Several years ago Fiona interviewed an Australian former bank manager by the name of Stephanie Retchless, who had written a book with the rather controversial title 'Are All Banks Bastards?' As an ex manager herself I guess she would have had plenty of inside information! Even so I remember at the time thinking 'Crikey that's a bit strong isn't it? Surely banks aren't that bad?' Maybe not all of them - but after the events of the last couple of days I reckon the one I've been dealing during this whole house buying rigmarole is. After trying to win me over repeatedly from ANZ as a customer for the past three years, the BNZ have successfully lost every ounce of my business, with no hope of ever getting it back. Let me explain...
Weeks ago, when it looked as though my house was going to sell, I went to the BNZ to see what they could do for me. New bank, new start I thought - not to mention the fact they had been emailing me and encouraging me to switch my banking over to them on a regular basis ever since we moved in 2010. To be honest, I didn't expect them to lend me anything. To be even more honest, I expected them to actually laugh. I mean it's not as if I was walking away from my marriage with a massive stash and my months spent freelancing, while busy hadn't exactly made me a fortune. But for once in my life I wanted to be organised. I wanted to know exactly what I could and couldn't do as I attempted to plan a future for me and my boys. So I just about fell over when after grabbing a few details and keying in a few buttons I was told I could have $380,000 to play with! I couldn't believe it - me, a solo mum with a not very big income? Seriously?! Obviously it didn't take a rocket scientist to work out I couldn't manage a debt of that size but that was fine, I didn't want or need anywhere near that much!
So I said thank you very much, went off with a load of figures so I knew how much I could manage and a few days later I found my little house, the one from recent blogs. I rang the bank to ask if it was OK to put in an offer and they said yes. I rang them again a couple of days later to tell them my offer had been accepted and asked them if there was anything else they required of me. They said no, just to come and see them again when the deal was due to go unconditional. That was it; it really was that simple!
So the days and weeks passed without event. Building reports were done, both on the house I was buying and on the one I was selling. Council reports were also done, solicitors went back and forth and before we knew it, we were almost there! It was Tuesday June 18th and the house I owned with Noel was due to go unconditional on Friday June 21st. The house I was buying was due to go unconditional on Tuesday June 25th. With time whizzing by and so much to be done, I thought I had better just pop back into the bank to say hi and that everything was proceeding without a hitch. I ended up sitting in the manager's office for more than 40 minutes while we went through everything again. But this time - and I have no idea why as they were no different from the weeks previously - the figures didn't keep their computer happy. All of a sudden, my pre-approval was no longer pre-approved - even though the figures we entered into the system still fitted into the 'automatically approved' basket.
The next 12 hours were a flurry of phone calls and emails as I had to ask for letters of proof from all and sundry as to my fabulous character and not fabulous but alright income. I did all I could, crossed my fingers and toes and even held my tongue right - but it wasn't enough. Later that afternoon I received a brief email - almost as an afterthought, a 'by the way' to say 'unfortunately my home loan application had been declined'. That was it - not even a phone call. If I hadn't happened to have been online at the time I wouldn't have even seen it until the following day! And I guess you could say that was the last straw. I did what any self respecting 40 year old woman would do and sobbed down the phone to my mum.
'Why now?!' I wailed - and that was just it. If they didn't want to lend me the money, fine! If they didn't think I could manage that much debt, fine! BUT THEY SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME AT THE START. Not let me go and buy a house and start a chain reaction of buying and selling only to pull the plug at the last minute! What about the people I was letting down? Who thought I was buying their house and had already found somewhere to go? It made me feel sick - and totally helpless. Friday morning my own house went unconditional. That was it; on July 8th the boys and I were going to have to leave our home for good. But all of a sudden we had nowhere to go.
Our wonderful real estate lady was horrified at the way I had been treated and as we discussed options, things looked pretty grim. There were other properties, sure, but none of them were as suitable or as good value as the one we had fallen in love with. We had already snapped up the best bargain in Whangamata and as for renting, who was going to rent a property to someone with FOUR pets? Most people were lucky if they were allowed to rent with a dog! I tried other banks and stressed the urgency of the situation but that was five days ago and none of them have even replied to make an appointment yet. My new house is due to go unconditional tomorrow!
I was at total loss - and then Nancy, the real estate lady rang again. 'Have you thought about a mortgage broker? Do you know any?' 'A mortgage broker? What do they do?' I asked. 'They do all the legwork for you, they know the right people to talk to directly', came the reply. No, I hadn't thought of a mortgage broker - but yes, I did know one - and a Hidden Gem of one too! As I had done a few days earlier when buying my car, I cast my mind back to a chap called Glenn Larsen. Years ago, my dear old friend Rochelle and I used to organise a local annual triathlon. People used to enter from all over the country and one of them was Glenn. A fitness fanatic and veteran of many Iron Man events, Glenn supported our event wholeheartedly from the very first year and not only did he take part but was always the first putting his hand up to help out on the day and provide sponsorship and prizes for the entrants. Always enthusiastic and a genuine good guy, he would always say 'If you ever need a mortgage broker, give me a yell!' As neither Rochelle or I were property owners at that stage, we smiled pleasantly as you do, thinking 'yeah right, that will never happen!' but just a couple of years later it did. When Rochelle and her family wanted to buy their first house and none of the banks would help, she remembered Glenn and it was he who got them into their first home. That was 10 years ago now and I didn't like my chances but a quick Google search and there he was!
And that's where we're at right now. Glenn has gone into bat for me and his doing his utmost to see what he can do. He told me that sadly, this kind of thing happens all the time - the bank with their 'Yes, yes, yes, no' treatment. They promise people moonbeams and then burst their bubble. Some people come straight from the bank and put a cash offer on a property because they've been told they can! And then people like Glenn have to try and help them out by finding non-existent faults with building reports and suchlike. Crazy! Good to know I'm not alone I suppose but why are banks allowed to treat people this way and get away with it? At least I have Glenn on my side now and if it doesn't work out, that's fine. At least I know we will have done everything we possibly can and that I have been treated as a person, not just a number. As for the BNZ? They're never getting a cent of my money ever again! But you know the most ironic thing of all? It was the BNZ who two Christmases ago gave copies of the $21 Challenge book to their most valued customers, as a reward for their money saving efforts all year!