I’ve owned my home for a long time now.
Well, a relatively long time at least.
It’s not like I’ve been in the same place for 50 years.
Being a homeowner can be great.
I say that with 100% sincerity.
I like being in charge of what appliances are installed.
I like putting things on the wall without asking.
I especially like not having to wait for things to get fixed.
However, homeownership can suck too.
Having to pay for the aforementioned repairs for one.
Or having to go through the bullshit I’ve had to from almost the start.
I purchased my home in November 2006.
The next year, the housing bubble started the process of bursting.
The year after that I lost my job.
Then, at one point, more than half of the units in my development were in foreclosure or abandoned–yes, at the same time!
Then someone started buying up all of the units to lease which artificially depressed my home’s value.
Those events led me to seek out government assistance, because, why not?
I was paying all of my liabilities and taxes on time so why the hell should I sit back and get screwed over by other people’s bad use of credit.
Here are my stories of dealing with these government assistance programs: Making Homes Affordable, HARP & HARP 2.0, and The Hardest Hit Fund.
Experience With The Making Homes Affordable Program
At the end of May 2008, I was laid off from my job of 4 1/2 years.
Unfortunately, the company couldn’t maintain its then-current employee base.
I wasn’t too worried, as I had plenty of savings to cover almost 6 months’ worth of expenses.
Plus I had been working on building AccountLancer, which hopefully was going to start to take off soon.
And, to be quite honest, I thought that I wouldn’t have that much trouble finding a replacement job (didn’t we all).
Well, as it turns out, it took me almost 8 months to find a steady gig.
There were some temporary projects in between that helped.
As many people out there can attest to, I needed to swallow my pride a bit and take somewhat of a pay cut.
Then the Obama Administration’s “Making Homes Affordable” program came to pass.
It was supposed to help the millions of people in trouble with their mortgage situations, so on September 19th, I finally decided to check it out.
Since Chase is my mortgage servicer, I started there, going to their page outlining the steps to take.
This was a bit confusing, to say the least.
The Process Begins
Step one was to call to discuss the situation, which on its own made sense.
However, the second and third steps were to explain what had happened and gather the information, respectively, which made little sense.
I would tend to think that gathering the information would be the most important step in the process, since being organized and having all the pertinent information ready would be necessary to complete the other step.
Then, you should call the service center and discuss your situation, having the ability to reference the information you gathered to best provide the representative with anything they may need.
The last step was to download and complete the documents, which seemed like an entirely new mortgage application:
- personal information sheet
- employment verification
- personal financial statement
- statement of monthly expenses
- summary of the circumstances surrounding your request
- as well as all of the prerequisite payroll check stubs, bank account and investing statements and anything else that supported your valuations on the financial statement.
Well, I did things my own way by filling out the document package first, figuring that if I had everything all completed and organized in front of me, that I would be in a much better place to provide the representative with anything they may need.
So, after spending quite a bit of time filling out everything and completing the summary as best I could without writing a novel, I made the call.
There is no “pre-screening” process by which any of your information is put into a database or an account agent assigned to your particular case.
All you have to do is complete the paperwork and submit it to them, plain and simple.
She was very knowledgeable, I must say, as I asked a variety of questions that didn’t necessarily apply to my situation but which I was curious about nonetheless.
As it turns out, the woman who answered my call (after only a few seconds, which was a welcomed surprise!) informs me that there is no phone call necessary.
One of my main concerns for my own situation was the use of an appraisal in determining the worthiness of any kind of assistance.
I found it particularly interesting that among several sites, my residence could be valued anywhere between $72,000 and $219,500 which is quite a spread, so that is what lead to my curiosity.
I know for a fact that there have been many foreclosure sales in my area, and judging by some of these websites that “value” properties on the internet (including Chase’s own estimator), that they are taking these sales into consideration when valuing a property.
I also know that appraisals are generally supposed to exclude distressed sales such as foreclosures, so I wanted to know what I had to look forward to.
She informed me that there was no appraisal, since I was only looking at a rate adjustment, and therefore, there would also be no fees or closing costs unless I went with a straight refinance.
After everything was said and done, I took my packet, walked over to my fax machine, and sent it on its merry way over to Chase, as I was told that when using this method, the application gets logged within a few hours.
I also sent another set via FedEx the following Monday morning just to be sure that they would receive the entire package since I have plenty of experience with not getting faxes, or having the recipient’s machine have difficulty.
