The Kellars' buyers managed to reschedule closing for later that evening, though Mr. Kellar, a Maryland state trooper, had to handle it alone while his wife let the movers in.
By the time he refinanced the mortgage on his White Marsh town house last month, Bill Robinson felt cursed. The store manager for a rental company in Aberdeen and his wife, Alesia, had tried to settle for half a year. Their plans seemed destined for failure.
They started working with Temple Inland Mortgage Corp. in July, but the loan officer was hospitalized with a hip injury, delaying settlement. Several days before a settlement in October, the loan officer informed them the appraiser never got to the property. Still, she advised them to hire a settlement attorney. A settlement rescheduled around Thanksgiving fell through because of the holiday weekend.
The Robinsons moved the date up to December. But an hour and a half before settlement, the mortgage broker called with some news. Their loan had been rejected for credit reasons. Mr. Robinson says he had fallen behind on credit card bills after his wife quit her job to have a baby but never paid the mortgage late.
He applied to Maryland National Mortgage Corp. and 60 days later settled with an interest rate of 7.5 percent. But he still wonders about his rejected application.
"I don't understand," he says now. "Why wasn't this told to me four months earlier?"
A small error
William and Martha Borchardt didn't like the tone of the real estate agent's voice that day in September 1988 at the settlement table. She had listed the historic carriage house in Woodlawn and also represented the Borchardts, a social worker and a counselor buying their first home.
Now, she studied documents and shook her head over some figures that looked funny. The 23-year loan the Borchardts were assuming from their sellers was, in fact, a 27-year loan.
Bewildered, Mrs. Borchardt could think of nothing but getting that house. Plus, she says, "we had canceled the lease, shut off the BG&E and sold our stocks to pay for the down payment."
She left settlement in tears, convinced the real estate agent knew the terms of the loan ahead of time and misled them to secure the $81,000 purchase price, a bit high for the area.
She and her husband complained to the Maryland Real Estate Commission, which ruled the agent was not at fault because the principal amount of the loan hadn't changed. But the experience taught the couple never to buy a house without representation.
"We were in a position to renegotiate, had we had a settlement attorney or our own Realtor," said Mrs. Borchardt. She believes they could have bought the house for thousands less. "But we got sucked in real easy."
Holding onto the trees
As for Ms. Whitley and Mr. Chalker, they got to keep their trees and shrubs after learning that all property had to be claimed by settlement.
" 'Well, I'll tell them,' " Ms. Whitley recalls the seller's real estate agent saying, " 'but their children will be disappointed because [the trees and shrubs] have sentimental value.' I can't imagine my kids getting weepy-eyed over a tree."