Lee Rotbart

Archive for the ‘Getting the mortgage’ Category

Losing momentum

In Getting the mortgage on July 30, 2010 at 11:42 am

My usually optimistic, enthusiastic, nature is taking a battering. There are only so many ups and downs one person can go through before losing the ability to swing back. Like a pendulum slowing down my highs just aren’t reaching the heights they were.

The momentum which this project had a few weeks ago is slowing down like a bunny without a Duracell.

Two weeks ago you read about how I was struggling to focus on the next thing because I was so excited about everything else; and now I’m in the complete opposite place. I can’t focus on anything but the next thing, as I’m so unconvinced that anything else is actually going to happen.

I sigh and I answer the emails, and I pick up the phone and I respond to the questions; yet I do all of those things with almost zero enthusiasm and, to those of you that know me, you know that unenthusiastic is one thing I am not. The image that I have of myself is of a go-getter, a vibrant, slightly OTT, chatty activist. The image I have of Danny is of a laid back, occasionally cynical, occasionally excitable, practical, manager of things. It seems we have swapped places.

Weeks of moaning about how I am doing all the work, has resulted in him taking on all the work. He has spent the last 3 days phoning lenders, having conversations with banks, brokers and solicitors; while I have taken on the less than stressful task of staying in touch with the current proprietors in order to ensure that they don’t sell the guesthouse to anyone else. I genuinely believed that this swapping of responsibilities would help me just get on with my day job, whereas in fact I just feel less engaged, less bothered, and more accepting of the fact that this might not happen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed, I just think that 2 weeks of being battered by lenders has resulted in my inevitable surrender.

I’ve stopped leaping up and down everytime someone new starts following us on Twitter, I’ve stopped checking my blog statistics every 10 minutes, and I’m not even reading Cornwall related news because I genuinely feel like we’re never going to get there. The other day I even entertained a recruitment consultant’s offer of a relatively interesting (industry related) job that he phoned me about, going so far as to send him my CV and a cover letter.

I’m not talking about sausages, room decoration, turnover, business ideas, and dog breeds that might be acceptable for a guesthouse. I’m like a tired fish who’s stopped swimming down the river, and is just drifting with the current. Everyone – friends, family, friends of family – are being incredibly supportive. I’ve had offers of money, business expertise, time and skills from so many people, all of which I am really grateful for; however I can’t help but just give them the same line “Thanks for your offer, but I’m not feeling particularly positive that it’s going to happen at the moment, so I’ll give you a call if anything changes”.

I genuinely hope something does change, and I hope that Danny has enough enthusiasm to get us both through the next week or so of yet more mortgage conversations; and I hope even more that the little spark deep inside me that still thinks we cannot lose this opportunity remains alight for just a little bit longer.

The mortgage maze

In Getting the mortgage on July 28, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I feel like a double glazing salesman, phoning around trying to get someone to bite using the same script that has been rejected by hundreds of people beforehand. With each new phone call there is renewed hope, as well as newly identified obstacles. We get so far down the line with one lender, and then something comes to light that means we can’t go forward.

There are the highly suspect ‘market trader” commercial mortgage brokers saying “We don’t mind if you have been bankrupt before and have CCJs coming out your ears, we’ll find you money” – sentiments we are becoming ever more suspicious of.

There are the ‘over-realistic’ brokers saying “You don’t have a hope in hell, we can’t help you unless you have more money than sense at your disposal”.

Then there’s our ‘I cannot say enough good things about him’ mortgage broker who is bending over backwards and exploring every possible avenue to help us get this money, as he truly believes in us, and in what we are doing.

We are currently mid-discussions with 3 separate organisations and everything is so slow, and so painful and I’m bored of hearing myself say, “if only ******* hadn’t employed that surveyor”, because it’s irrelevant drivel which is no good to man nor beast.

I don’t believe in fate, but somewhere along the line surely we have to know when to fold our hand. Kenny Rogers once (tunefully) gave us some advice about knowing when to hold ’em and fold ’em (The Gambler, 1978):

Should we be folding? Or is this just something we have to get over, something we’ll laugh about in a few months time? I truly don’t know. I know that even though I’m telling people there is no more hope I’m secretly thinking about the last conversation I had with *******; that while I’m looking at other properties I’m still coming back to this blog, and thinking about this (and only this) near perfect opportunity.

Surely there can’t be many properties in the middle of one of the most beautiful, and popular, areas of the UK that:

  1. Have planning permission
  2. Have a search engine friendly website on a sought after web address
  3. Have the perfect number of bedrooms – not too many to be unmanageable for novices, but not so few that there’s no potential to earn a decent wage
  4. Have phenomenal views from 4 out of the 6 bedrooms
  5. Have all fixtures, fittings, linen and furniture in place (and not charging any extra for them)
  6. Have a live-in maid who is prepared to stay on, who knows the ropes and will be vital in ensuring the guesthouse runs like clockwork while we’re still finding our feet

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a great opportunity isn’t it? Add to that the fact that we have significant money behind us, business brains, enthusiasm and passion for the task – it just doesn’t add up.

