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Bank of America: Coming Up Short
I’m trying to sell my house, but my house is worth less than what I paid for it 12 years ago. It’s also worth less than what I owe on my mortgage. According to real estate lingo, my house is underwater. But I don’t think of it as underwater. I think of it as under the thumbs of unscrupulous bankers, those who created this mess in the first place.
Part of the reason my house is underwater, other than the questionable banking practices, is because most of the money I’ve sent to the banks in the past 12 years has gone to pay the interest. In fact, financial institutions have made bundles on houses such as mine, despite having been instrumental in making them worth so little.
The only viable option I have under such circumstances is a short sale. A short sale would let me sell my house for less than what I owe on it. Bank of America, which holds the primary mortgage on my home, must agree to the short sale before I can go through with it.
But pursuing a short sale is no easy task. For several months, I made countless phone calls and spent hours in research and filled out pages and pages of forms in hopes of getting the short sale process started. In June, it appeared that my efforts were paying off. I connected with a real person in the Bank of America short sale office.
Throughout our phone conversation, the representative asked me numerous questions, which I answered, and shot out a befuddling stream of information, which I tried to clarify as best as possible and write down whatever I could. When we were finished, he said he had everything he needed from me for now and that a Bank of America agent would be contacting my realtor and sending her a list of the additional documents I would have to provide.
After the call, I was left with the impression that I had indeed penetrated the short-sale perimeter and had finally launched the approval process. I even slept through the night.
But all that changed last week when I received a letter from Bank of America informing me that I was not eligible for a short sale because they were unable to contact me “to begin the process.”
I will forego going into the ugly details of my reaction. Let me just say, as I was to learn in the coming days, it wasn’t Bank of America that was trying to contact me. It was one of their representatives, a company called REDC.
Over the past month, REDC has been leaving me phone messages identifying themselves as Bank of America agents, or something of that nature. I googled their phone number to try to determine whether they were a legitimate outfit. I found nothing conclusive. So I called the number they provided, but all I could learn from their recorded message was that they were a collection agency. Under such circumstances, I took the only action that made sense. I ignored their calls.
What I had not known is that REDC is somehow involved in the bank’s short sale processes. At no time, however, did the Bank of America short sale office tell me about REDC’s involvement, nor did the office suggest to me that a third-party agency would be involved. And REDC never mentioned short sales in their messages.
But there it was, the letter that rejected my short sale because I had failed to respond to a company that might have been part of a ring of international cybercriminals, or worse, a collection agency. However, the letter also included a phone number and suggested I call it immediately to rectify the situation.
So I called. I listened to their message. I plugged in my loan information when prompted. I waited. But rather than being connected to a real person, I instead received another recorded message saying that REDC was no longer handling my loan. The digitized voice suggested I call Bank of America.
This couldn’t be right. They had just sent me the letter. They gave me the number to call. They told me I should call that number.
I tried again. Same response.
I dug out my last Bank of America mortgage statement and called their customer service number. I entered my loan information as prompted. I waited. I was transferred. I waited again. Then I received a message saying that, due to technical difficulties, they could not assist me at that time. The recorded voice recommended I call back later.
I called back several times that day and the next.
On that second day, I received another call from Bank of America. The message they left said it was urgent that they talk to me. They provided yet another phone number for me to call. So I called it and entered my information when prompted and waited and was transferred and waited again. Finally, the recorded voice told me the same thing I was told me when I called the first number. Technical difficulties. Try my call another time.
I hung up and called again, but this time I did not enter my loan information. Instead, I pressed 0 and * and # and anything else that I thought might connect me to a real person. But all I received were more recorded messages and more dead-ends.
On the third morning, I received another voicemail message from another individual at Bank of America, asking me to call yet another number. So I called it and once again entered all the prompts and went through the transfers and the wait times. In the end, I received the same message about technical difficulties.
I tried again later, to no avail.
I decided at that point to call the bank’s short sale office, the one I had called in June. When I got through to a live person (a welcomed relief, to be sure), I provided him with the same information I’d given the bank every other time I called. After he looked up my record, he said that he did not know why Bank of America was trying to reach me, but he could see that they had closed my file because they were missing information from me. He did not know what that information was. Instead, he offered to transfer me to “The Negotiator.”
He put me on hold and transferred my call. As it turned out, I was merely being connected to the REDC office. I listened to their message. I punched in my loan information. I waited. I then received the same recorded message I had received two days earlier. REDC was no longer handling my short sale. Try calling Bank of America directly.
I’ve been told that Bank of America handles shorts sales much more efficiently than they have in the past. I have a difficult time imagining that this is true. But I don’t think it matters. I don’t think efficiency has anything to do with their strategy. I think the people at Bank of America who control such processes simply have a wicked sense of humor. I think they sit in their high-rise offices and come up with ways to complicate and frustrate and destroy people’s lives. Maybe they use dartboards to make their decisions. Or perhaps they cut cards.
Whatever their approach, I suspect they care little about foreclosures or short sales or putting people into the streets. All they care about, I’m convinced, is having fun—and having something to tell their grandkids in the years to come.
If they can make a little profit along the way, so be it.
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