Patience is more than just a virtue… it could save your home from foreclosure.
When people say, “life is not fair,” it’s possible that no truer words have ever been spoken. History is literally jam packed with events that are the epitome of unfairness.
The way the European settlers of the New World treated Native Americans was monumentally unfair to say the very least, and to call the abomination we call “slavery,” unfair seems like callous understatement.
Economically speaking, although I wasn’t around to see it, I’m pretty sure that the Great Depression wasn’t fair, but that didn’t stop it from happening to tens of millions of Americans, and millions more around the world. And in my youth, I thought of being drafted to fight a war in Southeast Asia was unfair to the point of being unfathomable.
And, all of that being said, I can’t think of a better real life example of that maxim about fairness in play than what’s been allowed to happen to the homeowners in this country who’ve been at risk of foreclosure and in the loan modification process over the last six years. I mean, dual tracking alone is unfairness personified, right?
It was sort of the people version of, “come into my parlor said the spider to the fly.” Or a version of the childhood favorite card game where you ask the servicer’s representative, “Do you have any threes?” And the Customer Service Rep answers, “No. Go f#@k yourself.” In Arizona and Texas, along with many of the other “Red” states, they got straight to the point, adapting a version of the ancient Chinese game of strategy and philosophy, “Just GO.”
Plus, there was the losing of paperwork a dozen or more consecutive times, which gave the whole thing a decidedly “Fahrenheit 451” sort of feel. And there was the card game that ended with you having higher payments than you had going into the whole thing called, “Crazy Rates.” Then there was my personal fear-inducing favorite, “Surprise! You’re house just sold!”
(I believe the Chicago version of the same game may have been called: “Hey Pa, There’s an Investor on the Porch!,” and in Florida, I heard they were playing it as a board game and calling it, “SORRY… not!”
And lastly, there were sale dates randomly thrown into the mix, which added a certain Polish fire drill element with which you could sing along, “Here we go ‘round the bankruptcy court, the bankruptcy court, the bankruptcy court…” It reminded me of my childhood, until it was replaced by a game where the clock counted down called, “Deplete the Block.” Remember that shows theme song?
(With sincere apologies to Jackson Browne)
Oh, Lift that Stay…
They can’t stay any longer.
Foam the runway…
They’ll get weaker, not stronger.
Ay-oh, ay-oh, ay-oh, ay-oh.
Now since the banker don’t mind… oh
And Obama don’t mind… oh
Judge don’t give them more time, (tell them…)
… Leave their stuff behind, singing…
One more wrong!
Oh, Lift that STAY…
Please don’t take any longer.
Please, please, please…
Throw them out.
Ay-oh, ay-oh, ay-oh, ay-oh.
Now if the trustees don’t mind, no…
If the investor don’t mind, no…
We’ll leave them hanging on the vine,
‘Cause we do it every time, singing…
Oh, Lift that STAY…
Please don’t take any longer.
Please, please… ZZZZT.
All right, stop the singing… enough frivolity… this is no laughing matter. Stop the singing, damn it.
That’s true, of course, the foreclosure crisis is nothing at which to have a chuckle. It’s a little bit like telling genocide jokes. Have you heard this one: “Three guys walk into Darfur… a black priest, a Mexican Rabbi, and an pan-ethnic, international aid secularist from Brandeis with a doctorate in African and Asiatic Egotistical Studies, named Atticus.”
See… I’m not finishing that joke because it won’t be funny. It ends with 100,000 Tutsi children being slaughtered by Hutus, and the punch line goes: “Wait, you mean this isn’t Rwanda?”
Well, okay… maybe it’s a little bit funny. It really depends whose telling it. Screw up the timing and you can end up causing an entire audience to sob uncontrollably.
It’s good we can laugh at it. It certainly beats being clinically depressed over it.
My point is that when something is as horrible as it was for homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure over the last six years in this country, it leaves scars… deep cuts into the fabric of a society that are unlikely to heal for decades. The long-term effects won’t even be studied for many years, and may never be fully understood. The only thing those of us that witnessed the carnage know for sure is that it was bad… very, very bad for millions of people too ashamed to speak out.
It’s left a chip on the shoulder of America’s middle class homeowners the size of the Grand Canyon, and that chip is now harming the interests of those that wear it, but invariably the response when I bring this up is:
“Mandelman, you have to understand… what else can you expect, look what they’ve been through.”
Oh, I understand, all right. It’s a form of post-traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. The more salient question is… does anyone else understand?
During my adult life, I’ve had quite a few experiences that drove me somewhere near insane… angry beyond reason… experiences that were not fair… that were wrong… and from which, even so, I just had to walk away. The chip on my shoulder I was justified and wanted to carry was not helping my cause, so regardless of why it was there… it had to be healed, so I could move forward.
I’ve been scammed, I’ve been let down, and I’ve been overpowered. I’ve learned that even if I’m smarter than the last guy, I may not be smarter than the next to come along. And I’ve learned that bad things happen to good people… the world is not fair… and sometimes the way to win a tug-o-war… is to let go of the rope.
