Wells Fargo Makes Family Submit Essay With Mortgage App

Before reviewing this woman’s mortgage application, Wells Fargo asked her to write a “motivational letter” to explain why they were moving, with the essay to include reflections on her plans to “increase/decrease” her family or property size and her commuting distance to work. Besides being rude, the request could also be against the law, something the woman picked up on, because she is a lawyer.

Wells Fargo’s Odd Mortgage Essay Question [Bucks Blog]

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  1. dragonfire81 says:

    Aside from the fact the request is complete bullshit and probably illegal, I would assume they are trying to get this from the family as a risk assessment measure of some kind.

    When did banking get so fucked up anyway?

    • smo0 says:

      Deregulation.

      • robhossal says:

        Amen. And not only have a bank’s customers gotten screwed by deregulation, but every taxpayer in America. I’ve never used the services of any of the banks that failed epically in 2008-09, but I sure do enjoy the recession they left behind.

    • sonneillon says:

      I am not sure if there is a law that directly outlaws essay writing or justifying a loan. Mostly because nobody asks for it. One of those odd just because nobody does it doesn’t mean it is illegal just weird. Maybe it’s against the reduction in paperwork act, but I’m not sure that applies here.

  2. dolemite says:

    One day I’ll be debt free, and companies will have to send me motivational letters for my business, and I hope a majority of people will be right there with me.

    “Gee…I dunno, you guys were pretty crappy back in 2009…raising rates and trashing the economy…tell me again why I should give you my business? And put a bit more groveling into your correspondence.”

    • Putaro says:

      That’s one of my little fantasies as well. I’m hoping to grow our business big enough that when I tell Amex or Chase or Citibank or BofA to go pound sand it really hurts.

    • Danny Boy says:

      I’m with you Dolemite!! They’ll have to beg for my business!!

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      LOL…dude, I do that NOW. It’s hilarious.

    • MaxPower says:

      Oh, it’s a nice feeling.

      “Would you like a low interest sham credit card with fake rewards and a checking / savings account with fees higher than your interest?”

      “I have USAA so please leave me alone.”

  3. womynist says:

    WF’s request for the letter was despicable, but I think it’s hilarious that the woman they decided to pick on is a lawyer! That’ll show ‘em!

    • DoubleBaconVeggieBurger says:

      with a sense of humor, no less. I like the Brian Westbrook-themed room comments.

    • craptastico says:

      i don’t see what’s so despicable about it. stupid? absolutely. unnecessary? definitely. but it’s not like it was offensive.

  4. c!tizen says:

    Dear Wells Fargo,

    The reason I’m moving is because I’ll soon be getting a rather large lump sum settlement from your financial institution. Seeing as I’ll have all sorts of cash soon I figured why not upgrade the diggs. Thank you for your generosity… or is that your stupidity? Either way, thanks!

    -Soon-to-own-a-bigger-home

  5. c!tizen says:

    Ok, I have to ask… what’s with the picture of the cat’s ass? I never say anything about the photos used in the stories on this site, unless it’s really funny, but come on… what does a cat’s asshole have to do with any story ever written on this site?

    • womynist says:

      I thought it was the cat saying “kiss my ass, Wells Fargo”.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Over at customerssuck.com they sometimes say that when a customer gets pissed they have “cat-butt face”.

      Perhaps Consumerist is saying that Wells Fargo has cat-butt face. Or perhaps I’m really stretching to explain why there is a photo of a cat’s butt.

  6. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    The bank also asked them to include their commuting distances to work

    WTF? How is this question anything other than stupid? Lots of people have long commutes, how does this matter?

    Ms. Falcão said she and her husband both have good credit scores, at least in the high 700s, and they have no debt. They were also making a down payment of more than 60 percent. (The couple took out a temporary line of credit on their townhouse, essentially as a bridge loan, to pay for the down payment until that sale closed, four days after the purchase of their new home).

    ……

    • sonneillon says:

      Could be because there is a tax advantage if you move closer to your job. That’s the best devils advocate I can play and I admit it’s pretty weak.

      • jessjj347 says:

        Glen Mills is 30 minutes from Philly. I would guess they commute there. They may also work in West Chester or Delaware, which is much closer, but either way why does the bank need to know?

        Are they worried the woman will move to Delaware? Who would ever want to do that lol?

