A Tale from Banking’s Dinosaur Days

If you’re one of those who lived in those days the calendar calls BC or BCE. [Before Computer Era], please prepare to explain some things to our younger compatriots. Here’s how – and why – I pulled my own credit check so I could buy a house.

I’d just moved to a new city to take a new job. After the usual house-hunting hassle and mortgage application paperwork nightmare, I went about my business, expecting to close and move into my new place in about a month or so.

Then I got the phone call.

The loan officer told me it wasn’t that I had bad credit, I had no credit file at all. He couldn’t lend money to someone who didn’t have a paper trail.

I explained to him that I’d just returned to the country after an extended period living in the cash economies of Latin America – and before that I’d had a corporate job where I travelled most of the year using a company credit card. I’d been a l-o-n-g time without a “real” address or any personal credit card transactions.

He told me that my current job and income were enough to qualify for the mortgage. But he still couldn’t grant it because he had too many unfilled spaces in his forms. I asked him what he needed and he told me he needed records of any previous mortgages or loans I’d had before.

I said fine, give me a couple of days, and started working the phone. Now imagine you’re one of those people who sits at a desk in the bank lobby. You answer the phone and somebody [me] says, “You don’t know me, but I had a loan with your bank eight years ago. I paid it off in full sometime in the summer of either this year or that year but now I need the loan number, proof that it was paid off and contact information to give to a loan officer at another bank two time zones away.” I did this for my old auto loan as well as for two different home mortgages I’d paid off. In each case I spent years on hold, listening to plastic music and talking with various people who’d planned to do other things that day. In the end, I had complete files.

The next afternoon I stopped into the loan officer’s office and gave him all the information he’d asked for, including contact information for each of the other banks. I asked him how long it would take for him to do the rest of the work and what it would do for our closing schedule. Without even scanning the folder I gave him, he said that, since I’d already collected the information, I’d saved him some time and we could close the following week.

Don’t think we do business like that anymore.

6 Comments on “A Tale from Banking’s Dinosaur Days

    • Those days sure beat working for a living. And besides, if someone else is willing to pay for a flight to almost anywhere, I’ll probably be on it.

    • I’m sure that in a barrel of bankers you’ll find a few good ones.

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