Monday, April 26, 2010


I’ve had to do a bit of detective work recently, and all I can say is life sure would be a lot easier if banks would stop buying out each other.

It all began with a phone message from the title company that’s handling the title search and closing on our former residence. “I contacted your bank, Framingham Trust,” the woman said, “and there is no record that you ever paid off your mortgage.”

There was no question in my mind that we’d paid off our mortgage. In fact, we’d paid it off three years ahead of schedule, back in 1996. I still could clearly remember the day, mainly because my husband and I had gone out to dinner that evening to celebrate.

Somehow, however, I didn’t think the title company would accept my rave review of the Back Room Restaurant’s chicken tenders as proof that we’d paid off the mortgage. I needed solid proof, in writing, which I didn’t have. The bank had never sent us the promised paperwork to discharge the loan.

So I had no choice but to become a detective and track down the missing paperwork. After hours of research, I managed to find out that Framingham Trust had been bought out by Shawmut Bank, which had been bought out by Fleet Bank, which then had been bought out by Bank of America…or something like that. It made me wonder how the employees could remember where they were working from month to month.

“Good morning,” I imagined the employee answering the phone, “Framingh…no, I mean Shaw…, um Fleet?” (covering the phone) “Pssst! Hey, Lorrie! What bank are we this week?”

No wonder our paperwork was missing.

The way I figured it, Bank of America was the last bank to take over, so by the process of elimination, it should be the one that had our documents. I rushed over to the nearest branch…before the Bank of Brussels decided to take it over.

I was invited to take a seat at one of the desks, then the customer-service representative asked what she could do for me.

“Well,” I said, “I had a mortgage with Framingham Trust, and they were bought out by Shawmut, and…”

“Say no more!” she interrupted, smiling. “We are aware of your situation and are already working on tracking down your paperwork. If you don’t hear from us within the next five days, be sure to call us back.”

I was puzzled. “Who contacted you?”

“Some man,” she said. “He called this morning.”

I couldn’t think of any man, other than my husband, who would have contacted the bank about our paperwork. And I knew he hadn’t, mainly because when I’d left the house at noon, he was still in bed, snoring.

I contacted my real-estate agent, Walter, and asked if he’d made the call to the bank. He hadn’t. I called the title company and asked if they’d made the call. They hadn’t. My only conclusion was that the bank employees were clairvoyant.

So I decided to wait for five days as the bank employee had suggested, and see what happened.

Nothing happened, other than I wasted five precious days. I realized that the closing, which had been scheduled for April 19, wasn’t going to happen…not without the proof that we’d paid off the mortgage. Needless to say, the buyer of our house was less than pleased…and he told me so in no uncertain terms.

“The worst-case scenario,” my real-estate agent told me when I called to whine about the situation, “is that the bank will make you pay those last three years of your mortgage, which they probably think you still owe…with interest. Or you’ll have to hire a lawyer to handle things…which could take months.”

I didn’t like either option, nor could I afford either option. I called the bank.

“It’s the funniest thing!” the employee said. “Another person had the same problem as yours on the same day! What are the odds? That’s why I thought you were already being taken care of, when actually we don’t know anything about you or your problem!”

Leave it to me to pick the same day as some other poor schmuck who had a similar problem. So she took down all of the information and said she’d get back to me.

My husband and I spent the next few days wondering what we’d do if we had to face the worst-case scenarios that Walter had described and actually need to cough up a bundle of money to get our paperwork.

“Well, seeing it would all be the bank’s fault, not ours,” my husband said, “I suppose we could always rob it.”

Leave it to him to make jokes during a desperate situation. “You could never run fast enough to make the getaway,” I said.

“Oh, I’d be out waiting in the getaway car,” he said. “I’d send you in there to do all the robbing.”

Just as I was contemplating what prison would be like, the phone rang. It was the title company. The bank had just faxed our paperwork to them. Everything was all set. The closing was scheduled for the next Tuesday at 9 in the morning.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

That’s when my husband informed me he had a blood test scheduled for 8:30 that morning.

Even if I have to use a darning needle to draw his blood myself and then express mail it to the doctor, he is going to make it to that closing.