Two years ago, when this recession hit, my only concern was that I might not get a pay rise at my current job (just for clarification, I was actually right about that). Now it’s so much bigger. Those newspaper headlines that, like the war in Afghanistan, were only relevant to “other people” now mean something to me. Headlines that screamed ‘Banks not lending’, ‘Financial crisis makes 80% mortgages a thing of the past’, and ‘No more credit’ are now my reality.

It just goes to show that you never know what’s round the corner. One man’s relevant headline is another man’s chip paper. After all, there is probably someone somewhere that cares about Wayne Rooney’s love life.

In her heyday Margaret Thatcher once remarked:

Small firms can be a seed-bed for new ideas and a testing ground for new ways of working. They often lead the way in new products and new services. They put the customer first. They have to, to survive in a fast-changing world.

Maybe I should write to her…

Notes to a lender

In Getting the mortgage on July 26, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Dear Mr/Ms Mortgage Lender,

I hope you’re well and are having a good start to the week.

I realise that you don’t know me and letters of this type are rare, however, after 2 weeks of speaking to you through a third party I thought I’d write to you direct and explain a few things that you may not be aware of.

  1. My boyfriend and I are conscientious, practical people. We do not take risks lightly, have never got into any unmanageable debt, have never committed a crime, and have not behaved irresponsibly in years.
  2. We’ve worked steadily for over 13 years. We have never been fired from a job or received a bad reference (I don’t think I was very good at washing hair when I worked in a local salon in 1990, but I believe, even then, they found me pleasant and honest).
  3. We both have Masters degrees. Granted, I can’t remember what Danny’s was in and even he struggles to remember the title of his thesis, nonetheless we have the certificates to prove it.
  4. I believe we have met your requirements in order to lend us the amount of money we requested.
  5. St Ives is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK.
  6. Porthminster View guesthouse has the most stunning views of St Ives Harbour and Porthminser Beach; people are queuing up to stay there yet we only need a 38% occupancy rate to break even.

I realise that to you we are Mortage Application No. 770-992-1354A, yet we are people behind that number: We are genuine, pleasant-to-be-around, enthusiastic people who are truly passionate about this opportunity.

We’d love to cook you a breakfast and tell you about it. We’d tell you how when you’re walking along the beach next to the ocean you feel liberated, completely free from the shackles of modern day living; we’d tell you how, when the sun sets over the water, you feel closer to the creator of the universe (whomever you believe that to be); we’d take you through St Ives village where, when you’re part of the community, everyone knows who you are and says hello.

We’d love to tell you about our ideas, from providing walkers’ teas and packed lunches, through to giving guests a ride to the Minack Theatre. We’ll tell you what we’re planning to do for breakfast and how we want to decorate the rooms. We’ll show you where my new niece will play on the beach and where our family will stay. We’ll point out where Danny is going to grow his tomato plants, and where we’ll put the hanging baskets. We’ll talk you through the website design and our marketing plan, and show you our revenue projections for the next 5 years.

Maybe, after all that, you’ll wonder why you turned down our mortgage application. Why you felt we were such a huge risk to your giant empire; an empire where your middle managers earn more in bonuses than we’re asking to borrow, and where people work more hours than there are in the week to earn invisible money for invisible investors, in order to fund invisible credit. Or maybe you won’t, maybe we’ll just be Mortage Application No. 770-992-1354A, dealt with, forgotten, and consigned to the reject pile.

I’m aware that this letter is relatively unusual and maybe you’ll laugh, maybe this will be an office joke for a while. At the end of the day, however, we’re just two people hoping for a break, a chance, an opportunity to live a little life, in a little seaside town, for just a little while.

Thank you for your time.


Lee Rotbart

Plan A: The revival

In Getting the mortgage on July 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

This blog is dedicated to our mortgage broker who, in my excitement and impatience, received a text from me at 9.30 last night. He is yet to respond and I don’t blame him. Dear Nick: I apologise for my impatience and I hope you’re having a good weekend.

The last 24 hours have been a roller-coaster.

Now I’m not new to swinging past balance on a regular basis, feeling high as a kite one minute, and experiencing a rock bottom low the next; yet, even for me, the last day or two have been ever so slightly insane.

