Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Loan

Well here’s where it gets interesting folks. We need money to get the porch project started but it would seem that we may not be the best credit risk at this point.

Let’s go over what we know so far:
We can’t find our bank account or records prior to June 2003
Association accounting was sketchy at best and hadn’t been properly formatted on a spreadsheet
Several unit owners were severely delinquent on their assessments.
As an association we were hemorrhaging money from a bloated budget

Financially attractive, no?

Now let’s all talk about that dirty word that isn’t supposed to exist either in lending or the real estate market in general---redlining. Redlining can be defined in several different ways:

Unfair discrimination based not on the risk’s characteristics but on its location. The term is commonly associated with an insurer’s refusal to consider insuring any home or business within a specific area marked by a line drawn on a map.


A lending practice, now illegal, where banks drew red lines around communities of color and low-income communities and refused to make loans in those neighborhoods.

I strongly suspected that we weren't an attractive loan risk as I work for a bank and I’ve gone through the mortgage and refinancing process several times. The way our record keeping and cash flow was, our application wouldn’t make it through underwriting at any of the big downtown LaSalle Street banks. Even if we did look good on paper and had a sizeable reserve fund, we’d still have a problem getting a loan from any on the downtown banks.

Naturally I’m not accusing anyone of anything but I have a feeling on how this process would for a troubled association in Chicago’s 5th poorest neighborhood. The best analogy I can think of is this: If you see a pothole in the road, are you gonna drive through it and possibly bust your axle or drive around it and continue your trip?

Obviously we want to drive around it and continue our trip.

Knowing the set of obstacles that we would face with a mainstream financial institution---even with good financials---it was up to us to find someone who understood the special needs of a small association with a cash flow problem, infrastructure issues that also happen to reside in an emerging neighborhood. But nonetheless saw the great potential in both the condo association and the Woodlawn neighborhood.

Not too tough of a job, huh?

After researching our potential options and speaking with some institutions, I discovered our friends at a smaller bank named Shore Bank.

Shore Bank, which was formerly known as South Shore Bank, is a bank based on the south side of Chicago who believes in the power of the neighborhoods where they’re located. When many of the LaSalle Street banks weren’t even attempting to originate mortgages or commercial loans on the south and west sides of Chicago, Shore Bank was (and is) filling that void.

So I go ahead and make a few phone calls on the association’s behalf, find a contact name and request the paperwork to get the ball rolling. I received the paperwork, forwarded it on to our treasurer who with our president completed it and the preliminary loan officer interviews.

I believe we stressed that as an association we significantly tightened up our financial ship and started adhering to standard business practices. In short we’re treating our condo association less like a club and more like a business.

Our loan officer has given us every indication that we’re on track to get the loan but as far as I'm concerned, the loan isn’t done until the check is in our account and has cleared. After all, we turned in our application in either late June or early July and have yet to get a solid answer (fingers crossed).

I’m optimistic that this will work out but I still want the money in the bank so we can get to those porches.

The year is winding down and more than likely we won’t be able to have our new porches built until next year the way the DCAP (Chicago Department of Construction and Permits) timeline is looking.

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