Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | March 11, 2010

No Wonder Our Economy Is In The Toilet

In addition to working for clients (oddly enough, my freelance database work has been picking up lately), I’ve found myself frantic these past few days trying to pull together a ton of paperwork. And this isn’t even for the taxes that I still need to file.

When I started this blog, my plan was to write about both my unraveling marriage and what to do about it, and also my messy financial situation and what to do about that. As I got all caught up on the situation between my soon-to-be-ex-wife and me, I let the money stuff fall by the wayside. Now, I wish I hadn’t, because there’s an entire Catch 22-style novel in all this. I wish I’d been taking notes.

For instance, there’s the matter of getting help with the mortgage. Penny and I have been underemployed since well before last summer. A few months ago, we started the application process for a “loan modification” because, well, if President Obama wants to help pay our mortgage while we try to fix our income situation, who are we to say, “No?”

At the same time, we found ourselves short on paying the mortgage bill. (It pains me to tell you this. I’m a capable guy. Being in a situation where I can’t pay the bills is, well, antithetical to everything about how I do things.)

It turns out we don’t qualify for the so-called “Obama Plan” because we don’t make enough money. You read that right: we don’t qualify for the government’s stimulus package because we’re not making enough money. Oh, the irony. (Eat my shorts, General Motors.) At the same time, however, the bank is considering what’s called a forbearance to allow us time to recover while we look for other sources of employment.

But before they can consider us for the forbearance, they first had to submit our application for the Obama Plan, even though they already knew we wouldn’t qualify. A month and a half later, lo and behold, we are told we don’t qualify. So now they can process our application to them for a forbearance.

Oh, and we were told this: that if we had been making our payments, we wouldn’t qualify for the forbearance, but since we’ve missed payments, now we qualify to ask for help. Yes, the bank told us this. True story. We had to stop paying our mortgage in order to qualify for being allowed to not pay for our mortgage for a few months.

For a long while, as this was going on, we would get two calls a week regarding our mortgage. One call was the bad cop, saying that we had to pay. The other call was the good cop, checking to see if we still needed help. The good cop would tell us the status of our application (“looks like you have a mediator!”) while the bad cop would lie to us about the status of our application (“looks like you’re going into foreclosure. No, you don’t have a mediator. Those other people shouldn’t be telling you those things, because I’m looking at your file, and you definitely don’t have a mediator.”)

At some point, we were told by three different advisors that the best thing we could do for ourselves was to call the bank to see how the process was going on our application for forbearance every week. So, I started doing that.

It turns out, they are rather… backed up. And they don’t have the processes in place to track what they are doing. For about a month or a month and a half, I would get someone who looked at our file and said, in a very puzzled voice, “Well… it looks like its still being reviewed to make sure everything is in.”

“But, everyone already knows everything is in, because if it wasn’t all in, you couldn’t have processed the Obama Plan application.”

“(puzzled) Yes, but it says here that it’s still in review to make sure we have everything.”

“Do you have everything? Is there anything else you need me to provide?”

“Well, it says here… no. It says everything is complete.”

“But it’s still in review.”

“Yes.”

And then I’d be told that the best thing I could do would be to call back in a week to see how things were going. A few weeks ago, they stopped calling us, and it was just me calling them.

Two weeks ago, they said it was out of review, and was actually being processed by a “negotiator.” I don’t know what a negotiator is (or a mediator, for that matter). I think it has something to do with the person trying to convince Fannie Mae to give our bank the okay to give us a forbearance. Maybe.

Imagine my surprise last week when I phoned and got a different answer to my question about the status of our application.

“Well, it says here that you need to submit the last two months of your bank statements. Your application is a couple months old, so they need the new bank statements. Plus a new X4923/J form. And pay stubs.”

“But, we run our own business. We don’t have pay stubs. And I do contracting work. No paystubs involved.”

“Right. Well, then P&L statements for the past two months. And bank statements for the past four months.”

“But your team spent two months verifying that you had everything. And now you’re saying that because it took two months to make sure you had everything, now you need more recent everything?”

Silence.

“Does all progress on our application come to a halt while you wait for these?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

So what have I been doing these past few days? Trying to round up all this paperwork, write the new affidavits, re-fill out the same forms we filled out before.

Oh, and I said to the guy, “Hmph. Seems like you pretty much are asking for the whole packet all over again.”

“That’s what happens after the third month.”

No kidding. He said that.

I was planning to tell you in this post about what happened a few days ago when I went to cash a $40 check at the very bank where that checking account is held, and what I learned while doing so. But at this point, if I told you, my head would explode. Yours might, too. It was insane.

Okay, more on that later. I need to, oh, do some work tonight for paying clients, so that I can resume my paper chase tomorrow morning. A friend of mine tells me that the paper chase I’m going through right now acts as its own kind of pre-forbearance. That they actually do stop (for a little while) moving forward on the foreclosure process as long as we go back and forth with the paperwork.

Who has time to look for a job when there’s so much paperwork to be filled in and filed?

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Responses

  1. Yup. Sounds about right. And it just keeps going on that way…forever. You keep supplying documents. They keep asking for more. Sometimes it gets to be waaay too much. Like…now.

    Feeling your pain.

  2. Not much to add, but I thought this was THE. BEST. LINE. EVER! “A few weeks ago, they stopped calling us, and it was just me calling them.” That’s just delicious.

    BTW, I work in education. I believe all sorts of sad tales of insane and inane incompetence. One, because it’s part and parcel with what we deal with daily. Two, because this is what you churn out if you don’t make THINKING and ANALYZING and WORK ETHIC the primary goals in education.

