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Why 10 Banks Refused to Let Me Buy a Home
... and how I played around with perception to get what I wanted.
The Year When I Thought I Could Buy a House …..
2013 was an interesting year in my life. I had been working for myself for more than 5 years and it had been 3 years since I started Guiding Tech – the consumer tech content business which I would eventually sell in 2020 to an American media company.
Today I can easily secure a loan or mortgage. I don’t need it but banks are more than happy to offer me all kinds of loans.
I think that’s how the banking system works – offer money to people who can afford it.
Back in 2013, however, I could neither afford it nor did I make a living in a way that a bank could easily understand.
Running an online content business, or making money doing something online full-time for that matter, was not common then, not in India for sure.
What Do You Do Exactly?
People didn’t exactly understand what I did for a living. My work would be mistaken for stock trading or some shady stuff. I mean what I was doing was really simple – running a website that posted helpful content for tech consumers and making money off ads. But still for some reason people didn’t get it.
I guess the concept of working from home or from wherever one wants to just didn’t sink in easily.
It’s amazing how common it is now, thanks to covid.
This wasn’t a problem for me until I applied for a mortgage for a house I was planning to purchase. I knew I was eligible if one were to consider the finances. I had a good credit history, a steady stream of income, etc.
So I thought the approval would be easy.
It wasn’t. Far from it.
The banks didn’t understand what I did and how I made money. The fact that a company like Google was sending me cheques every month was just unthinkable to them.
One after the other, each bank would stop short of approving the loan even though everything seemed to be in order. It was baffling.
It’s the Perception, Stupid!
I soon realized that I was facing a perception problem. Deep in their hearts the bankers knew I was eligible, but their perception of a guy in his mid-twenties in tshirt and jeans working from a coworking space and making a living wasn’t letting them approve.
They needed a nudge to change their perception of who I was.
Thankfully, I had previously written for some mainstream media sites. I also had photos with some well-known media personalities from events that I had attended. And I had a magazine write-up that had covered who I was and what I did.
All this stuff might come in handy when one’s applying for a coveted job. But I had never thought I’d need these to apply for a home loan!
I prepared a sort of a presentation that showed off all these pictures and articles, along with proper links so that they could check for themselves.
I could see the eyes of the banker go wide when I showed this to him the first time.
The loan approval came through in the next few days.
And I finally bought my first house!
We like to think that work matters more than the perception of it. I wish that were always true.
Human beings aren’t wired to be unbiased. It takes a lot of mental effort to see things for what they are. Not everyone can do that. That’s why they rely on visual cues – how someone’s dressed, who they are with, etc.
Mind you, perception is also driven by cultural and economic shifts. I am sure today a young web publisher would have an easier time securing a mortgage. People are now more aware of the new rules of work.
But when you’re trying to do something different, something that’s not part of the general landscape around you, then managing the perception of your work becomes as important as your work.
Perception matters. And sometimes, love it or hate it, it’s all that matters.
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