Dear Bank of America;
Hi, it’s me, your customer Austin. I’m writing to schedule my mortgage default.
That’s right, I’m ready to schedule my mortgage default. Does that sound strange?
Well, believe me, Bank of America, I had hoped that our relationship wouldn’t come to this. But after months of trying to do business with you, I’ve decided that it’s probably in my best interest to just, you know - “walk away” from my mortgage.
How could it ever be in anyone’s best interest to default on a mortgage? And why would anyone ever want to default on a mortgage?
Well, here’s the deal: I have one of those now-famous “Option ARM” loans on my residence – the interest rate is adjustable, and the loan provides optional payment plans. And yes, Bank of America, you inherited my loan when Countrywide Lending went down the tubes in 2008, and you merged your company with theirs.
And here are some other details about me, Bank of America: I am fortunate to have a great job with a solid income, and I work under a long term employment contract. While my full time occupation is being a daily talk show host, I am also a writer and a public speaker, so I have multiple streams of income. I own real estate in multiple regions of the U.S., and I’m a big believer in real estate as a long term investment. And perhaps most interesting for you, Bank of America, I have a great credit score, and I’m current on all my debt payments.
During the recent real estate “boom,” I took some equity out of my home. Now, in the aftermath of the real estate “bust,” my house is slightly “under water” – not by much, but a little. And the interest rate on my loan won’t begin to move upward for another two years, so I’m not in any crisis right now.
The value of my property has actually begun to move upward a bit in the past few months, but it’s going to be a few years before the value reaches parity with my debt. And that’s why I was thrilled to get that little note you sent me in the mail last summer, Bank of America. Remember? You sent me that nice letter asking if I’d like to have my loan modified to a 30 year, fixed rate mortgage.
I responded quickly to that letter, Bank of America. And I’ve called repeatedly for over half a year. But here’s the sad truth that I’ve discovered about you: you’re not really interested in working with me, because I’m not behind on my payments.
With each and every call, Bank of America, I get the same treatment. Once your customer service representative checks the data base and realizes that I’m current on my payments, they “transfer my call” to “another department” – and from there, I’m left on hold. If another representative picks up, they want to transfer me again. And if I actually have a conversation with anybody, I’m treated to a person reading through a litany of “assessment questions” and surveys and evaluations. And then I’m transferred again.
After repeatedly being told that there is immediate help available to Bank of America customers who are delinquent, I finally started asking, “so will you talk to me about a loan modification if I stop making payments?” And to that question, I’ve repeatedly heard the same answer: “I could never advise you to not make your payments Mr. Hill” the representative will say, “I’m just telling you that if you become delinquent we have help available…”
I’m not the only person who has this disturbing kind of relationship with you, Bank of America. I discussed this on my talk show in Boise, Idaho, and was inundated with calls and email detailing the same sad story. I even addressed this over the holidays on a radio talk show where I was guest hosting in Phoenix, Arizona – one of the most tumultuous real estate markets in the country – and got the same response.
I’ve also talked with lots of personal friends about this, Bank of America. People from Los Angeles to Chicago to Washington, D.C., and from all walks of life. People with high school diplomas and M.D.’s and MBA’s and Ph.D’s and J.D.’s. We’re current on our payments, have great credit, and want to continue our relationships with you. But you’re not taking our calls.
It’s sad to realize that as you focus on your “troubled assets,” and ignore those of us with good credit, you’re likely creating more troubled assets in the process. But that’s the system you’ve put in place, Bank of America. It’s a system that rewards people’s bad behavior, while punishing other people’s good behavior.
So after spending half a year trying to take advantage of the offer you extended to me in the mail, I now understand what your actual system entails. And I’ve calculated the risks of working within the system you’ve put in place.
I’m ready to schedule my default. What would you like to do next?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.