'Act of Congress' to sell house
Lenders often say they don't want to repossess houses. So you might expect that a borrower selling to avoid foreclosure -- and not via short sale -- would delight them.
But Bonnie Jordan, exactly that sort of borrower, says her lender endangered the sale of her Edgewater house by not promptly providing a key number: how much she owed.
"I've never seen anything quite like it before," said Diane Olsen, Jordan's real estate agent. "They just gave her the worst runaround."
Jordan said her title company contacted Chase for the payoff information Feb. 24 and several times afterward with no luck. Then Jordan tried, calling the company March 1 and many times afterward. Most of the time, she said, she left messages for people who didn't call back.
Once she was told that Chase didn't know the total because her case had been forwarded to a law firm, and so the number would include attorneys' fees. She said she called the law firm and was told first that it didn't have her information, and later that it didn't have any idea how long she might have to wait to get it.
Meanwhile, Jordan's March 12 closing date was closing in.
Then the buyer's lender -- for reasons unconnected to Jordan's situation -- decided not to extend a mortgage for the deal. That pushed off the settlement date by five days as the buyer rushed to get replacement financing. But Jordan still didn't have the payoff information.
On March 11, the day before she was originally supposed to close, she called House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office to plead for help.
Just before 1 p.m. March 12 -- several hours after her original closing time -- she got a call from a Hoyer aide who said the information was on its way. (Hoyer's office confirmed to me that it had worked on her case.)
Both Jordan and her agent said they think Chase wanted to foreclose on her because she had equity. She'd made a 50 percent down payment when she bought the home.
"Why wouldn't they for a change want to own a property that had $100 to $150,000 in equity?" said Olsen, with ReMax Advantage Realty in Severna Park.
I asked Tom Kelly, a spokesman for Chase home lending, why it took 16 days for the company to provide information that -- according to Olsen -- normally takes a day or two. He said it's more complicated for a homeowner in the foreclosure process.
"We had to determine if the borrower had incurred additional fees," he said.
He said the clock didn't start until she requested it March 1. Although she signed an authorization form for the title company, only the borrower can request that information if she's in foreclosure, he said. "We provided the ... payoff statement in fewer than 10 business days from when we received an authorized request," Kelly said.
Did it take the intervention of the House majority leader's office? "The payoff letter was already in process," he said.
Jordan doubts it. A representative at Chase's law firm "said they were all backed up, 'We don't know when we'll have it,'" she said. (The firm wasn't too backed up to file paperwork to start foreclosure proceedings on her loan, though -- it did that March 8, which added more fees to her grand total.)
Jordan also says no one told her title company that it wasn't authorized to get the payoff information.
Olsen, her agent, said she was glad Hoyer's office could help but thinks it's a shame that it came to that. If all struggling borrowers turn to their Congressmen, “the entire system will come to a grinding halt," she said.
Jordan bought the house when she left Florida for Maryland in 2007, but it was not an auspicious move -- and not just because she paid $575,000 but ultimately sold for $450,000.
Her husband couldn't find a job here. Neither could Jordan, an attorney specializing in elder law. They tried to sell last summer, but a buyer backed out of the contract after they had already packed up and moved back to Florida. After that, she said, she couldn't afford the mortgage.
"It's been a nightmare," she said.
Her financial woes aren't over, either. But at least she avoided foreclosure.
In an email to relatives headlined "WE SOLD THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!," she wrote: "It literally took an Act of Congress."