Blog: R.E. Tales
(Hey, not every place is pretty...)
(Your experiences with this huge firm may be quite different than my own... I hope they are.)
I have this perennial fear of mortgage brokers and the kind of banks who advertise in the Sunday papers. They are set up to do home loans, not farms and property with acreage and have so often led my buyers down the rosy path.. a rosy path to no where. But JR wanted a place we had with only 2 acres and he wanted a starter home. He was already pre-approved by Wells Fargo, so naturally, I steered him in their direction. The place he wanted was not a place with acreage like we usually deal with, so why not give them a try?
Now, the distant past, that was a different story. Years ago, I had been contacted by some Wells Fargo agent out of Minnesota who told me of a wonderful program they now had for hobby farmers. We sell a lot of hobby farm property, so I was glad to get another source of funding. I am cautious about working with new (to me) banks, but soon enough found a great prospect for them. Roger had agreed to buy a 130 acre farm with a new barn and old home that was in nice shape. The price was right. He had enough equity in homes he owned downstate to pay for the property if he sold either of them. He had no debt. He also had a $40,000 downpayment, which represented nearly 1/3 of the total price. Good credit. Retirement income. Stable older couple with a long and good credit history. Perfect. He wanted a loan to buy the farm now, so he could finish some work on the one home he wanted to sell in order to receive a better price when he would be ready to market it.
An easy loan to make – or so they said when I made the initial call to Wells Fargo. As time went on, there were more and more delays. I have often told the people I deal with that the only guarantee that I make is that there will be surprises. We got them. Excuse after excuse why they could not yet make the loan, more papers to be filled out, more hurdles to jump over. Meanwhile Allen, the owner, moved to his new job in Utah. Finally, after several months, they turned Roger down. Why? I had to know. Because he was going to rent the other home to his son! They were afraid the son would not pay rent and he would just let him live there and not make his own payments. Huh? And they would not worry about a tenant no one knew wrecking the home or failing to make payments? And there was another excuse they gave, equally improbable, but the dustbin of my memory cannot bring it up. Allen was disgusted and offered to finance the farm to him and put off owning his own place in his new location until Roger could pay him off.
Years pass. We had two customers buy through Wells Fargo and had no more than the usual glitches, both were homes with small or tiny acreage. One of them was an interesting case. From Las Vegas, Dan was a Yankees fan, through and through. He was tired of Las Vegas and wanted to retire to New York and be in the country instead of a development. Being near Cooperstown was a big deal for him. “That’s where you find old Yankees”, he said. He thought maybe a hobby farm or a B & B would be right for him. I showed him several potential places and one got him excited. It should have. A very, very good buy with oodles of acreage and long road frontage dividing it 2 ways, it had an old Italianate brick home that was spectacular in its own way. I believe this home was the most original home with the neatest old features that I have ever seen for sale. Wonderful old woodwork and not painted either (imagine that), big rooms with a cool layout, a great stairway, more rooms in the attic, + views. And it had an original bath with a copper tub and no plumbing (just drains). Above it was a doorlet in the wall that opened to the kitchen sink area, the idea being that you could heat water in the kitchen and pour it through the doorlet directly into the tub. You know, that was considered high tech once.
Dan recognized the value here and that he could do both the hobby farming and B & B, sell a bit of land, and use that money to do the remodeling and modernizing that it needed. You know, an old home can be modernized without sacrificing its special character. So, he put it under contract and applied somewhere for the loan he would need. A couple of weeks into this process, he changed his mind about what he wanted to do and withdrew from the contract. It sold within days to another party.
But he still wanted to buy. Meanwhile, Priscilla decided to put her home and 5 acres on the market. That was a good one for Dan. Priscilla was an immaculate house-keeper and her home was nearly new and was impeccably well-maintained. I told Dan about it. Yes, he was interested, could I take pictures for him? So I did, a whole roll (that dates this story), developed it, and sent it off to him. He agreed to buy, sight-unseen. He didn’t want to drive back east to see it first. Normally, I would do all I could to discourage someone from doing this – it’s a terrible idea that folks try on me every so often. But this time was different. After all, Dan had spent several days with me recently and knew what the area was like. More importantly, I knew what he meant when he said “good”. “Good” means different things to different folks, depending upon their standards and their point of view. When you use a subjective word like that on the phone with me, I have little to go on to determine what you really mean. But once I have shown you some property and you have given me some feedback, I can see things through your eyes and we can talk on the same page using subjective language. Dan and I had established this rapport. And, of course, how could one improve upon the condition that Priscilla kept her home? He could not fail to be happy with that. The pictures demonstrated the setting, the room layout, the decoration and the color choices and he was well satisfied with that. So he ended up buying it and did not even see it until after the closing. That ended well.
