approached the Ceres City Council to ask for city participation to keep the house out of foreclosure. Pope originally asked the city to buy an undeveloped portion of the mansion property for a future park site until he received word about a private investor's interest in the property. The investor did not follow through, thus Pope returned to the council for a May 29 council Study Session.

The Popes paid $1.3 million for the mansion property in 2005. City officials said the Popes have an unpaid balance of $850,000 on the BofA mortgage and there is a second and third loan of $350,000 and $75,000 respectively.

The council collectively feels $375,000 is an "appropriate offer given the decline in property values," said Lyions.

In order for the city to take possession of the property, a number of obstacles would have to be overcome. First, BofA would have to accept the short sale offer of $375,000 despite it being owed $475,000 more on the mortgage. Secondly, the junior lien holders who hold the second and third would have to agree to terms set by BofA.

Thirdly, the bank would also have to agree to postpone the sale until the city can free up $375,000 in park acquisition funds. Lyions noted that in order to use park funds on a Whitmore Home acquisition, the city must rezone the property and change the general plan designation to park use.

Councilman Eric Ingwerson, also a real estate agent, is skeptical that BofA will accept a short sale based on the city's offer. A 2011 appraisal pegged the property's value at $486,000, he said.

According to Ingwerson, the city is probably not interested in operating the mansion as a venue due to the operations and maintenance costs and would be interested in selling the mansion to the non-profit Whitmore Mansion Foundation while developing the lot to the south for a park.

Ingwerson said it could take months to see if BofA will approve the offer in a short sale.

The 8,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1903 by Clinton Whitmore, the son of town founder Daniel Whitmore. Clinton Whitmore was involved in the formation of the Turlock Irrigation District. The three-story mansion remained in the Whitmore family until Robert and Edna Whitmore sold it in 2005 to the Popes. The mansion was neglected for decades until the Popes bought it. It received an extreme makeover for the 2007 Community Hospice Interior Design Showcase.