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
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]