Now, for the worst part of the whole process:
I have to wait 6-8 weeks for the application and documents to be reviewed and processed and for them to notify me of any decision!
That seems like a very long time considering the goal of this program is to help people in need.
I mean, in 2 months, someone can go from being current with their payments to delinquent and get disqualified from this particular aspect of the program, thereby having to switch to one of the other options, and starting all over again.
Then again, at least the government is doing something to help the people it serves, rather than just the companies this time.
I was denied because I didn’t prove that I was substantially “harmed”.
Like not having a job and being forced to pull money out of retirement savings is flourishing!?
Experience With Chase For A HARP 2.0 Refinance
I closed on the refinance of my condo in April of 2012.
It had been a long time coming.
As mentioned in the previous section, I originally tried to do a mortgage modification back in September of 2009.
It took almost a full year.
Constantly submitting (and re-submitting every quarter) all the requested paperwork.
Numerous calls to find out what was going on with my application.
I was ultimately told that I didn’t prove that I met the hardship requirement.
Then the Obama Administration announced the HARP 2.0 initiative.
I was kind of skeptical, yet fairly excited since the “hardship” requirement was gone.
I made a call to Chase.
I figured it would be easier since it held the original mortgage.
I wanted to find out the exact details of the program as it pertained to its participation.
Then I waited for the word to come down of when the program would start.
I should have known that in most instances nothing is ever as easy or smooth as it is made out to be.
From my very first conversation with the Chase mortgage representative in Arizona (you will see why this little fact is important soon enough), all of my questions were addressed completely and satisfactorily.
Not only that, but the rep sent periodic emails when more information was made available to them so that I, along with anyone else with whom he was working, would be kept in the loop.
Ultimately, it was announced that February 6, 2012, would be the day the program went live.
I’m not one who likes to be late to the party when it comes to the chance to save some significant coin.
Or very much else for that matter.
I made a point to call my rep the minute I got home from work on that very evening.
It was great, he answered right away, and we got the ball rolling right then and there.
He took all of my information to make sure it was as they have it recorded in their files.
I gave him all of the information as it relates to income and housing situation.
I even offered to provide proof of income and residence (as opposed to this being an investment property which would eliminate me from the program), but he said it wouldn’t be necessary.
He sent me the authorizations to sign for him to run my credit and obtain copies of my income tax returns, and within minutes of receiving it, the document was signed and in his inbox.
We got everything squared away and moved on to the numbers.
I told him how I wanted to roll all of the costs back into the loan, and how everything else should stay the same as far as my taxes being escrowed, but the insurance remaining separate from the escrow account, and being solely my responsibility.
The numbers ended up being quite favorable for me.
I got to knock off 2.125% from my interest rate for a savings of over $300 per month!
We were plowing forward at breakneck speed.
I couldn’t believe how smooth and effortless this was compared to my last attempt to obtain some relief from the dumb luck I ran into by buying at the top of the market cycle right before the subsequent crash.
Boy, I was really premature in my celebration.
Here is a timeline of the chain of events that followed:
I schedule the appraiser to come out the following morning.
The appraiser is a no-show, and not as much as a phone call.
I receive an email from the processor in Ohio (told you the reason for giving the location would become apparent) stating that the loan went to underwriting and a determination should be expected in 7-10 business days, with his goal of wrapping up the entire process within 45 days.
The appraiser, from a different company I presume, comes and inspects the property.
The refinance is approved, but they ask for a letter of explanation regarding the ownership percentage of my business.
That was easy enough to take care of.
February 18 thru March 14
No communication from the processing representative in Ohio, so I call my Arizona guy to let him know that I haven’t heard a single word.
I receive an email from the Ohio processor informing me that the new loan is in underwriting for final approval.
He states that he hopes to have it completed by the end of the month (March).
Another email from Ohio telling me that it is still in underwriting.
I receive an email from Ohio asking me to verify income and liabilities.
The numbers he sent for verification are correct on the liability side, but he is only reporting half of my monthly income.
That pisses me off.
I call my guy in Arizona to tell him what’s going on and he gets pissed since, with this program, none of that stuff even matters.
I finally get a response from Ohio on the income/liability verification issue, 5 days later, apologizing for the delay and telling me that proof is not needed but verification is.
This is totally the opposite of what I was told, and in fact, ends up not being necessary in any form.
And, he totally ignored my response to the first inquiry correcting his figure!
I also ask that he push it along since we were approaching 2 calendar months with this already and past his target of the end of March.