We’re raised in this country to believe in justice and fairness, and lots of other things that often don’t exist or if they do, then they exist at far too high a price. We also like to think that when something happens that’s unjust, there’s someone specific to be blamed, and we won’t rest until those individuals have been brought to justice.
But some things that break, break so badly and cause so much damage that they can’t be fixed… ever. There’s not enough justice in the world to fix whatever it was that broke. Our housing crisis and financial meltdown is very much one of those awful, unfixable and tragic things.
A convoluted confluence of unconventional events that confounded our various governmental agencies and pushed our country to its breaking point like nothing had in 70 years.
Call it the perfect storm or the storm of the century, but the reality is… there were very few winners… and more importantly… none of them are now answering the phone or working in middle management positions at Bank of America or Chase, Wells, or Ocwen
The person answering the phone at Bank of America is a person not unlike you or me. A regular person that is just glad to be working. They’re operating on the other side of the same crisis in which many homeowners are still stuck. And it’s not any fun on that side either.
They don’t know who is or isn’t suing Bank of America any more than the guy who stocks shelves at Home Depot knows who is or isn’t suing Home Depot. They go home at the end of every day, feeling overworked and underpaid, trying to do a difficult job under the absolute worst of circumstances.
The Dirty Little Secret, No One Wants to Say Out Loud…
Want to know what it is? Okay, here goes… Homeowners are often no treat to work with if you’re a servicer representative. It’s true. Some cry, some threaten, some are operating on such a short fuse as far as their servicer is concerned that the smallest of anomalies can set of a chain reaction.
Servicer CSR: Hello, sir… thank you for calling back, we must have been disconnected.
Homeowner: Yeah, like I might even believe that. You guys drop calls on purpose. You probably have a drop the call button installed on all the phones over there.
Servicer CSR: Sir, I assure you that we don’t drop calls on purpose. Why would we do that., sir? We’re the ones that have been trying to get you on the phone for the last 37 weeks. Why would we want to drop you when you’ve finally called in. Sir, are you aware that you haven’t made a mortgage payment since President Bush was in the White House?
Homeowner: Look, it’s you guys that made me go late in the first place beck in ’09… you said you couldn’t talk to me unless I was 60 days behind on my payments.
Servicer CSR: That was our fault, sir? We made you go late? Okay, fine… just send us a check for the last 77 months and we’ll reinstate your loan.
Homeowner: Er… um… we’ll I don’t have quite that much liquid
Servicer CSR: How much have you saved, sir… since we made you stop making your mortgage payments. Surely you set them aside, right?
Homeowner: You mean in total?
Servicer CSR: No, sir… give it to me in partials. I don’t think I could handle hearing one big number at one time.
Homeowner: Yeah, well if you think snarky was going to be helpful in this situation, you’ve got another thing coming. I can be snarky too, you know.
Servicer CSR: You’re stalling sir, how many of you mortgage payments do you have saved up in the bank? Right now, sir… at this moment in time. And yes, the total would be fine… any other questions about the nature of the response I’m seeking, sir?
Homeowner: Well, I don’t have all of them.
Servicer CSR: I realize that, sir. You already said that. What I’m wondering, sir… is whether you have ANY of them.
Homeowner: Hey, look you (BLEEP)… I wasn’t going to pull this card, but you’re the people that broke the whole damn world. You should all be in prison, ‘far as I’m concerned. And you don’t even know who owns my loan because you split the note and the deed of trust, which by the way was used as collateral to secure subversive funding for the International Alliance of Inconsequential Bureaucrats, the endorsements were notarized by underage chimpanzees, and my loan’s been paid off by multiple insurance policies, a series of credit default swaps, servicer advances, and FDIC shared loss agreements… pretty much everyone under the sun except me, actually…
… oh, and my REMIC trust closed in the Spring… so… To everything… turn, turn, turn… there is no reason… turn, turn, turn… and deadlines with a purpose under New York trust law. I time to pay… a time to default… a time to move in… a time to move out… time to know what it’s about.
Servicer CSR: Sir, song lyrics will not solve your problem. Look, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. I don’t have time for this. I’m dropping this call… sir… you’re breaking up… sir… are you going into a tunnel… can you hear me now, sir… sir… I can’t hear you sir… goodbye, sir… CLICK…
Homeowner: HA! I knew you had a drop call button, betch. Try that on me… I knew exactly what you was up to… you ain’t hanging up my ass without me knowing the 411, you know what I’m saying? Hello? Hello? Fine… can’t wait to talk to you again… in 2018… suckers…
Am I getting my point across?
What I’m saying is that while it’s certainly true that servicers and servicer personnel have been and continue to be guilty of mistreating borrowers on various occasions, homeowners that call servicers are very often not all fun and flowers either.
Some homeowners are crying and others yelling and threatening… far too many either never call, or only call in the 11th hour. Many that call are on the edge, ready to pounce at the slightest oversight or disappointment.
