BLOG VIEW: The Horror! The Horror!

Written by Phil Hall
on June 01, 2009 No Comments
Categories : Blog View

you were at the movies this past weekend, there is a good chance that you caught a new film called ‘Drag Me to Hell.'[/b] If you aren't familiar with that film, you should be – it is a horror flick about a loan officer who opts to foreclose on a mortgage owned by a vengeful elderly woman, who responds to her financial plight by placing a demonic curse on the lender. Of course, there are two significant problems with the film's premise. First, the borrower seems to be using her mystical powers in a curious way. One might imagine that someone who can call up demonic forces might be able to tap into a mystical line of credit in order to keep the mortgage payments flowing. Second, and clearly more serious, is having the loan officer portrayed as a villain deserving of being the target of a demonic wrath. There is no shortage of problematic professions that immediately come to mind when considering movie villains: rogue cops, shady lawyers, crooked politicians, traitorous spies and deranged creative artists have been a staple of films for years. But the idea of having a residential loan officer in that sorry mix clearly sends a signal that the profession's cred has sailed too far off into very dangerous waters. Well, you may be saying, ‘Hey, it's only one movie.’ Yes, but it is also one too many. And even though ‘Drag Me to Hell’ isn't supposed to be taken very seriously, there is nothing funny in seeing the industry being put forth – again – as being the bad guys in the on-going housing crisis. This circles back to issues that I raised last year about the lack of an industry-wide and properly coordinated public relations campaign that shows the industry proactively addressing the ongoing crisis. To date, these efforts have been spotty and erratic. The industry-conceived HOPE NOW, which has done a great deal of fine work, barely registers a blip of attention with anyone outside of the industry. In April, HOPE NOW unveiled a new initiative to encourage homeowners at serious risk of losing their homes to work with counseling agencies certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That news received little attention beyond the industry's trade media. If that's not bad enough, the industry is getting the blame for part of the federal government's unsuccessful efforts to wrap a tourniquet around the bleeding crisis. Two weeks ago, CNN reported that the much-ballyhooed HOPE for Homeowners program – which was created with the idea of helping up to 400,000 borrowers avoid foreclosure – helped one family remain in its home during the program's first seven months. CNN pointed out that ‘most of the big lenders didn't offer the program’ – granted, it was a voluntary program that was not well designed. Nonetheless, the industry is pegged as not helping. I am not advocating that the industry put forth a skein of phony, feel-good press releases that are designed to spin public opinion. However, it is important to show that lenders are making a serious and well-coordinated effort to work with borrowers in a serious attempt to avoid foreclosure and ensure a degree of financial stability that benefits all parties in the current crisis – borrowers, lenders and, perhaps most importantly, communities that would suffer if a kudzu-worthy spread of foreclosed properties swept across neighborhoods. I suspect that ‘Drag Me to Hell,’ like most wacky horror movies, will be forgotten in very short time. But let's ensure that flick is just an aberration and that loan officers will not be seen as villains worthy of being scorned and hated. With all the problems facing today's industry, the very last thing we need is people cheering the idea of a loan officer going to hell. – Phil Hall, editor, [b][i]Secondary Marketing Executive[/i][/b]. [i] (Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to hallp@sme-online.co

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