Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"If you had to choose between saving a banker from drowning...

... and taking a prizewinning picture of the event, what resolution should you set your camera to?" - adapted from the classic question of Journalistic Ethics.

What put this into my mind? Extract from a conversation I just had:

"Mr Vet, you're going to need to get an independent valuation on your property before we can give you a mortgage."


"Mr Vet? Are you there?"

"Yes, I'm still here. I'm just trying to work out, on a scale of one to ten, how angry I am right now."

"Well, it's because you paid significantly more than the current valuation..."

"I told you, we bought at auction. There were other bidders there willing to pay that much."

"It's very standard practice for banks at the moment, Mr Vet."

"What's the point? That is the market. You can't get a truer valuation than that, that's why it's called 'market value'. What kind of valuer do you think is going to be able to tell you better than the market itself?"

"Well, the valuer is independent, they're trained to estimate very closely the true market value."


There are some questions that you will never hear an answer to, no matter how many times or ways you persist in asking them, because the honest answer would be "solely so that we can charge you more money".

In response to my badgering, he eventually promised that the bank would pay part of the cost of the valuation. So far, so good. Now all that remains is for me to bring the rest of my cash over from the UK, to raise the amount of our deposit as necessary so that we don't have to pay any further insurance - and the bank will be a few hundred dollars out of pocket, and they'll end up making less from us than if they'd just shut up and paid up.

I bet some genius banker earned a several-thousand-dollar bonus for working out this policy, which is about to cost his bank, probably, several thousand dollars in lost profit. I really hope that person is now dying painfully somewhere, but I don't have that much faith in karma.

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