Chapter 51 – The holiday home
During February 2015 Kelly and I traveled to Florida for a few weeks of R & R. While there, we took a look at the housing market and after seeing a few likely place decided to put a bid on one with a view to using it as a holiday home in the future and perhaps letting it out when we were not using it ourselves.
Well, as it turned out we were out bid and the idea was left alone until out return a year later. In the meantime, we had sold ‘Victor old lare’ down on the south coast and so had just enough to realies our dream on the return visit. During the three weeks we spent there we looked at about a dozen places and eventually settled on one.
As the property in question was what is called over there ‘a foreclosure, (where the bank has repossessed it because of non- payment), rather than get involved in a bidding war we simply offered the asking price. We were assured by our realtor (estate agent), that no-one else had shown any interest in the property so we were fairly confident that the deal was more or less done. What follows shows just how wrong that assumption was?
Anticipating a purchase while on holiday there, we knew that the bank owned property would demand to know how the purchase would be funded so we had brought with us copies of bank statement showing that we had the means to buy the house in cash.
However, the first of the small flies in the ointment were about to struggle to the very oily surface. We had to show the available funds IN DOLLARS!
O.K, I reasoned. It shouldn’t be that difficult, just ring our bank at home, the Halifax, and ask them for a letter that stated ‘ on this particular date, Mr. & Mrs. Phillips have X amount of pounds in their bank account and at an exchange rate of X this would equate to X amount of dollars’ Sounds fairly simple and straight forward, yes?
COMPUTER SAY NO!
Apparently, and I quote: To do so might compromise the security of the bank’ Unquote. Rather like the statements we receive from the bank each month then! Considering the amount of statements that are sent out each month the banks security must be well and truly compromised by now! The letter wouldn’t need to include any details of the account number or the sort code etc. It would simply need to include our names and the amounts along with a letter head.
Halifax is the ‘Bank that gives you extra’, not in this case. Not only did they not give extra, they didn’t give toss either. More on their inability to give anything at all later.
So it was that we were left with no option but to wait until we returned home and the get the total amount transferred to an American bank so the ‘proof of funds’ would show up as dollars. Simple eh? Wrong again. I think you might just be getting the hang of this.
While we finished the rest of our holiday we had to hope that no-one else showed an interest in ‘our new house’. If they had, and were in possession of an account full of cash (in dollars, of course) then all would be lost. In the mean time we would sweat a little and enjoy the rain, well it was January and even Florida has to get wet sometimes.
We decided to open a bank account with the same bank that had foreclosed on the property in question. It seemed to me to make so much sense. The Selling bank would, once we had returned home and transferred the funds, simply check the newly opened account and there in all its glory would be lots of American dollars which would prove that we were indeed serious about buying said house, A voila. Mission accomplished. Wrong.
On our return, the first thing I tried to do was speak to the Halifax again. Reasoning that a man in a suit, turning up in person and presenting, face to face, what was a fairly simple request for a letter showing an amount in dollars, would have much more impact than the aforementioned telephone request. Nope.
Same bollocks about compromising their security. ( sorry about the profanity, I searched the thesaurus for a more apt term for their attitude but couldn’t find anything!)
I contacted a few brokers with a view to transferring the money over to the States, unfortunately, a few weeks previously the powers that control the interest rate in America had decided to increase the base rate of interest and that in turn had put pressure on the great British pound, devaluing it by lots. Which had the effect of the house costing a few thousand pounds more than if we had bought it a month earlier. Whatever, it was still a bargain compared to the property available here at home. So, in for a penny, in for a pound. Or in this case, a Dollar!
We found that the best broker for our transaction that we felt comfortable using (this was all new to us, and it was a big lump of money) was The Times (as in newspaper) currency exchange. So, all we had to do was send our money from the Halifax to the new currency account we had set up. Easy, right, (Yep I think you’ve got it), Wrong!
We came home on the Thursday morning and it was now Friday and no-one had yet made another offer on the house.
“Hello Halifax, please send a big lump of my cash to my currency account”.
“Can’t do that”
“It’s too much money sir, you can only send £25,000 per day”
“But, it’s my money, and I need it right now or I might lose this house that I want to buy”
“I’m really sorry about that sir (we get that a lot before this saga reaches its conclusion!) but the limit is £25,000 a day”
Okay, I figure today is Friday, if I send one lot today, another lot on Saturday, Sunday and again on Monday morning, then as it’s the weekend there’s not much chance of the Bank of America receiving any other offers of interest from someone else until Monday at the earliest. This could still work.
“OK, send the maximum now”
“Sorry sir (told you) but you’ll need to do it online”
I decided that there wasn’t a great deal of point trying to argue with thus guy, he was obviously just doing what he was trained to do, annoy as many customers as possible during his working day! Anyway I could do that, I could go online and transfer funds, I was a ‘Silver surfer’ after all. Well, a ‘pink surfer’ really, (that’s a reference to my being bald, not my feminine side!).
So that’s what I did. Friday, the transfer went straight through. So did the Saturday transfer. Sunday was another matter. This is where Halifax help line played a blinder.
“Sorry sir, (there we go again) but you’ve exceeded your daily allowance”.
“No I haven’t”
“Well perhaps you have tried to send it too soon. If you try tonight after 10pm, you shouldn’t have any trouble”
“O.K, but will I be able to send another payment after midnight on Sunday to take care of the Monday installment so that the total amount will be ready for a funds transfer to the USA at 9am Monday morning, if not I my lose the house”
“That won’t be a problem sir”
The little liar!
I actually spent more than two hours on the phone after midnight desperately trying to get the payments through by 3am the Halifax had made a payment, then within minutes it came back to the bank.