    • madanthony says:

      They probably figure that if it’s too far away, it’s a good sign that the person is buying it as an investment property and not as a primary residence, and investment properties usually are riskier and get a higher interest rate.

  7. Buckus says:

    Apparently FHA loans require something like this. I had to do one and my colleague had to do one, both FHA-guaranteed loans. It’s mostly BS, though, not that you have to put more than a few minutes thought into it. Something like “I want to move because I feel like it” pretty much is all you need.

    • tbax929 says:

      I had to write a couple of letters of explanation for some discrepancies on my credit report when I did my VA loan, so this doesn’t sound that strange to me.

    • cvt2010 says:

      We didn’t have to do anything for our FHA loan last fall. But maybe our realtor or banker had to make a similar statement for us and we just didn’t hear about it?

    • runswithscissors says:

      Read the article.

      They are debt free, double-income earners (she’s a lawyer) with credit scores in the 700-800 range and they were paying 60% down on the new home CASH.

      This was no FHA loan.

  8. Garbanzo says:

    We were asked to write a similar letter when we bought a house before selling the old one. However, the request was verbal, from our mortgage broker, so there’s no paper trail I could look up. I don’t know if it was a condition of getting the loan or if the broker just included it to strengthen the package. It was very much explained to us as being to establish that we intended to use the new property as our primary residence, so we were asked to write why we would prefer to live in the new house.

    Perhaps you just need to give some reason why you want to move, which may or may not involve changes in family size or commuting distance. The bank wouldn’t be deciding on the basis of your family plans. They’d be deciding on the basis of whether or not you have any convincing reasons showing that you plan to move.

    We said we wanted a bigger house (true) and wanted to be closer to my in laws (neither strictly true or false). We left out the bit about wanting to be further above sea level for when the ice caps melt.

    • Peacock (Now In Extra Crispy) says:

      You should have to explain, and convincingly no less, why you want to move to a behemoth no count robber baron bank like Wells Fargo? Nunh-uh.

      Wells Fargo blew up a 30 relationship with me over their MasterCard when they jacked their rates on all of their customers, including their very best ones (like me). I’m talking joint checking, online bill/pay, joint savings, individual checking, individual savings, Money Market, all of it. The only thing I didn’t move was my mortgage because, frankly, the deal is too good.

      Wells Fargo Must Die.

    • CreekDog says:

      Read the Fair Housing Act or the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

      And stop apologizing for the lending institution. It’s embarrassing.

  9. smo0 says:

    “Last month, I wrote an article that found that some lenders were taking a harder look at prospective mortgage borrowers who were out on temporary leave, including parents at home with a newborn. Shortly after the article ran, the housing department said it would investigate the lending practices of certain mortgage lenders to see if any would-be borrowers had been illegally denied a mortgage because they were pregnant or on short-term disability.”

    It seems that the housing department is going to have a lot on their plate…. it’s getting ridiculous out there, guys.

  10. JMILLER says:

    Here would be my paper:

    “It’s none of your fucking business.”

    • Tom Foolery says:

      Unfortunately, we will have to deny your loan application because we are unable to confirm that you will be residing in the property, and are not attempting to scam a lower interest rate for a rental property. Thank you and have a nice day.

  11. BannedInBrittan says:

    The bank is most likely worried about the OP buying a new home and dumping their existing home or they’re trying to justify financing the home as another primary residence and the bank is looking for information to reinforce that the property is going to be the new primary residence.

    For instance: if the commute to work is 70 mi each way I think the bank would have a hard time calling it a primary residence.

    • smo0 says:

      Really? People who live out here in Vegas who commute to stateline for their jobs would have to disagree with you.

      • Verdant Pine Trees says:

        Correct. That’s not so odd for millions of people in LA, Chicagoland, New England, or New York, either.

        Do you have any idea how many people commute from Riverside or Rancho Cucamonga to downtown LA or even further (think Century City, Santa Monica, etc)? Look it up on Google maps – it’s about 55-60 miles away. I worked with a woman who did the slog from San Bernadino to Pasadena every morning. People started moving to Palmdale (egads) because housing cost so much.

    • friendlynerd says:

      Dumping their existing home….you mean the one that’s paid for in full? That one?

      • BannedInBrittan says:

        Ha didn’t RT*A did ya?
        The couple took out a temporary line of credit on their townhouse, essentially as a bridge loan, to pay for the down payment until that sale closed, four days after the purchase of their new home.

        They, after purchasing the new home, could dump the townhome with it’s bridge/HELOC loan.

