The waiting was the worst. Well, the stalling and the waiting -- but then it was the stalling which led to the waiting. Of course, the lying wasn't all that pleasant, either. Then again, perhaps the incompetence is worst of all -- particularly failure to follow our email communication agreement. The rudeness isn't so great, either. And then there's the unfairness of it all. Here we have the once-noble Wells-Fargo firm, whose secure stagecoaches helped to Win the West, turning into a bunch of losers and customer abusers.
My wife and I have had three previous mortgages with Wells-Fargo Home Mortgage, one in Connecticut and two in New Hampshire, all now paid off, all payments made in full and on time while those mortgages were open. We've even received letters from W-F, complimenting us on our great track record with them. We were told frequently that we are preferred customers, the salt of the earth, worthy of maximum consideration. Those are the major reasons why we did not even seriously consider any other mortgage lender when buying our modest home here in Georgia, so that we could move from the Frozen North of New Hampshire. Shortly after moving South, we naturally opened accounts at our local Wells-Fargo Bank branch. We were team players, and W-F was our team -- or at least, so we believed, until proven wrong!
The first shoe fell, so to speak, when our former home in New Hampshire took several years to sell, and then it sold at a very substantial loss. Meanwhile, in the 2008-2009 period, our stock portfolio joined those of most Americans and took a severe decline. So, paying on two mortgages with reduced funds available, we did the logical thing: we approached our favorite mortgage lender, Wells-Fargo, for a loan modification, specifically a considerably-lower interest rate. After all, we were the preferred customers whom W-F said they really appreciate. After all, W-F got billions of Federal bailout dollars, not only for their own account but via Wachovia Bank, as W-F took over that major banking institution, along with its bounty of booty.
Further, we had paid W-F a considerable sum to even get the former high interest rate, as they charged us what is called, in the mortgage industry, "one point" for the privilege of paying them tens of thousands of dollars of extra interest over the life of our mortgage loan. On top of all that, W-F promotes its mortgage modification program, as required by the Federal government in return for all of those billions they took.
Calling our preferred lender as preferred customers early in January, 2009, however, was not a joy. After long holds, occasional disconnects, and reaching the wrong section, the first few representatives with whom we spoke told us we should refinance our loan. Of course, we would have to pay all the closing costs again, which approached $4000, including hefty up-front fees with arcane names like "loan origination fee" and so on. If we did that, we might get a modest reduction in our interest rate, but of course not enough to cover all of those fees and other closing costs, so we declined. Then we were told that W-F might allow us to stretch out our present fifteen-year loan to, say, thirty years. That would give us the privilege of paying W-F tens of thousands of more interest dollars to get a slightly-lower monthly payment now. It may be true that The Godfather, in the famous movie series of that name, made you an offer you couldn't refuse -- but we managed to refuse both the refinancing and loan extension offers of the W-F Godfathers.
Finally, after many fits and starts, we were reluctantly put through to the W-F loan modification people; we provided some financial information over the phone and were told we would be sent,immediately, a form needed to apply for a loan modification. We asked to have that form faxed to us, but were refused. We waited a week for the form, then called W-F again -- and again were told the form would be sent. We waited another week and called again, and a surprised W-F loan modifier said, "you mean you never got the form. Well, you really don't need it if you put the following information in a letter." Here was W-F's stalling and lying about the form being required -- and, yes, our waiting, seemingly endlessly, for no good reason.
By then it was the end of January,2009 -- we had lost nearly a month, so we immediately got the necessary financial records together and immediately faxed them to the W-F loan modification fax number we had been given with an acknowledgement request. But, never receiving that vital acknowledgement, we had to call again and again the following week, with the usual long holds on line and occasional disconnects, to be told that, yes, the material we had faxed had been received -- but where was the W-F form? (That's the form we had never received, and had finally been told had never been necessary.)
