Apparently OneWest Bank found a way to profit from short sales. OneWest Bank sold a home to two separate parties a few days apart. Then they cashed both of their checks. Amazingly enough, the total of both sales comes really close to what was owed on the home mortgage. Coincidence? Now both “owners” are fighting it out to see who really owns it.
I want to tell you all a little story. The story begins, as all American dreams do, with unfettered hope and belief, but has, over time, become a nightmare from the darkest recesses of our national psyche. This is not a fairy tale, and I beg you to see yourself in our heroine; for you could find yourself in her shoes very soon. And I promise you that that is not a place you want to be. But read on, and judge the veracity of my words for yourself.
I have been in the mortgage industry for almost a decade, and have seen my share of the ugly side of lending: the foreclosures, the forgotten families, and the greedy, heartless, faceless “holder of the note” gone wild. I have experienced all of this more times than I care to admit, and have been ashamed of my industry more times than I care to count, but the borrower I wish to tell you of was the reason I broke into this business in the first place. People like her, hard-working, honest Americans, are the ones a broker like myself looks for day and night, and strives to take care of in whatever capacity we are capable of.
Why you ask? What makes her so special? There are many answers to these questions, and the easy answer would be that she perfectly fit the mold we in the business look for. She had been employed for 22 years with the same corporation, and had managed to pay every liability on time for her entire adult life. No late payments, no missed payments, and nothing at all to indicate that she would ever change. Her credit score was 780, and she had owned a home for 10 years in Miami Beach (an expensive place to buy). This showed unequivocally that she understood liability, and knew how to get things done in the lending market. In short, she was a lender’s dream come true. A loan you approve and forget about because the payments are always in on time, and so, as a lender, you just count money for 30 years. What could be better from our point of view than that? Every lender in the world will tell you the answer to that question is nothing; absolutely nothing.
This lady decided to move to Chicago to be closer to her corporate office, so she sold her home in Miami and took her dreams and possessions north to Chicago. This took place in 2006 while the housing bubble was still growing larger, and no one outside of the industry had any expectation that it may burst at any time. She did her due diligence while looking for a home in the Chicago area, and eventually settled on a brand new property in an area ripe for gentrification. Basically, she bought in an older neighborhood that was undergoing massive urban renewal projects that were projected to raise property values in her area significantly; as long as there was no unforeseen disaster looming. That is the danger of things unforeseen. They eventually come to pass, and no one is prepared to combat them.
She started with an Interest-Only Loan as at that time it made more sense to use her principal money on personal investments rather than giving it to a lender to make decisions with. Even though interest rates were high at the time, IO rates slightly higher than fixed, she was able to get the property for almost $75K less than it initially appraised for, so she was already ahead of the game. She maintained her perfect history, 0x30 on her mortgage, and everything else for that matter, but that was before the wise and powerful bankers in America decided to play 3-Card Monty with America’s future.
As the signs of the encroaching financial apocalypse began to show themselves, she attempted, through her lender, to pursue refinancing, but was told her case called for the loan modification process. The press was making a fuss about how these modifications were the way for borrowers to get the help they needed to stay afloat in the carnage that followed the bubble bursting, and as an intelligent and savvy borrower with a perfect history she expected the process to go smoothly for her. In that assumption, she would have been right if not for the new credit card laws passed that allowed the companies to raise their interest rates and reduce the line of credit available on any given card. These changes have had an enormous, unintended consequence in the lending world since loans are in large part based on debt-to-income (DTI) ratios.
Imagine this borrower has a credit line of $10K on a card with only a $2K balance, but is then targeted by the credit card company for a reduced credit line of say $2500, so her 20% balance has now become 80% without her actually doing anything irresponsible. Yet, when lenders looked at her DTI they would see that she is nearly maxed out on her card, and in this industry that is a major red flag. She understood DTI, and how it could affect her ability to qualify for extra money (even though she did nothing untoward or rash in terms of spending), but why should that hamper her from getting a reduced rate? It is asinine to ask a person to re-qualify for something they already have, or to tell them they must qualify to save money, but this is what is happening in America today. She signed no agreement stating she could not refinance in the future with the help of her lender, so all she is left with are questions. Questions that for her and the millions like her, unfortunately, have no good answers. The American Dream, for this model American, is quickly becoming the American Nightmare.
There are so many questions our borrower wants to ask, but there are no phone lines to call or government offices to visit with any answer other than, “talk to the lender”. This is just endless runaround from the lender, and more and more frustration for her and her family. How is it possible to be locked into a loan, with bankruptcy laws so much tougher, and have absolutely no way to refinance? More transparency in the industry is great, but how can our borrowers appease the credit companies interest hikes while losing equity in their property due to the housing catastrophe and still meet the necessary financial obligations they agreed to prior to this meltdown? This is a recipe for mass bankruptcy and foreclosure; two things that hurt us all in the long run.