        • runswithscissors says:

          What percent of the townhome value do you think they got a line of credit for, 90%? 100%? That doesn’t happen.

          Even if they got a Line of Credit worth 50% of the townhouse value, they’d then be walking away from the other 50% of the townhouse value they own.

          Your accusation doesn’t make sense and is very far-fetched, with no evidence for it and a lot of evidence against it.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Here in the DC area, I work with people who live in WV, PA, Orange VA, all driving over 70 miles. DC area is an expensive (still) place to live, so people live far out to afford a decent house for their family.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      There are people with commutes of THOUSANDS of miles. There’s a woman who works at my company who has to commute via airplane.

      Granted, that’s a pretty extreme example but long-ass commutes aren’t all that rare.

  12. UltimateOutsider says:

    It is lame (and as reported, perhaps illegal) that Wells required the essay, but the one she delivered was more than a tad douchey. (And she’s obviously so proud how ‘clever’ it was.)

    Was Wells Fargo the only bank they could get a loan from? Why go through with it- after filing an official complaint against them no less?

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      RTFO: that was not the letter she sent to the bank.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Douchy? It was brilliant!

      “And several bathrooms, because we like to pee. “

      WF is lucky she didn’t staple it to the first page of a lawsuit.

    • Bob says:

      You know, I wonder what was in the essay that Wells Fargo had to write to the government to get the bailout money? They didn’t have to write one! Maybe I should write my Congress-critters to have Wells Fargo and OnlyBank (BoA) grilled to find out why they are acting like this and pull all of the government money out of them (if they have any left) immediately.

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      No, I think it’s douchey that the bank asked them if they were going to have any children. None of their business. What was their business was their creditworthiness, and the buyers had plenty of proof they had it.

    • Skeptic says:

      Of course, everyone agrees that anything connected with a girl, woman or (especially) a woman’s genitalia is disgusting. Hence “sissy,” “douchey,” and the wonderful American tradition of male coaches calling their male team members “ladies” to let them know just how pathetic they are.

      We don’t accept “kike” or “jewed down” anymore, and Dr. Laura got her comeuppance lately for failing to understand the pain associated with a white person using the N-word. When are we going to stop tolerating language that puts down women for being female?

      • Traveshamockery says:

        Of course, everyone agrees that anything connected with poop or pee (all naturally occurring processes) is disgusting. Hence “butthead”, “dick”, and the wonderful American tradition of people calling others “assholes” to let them know just how pathetic they are.

        We don’t accept “kike” or “jewed down” anymore, and Dr. Laura got her comeuppance lately for failing to understand the pain associated with a white person using the N-word. When are we going to stop tolerating language that puts down people for pooping?

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Her letter was fantastic!

  13. Bob Lu says:

    Legal issue aside, how is this rude or even generally bad?

    We always complain about big banks don’t see people as people but as numbers. In this case wasn’t WF actually attempting to see people as real people, with motivation, was trying to take financial responsibility and working with the lender on their debt issue?

    • JMILLER says:

      Because the questions have nothing to do with their ability to pay back the loan. Their family status is really none of their business. Their future plans aren’t their concern. Do you not see a problem with the possibility of her saying we do not have any plans to have children, then 3 years later she ends up pregnant, and the bank charges her with fraud? The questions are inappropriate, none of their business AND illegal.
      I don’t want a bank to treat people as friends. I want them to make business decisions based on solid facts that determine whether the loan will be paid back. The 50% down, high credit scores, low DTI ratios are what I care about, not why she wants a house with x number of square feet.

    • Shadowfax says:

      Yes, I want banks to consider their customers as people. I consider everyone on this board “people” but I’m not asking you guys if you or your spouse is knocked up yet, or if plans are in the works to make that happen. You can consider your customers to be people without asking them invasive (and illegal) questions.

    • peebozi says:

      what if, after the loan’s approved, the bank determines it takes her 15 minutes to commute to work? they can sue her in federal court for providing untruthful information on her application papers.

      if they think they can profit $1 from this tactic then it’s their FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY to pursue that $1 for their shareholders.

      seems like she opened herself, and her husband, to a LOT of, what they like to call in the banking sector, ” financial risk” for no financial gain.

    • jessjj347 says:

      I would also like to add that they are not treating them as “people” if this information has to go in some file in storage. If the banker asked the questions in conversation it would be different, but to keep an official documented record is different. It is then the document itself that is important, and not the person.

