MELANIE BROWN sits at the breakfast bar of the Teaneck house she will soon surrender to new owners and says the pain of that is piercing, but at least the “mental torture” at the hands of bankers and their computerized bureaucracy is finally done, after two and a half years.
“They would demand information, and then delay any response, demand and delay, over and over,” said Ms. Brown, 42, a school administrator, about her lender, Bank of America, and its Equator software system. “I got to feel like a mouse that a cat just kept smacking around.”
This was a short sale. It took 30 months. And it might not have happened at all — despite Ms. Brown’s sustained effort to meet every shifting deadline for documents, and her real estate agent’s campaign to get help — except that the agent finally contacted an aide to a congressman, who contacted an aide to the president of Bank of America.
Ms. Brown says she can only assume the bank president got involved. “No one ever actually talks to you,” she said. “They just send threatening e-mails, saying things like: ‘If you don’t refile those documents for the third time giving the entire history of your life by the end of the business day, then this process is terminated. You will have to start over at the beginning.’ ”
Ms. Brown’s agent Nicole Idler, a short-sale specialist with Friedberg Properties in Tenafly, says she sees increasing numbers of homeowners in distress sales being “betrayed by their banks,” which make sometimes incomprehensible requests for information.
Ms. Idler said she became indignant over Bank of America’s reliance on Equator, a software system, rather than bank officers who could provide guidance and judgment along the way.
Repeated calls to bank employees who worked on Ms. Brown’s application for a short sale got no response. (A short sale is a transaction in which a mortgage lender agrees to accept less than is owed on the mortgage, thereby avoiding the need to get court approval for a foreclosure.)
However, the president of the Mortgage Bankers Association in New Jersey, Maria Guillermina Chaux, readily conceded, “It does happen in this market that even good borrowers wind up being penalized by lenders.”
Ms. Brown continued to press for a modification — and began getting foreclosure notices. She did not pay her mortgage after the fall of 2009, although she says she set aside funds to help cover some back payments in case a modification was ever granted. Earlier this year, her final appeal was rejected. Ms. Idler went back to the congressman’s aide, and then contacted both Mr. Colbeck and the office of Senator Robert Menendez, seeking help in getting a short sale approval to avert foreclosure. In early May the bank approved the sale of Ms. Brown’s house to buyers who offered $279,000. “With the taxes and fees the bank had to cover,” Ms. Idler said afterward, “I estimate the bank took away $259,000.”
New York Times