A bit later on, JR came on the scene (thought I ‘d forgotten him, didn’t you?) and he went through the process. Did he ever. But it was different for him. He was half of a young couple who had little cash money, and no long credit history. But they were local and had both good references and good jobs. On February 3rd, he offered full price after lower offers had failed to interest the owner. The price was modest anyhow, but it never hurts to try. We immediately entered into contract and 6 weeks later, I called Angel at Wells Fargo for a checkup. They were supposed to get the approval that day but something had happened to their computer. She assured us that “everything looked OK” and that she was “95% certain” it was a go. JR had been in constant contact with her and got her every bit of documentation that she needed as soon as he possibly could.
A week later, JR told me he was supposed to hear within 24 hours. Yet another week later, I called Angel at Wells Fargo to get an update. She said just one more document was needed (this was beginning to sound like a stuck record – we’d heard that line numerous times already). But she could not foresee any problems, it was just a matter of time. Two days later, I get the word that JR was approved! What? I was expecting to hear that the money was there and they were ready to go ahead and close. The approval was supposed to have been done weeks and weeks ago. What did the “pre-approval” mean? Now, this did not please the Johanna, the owner, one bit, as she had just given word to her tenant to move out. She is a crusty older lady from downstate who is all business. Her holdings have to be earning for her. Period. She is not the kind to suffer fools, but she will do whatever she has to and do it on time.
Another week passes. A different gal from Wells Fargo called and wanted a revised contract. Huh? Why now? This was not going to please the owner, not one iota. And it was going to mean at least another week’s delay just to shuffle the papers between everyone that needed to sign. But when she received the new contract, she was ready to close, asap. A week later (now I am beginning to sound like the stuck record), I called Angel. She had some questions about the contract they had asked me to revise.
Two weeks pass; now we are into mid-June. We are “very close” to closing, and Angel had thought they could close the previous week, only JR just got a new (better) job and they needed some form for employment verification. So another week passes. Now Angel says they have not received the form they need. I call JR, it was sent, twice. I call Angela – oh, their fax was broken.
Let’s skip a bit and fast forward to mid July. Angel said her loan processor (what was she?) was on vacation and she doesn’t know where the files were. Angel is actually a nice gal and we had a talk. After 6 years with Wells Fargo, she was ready to quit over this. She is getting tired of putting JR off. Two weeks later, now the Wells Fargo attorney wants to see JR’s employment verification. Don’t ask me why he couldn’t get it from Wells Fargo.
They have had an engineer inspect the home and someone else in for the roof. I had to go up each time for this. It was fine. But now they need something else from the seller (who is very disgruntled by now) and need someone to inspect it for flooding (after all, they are only 400’ above the nearest body of water that could flood). And Wells Fargo still needs the employment verification. JR’s boss is sick of sending it out to them. JR needs to get it directly from the boss and take it to them in person and have them sign for it, but they won’t accept it this way – we tried. Now I am switching between two women at Wells Fargo. Neither seems to know what is up and one of them ups and leaves for 2 month’s maternity leave – and forgets to transfer the case to someone else. JR calls them every day now. Early on, I made the mistake of telling him that the “squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Are they pissed now? Or do they just want it closed to get him off their back?
Another call. The inspector is having trouble getting the information he needs from the Johanna, who has been dealing with him directly. I thought things would go smoother without me between them. So I call her – and get a different story. She has not spoken to him in weeks but has called him a few times without getting an answer. And she is an unhappy camper. Her tenant has been gone now for 2 1/2 months. The investment is losing money big time. And she has had to spend money on the home that was not intended, all to please the various inspectors. I called Angel and she said that their inspector, who had been responsive in the past, was not getting back to them either. So I called the owner – and learned that she is about to leave on vacation.
Now, the Wells Fargo attorney gets re-involved. They are ready to close, have no problem with JR, but don’t have what they need from the office. The main thing they need is clearance to close. I spoke with the owner on vacation – she is willing to finance it now, just to stop the hemorraging and get her investment working again.
This story has gone on long enough for you to get the drift of the kind of hassles that can present themselves. By mid August, everyone is disgusted with Wells Fargo. That’s when they tell us that they are not going to make the loan. Their excuse? His new job (which was better paid). What happened to Angel? She quit over the whole thing and went to work elsewhere.
The next month was spent negotiating over owner terms, and dealing with JR’s attorney (who was no winner either). That finally fell apart as the owner wanted too high an interest payment. They finally agreed to just rent and JR will save money toward purchase. By now, it is late October and everyone is just sick of the whole mess. That was 3 years ago. JR is still there, still renting, but he has a new job. He took the money he had been saving and started a business with it. I hope it does well – he can get $6900 from the government as part of this year’s stimulus plan and if he is ever going to close, this is the time. Of course I want that, not having been paid yet for anything other than a measly rental sum.
And what happened to Wells Fargo? Last year, they closed up shop and left town. The building still sits idle. I liked them better when they just drove around in armored cars.
Some are merely amusing, some can be an immense help. All are interesting.
After 40 years, I've learned a lot, & acquired unforgettable experiences. Follow these long enough and you'll eventually get the whole book. (Names probably changed, for obvious reasons.)