      I think of it as the same as an HR document for example. It’s not necessarily the information in the document that’s the most important to the HR worker. It’s the fact that it’s signed and recorded that’s the most important, i.e., the information is not original, it’s just a template that has been signed if that makes sense.

  14. mac-phisto says:

    i think the mortgage on the townhome for the down payment is what triggered the need for a letter. think about it: borrower has a recent mortgage on one property & is applying for a new mortgage on a different property as the primary residence? if i were reviewing that loan i’d want some more info as well.

    i don’t think the intention here is to violate the fair housing act, but i could see how an untrained loan officer might misstate the objectives of the letter. it’s not to find out how many kids you have – it’s to determine if you’re trying to commit mortgage fraud. the underwriter could just have easily flagged the application as such & sent them a denial.

    • frank64 says:

      I think your are right. Second homes get a higher rate and they were just trying to nip the question in the bud.

  15. Ladybird says:

    What the hell? I never ceased to be amazed by what companies will ask people, knowing damn good and well it can/may be interpreted as illegal. The fact that these questions were posed to a civil rights attorney makes this even more weird.

    • Tom Foolery says:

      The only potentially illegal question is the one about family size, because that’s a protected status under the Fair Housing Act, but the phrasing or intent may get around that. I can see the potential for some red flags here that an underwriter would want to clarify, though. Taking out a HELOC on one property right before you buy another, when the other is supposed to be your new primary residence, is kind of suspicious– especially if it’s further away from your job, larger (or smaller) by a lot than your current residence, or otherwise looks like you’re trying to scam a lower interest rate on a property you plan to rent.

  16. mortgagejake says:

    Welcome to the world of lending these days. Letters are a common part of every loan nowadays. And, if it was an FHA loan, either one, they will want a letter explaining that they are moving to a bigger space for a bigger family, or that the move makes sense because they will be out of distance for a commute. This is not unheard of, nor is it illegal.

    • Bob says:

      Its all fun until someone is rejected for a loan solely because of the letter. And don’t give me that “it wasn’t criminal intent” crap. All I have to say to the judge that I should’ve known that action was illegal but I did not have any criminal intent and he/she will let me go scot-free?!?!?! I don’t think so. WF shouldn’t get a bye on this one because they should have known asking about the family situation is potentially illegal. If the lender is not supposed to use your family situation against you in the loan decision why ask the question in the first place?????

  17. dr_drift says:

    The letter she wrote was awesome. BTW, is there a sweeter name out there than Kemuel Ronis?

    “I’m Kemuel Ronis. I’ve come here to kill you.”

  18. ospreyguy says:

    I am a mortgage underwriter and have been for about 10 years. Every explanation they are asking for makes sense. I understand why they want to know but due to the FHLA I would never ask for future family plans. Current property disposition (what are you doing with your current house?) yes. Why do you commute so far? (we say 150 miles one way is a rule of thumb). Why are you purchasing a smaller house than the one you have now?

    So let’s sum up.

    You have this nice big house that is 5 miles from your job. You are buying a new house that is smaller of less value and is 120 miles away. And you are keeping that nice big house while and plan on renting it? Hmmm… That my friend is a red flag for fraudulent activity of occupancy.

    The family thing makes sense and was probably some stupid underwriters attempt to be conservative.

    If you don’t know what your talking about shut the hell up. WF is still in business for a reason. Countrywide is not. I work(ed) for neither and we also are still running strong.

    • JMILLER says:

      Then ask the question, and write it down. Just because you want to know something does not mean you can ask it. Make a decision based on empirical evidence. If you THINK there was a red-flag for fraud it would be much easier to ask the question as to why, and not ask how many kids they plan on having, or why they are moving where they are.
      Having left the mortgage business because of the slimy scum who are in it, I can say it is not only illegal, but unprofessional.

    • Skeptic says:

      Running strong thanks to my tax money??

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      If they suspect that the home might be used as a rental, rather than as a primary home, they should ask that specific question. The idea of being asked to write an essay as part of a mortgage application is obnoxious.

  19. u1itn0w2day says:

    I don’t know what’s worse that the system wants to put a numerical value on your financial credibility or evaluate your writing skills in the form of an essay. And driving distanceo-pffttt.

