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Mailed deeds cause sticker shock

When it comes to marketing, mortgage records are fair game

When it comes to marketing, mortgage records are fair game

April 27, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Coming soon to your mailbox: A copy of your deed of trust.

That's what happened recently to Milissa A. Sibley of Clear Spring.

Details of her mortgage agreement - which is public information - were photocopied and mailed to her, with a sticky note attached.

"Milissa - Please call me about this document," the short handwritten note reads. A Maryland phone number was given. "Thanks - Mel"

"I thought, 'Oh my, God. Something's wrong with my title,'" Sibley said.

When she called, someone gave only a first name instead of a business name. She couldn't reach Mel. (The same thing happened when The Herald-Mail called Monday.)

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"Mel" is Andrew Parker, who said he works for 1st Continental Mortgage in the Baltimore area. He said Mel is his nickname from when his brother couldn't pronounce his name.

During a phone interview Monday, Parker said his handwritten notes get people to call.

"It's a marketing thing," he said. "We're not trying to scare anybody."

Noting that deeds are public records available online, Parker said he tries to persuade people that he can offer a better mortgage deal.

The note is intentionally vague, he said; an attorney advised him not to directly criticize competitors at the risk of being sued.

"It's perfectly legal," Parker said.

Thomas Shaner, executive director of the not-for-profit Maryland Association of Mortgage Brokers, said the practice is legal and has become common.

"It's called overaggressive marketing," he said.

Shaner cautioned home buyers to be careful, though.

"In the end, the consumer has to be in the driver's seat," he said. "You ought to be able to go face to face with whomever you're dealing with."

Parker said 1st Continental Mortgage is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but has hundreds of offices nationwide.

Parker's office is a licensed mortgage lender in Maryland, according to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, a regulatory agency.

Individually, Parker is licensed to work on mortgages as part of USA Mortgage Partners, at the same address as 1st Continental Mortgage, according to DLLR's Web site.

Joseph Rooney, the deputy commissioner of financial regulation within DLLR, said he hadn't heard of Parker's technique, but the aggressiveness didn't surprise him.

"People are always going to try to sell," Rooney said. "This is a very tough market."

Parker said the idea, which he borrowed from another company, is meant to generate more business - and it has. He said 15 percent of the people who have received his notes have called.

"And we're converting about 3 percent of them into new loans," he said.

Sibley, who agreed to a 30-year fixed mortgage in 2006, was taken aback by the mysterious pitch.

Parker apologized to people who are offended; they can ignore his letter and won't get another one.

About a quarter of the people who call are unhappy about the pitch, he said, adding, "Quite honestly, I probably would be, too."

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