In August, when I knew my employment was ending, I contacted Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to see if we could work something out. My idea was that by refinancing, restructuring, or some such – we could make our savings go longer and they wouldn’t get stuck with another empty house. I emailed our mortgage associate, I sent a message via the Wells Fargo website, and I called. After three weeks, I heard nothing back.
So, again I sent emails and placed phone calls. A few days later I received a return call. I was instructed to send a cursory financial income/expense report and a “hardship” letter. I was provided a FAX number, but no address, no contact person, and certainly no email or web address. Already this process was inspiring doubt – I don’t own a FAX machine, and I certainly don’t have a landline to FAX from my PC. What century is this!?
Within the next week, I gathered the documentation, wrote the letter, and drove across the river to the Wells Fargo Loan office in Longview. I had them FAX the materials and saved myself the few bucks that Office Depot would have charged. Now I was left to wait and wonder – where did that document end up? Who was responsible? What steps do I need to take next?
Within the next week, or two, someone from Wells Fargo called me. They wanted to make sure I was going to send in the appropriate documentation and hardship letter. Of course I explained that I had already FAXed the materials, and after a few clicks of the mouse, the lady on the other end of the phone assured me they had indeed received my FAX.
“What’s next?” I asked. “What do you need me to do now?“
“Nothing.” She assured me. “We will process your request and get back to you in the next three or four months.”
“I’m sorry… did you just say ‘three to four months?’ We’ll be out of money by then!”
She went on to explain to me that this is the standard processing time – but that I needed to call every week to keep my claim active. If I failed to call, they would cancel the process.
In the meantime, I received several letters in the mail, all with different return addresses, reminding and/or demanding certain information. Information I had already FAXed in. Or, within a day or two of receiving those letters, I would receive an automated call from Wells Fargo. Sometimes the call would request that I stay on the line for assistance, other times a recording would state that is was important for me to call back and talk to someone at Wells Fargo.
Each time I spoke with someone, they would verify my information, address, whether or not we intended to keep the house, et cetera. It was as if I were being treated like a first-time caller. After awhile, I’d just interrupt the call-taker, and tell them I was returning a call – which of course I had already stated at the beginning of the call. And when we finally got to the specifics of why they, or I, called, each time I was told: “There doesn’t be any apparent reason to contact you. You case is pending. Thanks for calling.“
Finally, about the time our bank account was down to zero, I received a call that said we had been approved for a payment moratorium until March of 2010. During that time, Wells Fargo would review my “hardship” and though we would owe several month’s of payments, most likely they would refinance our loan and work out a better payment strategy. In the meantime, we had enrolled in unemployment insurance, food stamps, and the Oregon Health Plan.
I was advised to resubmit the required paperwork – even though they already had it on file – and they would send out a contract for us to sign. When the contract arrived, we signed it, included the financial statements and hardship letter, and FAXed it back – again from a Wells Fargo institution. Since our payment was set up for automatic withdrawal, I asked one of the people whom I spoke to, if they would stop that payment.
No, I was told – I needed to go into a bank branch directly to have that stopped. So, when I was FAXing in the moratorium contract, I had them process the cancellation of the automatic withdrawal.
We were feeling hopeful – as if there were a light at the end of the tunnel. And then a couple of weeks later, I received an email telling me our account was overdrawn. Apparently a mortgage payment was processed. Of course this prompted a $35 overdraft fee and another $35 fee for transferring (not enough) money from our savings account. In addition, the mortgage department was wanting to charge us for the NSF check. But after a few phone calls, the mortgage payment was reversed and the various fees had been returned. All was now well again.
Then I received another call. I was told that our moratorium contract was “broken” and that we needed to reapply. According to the nice lady on the other end of the phone, calling from St. Louis this time, when the last automatic payment was returned, that violated the stipulations of the contract. Of course I tried explaining how there wasn’t supposed to be a payment, and that it was a mistake from their end that caused the payment to be initiated in the first place. But even after convincing this person that it wasn’t our mistake, she still advised me to resubmit all the documentation again and to “reapply” for the hardship.
I was mad, frustrated, and pretty discouraged. Apparently we would be sent to the back of the queue again, and it would take another three or four months to process. It turns out we didn’t have to wait that long. I sent the material in the next week, and about a month later, we were informed that we no longer qualified because we hadn’t completed our responsibilities.
I was mad, frustrated, and pretty discouraged
A few days later, I received another phone call. This time from someone in Maryland (the fifth state from which we’d received correspondence from). This lady was not just a call-taker. She wasn’t working off of a computer-monitor script. She had real information and was able to dialog with me. She told me it was actually good that the other process fell through and that the Homeowner Mortgage Modification Program was now up and running at Wells Fargo and that we certainly qualify for that.
This new program would lower our interest rates from 6% to 2% for a few years, and in addition, they would refinance in order to lower our payments. In a few years, the interest rate would increase, but never above 5%. Glory hallelujah! We had hope again. Of course I had to resubmit financial statements and a hardship letter, which I did. (By now I’d found a free FAX service online)
Last week I received a phone call from someone who informed me that they were looking at our materials and we should have an answer within a week to 10 days. He gave me his name, direct dial phone number, and extension. Finally, we were dealing with real people! We were feeling good! We have already missed three house payments, and apparently that’s the point where they start looking to foreclose. We could see this saga having a good mediation – after almost six months.
He asked me if The Wife was working?
Yesterday, the same man called me again. He asked me if The Wife was working? “No,” I explained. “even after getting her RN license transfered, she was unable to find work either.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. We can’t modify your loan if your only income is unemployment.“
Now this is crazy talk. If I wasn’t unemployed, I wouldn’t need the modification. If they had modified this sooner, we would still be making payments. I was really confused – and it took me a few rounds of questioning to figure out what he was actually saying. I could tell that this young man was feeling a little sheepish too.
The one thing he told me is that I should focus on getting work. Wells Fargo has no interest in our house. It would cost them more to take it, then to let us continue to live in it. And of course that is certainly true. We probably owe far more than it is worth. If we stay here, which we plan to do, they will recoup all the money, plus interest, they loaned us two years ago. If we leave, they too will loose the equity that we’ve already lost. Not only will they have to pay someone to maintain it, sell it, and all the associated paperwork that goes along with a foreclosure – but they will lose about $50,000 from the original loan.
On paper, we’ve already lost about $100,000 dollars in the last couple of years. What amazing times we live in.
However, we feel blessed. Compared to the people of Haiti, Darfur, and other remote, forgotten regions, we are living well. A friend of mine just got back from Malawi. He said that everyday they eat a cold, cornmeal mush – several times a day – and that’s all. They live in mud and grass huts, the water is dirty, and they have little or no education.
Despite the bureaucratic, Catch-22 we find ourselves in, we are content, at peace, and hopeful. In fact, we are much happier than we have been in a couple of years.
The one thing I’ve come to appreciate, is the needs of the poor.
The one thing I’ve come to appreciate, is the needs of the poor. As I wrote in a recent post, many of those who have an income, health insurance, and the emotional/mental/spiritual capacity to stay afloat, certainly need to have more insight and compassion on those who don’t have those resources.
It’s tough out here!