    Banking should just be a business making simple basic business decision-to loan or not to loan. If they don’t loan period they don’t make money. If the borrower doesn’t pay back they loose money in their credit rating and buying power. It’s a simple business decision a not application for someone’s first born or a criminal trial. It’s a businesss. Most businesses cannot afford to turn every business decision into a Steven Speilberg production. You loose or make money it’s simply business and not your status in life.

  20. SsCcOoTt says:

    I’m currently in the process of getting a mortgage with BOA, and was asked to write a similar letter (# 8 below) .
    —————-
    From:
    Date: *
    Subject: *
    To: *

    I received your agreement of sale. I will need the following items in order to get the process started:

    1) A credit or debit card for the appraisal fee of $440.00
    2) A copy of your last two years W-2’s
    3) A copy of ONE MONTH of your most recent pay stubs
    4) A copy of the last TWO MONTHS of your bank statements (all pages) for **** and ****. If using a computer printout or bank printout it must contain your full name, account number and name of the bank.
    5) A copy of both of your social security cards.
    6) A letter of explanation for a recent inquiry on your credit report by ****. Please see the attached example letter. All letters must be signed and dated.
    7) A copy of your Real Estate tax bills and homeowner’s insurance bill for your current home.
    8) A letter addressed to, “To whom it may concern”, on why you are moving and what your plans are for your current home.

    If you have any questions or want to set up a meeting please call me.

    Thank you,

  21. ninabi says:

    We’re closing on our house this week and while there was no essay, there were plenty of trick questions and silly requests right up until now.

    I got to the point where I felt like the loan officers were pranking us. “Let’s see how they’ll react if we ask them to fax us another copy of their drivers’ licenses AGAIN this week because last time *snicker* they had no access to a fax in their work building and we said we needed IMMEDIATELY, tee hee”, is what I am sure they were saying.

    We needed to know the amount to bring to closing. Who’s a good buyer? Who? Who? Sit up! Beg for the number! Good buyer! Beg again! Beg some more!

    Fooled ya! Don’t have it! Try again tomorrow and tomorrow! Ha ha ha! It’s funny to see buyers have smoke come out of their ears.

    An essay? If they’d asked for it we probably would have thought to do it.

    “Dear Loan Company,
    If you please let us buy a house I promise to clean our rooms every day. I promise to share a room nicely with my husband and not put a trampoline and broken appliances in the front yard.”

  22. 50ae says:

    Who do I root for here, Mao or Hitler. Man, maybe we can get the bank and the lawyers to do celebrity boxing or something.

  23. Extended-Warranty says:

    I always get a kick out of lawyers and other “experts” who seem to know more than say, Wells-Fargo legal team. Clearly, companies of this size roll out new policies without running it through their legal teams.

    I’m sorry lawyer America, you do not know more than corporate legal teams.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Except that corporations lose law suits quite frequently, so apparently their legal teams are not always correct.

  24. Levk says:

    lol i hope she sues it will show em not to ask for such bs again

  25. dreamcatcher2 says:

    We criticize banks for over-relying on quantitative measures of risk, and then jump all over them when one of them grows a brain and starts testing qualitative risk measures? Come on…

  26. capnspoon says:

    How is it unfair that they ask her to write an essay? It might be asinine but it’s their money. The borrower is asking for a loan, she should do whatever it takes to make the person lending it feel comfortable that it can be repaid. People seem to believe they are entitled to other peoples money.

  27. CreekDog says:

    They could tell them that she plans to quit work and have 12 children. Then let them deny her loan.

    They’ll be rich after they win the lawsuit for illegal housing discrimination, illegal under the Fair Housing Act –to deny based on family status.

    (I am not a lawyer)

  28. peebozi says:

    look in the contract she signed.

    the clause that says “wells fargo can change the terms at anytime for any reason…so eat shit, little people”.

  29. mmmsoap says:

    “[The house has] several bathrooms, because we like to pee.”

    God, I love this woman.

  30. pot_roast says:

    I think it was worth it just for the hilarious reply that they sent back to Wells Fargo.

    (y’all DID read the article, right?)

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      There’s several people asking why it’s unfair to ask people illegal questions for a loan. I’m thinking they didn’t.

  31. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I agree this is of questionable legality and it would seem to ill fit these borrowers. On the other hand, questions like this might actually be a good way to return sanity to our lending process. But the law would have to change first.

  32. skapig says:

    I get that WF shouldn’t be asking, but she ended up disclosing all of the requested personal information and more not only to WF but to the Web.