Kellum's Korner: Everyday peopleAnthony O. Kellumforeclosure, collections The voice on the other end of the phone was distraught and tearful. My borrower needed me to assist her in keeping her home out of foreclosure. "My husband lost his job," Mrs. X sobbed. "I don't want to lose my home, and the mortgage company is not working with me. Can you help me?" In the past, I would have tuned her out, passing her onto a junior loan officer or simply looking at her call as an intrusion on my day. This one call could turn into a deal that would require a lot of work and might not even pan out. But as a result of having a real-life situation hit me as well, I hear calls like these in a different way. In January 2005, my wife Doreen started getting really bad headaches, experiencing nausea and having trouble walking. When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor at only 33, I knew our lives were in for a change. Fortunately, Doreen's tumor was operable, and she went on to have a successful surgery. But while she recuperated, the carefully balanced balls I had been juggling began to fall. In my world, a successful broker is a crazily busy one. You field calls all day, deal with clients, agents and account executives, put out fires with your loan officers and processors and, all too often, family takes a backseat while you build your business. After my wife's surgery and during her recovery, my family life took center stage, as I'd go straight from work to visiting Doreen in the hospital to home, where my mother-in-law seemed to be raising the kids, instead of their mother and father. I gained an eye-opening appreciation for how much Doreen did, but without her handling our home life, things began to pile up. My responsibility had been to build the business and provide for the family while Doreen managed our household and all of our bills. One day, everything came to a head. Anyone who knows me can tell you I don't answer the phone at home - at all. After talking to everyone who needs a piece of my time for information or to close a deal, I don't even want to see the phone when I get home. When my mother-in-law informed me that the phone had been ringing nonstop, I decided to brave voicemail hell and figure out what was going on. The mailbox was filled with messages - all from creditors. I made a list of them and began calling to find out what was owed and make arrangements to pay. "What do you mean you don't handle the bills? Aren't you the man of the house?" one particularly nasty collector barked. Most of them were threatening - harassing, even. And it wasn't like I was trying to get out of paying. I had the money, but not the time to address the bills. Their insensitivity during this already trying time in my life compounded the stress I was succumbing to. In Michigan, the foreclosure rate leads the national average, according to a recent article in The Detroit News, so distressed calls are something we get a lot of. But when you pair the overall slump of the economy with lingering impacts of last year's major hurricanes, calls like these can be heard in any office in the nation. If you're anything like me, you wish you could help everyone - get the borrowers out of foreclosure, help lenders avoid taking a loss and put dollars in your own pocket to create a win-win-win situation, which isn't always possible. However, whether you can do that deal for your client or you want to tell him to call the guy at the office across town, you need to avoid being the detached voice on the other end of the line. So, the next time you want a lender to remove conditions for a borrower due to circumstances, or need an extension on a bill for one of your vendors because of a bad month, think about whether you've been as understanding to your borrowers as you'd like others to be to you. We're all going to be behind the eight ball at one time or another, and knowing that real life touches all of us will help prepare us for that day. Anthony O. Kellum is a past president of the Michigan Mortgage Brokers Association, as well as a speaker on a variety of topics regarding the mortgage industry. He may be reached at (248) 866-9292 or e-mail [email protected].
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