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That mysterious form never arrived, but a few days later, we had some further information to fax down to the good folks at W-F loan modification, along with a second request for acknowledgement -- which, again, never happened, requiring more calls, holds, and disconnects, until finally being told that the additional data was received. Shortly afterwards, I came across an interview in a major Georgia newspaper with a W-F public relations executive, leading me to email her via information I found on their media web link. I then described the situation pretty much as you have read it above, and, lo and behold, got a call the next day from a woman in the W-F executive offices. She told me not to despair, their loan modification honchos were -- at that very moment -- reviewing our application, even without that form W-F had never sent, and we could expect to hear as to just what they could do in the "immediate future."
The woman in the Wells-Fargo executive offices had provided her phone number, and so I first left a message on her tape, asking for an update. She was in the office, but did not return my call, so I called the next day, which obviously annoyed her. She snapped that my wife and I needed to be patient, adding sarcastically that we were not the only people asking for a loan modification. We already knew that. We were, however, just about the first to make that request, beginning just after the start of 2009. There was no apology for all of that W-F incompetence and shabby treatment; all of which was merely ignored by W-F.
After that rocky start, we had several cordial email exchanges with the woman in the W-F executive offices, each time being told that we were "almost there, just be patient." But we were also told that W-F had a mysterious "investor" who really held our mortgage, while W-F merely "serviced" it. That investor, we were finally told, was the notorious Freddie Mac federalized lender, which got even more government billions than W-F did and is now effectively an arm of the United States government. W-F had never previously bothered to give us that vital information, so we began to ask for prompt email communications primarily.
But then, we were told that Freddie Mac was having trouble doing a loan modification which would meet our needs -- and so I made such a proposal myself, as a public finance economist, which not only met our needs but all Federal program guidelines as well. Still, the very next day, the woman in the W-F executive offices wrote back that Freddie Mac had found some kind of unidentified snag in the loan modification program; there would now be delay into April, but again we should be "patient and professional." It was a strange coincidence that this latest snag was found just when our own proposal was made to W-F.
Finally, I once more took the W-F bull by the horns, now demanding that all future communications regarding our mortgage be sent by email, to avoid the lack of a paper trail with phone calls, plus the endless delays inherent in regular-mail communications. Further, I asked that our mortgage account be notated to that effect. The persons with whom I was dealing at that point, including Audra Hutton, the woman in the W-F presidential office, and key executive Linda Parker, assured me that they would follow this requirement. Unfortunately, I was also told that any loan modification would require us to raise the term/length of our W-F mortgage from fifteen years to thirty years, meaning that I would have to be well over a hundred years old when that revised mortgage was paid off. We very reluctantly accepted the extended term, as W-F refused to consider any shorter term. So W-F managed to get their pound of flesh!
And that is just where matters stood -- until, while we were out of the country this summer, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage sold (or as they prefer to call it, transferred the servicing) of our mortgage to a new firm in Chicago -- but we were never notified of that change by email, per the agreement noted above. We only found out about it when no payment was taken out of our bank account this September, causing us to begin to email W-F to ask what was going on -- and even then, it took a lengthy series of emails to get any response at all, and that only after we began emailing W-F President John G. Stumpf personally. The 2009 agreement as to email communications being required was totally ignored, typical W-F incompetence. And, worst of all, Wells Fargo has refused to contact the new holder of our mortgage to tell them we have never gotten any information. Taking some responsibility is just too much for W-F!
The good news, then, is that we are done dealing with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, forever and ever, Amen. The bad news is that we are saddled, over our strenuous opposition, with a thirty-year mortgage in place of our former fifteen-year loan, which will of course cost us thousands of extra interest dollars over its long term. Nor am I likely to live long enough to be able to burn that mortgage in 2040 -- I will probably have expired before that mortgage does. That would give Wells-Fargo the last laugh -- but it also gives me this Op Ed, and the opportunity to warn homeowners about the dangers of Wells-Fargo!