Investigating the Issues That Affect You Most

Underwater Homeowners Claim Abandonment by Mortgage Company

Couple says JPMorgan Chase offered no help in avoiding foreclosure, complete short sale

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Couple says JPMorgan Chase offered no help in avoiding foreclosure, complete short sale.

    More than 700 days after putting up for sale the home they owned for three decades, a Glen Ellyn couple says they'd received multiple offers on the home, but couldn't get any answers from their mortgage company.

    Gus and Fran Trantham owed more on their home than its market value, so they were a "short sale," industry lingo for selling a home for less than is owed.  Bank approval is needed for this type of transaction, as the loss is shouldered or shared by the mortgage holder.

    But the two year struggle put the couple on the verge of bankruptcy.

    "I never dreamed I would have a house this beautiful," Fran Trantham said of the custom-built, 4,000 square foot home she and Gus built.

    They now rent a condo in Woodridge, not far from the home they say they have been trying to sell for so long, and they blame JPMorganChase for failing to offer them any assistance in their efforts to avoid foreclosure and complete a short sale.

    "We had a house we thought was worth the money to carry us through," Gus Trantham said, questioning why Chase ignored three contract offers the couple received on the home. "They are obviously making so much money... two-and-a-quarter billion in a quarter.  They are not looking down at the bottom of the feeding scale to the houses of Americans."

    The team of professionals working with the Tranthams say they were also at a loss to explain why Chase wouldn't even answer the potential buyers' offers.

    ReMax agent Joel Adams said he and his clients never got any answers when they submitted the first three contract offers.

    "Never one. Nope, not one. They never responded in any formal way. Never," he said.

    The Tranthams' agents said it's a lose-lose proposition and a problem that is not unique to Chase: the bank never answers and the prospective buyers almost always walk away.

    "If you can imagine being a buyer, thinking you are going to buy a house and waiting four or five months for an answer, you have to go out and buy another house," said ReMax Suburban Vice President James R. Nelson.

    To try to save the deal, their lawyer Joseph Horwitz said he took a more direct route.

    "It's unbelievable, to put it mildly," Horwitz said.  "We wrote letters begging for an answer and it never came. So the date came and went and those people finally left."

    Meanwhile, the couple said the price of their home, along with the market, kept dropping.

    With so many homeowners in the same boat -- owing more than their home is worth -- the Obama Administration recently offered incentives to get banks to complete more short sales.  But is anyone keeping track on whether the banks are actually doing that?

    After repeated requests for information, a spokesperson for the US Department of Treasury, which oversees foreclosure alternative programs, said the agency is tracking the number of short sales completed by banks. But, he said, it is too early for the department to report those numbers.

    For its part, Chase also won't say how many short sales it has completed in recent months, but a spokeswoman said that last year the company was focused on loan modifications and keeping families in their homes.

    Spokeswoman Christine Holevas said the company is now turning more attention, and adding more staffing, to short sale transactions.  She said Chase does not keep transcripts of conversation with its customers, but that its internal notes do indicate Chase representatives responded to the early offers on the Trantham home.

    She said the notes indicate the offers were too low and that the bank countered.  The Tranthams, their lawyer and their realtor all dispute that. 

    Eight days after NBC Chicago's call to Chase to raise the Tranthams' questions, their short sale offer was approved.

    Gus, 79, Fran, 78, said they had very different plans in mind for their golden years and are hoping for a new beginning.  But say they had to wait for at Chase to say the word.

    "It's just an unbelievable situation. The system isn't working. This should have been taken care of a year ago," said Gus Trantham.

    Target 5:  Investigating the Issues That Affect You Most