His response is that he will do that and “it should be clear to close by the end of this week” (week ending April 6).
Of course, the end of the week comes and goes with no word on the closing.
Big shock there!
I get an email from Chase saying that my welcome package is available for viewing.
This is the same email I received that included all of the papers to start the process.
Needless to say, I freaked out.
I emailed and called the guy in Ohio, but of course, got no response.
So, I got on the phone to Arizona and my guy out there got everything all cleared.
Apparently, the Ohio processor filed the papers incorrectly which caused the email to go out.
The Ohio guy emails to say that we are clear to close, and set up a time on April 16 for the notary from the title company to come process everything.
Of course, that just happens to mark the 45th business day of the process since his declaration that it would be done in 45 days.
He also tells me that I will have the final HUD statement to review before the closing.
I never receive the final HUD.
The title rep shows up, and we start going through the paperwork.
Lo and behold, the information is incorrect.
They are expecting me to pay $2,500 to close, plus the insurance is included in the escrow.
We each get on the phone to clear it up.
As it turns out, no one is around to take care of it, so I leave a message for the Arizona rep.
The guy in Arizona calls me in the morning and he isn’t very happy with the situation either and tells me he will make some calls.
A little later I get a message from the Ohio processor apologizing (once again) because he went home ill before lunch and never got to send me the final HUD.
Plus he didn’t see the errors I pointed out if he even looked at it, to begin with.
The loan had to go back to underwriting for re-approval since I had a payment in transit, and it hit the account before anything got settled.
Then they had to rework all of the intermittent figures like taxes and interest.
Another email from Ohio stating that everything was fixed on the HUD, and asking if the closing can be set for the coming Friday (April 20th), to which I say “yes!”
He then asks (like he always does at the end of his messages) if there is anything else he can do for me.
I rant about not understanding why my insurance has to be escrowed since it was never done that way on the previous loan.
He goes on about them needing to have a years worth of insurance paid into the escrow account and blah blah blah (I stopped paying attention because this guy does nothing but piss me off with his delays, mistakes, and apologies) until I see him tell me that I have to pay additional points to have the insurance non-escrowed.
That put me into a rage.
Again, I call out to Arizona and vent to the rep out there, who, once again, calls Ohio and sets this guy straight on what does and doesn’t need to be done with this loan.
Day of closing (again).
I get a final HUD, and it has me paying no money at the closing.
However, it still shows my insurance as part of escrow.
I send it back telling the Ohio processor to fix it and get me a new copy before the end of the day so I don’t waste any more time with another failed closing.
I hear nothing until 4:37 PM, 23 minutes before the processing department goes home for the weekend when the new HUD finally arrives.
I’m fuming because if anything was wrong, there was no way it would be corrected in time to close.
Lucky for him, I finally closed later that evening.
I received the refund check for the additional interest charged as a result of the Ohio processor’s screw-ups leading to the additional delay in closing.
I have to say, although it was much easier to do the refinance than it was to try with the modification, there were way too many bumps in the road for my liking.
For something so straightforward and simple, there were a ton of mistakes and the guy processing the new loan sure showed a pretty high level of ineptitude.
I had to give a huge amount of thanks to my rep out of the Arizona office.
Without him, I would have stopped the process after the first failed closing and gone elsewhere.
He did an amazing job of putting out the fires caused by the guy in the Ohio office.
In fact, I emailed the whole thing to the Arizona supervisor and talked to him on the phone about it, telling him how lucky he was to have the guy who was working with me in his department.
At the end of the day, I have to say that the HARP 2.0 program did do what it was supposed to do for someone in my position, who ended up getting screwed by others while continuing to hold up his end of the bargain.
Experience With Hardest Hit Fund Program Application
(Almost) Everyone knows about the housing crash that ruined many peoples’ lives and helps to throw the country into an economic tailspin.
Lots of people are aware of the government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) that came from that financial ruin.
Few people have heard of the Hardest Hit Fund, which was for all intents and purposes a “bail-out” for the states that were…you guessed it!…the hardest hit by the housing crash.
I happened to stumble upon the site and said “what the fuck, I qualify so let’s see what happens”.
My Experience With The Housing Market Crash
I purchased my home at the end of ’06 which apparently was pretty much the top of the market.
2 years later, I was laid off, and out of work for 9 months (yet I never missed a single payment of any kind to anyone)
Then when the market tanked half of my development went into receivership due to non-payment of mortgages or HOA dues, or abandonment and the value took a nosedive so there was no chance of me being able to take advantage of “historically loooooow rates”.