Of course, I understand why. I could even agree that it’s because of the servicers past behavior that homeowners are often the way they are today. That is to say that I could agree, but it wouldn’t matter… it’s still not helping homeowners achieve their objective of getting their loan modified to have attitudes based on what’s happened in the past when calling in today.
I’ve also learned that many of the lawyers that call servicers on behalf of the homeowners they represent aren’t much better. One in particular showed me a letter he sent in with a borrower’s application that basically announced his intention to file a lawsuit in the event any of the new servicer guidelines weren’t met, asking me how it could still have taken 120 days to get the loan in question modified.
He asked me, “If you got a letter like this one, wouldn’t you make darn sure that the file was handled promptly and properly? And even with this letter, it still took the bank four months to modify the loan.” He was positively incredulous.
So, I replied, “Well, actually, if I worked at a servicer and received a letter like that, what I’d say is… oh, sorry, I can’t take that one, I have a root canal on Thursday and then my wife’s having a baby and we’ve got relatives coming in from out of town, so I’ll be taking vacation days… someone else will have to take that one.”
He laughed but I’m pretty sure he got my point, which is…
The people that work at servicers have a lousy job in many ways. They don’t like it when things take longer to get done than they’d like either. They’re constantly getting calls from homeowners and trying to do a job that’s anything but easy. And… they’re human, which means they respond better to honey than they do to vinegar.
It doesn’t matter what happened last time or last year, or in 2010. You’re not helping your cause to treat the person you’re now talking to at your servicer based on whatever happened yesterday. People want to help people who are nice to them. It may not be fair, and you may be entirely justified to feel as you do… but none of that changes anything… it’s just human nature.
Think of it like someone who was in a bad relationship… let’s say his or her spouse was unfaithful. Well, in his or her next relationship if they are unable to trust the other person, and as a result cross examine the person every time they come home as to where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing… it probably isn’t going to work out, right? Of course, right. Well, it’s the same sort of thing here.
So, for homeowners and anyone working on behalf of homeowners when contacting servicers in an attempt to get loans modified… here are my 12 RULES for Contacting Servicers…
- Before you pick up the phone to call your servicer, take several deep breaths… relax.
- Make sure you’re in a positive frame of mind and don’t call when you’re pressed for time… haven’t had enough sleep… or hung over from drinking too much the night before.
- Recognize that the person you’re talking to has a hard job, and is not overpaid… in fact, they may have lost a home to foreclosure already, or be behind on their payments now.
- Remember that it is highly unlikely that the person you’ll be talking to caused the financial crisis, or even knows what did. And that person doesn’t care if you sue the bank. They don’t own the bank.
- Understand that they may need you to send them something that you’ve sent in previously, it’s really no big deal for you to send it again, right?
- Remind yourself that the person you’ll be talking to can’t do anything about the robo-signer who signed the assignment of your Deed of Trust, nor can they comment on anything having to do with your REMIC trust.
- You may think your loan was predatory, but the person on the phone wasn’t the predator.
- Know that modifying a loan is much harder than you think it is. That’s why it takes so long. Saying no doesn’t take a lot of time at a bank… it’s yes that takes time, so if it’s taking time, it’s because they’re trying to modify it.
- Servicers are not making more money by foreclosing on your home than they would by modifying it. No, they’re not. And no one has paid your loan off, and even if someone had (and no one has) you’d still owe it anyway.
- When they say they don’t know why you failed the NPV test, they’re not lying… they really don’t know in most instances. Chances are their system only shows them that you failed, not why you failed. So, calmly as for the inputs they used to run the test and make sure there wasn’t a data entry error. It happens all the time.
- Servicers are constantly training their employees because all sorts of rules change frequently, but not everyone is up to speed on everything at the same time. The person you’re talking to is not necessarily a moron because they got something wrong.
- And BE NICE… no matter what. Be a person that others want to help. Be patient, understanding and empathetic… just like you want the person you’re calling to be about your situation. Make them WANT to work on your file, and constantly demanding to speak with their supervisor doesn’t accomplish that goal.
Following my advice on this doesn’t guarantee your loan will get modified faster, or at all, but it certainly can improve your chances… and it absolutely never harms them… so you’ve got nothing to lose by trying it my way.
And lastly, try to remember something I’ve always said… you can always be an aggressive asshat later. But once you are that sort of person, it’s almost impossible to go back to being thought of as a nice person. So, save the Godfather-inspired tactics for later, and don’t make anyone offers they can’t refuse.
Getting your loan modified is easier today than its ever been… that’s a fact. But coming to the table with the baggage of whatever happened last time will only increase the odds of history repeating itself.
Is it fair? No, nothing about this is fair, but “fair” has nothing to do with anything here… you’re trying to get your loan modified, that’s all. “Fair” is where you go on Sunday to have popcorn and cotton candy.
And besides… this country has never been all that big on fairness anyway, and if you don’t think I’m right about that, just ask any African American person over 50 about that and see what they have to say about that.
Don’t get mad at me… I’m just trying to help.
And, if you’re having trouble with Bank of America, Ocwen… or others… you can email me at:
My help doesn’t cost anything… and if I can help, I will.