Stan’s quest for a mortgage started in 2015. He had been working as a camera assistant in the film and television industry for about nine years at the time. He was making good money and was banking most of it.
“When you’re working 14 hours a day, you don’t have much of a chance to spend anything,” he said. “I had enough in the bank for a down payment, and I was earning more than enough to handle monthly mortgage payments.”
Stan had been a customer of a major nationwide bank for nearly 20 years, so he didn’t think he’d have any trouble getting pre-approved for a mortgage from them. He found a real estate agent and started looking at houses, then went into the branch where he normally did his banking. He got a warm welcome from the loan officer he spoke with, but it didn’t take long for Stan to realize that getting approved for a mortgage was going to be a lot harder than he had anticipated.
“I figured they knew exactly what my situation was because I’ve been doing all of my banking with them for years. They had all my records right there to show how much I was depositing and how much I was spending. What more could they need?” Stan wondered.
Apparently, they needed a lot more. So Stan started collecting tax returns and proof of his income for the previous couple of years. His work schedule presented a challenge, as the bank wasn’t equipped to accept documents via email. Everything had to be hand-delivered during regular business hours, which happened to be when Stan was working.
The average day in television is 12-14 hours, not including the commute between home and the set.
Many film and TV workers leave home before dawn and don’t get home until 10 pm or later. At the time he was trying to secure a mortgage, Stan was putting in 77-80 hours of work every week. The only time he could count on being off and getting in to the bank was Saturday, and the loan officer only worked Monday through Friday. And the nature of Stan’s job made it virtually impossible to even communicate by phone during daylight hours.
When Stan finally was able to deliver his proof of income it consisted of a couple of dozen W2 forms covering a two-year period, plus a handful of 1099 forms for rental income on the equipment he owns and furnishes when he’s on a shoot.
The loan officer looked at him “like an alien creature,” as Stan put it. He couldn’t get his head wrapped around the fact that Stan had so many W2 forms but couldn’t show that he had worked for twelve full months in either year. “What about the other months?” he asked. “How can you pay a mortgage when you’re not working?” “The same way I’ve been paying rent every month,” Stan said, to no avail.
The truth is that with the long hours on set, many of them at time-and-a-half or double time pay, someone like Stan can earn as much in six months as someone with a “normal” nine-to-five job makes in a year.
The loan officer asked for proof of steady employment, but apparently a stack of W2 and 1099 forms and the steady stream of deposits into that very same bank weren’t enough. Multiple pay stubs from the various payroll companies used by the different production companies that employed Stan only complicated matters further. For people in the film and television industry, the simple question, “Who do you work for?” doesn’t have a simple answer. Stan even toyed with the idea of bringing in copies of the daily call sheets documenting the hours he was on set.
There’s no way to know whether Stan would have ever been approved by the bank’s underwriters, because the loan officer never considered his application worth sending to the underwriting department. When it became apparent to Stan that he was getting nowhere with that loan officer, he called around to other branches of the same bank, and checked out another large bank. The results were not encouraging.
According to Stan, he felt completely devalued. “I work harder than most people, and I was being pushed aside by these banks like I was unworthy.” Discouraged, Stan complained to his real estate agent. She recommended that he get in touch with the Moore Team. His experience with them as direct lenders was a piece of cake in comparison to what he’d been going though, for one reason: they understand how people who work in film and television are paid.
Stan’s advice to others in his industry is simple: find a mortgage lender who knows our industry—one who is willing to work around your schedule and communicate via email. Most especially, find one who understands how people working in the industry are paid. And be a pack rat.
Hold onto all of your pay stubs for at least a couple of years, and organize them in a way that makes sense. That way you’ll be ready when you decide it’s time to buy a home.
Despite the frustration Stan experienced in trying to deal with a traditional bank that saw no value in a mortgage applicant who doesn’t fit their standard cookie cutter model, he and his wife are now happy homeowners. And their mortgage payment has never been one minute late.← Back to Stories Sound Familiar? Contact Us