I got no assistance with my own mortgage using the original HAMP and HARP iterations, and you can read the story of how HARP 2.0, the revised HARP program helped me (barely) and that was a pain in the ass from beginning to end.
Still, I have yet to miss a payment or even make a late one, and I’m tired of being punished for being responsible damn it!
So, I decided to try this program and see if I can finally get some help considering I’ve been screwing myself by continuing to pay a mortgage on a property that isn’t worth even 1/2 of what I owe, and being the good little boy I was raised to be and not simply walking away (thereby saving me tens of thousands in the process).
My Dealings With The Hardest Hit Fund
Monday, September 29, 2014
This is the day I discovered Florida’s Hardest Hit website. After reading through all of the qualifications and benefits, I realized I may finally be able to get some relief for my (seriously) underwater condo.
I filled out the application online, then sent my advisor the entire support document package: bank statements, loan statement, last 60 days of pay stubs, copy of the deed, etc.
I would later read that I didn’t need to do all that until I was contacted when the application was approved (but I figured the whole process may be smoother if I get everything done quickly and as complete as possible).
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Ah, the day every person applying for anything dreads…the day of “More Info Needed” subject lines in the old inbox.
So, I open it to discover that the advisor is asking for one more older pay stub, and copies of my social security card and driver’s license.
I kind of start panicking a bit as I’m very cautious with my personal information and wonder what the hell they would need the social security card and license for.
Then I realized that it doesn’t really matter much, as I already provided that information in the application package, so a shitload of fear disappeared and I was able to breathe again.
Within a few minutes of sending the remaining info, I got an email with an underwriting authorization form to sign and return.
Could it be that easy? Is it really possible to get through the process with minimal time and energy spent?
I seriously doubt it, but for now, I’ll just have to sit back and wait…
Thursday, October 16, 2014
I hadn’t heard anything in a while, and, truth be told, I was trying my best to not even think about it at all.
What I did do, for whatever reason, was log into my CreditKarma account just to see what was going on there when I noticed it…
There was a hard pull on my credit profile from October 7th.
After a little research, I discovered that the pull was made by a company that works with mortgage and car lease companies, so I was a little confused since I wasn’t actually applying for a new loan with this program.
I sent an email to the agent handling my application, and after a while, he got back to me saying that it was a routine check to make sure my mortgage payments were current.
Ok, no big deal, until…
He also said, “Just received notification from underwriting wanting to know if you’ve received Hard Hit Funds in the past.”
That really got my blood pressure up a little because, after 2 weeks of not hearing anything, the underwriting department all of a sudden just happens to make a request for information the same day I make an inquiry!?
Then they say that on the very same day my situation passes the examination and the package will be sent to my mortgage company?
I’m not so sure about all of that…
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
So it has been almost a week since this “consumer advocate” or whatever the firm is called supposedly sent in my application to my mortgage company for approval.
What do I do?
Of course, I call Chase to see if there has been any activity on my account.
And wouldn’t you know it….there hasn’t been any activity on my loan account since the last time I contacted them.
So, the second I get off the phone with Chase, I head right for my email and fire off a message saying:
Just out of curiosity, has the file actually been sent to Chase?
I ask because I found it odd that 2 weeks had passed since I submitted the last of the documentation and nothing was ever requested by your underwriting and then the day I make contact they have a question and send it out. This also led me to follow up with Chase since it has been almost a week and they have nothing on file regarding any action or contact on my loan account since the last time I dealt with them.
I’m sure you can see how this would be a concern to me or anyone else in my position.
We’ll see how long it takes to reply and what kind of information is contained, but it’s fair to say I’m starting to get just a tad bit annoyed with how this is all being handled………
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Shortly after I got into the office this morning I received a response from the agent handling my application. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I was expecting:
Yes it was sent to lender as I previously mentioned. We still have not received approval as of yet. Your file is pending lender review
That was it, the entire response.
No confirmation of the day it was sent, not mention of how or whether there was any proof of delivery.
Now, being an accountant, I get people bugging me all the time about whether we sent in their taxes or when their refund will come, but I’m able to give them peace of mind.
I can send them an electronic transmittal verification, or an e-file acceptance notice so they can rest assured their documents were taken care of properly and when I claimed.
I figured at the very least I would be told “Sure, your package was sent to chase via [whatever delivery method] on this date”, but I guess that may be asking for too much.
So I replied:
See, that’s my problem…the lender has no record of any communication on my account after a week, which includes any documents sent on my behalf.