It was March of 2009 when our borrower started the conversation about refinancing with her current mortgage company, Indy Mac, from the 7.625% IO-Loan to a 4.5% fixed rate. They explained to her that she would need to print out a new financial packet, and send it, along with all other pertinent information, in to be reviewed before they could proceed; she did just that. After an entire month had passed, she called in to check the status of her application, and was told that the servicing company, Indy Mac, was changing hands, but she would still be taken care of by the new investor, One West.
Just like that, she and thousands of other customers were being sold to the highest bidder, and after some research she discovered that One West actually only paid up to far less than full value for these notes. It gets better. One West actually had the federal government guarantee them anything lost over a certain percentage. What does this mean you ask? All the numbers are there in black and white on the internet for anyone to see; but no one looks. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see that it would be more profitable to foreclose quickly and collect the guaranteed funds than to refinance the borrower’s note at a current market rate.
The changing of the servicer of her note, as unsettling as it was, would have been fine if not for the dramatic change in guidelines and customer service she experienced. This often happens after a change of this magnitude in any business field, but these differences were downright ridiculous. She was informed that the financial packet she had sent was no longer valid, so she would have to assemble another one before any process could begin. So, once again she followed procedure in hopes of capturing that elusive lower interest rate.
She waited and waited for a call to inform her of the status of her newest application, and finally tried calling herself to enquire; but to no avail. Her calls were treated as a joke. They repetitiously asked for the same documents, and even claimed after three business days that they had never received her fax, and that it took all that time to verify whether or not they had received her documentation. They have done this over 50 times from March of 2009 to the present day! That is preposterous, shameful, and ought to be criminal! But it gets better; or worse for our heroine.
After calling repeatedly for three months she finally got them to look at her application. They told our borrower that the check stubs submitted were out of date according to Fannie Mae guidelines (must be less than 90 days old), but when she remedied that they told our borrower that her check stubs were fraudulent. Check stubs from one of the three largest airlines in the world which she has worked with for more than 20 years by the way. They focused on some minutiae that they knew to be nothing, but she was forced to get a complete employment record from her employer to along with a Letter of Explanation (LOX) from her Human Resources department. This process has stretched into years with no results. She was even told that the best way to get help is to be late on her mortgage payments! Imagine that. It has become so bad that when she follows up on any fax or correspondence they claim she has never talked to anyone about her issue, and when she asked about recording the conversation she was told it was against their policy. I am not making this up. Every word is true and to the point, and the point is that One West and Indy Mac, Fannie Mae and the federal government are fleecing, and failing we the people.
This is dangerous and uncontrolled corporate behavior, and it cannot be allowed to continue. One West has become the poster child for what is wrong with this industry; what is wrong with America in fact. In my humble opinion (and that of thousands of other Americans…not to mention all the honest lenders in the industry), they have pulled out all the stops when it comes to delaying and deceiving their customers in order to get a government handout and make a dishonest buck. This must not be allowed to stand.
Help her. She has asked again and again, and researched every option. She can’t refinance due to not having value. She can’t modify because it’s not profitable to the lender to do so, and she can’t walk away as her state won’t allow this. Why I ask myself? Is it considered walking away if you have no more options? Why is it easier to profit from bad deals than good ones? There is no hope for this borrower that she can see. The only hope I can think of is a Federal Reserve for primary borrowers in America. By that, I mean the feds open the vaults to primary homeowners at a specific rate, and work directly with the borrowers from a federal standpoint. Cut the banks out. Let them focus on commercial deals and second homes where the rates are higher and people know what they are getting into from day one. I do not think these customers’ closing paperwork said anything about having to stay in one rate for thirty years. Do you know anyone on record in today’s environment that can say they stayed in their home for thirty years at the same rate? I don’t think that is even possible. Please share…
Here are some sites that clearly have people in the same situation, read, educate, follow and post, let’s start the revolt against One West/ Indy Mac and Fannie Mae.
Go to Google, You-tube or any engine for that matter and type class action Indy Mac, Type Complaints Indy Mac/ One West; you will see firsthand what we are all up against.
Thanks for adding that info. It’s a sad story indeed. However, as our government has proven with Freddie and Fannie, our government shouldn’t become a home mortgage lender nor should they guarantee loans. The banks took a risk by making the loans, the homeowners took a risk by taking these loans. I believe the solution to this problem lies in a compromise between the two. Both parties should be truthful and forthcoming and work together to either keep the home or transition the homeowner out of it as rapidly and with as little damage as possible with a short sale. Foreclosure should be used as a final option when no viable alternative is left.
I’ve always had a problem with lenders’ faith in the FICO score, especially when the way to get a higher score is to spend lavishly. The fact that FICO doesn’t care how much money you have makes it such a small slice of the total picture. However, I didn’t think of how the credit reforms changed loan requirements until you reminded me. Great point.
In fact, our government has verified with Freddie and Fannie, our government must not become a home mortgage lender nor must they assure loans. The banks took a threat by making the loans, the homeowners took a risk by taking these loans.
And let me guess. OneWest is saying that it’s “out of their hands” now? Go figure.
Who art thou so wise in the ways of banking? Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.