Contact 13 Investigates
Bank of America's short sale fail
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Our homes are often our biggest investment and one most of us wouldn't willingly put at risk.
But what about the banks who hold our mortgage loans?
Two years into Contact 13's continuing coverage of Bank of America, Chief Investigator Darcy Spears found the nation's biggest bank is still gambling with Las Vegas homes... and losing.
The gravel walk... The bubbling fountain... They're all things of the past now for Dewayne Martinson.
"I don't know, Darcy, I'm just... I'm beside myself," he says, gazing around at the backyard he loves.
The Legacy High School teacher and coach lost his battle with Bank of America to save his southwest valley home.
His kitchen table holds the last year and a half of his life in stack after stack of paperwork.
Just days before Christmas, he got one more paper to add to the pile... an eviction notice.
"And unfortunately, their investors don't look at you as a person. You're just a number and it's all about dollars and cents."
But in Dewayne's case, the outcome makes no sense at all.
His story begins like so many in Las Vegas... with a home loan he could no longer afford on a teacher's salary.
So he sought help from his lender -- Countrywide.
"And they told me at the time, well, get six months behind and we'll help you."
Darcy: "They told you get behind?"
Darcy: "Stop paying?"
But that turned out to be a catch 22. He got behind, then found out he was too far in the hole to qualify for help.
So in 2010, Dewayne appealed to then-U.S. Rep. Dina Titus and was told help was on the way.
"Sen. Harry Reid... the same thing. He wrote me a nice letter saying don't worry. We know we're number one for foreclosures but we're gonna stop those and you have nothing to worry about. I really believed that. I really believed that I was in good hands."
But he slipped through their fingers when the ball was back in Bank of America's court.
The bank acknowledged receiving the senators' letters on his behalf, but then Dewayne says it was back to business as usual.
"You just want to shake somebody and say, hey look, I'm a real person, I'm right here. Can you please help me? And all I got was, I'm sorry, call back, this person's not available, connect you to someone else, different phone numbers to call, and you know I just wanted to talk to one person."
He applied for all the programs banks are supposed to offer to struggling homeowners.
"I did everything they asked me to do, but apparently it wasn't enough."
The last resort was a short sale to avoid having a foreclosure dog his credit for years to come.
"We found a buyer. She wanted to buy the house for $128,000 with $75,000 down. Common sense would say that's a great deal."
But Bank of America rejected the offer and instead sold the home at a foreclosure auction for what turned out to be a whole lot less.
"To me it's just carelessness," says Dave Tina. He's the general manager of Realty ONE who was handling the short sale, and the president-elect of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.
"There was an over $25,000 difference that they could have sold it for with us and what they sold it for at auction," Tina explains.
In case you can't believe what you just read, here it is again. By gambling on what they could get in a foreclosure auction instead of doing the short sale, Bank of America lost more than $25,000.
Darcy: "Is there any way to make sense out of it?"
Dewayne: "I've tried. Believe me."
Dave says the only winner in this case is the new investor who bought the home at auction, then flipped it within a matter of days.
"Make $20-or-30,000 that the bank gave up by putting it to foreclosure, and the investor makes it without doing an ounce of work," Tina says.
Bank of America sent Dewayne a letter saying his short sale was rejected because it was "set up in error."
Dewayne: "We really thought that we were playing by the rules and we were doing everything that we had to do."
Darcy: "And then they were like, oops, we messed up, sorry, too bad, so sad?"
Dewayne: "So sad! And it is very sad."
As in most of our reports, Bank of America refused to go on camera.
They sent an email saying they tried to postpone the foreclosure when the approved short sale offer came through but the investor declined and they "had no choice but to move forward with the foreclosure sale."
"These mysterious investors that make that decision sounds to me like a story rather than a reality," Tina muses.
Contact 13 learned the investor in this case is Freddie Mac--the Federal Home Finance Agency run by our government.
Freddie Mac and fellow mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae received the biggest taxpayer bailout of the financial crisis.
Darcy: "It feels predatory."
Dave: "It is predatory!"
"I feel like they are so large that I'm just a little minnow in a huge lake, or maybe an ocean. And I just... I really don't matter," Dewayne says, shaking his head.
The recent settlement our Attorney General entered into with Bank of America and the nation's other big banks came too late for Dewayne Martinson and many like him.
Though industry experts tell me Bank of America is doing better these days working with homeowners, we know many are still falling through the cracks.
We here at Action News will continue to fight for those of you who are falling through the cracks with Bank of America or any other mortgage lender.
Send us your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org