  3. Troubled groan for you when I read about the information needing to be updated because of their delay. F*cking banks. It ticks me off that the banking industry is making money hand over fist this year on the back of the government stimulus plan and yet the people they are supposed to help with the stimulus plan are treated like this. Man, I’m so sorry.

  4. MADDENING! Absolutely maddening!! I was so frustrated with the system as well when I went through it with the short sale – catch-22’s all over the place – you don’t make enough, you make too much, we can’t refinance you, etc etc. and you are right – the Obama plan pretty much works for NOBODY – some PR spin there, I tell ya, which is also just as maddening. Okay, off my soapbox, clearly this is a sore subject for me as well! It is frustrating, it is laborious and time-consuming, but hopefully at the end, it works out for the best. Good luck, my friend (and I know it pains you to not be able to pay the bills, but I respect that you are pulling a plan together to fix it. I know you’ll fix it).

  5. It’s funny the things you have to go through before you can actually take advantage of a government or bank program. Everybody screws you around because nobody is organized enough to have the process run smoothly. They might do it on purpose, hoping you’ll give up. I’m still waiting for my banker to call and tell me one little number one one little line of one little RRSP form that I didn’t get in the mail- so that I can click “send” on my taxes and get my refund, just so I can pay that one last bill that the ex still hasn’t paid.

    Oh, the joys of finance!!

    • Mere minutes after I wrote this, my banker called. Taxes are now filed and crossed off my to-do list. Whoo hoo! Maybe you’ll have a lucky day today too!

  6. I can’t even wrap my head around whole mortgage debacle in the US.

    If they had spent as much time regulating the industry (and those damn Wall St dudes) as they are running the programs to try and save people from losing their homes…maybe there wouldn’t be such a mess…

  7. I can’t even begin to say how sorry I am for this debacle. It’s not fair and like Jo, thinks it’s maddening. I was trying to re-fi my place and I was told by several lenders, it wasn’t worth it for me. We’re all being punished for the actions of stupid people and it’s amazing how the government is lacking the ability to help us. I am so very sorry.

  8. Inris, YEA for the taxes. Sorry about the loan mod, I really am.

  9. this is absolutely insane.

    but you write about it so calm…if it were me, there would be exclamation marks and caps all over the place.

    I guess you’re a real grown-up and I just like to pretend : )

    • Nah, what happens with me, Erika, is that when the crisis hits… I calm down. It’s weird. But it makes me good in a crisis. 🙂

  10. Crazy stuff. Mindymom is going through the same BS!

  11. Omg! This sounds all too familiar. I’ve been blogging about my nightmare with B of A for a couple weeks now. I began the loan mod process 6 months ago and have been jacked around SO bad. You can read about it here:

    http://singlemommindy.blogspot.com/2010/03/bank-of-america-corrupt-or-just-grossly.html

    I’ve been blogging the saga for the last 3 days now too. And trying to get some action.

    GRRR!

    • Thanks for dropping by, Mindy.

      It turns out, there’s more to tell about the story. But I’ll get to that, soon. I gotta get to Kinko’s and get all these documents copied so I can mail them off!

      I’m reading your post right now — thanks for the link!

  12. jeez, i am sorry. money woes are awful. it’s just such a rotten time to be a homeowner, or underemployed, or facing graduation into this market. hopefully things straighten out (or at least get saner) soon.

    by the way, i read a story in mcsweeney’s about a young lawyer trying to help a family save their house. i don’t know if you’d enjoy it, since it’d cut pretty close to home, but here’s the link:

    http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/panoramaexcerpts/Ali.html

  13. Holy mother of God that is insane and inane and I’m bashing my head on the glass coffee table on your behalf. Um, have you guys thought about moving to Canadia??

  14. Friends used to tell me (often) “Why don’t you upgrade? You could make so much money in the real estate market.”

    NOT that I live in a bad neighborhood, mind you. I’m in Cali, in the OC (Irvine). Not exactly shabby. BUT…this is also the land of greed and “more is better”. And, well, I guess there was something wrong with me that I didn’t want to move to a million dollar home when mine was worth half a mil and almost paid for…

    PLEASE. When I read or hear of situations like yours, I’m so glad I didn’t listen to my well meaning friends. If I had, I’d be right where you are. Exept that I’d likely just walk away, because I don’t have the stamina or the patience for paperwork and inane details.
    Which, ironically, is the reason why I didn’t upgrade when I could have afforded to do so. Too much paperwork!

    I think that sometimes a Catch 22 can work in one’s favor. It definitely saved my butt!

  15. I was going to say, it sounds very similar to SingleMomSays. Grit your teeth and stick with it. Hopefully you will prevail. Oh .. and promise yourself you will never, ever work for the company as an employee. If you can get freelance/contracting work from them, charge them your top dollar.

  16. Ugh, I am so sorry. I can feel your frustration. It feels like talking to a wall at times.

  17. All,

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    A friend of mine made an interesting observation about this situation. She said that this kind of back and forth can become a de-facto forbearance, as the banks will often put the foreclosure process on hold while working out the review process. It’s nerve wracking, but by the time they make a decision on the forbearance, we may already have had a few months stay-of-execution, as it were. Although, now that I’ve just gotten a temporary job contract, that may further complicate this whole process the next time they ask to see bank statements.

    Hmmmm.

  18. Keep playing their game! It’s the only way to get the modification.

    A friend of mine spent a year going through this process, but did get her mortgage adjusted. Be aware, however, that you will have to go through credit counseling and they are going to take over the management of your finances. These are the conditions that Obama granted to the banks so that they can still have control of you as long as you owe them money.

    My advice is to try to work it out some other way. this plan, like too many of Obama’s schemes, is long on dream and short on reality.


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