Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The American GeniusThe American Genius

Economic News

Man in the Mirror

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.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

“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.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

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.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
Written By

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.



  1. Danilo Bogdanovic

    October 8, 2008 at 9:15 am

    There are agents and LO’s out there that can’t say the same. Wonder how they sleep at night…

  2. Mike Mueller

    October 8, 2008 at 9:27 am

    “except for the grey”?

    I like the grey. I think you look good with a “touch of grey”.

    Seriously, I’ve looked back as well. I can honestly say I can sleep well with the loans I’ve done.

    Maybe I’m a bit skewed. I had a Payment Option Arm factory, sharing the same floor in our office building for years. No loan officers, just direct mailers by the millions “Payments as low as 1%! and autodialers going non stop.

  3. Ruthmarie Hicks

    October 8, 2008 at 11:07 am

    At the end of the day, I always tried to do the right thing. Sometimes you can’t stop people from doing something foolish. But a few times I turned people away. In one memorable case I simply told a couple that “they were stretching too far.” I know they resented the comment, but I felt I had to say something. The were looking upon the purchase as if it was rent and wanted to put virtually no money down and were seeking fancy loans with negative amortization etc. After trying to get them to trim their needs vs. wants down to an affordable list of “needs” I realized that they were just going to stretch for everything they could get. Credit was still easy, but I let them go because it was a disaster waiting to happen.

  4. Brian Block

    October 8, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Rich, you got me thinking about my transactions in the past few years and I’d have to say that upon reflection, I know that I’m able to sleep well at night. I never twisted anyone’s arm or helped to push anyone into a home that I knew they couldn’t afford. Everyone needs to take a little time for self-reflection.

    While I’m younger than you, I don’t like seeing more and more grays falling to the floor everytime I visit the barbershop.

  5. Missy Caulk

    October 8, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Heck Rich, my husband says I’m asleep 2 sec when I log off the computer, so no problem sleeping here. B U T…………
    We had 2 clients that we felt and told they should not purchase, both went and got their own lenders, our’s could not get either qualified.

    So they found these “internet lenders”.

    One couple is doing well, been in their home for 2 years, One lost the house in foreclosure within the year. That really, really bothers me. Our advice was to wait a year, save some money, get credit score up. Nope they were bound and determined to buy THAT house. Should I have insisted my buyer agent drop them, I don’t know, but it bugs me.

  6. Bob

    October 8, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I have killed more than a few deals and still killing some now. When I work with a buyer, I tell them I need them to be brutally honest with me. I let them know that I look at every possible deal from the perspective of 3 years out. That means that if they buy and 3 years later call me to sell the house, they won’t hear then what they didn’t hear before they bought the house about why it could be a tough sell.

    That has been modified a bit for this market. I tell them to go out 5 years. Start with the 5-6% + it will cost them to sell. Now assume that we see a conservative 10% drop over the next 2 years. They need to see 15% appreciation somewhere in there just to break even.

    I sleep fine at night. I just don’t sell a lot of buyers right now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.



Housing News

If you follow the money at several major foreclosure mill firms, the abuses being discovered at various levels are astounding. One state is investigating,...

Housing News

MERS gets a big win as the Rhode Island Superior Court affirms their authority, calling the issue "conclusively resolved," citing the Supreme Court ruling.

Housing News

Could extended disposition timeline costs passed on to consumer? CoreLogic economists have analyzed the current state of the economy and weighed in.

Housing News

It is common to hear of banks foreclosing on the wrong address, but it is nearly unheard of that a purchased home is the...


The American Genius is a strong news voice in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering meaningful, concise insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture. We refuse to publish fluff, and our readers rely on us for inspiring action. Copyright © 2005-2022, The American Genius, LLC.