Bank of America


Ever wonder why it was so difficult for people to get permanent loan modifications a couple of years ago? Maybe it’s because some employees were allegedly paid to make sure they were denied, at least at one bank.

According to a June 14 Bloomberg.com article, Bank of America provided employees with incentives including cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas linked to sending homes into foreclosure. The allegations were revealed by past employees as part of a lawsuit filed against the banking giant earlier this month by homeowners who were denied modifications. Many who were denied loan modifications eventually lost their homes to foreclosure.

Apparently employees in the loss mitigation department were instructed to delay review, ask homeowners for items they already had in the file, and do whatever was necessary to deny permanent loan modifications. Former B of A loan servicing specialist Theresa Terrlonge said that they received restaurant gift cards and cash rewards for denying loan modifications. “I witnessed employees and managers falsify information in the systems of record, and remove documents from the homeowners’ files to make the account appear ineligible for loan modification,” said Terrelonge.

But the big rewards came for actually pushing a borrower into foreclosure. According to Simone Gordon, a loss-mitigation representative who left the company in 2012, specialists who put 10 borrowers into foreclosure, including those in a trial modification, received a $500 bonus. Bank of America insists that the allegations are inaccurate and will file an opposition to the motion to make this a class action case.

Unfortunately, I’m not terribly surprised by these allegations and find it difficult to believe that B of A was the only bank involved in this type of behavior. It’s no wonder that there have been so few successful loan modifications; the very people charged with creating positive outcomes were apparently paid to do otherwise.

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For any real estate professional negotiating a short sale, the moment you receive that magical approval letter there is usually a sense of celebration and relief. Not so on Monday when I received an approval letter for a standard short sale I am negotiating for another agent in my brokerage.

All of the terms looked fine, EXCEPT there was no allowance for relocation assistance. This is a Freddie Mac loan serviced by Bank of America that I am managing through the Equator platform, so I messaged back immediately. Money for relocation assistance has been an expectation since day one of the short sale process as the homeowner is a single mom with four children under the age of eleven who is currently off the job and receives disability as her only source of income. If anyone ever needed help with the expenses of moving, it is this poor woman!

The reply back from B of A was that the “borrower did not meet the investor guidelines for relocation assistance.” Are you kidding me? She is penniless! So I requested further clarification regarding the specific guidelines. I was told that “any borrower with a loan with MI (mortgage insurance) is automatically disqualified from receiving relocation assistance.”

Does that make ANY sense? I scoured the Internet and contacted a couple of fellow brokers who are short sale experts and no one could find anything to support this “rule”. In fact, everything I discovered supports that fact that as of 11/1/12 Freddie Mac would pay up to $3000 for relocation assistance, with no mention of an MI exception.

So yesterday morning I called Freddie Mac directly. They were incredibly responsive and helpful. The gentleman I spoke with put me on hold for quite a while as he researched the question, finally coming back on the line to tell me that he needed some additional time to investigate and would get back to me before 5:00 pm. At 4:45 he called to report that in all of his inquiries, no one he spoke with at Freddie Mac could find any reason why MI would disqualify a borrower from receiving relocation assistance. So Freddie Mac has opened an internal investigation to determine if the ruling by Bank of America is within guidelines or if they have overstepped the limits of their authority by denying relocation assistance. Ha!

I was told it might take up to a month to receive results of the investigation, but I feel better knowing that we are doing everything we can to help get our client the money she so desperately needs. And I have to admit it felt pretty good to have my hunch regarding this rule, somewhat vindicated by a giant like Freddie Mac. I’ll be letting Bank of America know about the investigation this morning 🙂

I guess that if it just seems wrong, it never hurts to question.

Well they’ve done it again.  B of A has figured out one more way to stall a deal, and waste the time and money of all parties.  I’m furious.

We have an approved Bank of America short sale that is currently in escrow and scheduled to close on June 20th.  The only condition for final loan approval for the buyers is an IRS form 4506T, which basically just confirms that their tax return has been received and processed.  The buyers have checked with the IRS, and it appears that their 2011 return has not yet been processed so the 4506T probably won’t be issued in time to close on the 20th.

I asked Bank of America for a 10 day extension and was told that they don’t allow extensions on VA short sales and that if we don’t close on time we must start the entire process all over!!  From the very beginning!  This means re-submitting the seller’s financial information, listing agreement, and offer to purchase and then waiting to be assigned a negotiator.  The VA would then order another appraisal and we would again wait for approval. The entire process will take at least 2-3 months.  All of this extra effort and wasted money because they won’t extend our closing date for 10 lousy days!

And of course during this process, there is no guarantee that our buyers won’t get frustrated and just walk away…..how can anyone run a business like this???

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend a seminar sponsored by Bank of America which was designed to help agents who negotiate short sales better understand the new systems they have instituted.  And in fairness, I do believe that the banking giant is trying to streamline the chaos we’ve been dealing with for the past several years….I’m just not sure it’s really working.

I have recently been involved with three B of A short sales, two as the listing agent and negotiator, and one as the buyer’s agent.  Short sale listing #1 was a Cooperative Short Sale, similar to the HAFA program.  It was managed through Equator but took nine months to close.  It was a total nightmare. Listing #2 is a VA first mortgage that is NOT handled through Equator and requires a separate secure email system, (this one has also taken way too long).  And finally, the short sale purchase has a B of A equity line that also does not use Equator or any system, and in fact was moved to three different offices.

So what I’ve learned is that there is no ONE system that is used by B of A, and it totally depends on the loan type.  Now I’m no systems analyst, but it would just seem to make sense to me that ALL short sales should be introduced into Equator as pretty much all the same documents and forms are required.  The file could then be assigned a negotiator in a particular department depending on the loan type, but at least ALL files would be in the same system.

