Over my 20+ years of involvement in real estate and mortgages I thought I saw and experienced most – if not all. That was until Wednesday, June 15, 2016. It all began about 10 months ago when I was introduced to a really nice young couple from the Dominican Republic who lived in a tiny apartment in the Bronx. We met to discuss home financing options, if any, that were available to them as they were exploring the possibility of buying a home in Bergen County. I could immediately tell that these were sincere and hardworking people who simply wanted to make a better life for themselves and their two boys.
We went to work fast. I spoke with them a few times by phone, discussing the different documentation I needed them to gather. We scheduled an appointment for the upcoming Tuesday evening at 9pm. That Sunday, they saw a few homes and fell in love with a charming single family house in Teaneck. Their aggressive offer was accepted, and it was full speed ahead from there. It seemed like things were progressing well, and all parties moved forward assuming that this was going to be a quick and seamless transaction.
Things slowed down substantially from there. The seller, seeing how anxious and desperate they were for this house refused to budge on anything, despite being items that are almost always handled by the seller’s side. To make matters worse, the paperwork presented to me by my clients exposed a lot of questions and challenges that weren’t disclosed to me previously.
They sat there in my conference room with a sense of satisfaction and pride assuming they were efficacious in presenting all of the paperwork needed to get a mortgage. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I looked through the paperwork two or three times more before I said anything to them, hoping another scan would yield a better result. As I started to explain the issues, yet again, I saw the demeanor of their facial expressions change with each passing sentence of mine. The man looked me in the eye and said, “You have to do this for us. I will do whatever you tell me to do to get this house.” He went on to further tell me how challenging the past few years were for him and his family, and how this house would give his wife and sons the perfect setting to build their household.
While his optimism might have been misplaced, his heart was certainly in the right place. I committed then and there to help them any way that I possibly could. We mapped out all of the items that would need to be obtained and resolved in order to get their financing secured. To say that their income, credit and assets were a mess would be an understatement, but we each had our marching-orders and jumped into action. I was able to remove the applicant with the inferior credit thereby addressing the derogatory issue; I was able to qualify them with the limited income and a projection of future income; We were able to get an exception for using gift funds and large transfers thereby addressing a lot of the asset concerns – and suddenly things were looking good, well ahead of our mortgage contingency deadline.
A few short days later with the commitment in hand, I called my clients to congratulate them on the mortgage approval I had for them. As I do with all my clients, I wanted to discuss the conditions to make sure that we can satisfy them without issue, before it was provided to their attorney. I explained how they might be at risk of losing their down payment if they gave this to the Seller’s and were unable to satisfy some of the requirements in the end. We went through the items one by one and highlighted a few of the questionable items. Regrettably, without going into specifics, there was one item that seemed to be a “deal-breaker”. The phone call ended. He dropped everything he was doing and came to visit me in my office. Again he pleaded his case and got all choked-up talking about how he had no alternatives and desperately wanted this house for his family. We discussed many options and alternatives, but it was to no avail.
Fortunately, he was working with a great real estate agent who along with her team at Russo Real Estate sprang into action with some creative rent with option-to-buy alternatives which was presented to the buyers and their Attorney for consideration. This would give the buyers enough time to address their pending issues, and then complete the purchase transaction thereafter. The team at Russo worked fervently with me and my team to address the remaining issues. The seller continued to act in his best interest which made it more challenging for us to handle some issues, and continued to sabotage the transaction potentially causing the buyers to forfeit their deposit (plus all penalty funds on top of it all). The buyer was too desperate for the contract extension, too naïve about the savvy sellers demands, and too nice of a person to realize they may be taken advantage of – so he agreed to all of the seller’s requests.
We spent the next few weeks amidst the disarray, working diligently through threats and pressures from the sellers to get to the closing table before the deadline. Much to our chagrin, the questions and concerns that we brought up against the sellers were challenged or went unanswered. The seller continued to threaten termination of the deal, claiming the buyers were in default. In spite of it all, we were relentless in working towards the finish line. Our client, still too trusting of the unscrupulous characters involved, continued to spend money they should not have, to avoid being displaced.
When I challenged the other party for things that seemed questionable or out of place, I was told in not such nice words to mind my own business. Regardless, I demanded that all of the original contract terms and conditions be honored to protect our clients as best possible. They finally agreed. In spite of it all, we did our part to get the loan cleared for closing before the deadline. The reward for my efforts was that I was told by the sellers and attorneys to not dare “show up” to the closing. Regardless, I stood in the parking lot of the attorney’s office for the duration of the closing waiting on standby to make sure everything was handled in our client’s best interest.
I think it’s fair to say that in this case the nice guys did not finish last. Yes, the avaricious seller got all that he asked for and more; and yes the attorneys were able to walk away intact knowing the transaction closed, but most importantly the buyers finally got their dream home and their dream of homeownership in the U.S. came to fruition. On top of it all, we made new friends for life. That’s all that matters. As for me, the big hug that I got from them after the closing was all the reward that I needed. A special thanks to Edyie Rosenfeld and Lydia Russo, and to my amazing team for all of their efforts despite all the challenges.
Shmuel Shayowitz (NMLS#19871) is President and Chief Lending Officer at Approved Funding, a privately held local mortgage banker and direct lender. Approved Funding is a mortgage company offering competitive interest rates as well specialty niche programs on all types of Residential and Commercial properties. Shmuel has over 20 years of industry experience including licenses and certifications as certified mortgage underwriter, residential review appraiser, licensed real estate agent, and direct FHA specialized underwriter. He can be reached via email at Shmuel@approvedfunding.com.