As the money had gone out, my daily limit had been exceeded, (work that one out!). So I had to transfer the funds into another account so that I could send it again. I did that twice that night.
The very helpful guy on the end of the phone assured me that there must be a problem with Barclays as there was no way the Halifax could snatch back a payment they had just made.
Interesting statement that. Because somewhere in all this confusion the Halifax managed to send an additional £22,000 (that I didn’t have). How do I know? Well my broker phoned me to confirm that the transfer had eventually taken place and asked what I would like to do with the excess £22k in my account?
So in a way The Halifax does give you extra, but they also tell whoppers because they obviously can snatch it back when it suits them, a couple of days later my broker account was bare!
And do you know the really stupid thing about all this? Apparently there is such a thing as a CHAPS payment, a service where the whole amount could have been paid in one lump. For some reason, No-one at the Halifax thought to mention it!
As the transaction was eventually completed, and my new Bank of America account showed lot of lovely new dollars, fait accompli. Or so I thought. Now my troubles were really about to start.
It seems that although my new American account is the same bank that owns the property I’m trying to purchase, I was informed that they can’t check my account to confirm its contents, (untrue, they can as they have a uniform computer system which is used throughout all departments). Simply another example of ill informed, badly trained staff or the banks feeding us, the customer, with bullshit.
I was now requested to take a screenshot of my online account. I did that. Then they wanted hardcopies of statements. Oh, and a deposit, please, $5000 would do. Not a problem. I happen to have an American bank account with dollars in it. I’ll simply go online and send the money straight through, right now. You know what coming, don’t you?
When we opened the new Bank of America account, we explained exactly what it was for, that we would be transferring the total payment for the house into it so that it could be paid for on completion with American dollars. We would not need a cheque book or a debit card at this time because we lived in the UK.
So, there I was, online. Please transfer $5000 to an escrow account which will hold the deposit for the house. They asked for the details of the receiving bank, yep, filled all that in no problem then right at the end of the form I was asked for details from my debit card! Eh, what debit card? I don’t have one. I don’t need one! If I needed one, surely the bank would have told me when I opened the account, wouldn’t they have? No, of course they wouldn’t have. God forbid they should listen to you when you open the account.
The only option open to me was to find the equivalent amount of pounds sterling, here in the UK, send via Western union to our realter ask her to pay it into her own bank and then wire it to the receiving escrow account. Simple eh? Yep, you got it!
I looked up Western union on the net. That was handy. There was a Western Union facility in WH Smiths, just around the corner from my bank. Great. Only not so great. The maximum they could transfer was £1000. Not to worry. They gave me the address of a proper western union branch in the next town, which, surprise surprise, turned out to be a dress shop! Oh look, they said, just down the road is a Thomas Cook travel agent, they’ll be able to help. They couldn’t, but they did direct me to a Co-op that was a Western Union office. Now they could help, as long as I had two forms of ID. A driving license would do, and a utility bill. Well, I don’t know about you, but leaving home with a copy of a utility bill in pocket has never seemed to me to be a priority. However, from now on it bloody well will be, even if I’m only going to put the bins out. From now on I will make sure that I have pockets stuffed with rate, gas, electricity and bank statements, just in case. Well, you never know.
The money got sent in the end. And out very helpful realtor over in the States did her bit (Well she had put in soooo much effort up until this point that there was no way she was going to give up on her commission!). If ever you find yourself needing to purchase property in the USA drop her an email, Laurengause@gmail.com, she’s one helpful lady. It was only after we had signed contract from the bank that it dawned on me that we now had to pay the remaining funds on completion, and they were in the same bank, the bank that wouldn’t let me send $5000 to another American bank. Oh Crap. Here we go again.
Well, I phoned the bank. I spent two hours on the phone to America, spoke to three different departments but in the well known language of a curtain ‘Little Briton’ character, ‘Computer says no’ The words ‘brick wall’ and ‘head banging’ came to mind, along with quite few other terms which to be honest are not really suitable to be seen here in print!
I appealed to them that there must be someone within the banks structure that had a modicum of common sense. Someone who could look at the situation and come to the conclusion that, yes, here was a situation that obviously wasn’t able to be dealt with by using ‘normal’ banking criteria. After all I proffered, I understand that the purpose of the banks rules and restrictions were to limit wherever possible any fraudulent activity, but if I were a fraudster, trying to relieve Mr and Mrs. Phillips of a large amount of cash, would I ask the bank to send the money to an escrow account for the purpose of completing the purchase of a house owned by the same bank and registered in the name of the same people I was trying to defraud? No. Obviously I would ask them to send it to another private account, draw it out and then do a runner!
COMPUTER SAYS NO!
However, the person on the phone did suggest one course of action.
And I quote: Just come into the bank and sign the wire request in person! God give me strength.
Thank you Bank of America. What a bunch of total plonkers. There was a time that I considered America in virtually all aspects to be ten years ahead of the UK. But now it seems that they are at least twenty years behind.
Anyway, we did receive a bank card in the end and the final completion came through without too many hiccups. We became American home owners in late February with very little help from America, and I wonder, just how many people who, having the same dream, have given up and bough here in the UK because the process was just too wearing?
Now we just need to find the time to go over and visit our new home and install some furniture along with all the other knick-knacks that make a home, one day, soon hopefully.
The Wharf Inn at Holt
A Most Unlikely Landlord!
The Story of The Wharf (so far)
A rather rambling, disjointed, humorous, honest and very personal version of the events before and since buying The Wharf.
If you feel up to it - click to be transported into the sometimes weird and wonderful world that is the ruminations
'A Most Unlikely Landlord'