The one good thing that came out of the seminar was that it qualified me to receive access to their new online escalation tool.  So now when I seem to be getting nowhere, and have exhausted the phone and email protocol, I can escalate the file and receive a response to my concern within 24 hours.

If you live in San Diego County and have questions about a short sale, and want to know if it’s right for you, please don’t hesitate to give me a call for a confidential consultation.

I attended a webinar on Tuesday that was presented by the Charfen Institute, all about the changes that are occurring in short sale processing at Bank of America, effective tomorrow.  As I currently represent the sellers in two B of A short sales, and the buyers in two other B of A short sale transactions, I logged-in wanting to see if there was anything I had missed in reading the information at their short sale resource center.

The information in the webinar was well presented, including a slick commercial for the Charfen Institute CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) Designation Course.  However, I didn’t really learn anything new….

But the thing that really got me steamed was the marketing “call to action”.  If I signed-up to take the CDPE course before 5:00 p.m. Thursday, I would receive $900 in FREE Resources – a CDPE short sale success bundle.  Here is one of the items included:

“Bank of America Add-On Kit ($200 value) – Get the five newly-required documents that MUST be submitted with all short sale offers, effective April 13.”

My problem with this is that the list and actual documents available for download are offered for FREE at the Bank of America short sale site….so how is this a $200 value??? 

And the other two items valued at an additional $700 and included in the “success bundle” are all things that are available online from the various lenders, or with a phone call – all at no charge.

Now I’m all for free enterprise, understand incentives, and the take-away tactic in sales.  And I am not knocking the CDPE course, of which I’ve heard good things.  But come on!  I just don’t think it’s right to assign a dollar value to something that is not under your copyright, that is free, readily accessible, and a necessary component to our job representing clients in a short sale.  Why not just share the links?  I would have been more impressed. Is the $200 value assigned because of convenience to the agent?  In my book, if an agent is too stupid or lazy to figure out how to get lender forms, they shouldn’t be doing short sales, with or without any certification!

 

 

Last March, I participated in a Bank of America webinar where they introduced their Cooperative Short Sale Program.  I remember being cautiously optimistic because the speaker promised that the Bank would respond to offers in 10 days.  Well, it’s now been five, yes five months since I uploaded an offer for the Cooperative Short Sale purchase of one of my listings.  We are finally in escrow and set to close on April 6th, but this has been, to say the least, a rocky road and not what I would call a “cooperative” negotiation.  Here are a couple of the low points:

  • The amount that B of A was offering to the 2nd lien holder was incorrectly communicated to  me.  They offered one amount and  then later came back with a much lower figure. I had to escalate the issue  and get pretty angry to make them stick to the original amount offered.
  • Shortly after finally getting  an approval in the first week of February, our buyer lost her job and we had to substitute her husband as the buyer.  Same transaction, no changes except the loan and sale were now going to be in the husband’s name.  It took over a month to get a new approval, and that was after I again had to escalate the issue.

Here is what I see as a big problem with the whole system:  Although the Equator platform is supposed to keep all parties in communication, it really doesn’t work that way.  Bank of America farms out the work of negotiating their Cooperative Short Sales to Asset Management Outsourcing, Inc., AKA, AMORecoveries.  So during the whole “negotiation” portion of the short sale, the agent for the seller is only in communication with a case worker at this company.  If you do need to escalate a matter to B of A directly, they might not be in the communication loop as far as the file and Equator are concerned.  Additionally, I find communicating through Equator sketchy at best.  Every step of the process is a “task” that gets accepted, completed or denied, and let me tell you, a short sale is simply not that black and white.  The only way I really got anything accomplished was when I could actually speak to someone.

Once you finally get an approval, the file becomes the responsibility of a “closing specialist” back at B of A.  So the person you’ve been dealing with throughout the whole process is now out of the picture.  When we had to substitute the new buyer, the file went from our “closing specialist” at B of A, back to AMORecoveries, to a different negotiator who thought it was an entirely new file!  I thought I was going to tear my hair out!

So I’m not a fan of the Bank of America system or the Cooperative Short Sale program that was supposed to streamline the approval process.  And I know that without going up the food chain and fighting for my seller this deal wouldn’t be closing.

 

Got a tough short sale in San Diego County?  Give me a call!

 

 

Well, as noted in Part 3, the clock started ticking on Monday, October 17, when I submitted the offer and estimated HUD1, and let’s see….today is Wednesday the 26th. Despite several emails and phone calls, no one has contacted me to confirm the new negotiator or let me know what the next steps will be. I feel as though the file has already slipped between the cracks…..

Just left a message for a supervisor…..

OK. Now it’s the 28th and I’ve no reply from anyone so I called again and finally got hold of a supervisor. And it appears my gut feeling was right and the offer is no where to be found. Arrrrggghhh! The supervisor set-up a task for me on Equator so at least I could be connected to the file, though they still have not requested I upload the offer.

So far, this has been a bit uncoordinated because the homeowner started the process and I’m coming in after the fact. More on Monday.

On November 1 I finally received a task to upload the offer into Equator and then on the 3rd received notice of some “additional items” needed by the mortgage insurance company…so it took about 2 weeks to actually get it in the system.

In the offer we requested a pay-off to the 2nd lien holder in the amount of $10,000, which is what the 2nd lien holder told us it would take to get it approved. On November 8 I received a counter offer from B of A….they only want to give the 2nd lien holder $6,000. I forwarded the counter to the 2nd lien holder and am waiting for a reply.

The good news is that B of A did not counter the offer price, which is considerably lower than what they originally requested, and they were pretty quick about issuing a counter. I’m not very hopeful however about the 2nd lien holder accepting $4,000 less…will keep you posted. We’re now at 26 days on this B of A Cooperative Short Sale…..

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