These days customer services doesn’t seem to exist at Bank of America. All the phone calls and letters I received echo the same sentiment, “we are here to help you and provide you options.” Unfortunately when I would FINALLY speak to someone in person on the phone, options were usually limited and now 7 months later I have received no help.
I will bear some of the responsibility when it comes to the home we purchased in 2004. This was at the peak of the proverbial “housing bubble” and we most likely overpaid for the house we currently reside in. At that time it was about maximizing as much revenue as we could in order to get the papers signed and the keys in our hands. Of course banks were lending money with nearly zero down and relatively competitive rates. Of course knowing what I know now, I would never have bought this house, but you know what they say about hindsight.
Over the course of our loan we refinanced the home twice in the first 3 years. We added a bit of debt to the home loan, took out some money in the equity we established, paid some bills and made a few home improvements. Unfortunately the first year of the loan we were paying interest only, which only continued to add more to the loan.
When the bubble finally burst in the middle of 2006, we weren’t in the worst position, I watch the value of our home decline. I stopped watching when it hit 53% of what we bought it. Oakley was fairly hard hit area, as building of new housing developments continued, but neighbors continued to lose their properties because of their loans or foreclosures. At one point, three of the 4 homes around our were unoccupied, it stayed this way for nearly 2 years. Investors came in, bought up home and fixed them up for renters. These were not long term conditions and the renters soon vacated.
We continued to make our payments, as all calls to Bank of America fell on deaf ears when it came to a refinancing. Not surprising, then again the mortgage and HELOC we carry actually have good terms, we weren’t comfortable by any means. I continued to pay the mortgage and correspond with the bank, but they had no solution for me.
In April I finally had enough of Bank of America. I had started to slide on my payments in order to pay credit cards, make car payments and keep the utilities on. I feel 60 days behind on the mortgage. I finally set up an appointment with a Bank of America Customer Service Center in Elk Grove, CA. I met with a nice woman, who really did nothing for me but discuss possibly options and collect my paperwork in order to submit it to the underwriters who would make the final decision on a loan modification. With all the “help” given to homeowners in distress I got nothing accomplished with Bank of America.
About 40 days later I received a letter telling me I made “too much money” and the loan modification was rejected. It seems 31% is the magic number for banks. If your gross YTD is under 31%, then you don’t qualify for a loan modification. Unfortunately (and I don’t know if it’s like this with other banks) they didn’t take into account other debt or monthly living expenses. I didn’t agree with their decision, responded to them, but the decision was final I was told and could not be contested.
Frustrated and now pissed off at Bank of America I stopped paying my home mortgage. It wasn’t long before the letters and harassing calls began. We knew they would, I didn’t care. When I hit the 120 mark, I received a notice of foreclosure from the bank. At this point, speaking with the bank did nothing but infuriate me. I was nothing but a number, a piece of paper to them. What made it worse was the woman assigned to case, Venus Jackson-Kennedy.
I received her first letter in July, but ignored them until late August. When I got a hold of Venus Jackson-Kennedy, she had a sweet sounding, Southern accent. The options I had were loan modification, short sale, deed in lieu or full payment in order to resolve my housing issue. I opted (again) for the loan modification, instead of dealing with her, based out of North Carolina (figure in the 3 hour time difference), working bankers hours, it was nearly impossible to get her on the phone.
At one point in this snafu, I made phone calls 9 days in a row, including 4 calls to her direct manager and her manager’s manager. All had the same voice mail response saying they would return my call within one business day. It never happened. From August until October, she has called me back exactly twice! The second time was last week when I was meeting with a real estate attorney. Needless to say, I let the phone ring, but she was sweet enough to leave me a voice mail telling me call her back.
I attempted a second loan modification with the Elk Grove customer service center, spent a few hours prior to the appointment getting all my paperwork in order to present my case. After meeting with Bank of America for about 60 minutes, I was told I made too much money and she wouldn’t even accept my paperwork. Again, she pointed to my gross YTD pay. I left the customer service center very frustrated with the lack of help from Bank of America, At this point nothing they did or said was a surprise to me any longer.
The worst part of this entire experience was calling the 800 number for Venus Jackson-Kennedy, but never talking to her. I was either pressing ‘1’ for her voice mail, leaving a scathing message or being redirected to their “concierge” if it were an emergency. It only took a few calls to realize no one I spoke to in concierge could answer my questions. At one point I completely lost it, colorfully I might add and demanded to talk to a supervisor. After being transferred, I demanded to talk to Venus Jackson-Kennedy. The woman transferred my call…to her voice mail! That was the last straw.
It didn’t mater how pissed off I got, I still found myself in a bad position, but one I had brought upon myself. After talking to a realtor, a short sale realtor, tax accountant, real estate attorney, an individual who “helps people with money” and my wife we finally came to a decision. While it would probably have been in our best interest to go with a short sale, take the relocation money from Bank of America and rent for a few years, we have decided to pay the delinquent amount to Bank of America. It pains me to know that Bank of America will get the last laugh and win.
In the end, my family will come out ahead. Thankfully not paying the mortgage has allowed us to get caught up on credit cards, now carrying NO debt! That is a bigger relief than knowing I owe my ass to Bank of America now to be honest. The delinquent amount will be applied over the course of 6 months. I must pay 50% of the amount owed up front in the form of secured funds. But we keep the house.
The house…with all the problems it has, I now look forward to the mold I found in our previous remodel, a roof over 20 years old and poor windows that no longer have their sealed double panes, allowing moisture in as well as stucco that needs to be rebuilt under the living room windows. But we keep the house. So what started out as my 5 year plan in this would might have suddenly turned into a 20 year plan and we are only 8 years into this home. I guess we look towards the future and hopefully housing prices turn around, although I don’t see our house hitting the price we purchased at. But we keep the house. Never again will I deal with Bank of America!