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Filling In: Banks

February 16th, 2015

Rochester Savings Bank [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
By Matthew Denker

Today I’d like to take a slight departure from our normal Filling In fare. No, I don’t propose to fill in all the banks in Rochester, although that’s not such a bad idea, now that I think about it. What I’d like to talk about is banks and buying stuff. Well, not just any stuff, specifically real estate…

Flour City National Bank [PHOTO: Albert R. Stone]
Back in the heady days of 2007 ‘banks’ (with quotes, because it was really any company with some cash and not just actual banks where you might have a checking account specifically) money was available for anyone to do anything. For example, these guys external link got the money to build a skyscraper, despite never having built a skyscraper before and having no money of their own. It’s materially similar to John Spano external link a decade earlier, but they got the building up whereas he didn’t quite buy the Islanders.

National Bank of Rochester [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
But before you run out to your local bank to try any of those tricks, let me warn you that you are approximately 8 years too late. If you are undeterred and still want to run to your bank and try to get some money to build something, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Am I building self storage?
  2. Am I building something with a drive-through and a national brand, such as Dunkin Donuts, or McDonalds?

If you answered no to both questions, don’t bother going to a bank.

• • •

Rochester Savings and Trust Company [PHOTO: Albert R. Stone]
Ok, so maybe you just want to buy a house for you and your family, or maybe a house to rent to some college kids who will each pay effectively the price of an entire one bedroom apartment to live in just one bedroom of the house. This is a thing you could theoretically do, but I again wish you luck. If you’re still committed, allow me to offer the following recommendations before you head to a bank:

  1. Move all of the money necessary to buy the property into a bank account owned (having the names of) only by the exact same people attempting to buy the house. For example, even though you have a savings account with your 8 year old son to teach him good money habits, don’t have the money for the purchase come from this account, or you’ll need additional letters signed by your son legally relinquishing the money in the account.
  2. Do step one at least 6 months before going to the bank, so that when they ask for 6 months worth of bank statements, they don’t then also ask you for another few years of bank statements proving where the money came from.
  3. If you are a member of a partnership, don’t bother expecting any privacy for the business, apparently banks don’t care about K1s any more and want instead to see the entire tax return of any business in which you happen to be a partner. Can I recommend never going into business if you want to buy a house?
  4. Are you buying in a condo association? Congrats! Make sure you go to a bank that already has loans in that association, or about a week before the sale, the bank you are working with is going to realize they don’t already have any units in the association financed, and you owe them an extra 5% down to close because they haven’t fully evaluated the association’s finances.
  5. Find a bank that IS in the condo association? Make sure they don’t have too many units financed in the association (usually 20% or so). They won’t check until the end, and then about a week before the sale they’ll actually decline to underwrite your loan because they have too much exposure in the association. Not surprisingly you’ll be the one left in the lurch, not them.
  6. Own anything else? Land? A car? Be prepared to produce proof of insurance for all those other things so that the bank knows you’ll be sure to pay insurance on the property they’re about to own while charging rent, I mean interest, for the next 30 years. What’s that, you don’t insure your land? Prepare to get that in writing as well.

And now a bonus tip for the buying process: Once you’re in it, it is too late to change ANY of these things without everything blowing up. Make sure to do it all in advance. Further, don’t even think about buying something else (like a car) or opening a new line of credit (like a Chipotle Burrito Visa Rewards Card) while you are in the process of closing on your new home. Doing so will screw everything up.

• • •

Rochester City Bank [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
If you follow this advice, you might just end up with a house. If not, at least you can sleep at night knowing that your rent is going right back to the bank who was willing to lend the money to a large corporation that is infinitely more responsible than you are, as evidenced by you renting your home from them.

• • •

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 16th, 2015 at 12:06 am and is filed under Architecture, Opinion, Rochester Homes for Sale, Rochester Images, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Responses to “Filling In: Banks”

  1. Powers says:

    Wow, bitter much? We bought a house in 2013 and it was pretty much hassle-free.

    If banks have tightened lending, it’s no doubt a result of the housing market crash, precipitated by giving virtually everyone a mortgage without even bothering to ask for a down-payment.

  2. Congrats on your purchase, and I can only hope it’s that easy for everyone else.

    I’d hate to project that you were a middle-aged, white, potentially married, heterosexual couple buying a single family home (that was your only home), and you have maybe 2 cars, but I’d probably bet a beer on it next time I’m in Rochester. I’d also be interested if the home was in the city or in Pittsford or some such, as I can imagine the hassle to be much less outside of town.

    On that note, we had a bank ask us how we only owned 1 car and if the other one was unregistered.

  3. ACW says:

    Did you use a local or a national lender? I had a very smooth experience getting a mortgage loan for a house in Irondequoit through Canandaigua National Bank & Trust. It helped that my wife and I had good credit scores and have both been in our jobs for a few years.

  4. We’ve gone both ways and had good and bad experiences with both. Try buying a coop in NYC and see how un-smooth the purchasing process can be.

    As for CNB, I started working with them, gave them a bunch of personal info, and they stopped returning my calls and emails. They’re on the buy and close list. Hope someone working there reads this.

  5. Matt,

    I had only 6 months of full time paychecks (since I had recently graduated from grad-school), single, student loan debt and was buying an old house in Irondequoit in 2014. Everything went smoothly, aside from a hiccup with % down required for the loan (as a result of my lack of work history). ESL was helpful, always returned calls, and generally did their job well.

    The gifted funds issue was a bit of a sticking point for me, but I came to understand why banks require a signed statement. Having proof of insurance for a home mortgage is standard procedure.

    Keep your head up and go with a local bank. It does seem unfair in many ways when you compare all the hoops we normal folks need to jump through versus big business, but you’ll make it, don’t worry.

  6. Not proof of insurance of the house you are buying (which is completely reasonable), proof of insurance for things you already own. Things you probably don’t insure. Like the land you’re blogging about building a house on.

    That said, I’ve never not gotten a loan, but in some cases, that’s because there’s no reason to try. Multiple local banks in Rochester will not underwrite a mixed use property, in case anyone is curious why there aren’t more of them.

  7. Javier says:

    Just wondering if there is any information about the building in the first picture?

  8. The Rochester Savings Bank building at the corner of Fitzhugh and W. Main, and looking south down S. Fitzhugh Street. The bank, designed by Henry Searle, opened for business at this location in 1857. It was enlarged around 1877. In 1955 it was demolished to make way for a new building.

    The building that replaced it is, in my humble opinion, awful. This building was a capital loss.

  9. And more…

    The Rochester Savings Bank building located at the corner of West Main and Fitzhugh, address 47 West Main. The building to the far left is St. Luke’s Church. Also, the Rochester Free Academy is between the church and the bank. Other landmarks visible include the National Hotel at the corner of West Main and Plymouth Avenue and the Cogswell Fountain in the left corner of the photo. The National Hotel moved to this new location (under the same management that operated its previous hotel at the northeast corner of Main and Fitzhugh) when its first building was razed to make way for the Powers Hotel.

  10. Javier says:

    Thank you Matthew

  11. Richard Rolwing says:

    Loved that neo-classical bank building at the corner of Main and Exchange, especially after they added the extra floor–and the addition they put on in the 20s was a successful integration of a modernistic design into the older bank-dominated streetscape–when that was still something to strive for…


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