I last left you in pursuit of Plan B; a plan that seemed less viable the more steps we took in its direction. What we originally thought was a safe and robust, if somewhat expensive, option was quickly looking like a mirage in the desert: Like a promise built on quicksand and wrapped in a bow. The more we discussed our options the fewer there seemed to be, and by 8 o’clock last night we were online looking at guesthouses across Cornwall and contemplating getting the overnight sleeper to St Ives. Not, as you might imagine, to beg the current proprietors of Porthminster View to reduce the price, but to look at a less exciting B&B option around the corner.

Spirits were low and my conversation had degenerated into phrases like ‘I was sure this was the universe’s plan for us’, ‘Are we ever *big sigh* going to escape London?’, and other useful epithets. Thoughts about going back to work on Monday without this on my horizon sunk me into a further low, and all the sentiments I’d been expressing to friends, about how if this doesn’t work out then it wasn’t meant to be, were quickly forgotten. Doom and gloom turned into bemoaning our fate, and sentences starting ‘if only’ were appearing far too frequently.

It occurred to me, at that point, how quickly these plans have taken over my life. Considering it was less than 6 weeks ago that we stayed in the aforementioned guesthouse, it has quickly become all we talk about, all we talk about to others about, all people ask us about. And my pride, dear god, my pride is killing me. I don’t want to admit that it hasn’t worked, I don’t want to tell all those people that we’re not leaving London after all, I don’t want to answer the questions that will inevitably follow, or deal with the sympathetic head tilts and cliched platitudes about how something better will come along. I want to stamp my foot, eat a bucket of ice cream, and talk about the unfairness of life. My friends – self-pity and self-righteousness  – will no doubt come to this party, but I suspect anyone else I invite will politely decline.

After an almost entire pot of coffee, yet more back of the envelope sums, and mainly irrelevant internet surfing we decided to phone the current proprietors to break the news.

It was during this conversation that new hope was born. Like the amateur property people we are, we’d made an assumption about a particular piece of legislation, this supposition then became the basis which dictated how we decided to proceed… and, would you believe it, we were wrong. Not only a little bit wrong, but very very very wrong. So wrong in fact that it may be we could have had the mortgage offer sorted yesterday.

Someone I respect very much once said to me that he ‘knows enough [about a particular subject] to be dangerous’, and I suspect that’s the trap my boyfriend and I are just clambering out of.

Now, frustratingly, it’s the weekend and very little can be done about the information we’ve discovered, so I don’t want to go into too much detail or start castigating Plan B as we may still have to use it. However, we now have something we did not have at 8 o’clock last night and that is hope and, very possibly, a hernia.

And it was all going so well…

In Getting the mortgage on July 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I just found out that we’ve been turned down for the mortgage we were trying to get. This is not the worst thing that could have happened as we have a Plan B; however it is a bit of a low moment and we hadn’t really had one of those yet.

In all honesty it was going quite smoothly, and we had talked ourselves (or at least I had) into a place where we couldn’t really envisage it going wrong. Yet things do, life happens and I have to accept it and deal with the situation at hand, rather than ranting and raving about the unfairness of it all.

My instinct is to not blog about this because writing about it makes it real… but I couldn’t do that to you could I? I can’t just give you all the best bits without communicating the absolute reality of dealing with mortgage lenders and the housing market within a recession; and it’s hardly a diary of events if I skip over the obstacles.

I wish, more than anything, that this had all gone through as planned, but ‘wish’ is probably one of the most over-used, and pointless words in the English language.


1. to want; desire; long for (usually fol. by an infinitive or a clause): I wish to travel. I wish that it were morning. 2. to desire (a person or thing) to be (as specified): to wish the problem settled. 3. to entertain wishes, favorably or otherwise, for: to wish someone well; to wish someone ill. 4. to bid, as in greeting or leave-taking: to wish someone a good morning. 5. to request or charge: I wish him to come.

I bracket the sentiment along with others like ‘deserve’ and ‘fair’ – words that imply the user wants to simply be exempt from life / hard times and is just in it for the smooth ride. Wish is nonacceptance, wish is fantasy, and wish is not going to get me off the floor and on the phone to call the Plan B which has been waiting quietly in the wings knowing that I would eventually have to turn to it.

In many ways this is not an awful development. The current, and recently scuppered, Plan A saved us a bit of money, however it wasn’t the most appropriate mortgage package. Plan B is much more straightforward.

Plan A might say “I’ll show you this gorgeous plate of food but please don’t ask me how many E numbers and genetically modified products are in it”; while Plan B might say “Here’s your dinner, it’s meat and two veg, I hope you like it”. There are no vegetarian options, and if they don’t eat meat we will start planting tomatoes.

All in all, I’ve pretty much talked myself into the fact that this isn’t the end of the world, even if it is the end of this particular road.

OK… so £1,300 and 2 weeks later we are in reverse; still, as per my reference in My Perfect Guesthouse, even Edison himself didn’t invent the lightbulb first time round.