A Self-Imposed Examination
I’ve been so intensely focused of late on the tasks at hand, that I haven’t taken time to gaze into my reflection.
“There is no greater test of character but when a person is alone with their thoughts.”
Maybe I was afraid of what I’d see. Could I handle the introspection and scrutiny? Would my self-confrontation uncover some repressed sense of guilt? Perhaps an admission as an accessory at the very least?
The Sub-Prime Domino Affect
No sooner had the Sub-Prime debacle sent its shock-waves reverberating throughout the country, leaving Fannie and Freddie in it’s wake, then we watched in rapt fear as Wall Street began to implode. Hallowed institutions that had long been the bedrock of our financial security, faltered and crumbled around us. The destructive dominoes tripping their way into the housing market, and ultimately, our livelihood.
Is that Robert De Niro?
“What does all of this have to do with me?” I asked the face staring back.
I had one of those Robert De Niro “Taxi Driver” moments.
“You looking at me?” “You looking at ME?!?” “Yeah, I’m looking at You!”
Whose to Blame?
During a recent Presidential debate, the moderator asked the candidates who was responsible for the recent sub-prime mess. While both sides were quick to find fault with the opposing party, they mutually agreed that there was plenty of blame to be spread around. Buyers who either falsified income amounts or overextended their budgets; loan officers who found ‘creative’ loopholes to dodge funding requirements; underwriters who relaxed their requirements to cash-in on a fast, feeding-frenzy market; Wall Street investment houses who continued serving the bundled loans as champagne, when they knew it was tainted kool-aid ; and federal regulators either on the take, or asleep at the wheel.
Return of “Taxi Driver”
“You looking at Me?” The face staring back was now becoming a bit annoying.
What about me? Where was I in the midst of all this breakdown? Is it possible that I had some small part to play? Did I help contribute to the desperate situation we’re in today?
Name That Transaction!
Slowly, my mind began to replay the multitude of transactions, the names and faces passing by like roadsigns along a busy freeway. In my heart, I knew there were no deliberate, intentional acts or willful transgressions. But had I ‘aided’ and ‘abetted?’ Was I an accessory to this national crime?
As I looked back over the years, I was fortunate to know most of my clients through personal referral or repeat business. But as with most of us, there were a few of the ‘usual’ suspects that resulted from floor calls, an Internet lead, or a sign call. You typically prefer to recommend a reliable, trusted lending partner from your network, but that doesn’t always work out. A few ‘fly-by-nights’ find their way into the mix. You begin to realize there’s a problem when they’re idea of Earnest Money for a $300K offer is less than $500. And they want to pay the Home Inspector out of escrow. Tell tale signs.
I don’t know of a single client of mine who has defaulted on their loan, or ended in foreclosure. It’s possible there might be one or two that I haven’t maintained contact with. Maybe I’m harder on myself than I really need to be.
Sleeping at Night
Part of me justifies the process with the reality that if I hadn’t sold the house, some other agent would have. I didn’t twist any one’s arm. I didn’t force them to sign those closing documents.
But could I have done things differently? Would it have made any difference? Instead of sitting passively at the closing, should I have stood up on the table and boldly announced, “Don’t Fund and Record, they can’t afford this house!”
No. Instead, I’m sitting here, looking at my reflection, and liking what I see, except for the grey.