We’re not dumb and we’re not blind

Dear Congressman for my client,

I am writing you today on behalf of one of your constituents, Mr. <client’s name redacted> and his family.  They currently reside at <client’s address redacted>, CA, but that situation is tenacious.Today, Bank of America took Mr. <client’s name redacted> home.  Their behavior towards the short sale process and Mr. <client’s name redacted> was at best, not in good faith, and more likely criminal.

I am a real estate broker associate with The Cult of Red.  I represented Mr. and Mrs. <client’s name redacted> as they tried to salvage their dignity and short sell their home.  Mr. <client’s name redacted> has worked hard and had a job every day of his life from when he was 16 years old until 2008 when he was caught up in the crush of the economic downturn.  Hoping the situation was temporary, he filed bankruptcy.

As the months passed and his family emerged from bankruptcy, he was still unable to obtain steady work.  He looks every day for a job.  He had worked in waste management and as a warehouseman.  He had worked hard for his family.  When no job was forthcoming he attempted to modify the mortgage on his home.  Bank of America refused due to his lack of income.  He tried a second time to modify his loan and was refused a second time.

Finally Mr. <client’s name redacted> came to me for help.  I knew I couldn’t save his home but I felt that I could preserve his dignity.  Unfortunately, Bank of America had a different agenda.

On June 19, 2011 I took the listing and put his home on the market.  It is my practice to start the pricing at market and bring the price down to demonstrate to the bank that the home would not sell at the higher price.  I do regular price reductions until an offer is obtained.  Most banks respect this process.  I obtained the first offer on July 26, 2011.

According to Bank of America policies, I opened the short sale request in their Equator system, which is an online portal.  As is my practice, I uploaded their required documentation immediately and calendared to call them in three days.  I called them every day starting on that third day to check the status of the file.  Finally two weeks later they told me the file had been assigned to REDC.  I called them to talk to them about the file and was told that they did not have the documentation that was uploaded into the web portal because they did not use Equator.  I had to resubmit the documents to REDC.  At their request I faxed the documentation to the number they gave me.  It was lost and after several weeks of calls I was given a different fax number.  Finally, they had authorization to talk to me.  We are over a month into the file now.

I call REDC every single day asking for a short sale negotiator.  Finally in the first week of September I am given the name of negotiator.  This person never once answered his phone and never returned a single one of my phone calls.  I would estimate I left him in excess of 10 messages.

In frustration I return to the original phone number given to me by REDC and they tell me that the file isn’t a short sale, it is a deed in lieu of foreclosure file.  How could this be when my borrower submitted a HAFA short sale request package to Bank of America bank in July?  They insisted that my waste management worker client called them and asked for a deed in lieu of foreclosure.  That afternoon I called Mr. <client’s name redacted> and asked him if he knew what the words “deed in lieu of foreclosure” meant.  He did not.  It is impossible that he called and asked for a deed in lieu of foreclosure, Bank of America mixed up their files or mislabeled Mr. <client’s name redacted> file in the process wasting three months of precious time.

I ask Mr. <client’s name redacted> to call REDC in accordance with their request and tell them in person that he wanted to short sale his home.  He did so immediately.  I continue to call REDC for information about moving the file along.  Finally I am told that the file has been assigned back to Bank of America and I need to open it in Equator.  It is October 24, 2011.  It is 90 days later and I am back where I started.  The difference is that they have now set a Trustee’s sale date for November 22, 2011.  They wasted 90 days of precious time.

I reopen the order in Equator.  No sooner do I upload the offer then the buyer’s agent calls me to tell me that their buyer has decided not to buy the property after over 106 days of Bank of America chasing me around in circles.

Now that there is a Trustee’s sale scheduled for November 22, 2011 I must get a new offer quickly.  I do a price reduction and we get three offers.  On November 8, 2011, my seller accepts the best offer and I take it home to submit it to Equator.  It’s late so I save it for the next morning.  At 4:30 the next morning there is an email in my inbox denying the short sale because I didn’t upload an offer.  After numerous calls to their call center, the short answer is I have to open the file in Equator for the third time.  It is November 9, 2011 and Veteran’s Day is coming up.  I make a call every two hours looking for them to open the file again so I can stop the sale.  I finally have to take to the Internet and thrash their name to get a response.  After an obscene amount of unnecessary stress to myself and the <client’s name redacted> family, brought on by Bank of America’s incompetency, I stop the foreclosure sale.

The new offer is very fair.  It is $233,000.  I believe Mr. <client’s name redacted> home is worth $235,000.  Bank of America counters the offer at $267,500.  The buyer comes up to $242,000 and Bank of America counters at $254,000.  The buyer comes up to $243,000.  I check the comps to be sure that I haven’t made a mistake in valuation with Mr. <client’s name redacted> home.  It comps out at $235,000.  Bank of America counters at $251,000.  The buyers bawks.  It is January 4, 2011.  Bank of America denies the postponement of the Trustee’s sale because there isn’t a ratified contract.  I explain in detail that their counter is too high.  I am told by Joshua Roberts, their negotiator, that there is not enough time to have a review of the counter because of the trustee’s sale, but they can’t postpone the sale because there isn’t a ratified contract.  I am dizzy, once they are chasing me around with another Catch-22.

On January 6, 2012 Joshua Roberts tells me the only way to save the deal is to have the buyer accept Bank of America’s counter.  I ask to buyer to please accept the counter known full well that the home will not appraise.  I tell the buyers to leave the appraisal contingency in place and we will honor it.  They agree and at 9pm on January 9, 2012 I mark in Equator that the buyer has agreed to Bank of America’s terms.

On January 10, 2012 I make a total of seven phone calls and send five emails to Bank of America asking them to postpone the short sale because the buyers have agreed to their terms.  I called Joshua Roberts three times, his supervisor Michael Smith twice and customer service twice more.  Not one phone call or email was returned.  At this point the sale date is January 11, 2012 at 9am.  Once again I take to the Internet using twitter in particular to be as critical as I possibly can of Bank of America.  Once again, they escalate.  At 7:30 am I receive a phone call that Bank of America has what they need and will request the postponement.

At 7:50 as I am heading to a meeting I get another call from Joshua Roberts telling me that Bank of America needs a revised HUD.  The escrow company is not open until 8am.  I call and leave them a message and ask them to move heaven and earth for Mr. <client’s name redacted>.  They do.  At 8am I receive another call from Joshua Roberts.  This time the investor wants a copy of the receipt for the earnest money deposit from escrow.  Unfortunately there was no deposit of earnest money because Bank of America had yet to approve a short sale.  They were asking for something that 1) they had never previously requested or even expressed an interest in having and 2) did not exist.  Without that phantom item, they would not postpone the Trustee’s sale and allow Mr. <client’s name redacted> to short sell his home.  At 8:59am I received an email from Joshua Roberts informing me that they were unable to postpone the Trustee’s sale.  Mr. <client’s name redacted> home would be foreclosed on momentarily.

I do not believe that Mr. <client’s name redacted> experience is an anomaly.  I think that Bank of America does it many times every day to homeowners who have the misfortune of having Bank of America s their lender.  I think a lot of real estate agents don’t have the resolve or character to stand up and say ‘This is wrong” for fear of punitive action by Bank of America towards their business.  I don’t do business with them, so I do not fear them.

Some one has to stand up for guys like <client’s name redacted>.   He is a good man with a lovely wife and children.  He’s an American trying to live his life and make his way through this world.  This shouldn’t have happened to him.

This letter went out to my client’s Congressman with all the names and addresses in place.  Because it’s wrong.  And if I can’t stand up for what’s good and right I might as well put a gun to my head.