I am not sure what happened to the idea of customer service in the home mortgage industry.

There are a few lenders that I love to work with and can highly recommend. But their numbers are shrinking, and some of the companies I used to work with no longer do a good job.

As a real estate agent, I recommend certain lenders to my homebuyer clients because I know they will get the very best service. In an overcrowded marketplace, service is all that matters.

Sure, the whole lending game has changed and standards are a bit tighter than they were a few years back. But I don’t see that as a reason to just throw common courtesy into the trash.

There are a few lenders who do such a bad job that, when offers come in from buyers they have preapproved, I encourage sellers I represent to make a counteroffer asking the buyer to seek financing from another lender. I give my sellers real-life examples of what it is like to work with the lender and let them decide if they want to counter. They usually take my advice.

When I get an offer on one of my listings, one of the first things I do is call the number on the buyer’s preapproval letter. If I cannot even reach the lender, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the preapproval letter.

Most people would be surprised by how often there is a wrong telephone number on a preapproval letter. It’s one of the first things I check when a preapproved buyer contacts me.

Delayed closings due to problems with loans are all too common. I recently had one where two weeks before the closing, the lender told me the loan was almost ready. In truth, they more or less started the process the week after the loan was supposed to close. They had the appraisal and the buyer’s name before the scheduled closing, but that was about it.

Communicating directly with loan processors is becoming more and more common. I’m fine with that when I am representing the buyer. But when I’m representing the seller, I don’t expect to have to manage the processing of the loan. In all honesty, I would rather not have to talk with anyone about the loan.

Losing all of the buyer’s paperwork occurs more often than I would expect. It could be that when the loan processor goes on vacation he or she brings the paperwork along, too.

Loan processors seem to take a lot of vacations. Sometimes a lender has only one loan processor working for them, and when they go on vacation everything stops.

To make matters worse, they don’t tell us ahead of time they are going on vacation. Often we find out after the fact when the loan is delayed another week. Sometimes no one else working on the loan knows the processor is away, so they just keep referring callers to their voice-mail box until it fills up.

I remember a time when loan officers and processors had bosses. That no longer seems to be the case.

We can ask to talk to a supervisor but when we call no one can find such a person. I just sent an old-school snail mail letter to a customer service department in South Dakota in an attempt to communicate my concerns about the job the company was doing processing a loan. I don’t expect a response, but I believe a letter is healthier than letting the anger fester and grow in the deepest, darkest part of me.

The last time I actually reached a lender’s customer service department they told me that the loan officer was doing a great job. That was news to me and to my clients.

This past spring I terrorized a local credit union by going to their offices and sitting in the lobby until someone would talk to me about a loan that was being processed. It is easy to hide behind electronic communication. Can you imagine me in your lobby? Having to deal with me in person?

I’ll admit there have been a few times this past year that lenders have made me cry. I am not making this up.

Recently, it fell upon me to  deal with a lender-required form that no one from the homeowners association could fill out correctly. Numerous attempts were made. I tried filling it out a couple of different ways and asking the loan processor to choose one. I promised to have whichever one she preferred signed.

The underwriter had the correct information. But this wasn’t about having the correct information. It was about filling the form out correctly. Honestly, I have never seen such a poorly designed form.

When closings are delayed because of problems getting the loan approved there doesn’t appear to be any kind of a penalty for the lender. Delayed closings can cost buyers and sellers money and affect other real estate transactions. People miss time from work and experience stress. And, of course, I just love it when I have to wait an extra month to get paid because of some loan processor who is on vacation.

Mortgage companies and banks apparently have all kinds of valid reasons for delays in loan approvals. But to the rest of us, they sound like excuses and incompetence.

Please don’t make me have to come to your office.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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