Then, I received a follow-up message:
You might not be speaking with the correct person and I have no idea what area it’s sent for approval.
We’ve seen this before where homeowners try to get information from lender while it’s pending review and most times if not all they are not being helped. You usually don’t get information until they receive funding
I was not very happy with this, considering someone should know what’s going on at that office, and if this person doesn’t then they should find out from someone who does know so that they can make me more comfortable about the situation and doing business with their firm.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
So I finally received word from the agency handling my application congratulating me on the approval of my application!
They told me that once the final document package was received and subsequently forwarded to the state, the state would fund it within a week.
I was also told that the mortgage lenders recast the loans during this process–applying the funds to the principal and then re-amortizing the loan thereby lowering the monthly payments as opposed to accelerating the loan payoff schedule–which is what I was hoping for.
So I rushed to print out all of the docs, sign them, get them witnessed, and literally ran over to the management office to have it all notarized so I could FedEx it back to the agent for final processing.
I wanted to make sure that the agent had it in their hands on Friday morning so that it wouldn’t be delayed any further by the weekend.
Of course, after I caught my breath following my rushing to get the envelope in the FedEx box as quickly as I possibly could, I called Chase to find out exactly if the recasting information was true.
Well, come to find out, it was indeed true.
In fact, the recast was approved on October 24th, and I was further informed that a letter goes out detailing the payment info within 7-10 days and that I should call back if I don’t hear anything by the end of that time frame, since there was nothing else noted on my account, and the underwriter assigned to my file was on her first day of vacation today.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
After waiting for 2 weeks without receiving any information about the status of my loan, I decided to call Chase again.
I felt that I had given them the requisite amount of time to send me the notices I was told I would receive, so I was interested in finding out what was going on.
Again, the person who was assigned to my account in underwriting was not at her desk, although this time she was in the office.
The representative said that she would try to contact the underwriter for more information and call me back to let me know what the status was…..
Monday, November 10, 2014
Well, as you can probably tell, I didn’t receive any phone calls from Chase since I was told that a representative would call me back.
So, I wrote a (fairly) scathing message to the mortgage division via its private message system:
I’ve called several times regarding the status of my Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund acceptance and subsequent mortgage recasting. I have been told several times that the casting was approved and done. I was also told that it was done on October 24th and a letter should go out 7-10 days after that to notify me of what is to happen.
Unfortunately, I have yet to receive any kind of correspondence, and each time I call, the person who was doing the paperwork was either on her first day of vacation or in the office but not at her desk . The last time, on Thursday November 6, I was told that I would receive a call back either when she got back to her desk or when someone was able to get some information for me.
I’m starting to get a bit frustrated at the lack of communication and information I have received during this time. No one seems to be able to connect me to the person handling my paperwork. No one seems to be able to give me information as tow what my payments are going to be or when this will take effect. No one is able to tell me why I haven’t received any kind of notification.
I would appreciate a call, and soon , as to what is going on with my account and why I’m having so much trouble getting the assistance I seek.
Thank you very much for your help…I hope .
I did receive a call back within a couple of hours this time.
This time, I was given different information.
I was told that back on October 24th, the recast was indeed approved, but it wasn’t yet calculated because they have to wait until the funds are received and applied to the loan.
She had said that the funds were actually received on Friday, November 7, and generally takes about 5 days at most.
She also said that she was going to personally take care of it and make sure that it received priority service, and she’d keep an eye on the account to make sure it was taken care of.
I was also assured that I would get a call and an email when the documents were finalized, and I could plan on hearing something by the 5th day at the latest, but it shouldn’t even take that long with the prioritized status.
Friday, November 14, 2014
Well, guess what?
I never received any communication from Chase, so I called yet again around 3:00 pm.
This time, at least there was activity, and this representative told me that the recast had been completed at 1:30, not even 2 hours prior to my call.
But, unlike all of the other times I had called, this time I was able to confirm that the process had been completed,
In fact, I was given the FedEx tracking number that the last of the documents to be signed was sent in, and you know what…
It actually was done when someone said it was!!!!
It’s scheduled to be delivered on Monday, November 17, so we’ll see how long it now takes to wrap everything up and see the new payments reflected on my statement and if it triggers the automatic removal of private mortgage insurance.
Were you adversely affected by the housing crash? Have you ever tried to get assistance using any of these programs? Tell everyone your experience –as you can see I’ve got a ton of experience and I want to know about yours!