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Lenders, Liars and Losers – Observations of a Humorist

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I don’t know about you, but I am on the verge of a breakdown. Why? Because I am so frustrated with the lending institutions that I have developed a drool, a twitch, and a wicked rash. I truly think the lending institutions are hindering our economic recovery. The bailout money is not translating into increased sales as far as I can see. What I do see is a lot of bank execs with spray on tans, new hair weaves, and fake-tooth smiles that gleam like tombstones in the California sun. Due to the drop in home values, refinancing odds are worse than the odds that Ms. Lohan will drop off the radar, keep her clothes on,  and join a nunnery. And modifications are as challenging as navigating the L.A. freeways on a skateboard while wearing a blindfold. 

I have observed that there is double speak in all bank dealings. Thus, I think it would be helpful to have a translation guide to understand the dubious promises being made daily by these Not-Lending institutions. Does anyone remember Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live (“I slept with Morgan Fairchild)?  Well, Jon, I’d believe your imaginative claim before I’d believe some of the following promises (all of which I have actually heard):

For Those Just Off the Turnip Truck 

  1. “Qualified buyers can still get a loan.” (Translation: “Don’t forget to rip out your kidney and staple it to your application.”)
  2. “After you submit your loan mod package, we will reply in 30 days.” (Translation: “We will mutter, ‘Hell, No, Dude’ to a donut somewhere on the opposite coast, and then we will use your file as a foot stool. You have about as much chance of hearing from us as from Amelia Earhart.”)
  3. “We have your client’s application in our files.” (Translation: “We threw your paperwork into Modification Missy’s trunk. She’s on her way to Vegas, but she’ll get to it soon. Oh wait, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’…and so will Missy. She’s not coming back…and neither is your file. Next!”)
  4. “We require a complete modification or short sale package.” (Translation: “We require three packages –  one for the shredder, another one to be left on a desk so someone can steal your pathetic identity, and one to be erroneously sent to the Foreclosure Department.”)
  5. “We are the fastest in turnaround when your buyers need a loan.” (Translation:  “Underwriter Earl (Missy’s cubicle mate) will slip into his sparkling red pumps, click them together, turn around three times, and squeal, ‘There’s no place like home…and your client sure as hell ain’t gettin’ one, honey!”)
  6. “We sympathize with your client’s situation.” (Translation: “HaHaHaHaHa. Tell him to grow a set.”)
  7. “Your client’s file is in the hands of experts who have experience in navigating rough waters.” (Translation: “Our trained negotiators were formally pirates in the Carribbean, and your client’s ship is about to be seized.”)
  8. “This short sale will close about thirty days after approval.” (Translation: “This short sale will close about thirty days after Peter Minuit returns Manhattan Island to the Indians.”)

What Happens in Banking Stays in Banking

  1. “All we need is one more document to complete the file.” (Translation:  “All we need is your remaining kidney. We lost the first one. It was last seen in Missy’s trunk.”)
  2. “We are here to help those who are struggling to pay their mortgages.” (Translation: “Files of those who have stopped paying will be expedited because our values are backasswards. Thus, we encourage all applicants to blow their credit ratings. It’s trendy! By the way, didya notice my sparkling new chompers?”)
  3. “Your client has a chance to get his loan modified, but he cannot miss one trial payment.” (Translation: “Although he cannot pay, we will string him along for as much time as we can in order to get his savings and retirement money before seizing his home and kicking grandma to the curb. Incidentally, does Granny still have her kidneys?”)
  4. “Trial Payments are for a maximum of three months.” (Translation: “Then we call them “String” payments, because we string you along until you are ready to string yourself from a tree limb. In the meantime, we will be doing the limbo to see how low we can go.”)
  5. “The computer has given us a loan approval based on the appraisal.” (Translation: “Of course, Appraisal Reviewer Rita may lower the value of the appraisal even if it comes it at value, because she must account for dismal market conditions – for which we were largely responsible and continue to be largely responsible – and because Rita must cover her arse to keep her job because she just purchased your unemployed, disabled neighbor’s foreclosed home while the neighbor’s sobbing children clung to her fat ankles.”)
  6.  “In order to complete this short sale, your client needs to contribute cash.” (Translation: “Although the guy is losing his 20% down payment, has lost his job and has no money at all, why can’t he rip the braces off his kids’ teeth and sell them for scrap metal? C’mon – work with us here!”)
  7. “I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” (Translation: “You’ll never find me again. If you call back, you’ll just get someone else who has been working here for five minutes. You will have to start all over again. You will have to tell your story to fifty more screeners and submit three more short sale packages. You will develop another tick before this is all over…and maybe even Tourette syndrome. Now excuse me, I’m on my way to Vegas with Missy, Earl and Rita…and one of your kidneys.”)

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn, LAhomesite.com, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Agent for Movoto

    January 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I’ve got to hand it to you, Gwen. this is about the funniest thing i’ve ever read about one of the least funniest things happening right now. well done.

  2. BawldGuy

    January 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    You’re far too polite, Gwen.

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    January 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Wow Gwen… Bank of America is gonna be pissed that your posted their internal memos’ on Agent Genius!

  4. Gwen Banta

    January 29, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks, y’all. And Matthew, B of A is going to be even more pissed when they see me pull up out front driving a flatbed loaded with cartons of rotten eggs. Is anybody with me here???

  5. Joe Loomer

    January 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

    What Mathew said 😉

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Katie Ruffino

    February 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I am reading this in our sales meeting in the morning….. Great stuff, thank u

  7. Gwen Banta

    February 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    This great comment from Paul Donoghue was sent to my personal email, and I thought it was well worth posting:

    “Gwen, loved your post and your sense of humor. As a banker with 30+ years in the business, I’m embarrassed at the state of our residential lending industry.

    Speaking from the perspective of new originations, the regulations put forth from Washington are insane, and too few lenders are capable of providing applicants a complete list of needed documentation at the time of application … Most applicants will reluctantly give you their left kidney, but hate being asked for a lung, bladder, and liver three days before closing! ;D

    My recommendation is find an experienced lender, who knows the importance of VOC (Voice of the Customer) with a back office that is the antithesis of bureaucracy, likely a community banker or seasoned boutique mortgage banker/broker.

    As for short sales and modifications … what a mess. Small banks work, but the large banks and servicers are nothing but factories, and often without the financial incentive (they usually do not own the underlying loan). My recommendation would be to get to the executives that run these divisions and build a relationship … and you seem like the kind of person that’s capable of doing so. For those institutions that prove to be stubborn, I’d connect with a litigious advocate, who has the expertise and cares about his/her clients.

    I’d enjoy hearing what, if anything, you’ve found that works.”

    Paul lives in Cape Cod where he is in charge of business development, and is a mortgage specialist for North Easton Savings Bank.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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small businesses new tech

While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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skilled worker

The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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Business Marketing

6 tips to easily market your side hustle

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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side hustle marketing

Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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