Bank ‘loses’ 64K of our money

22 04 2010

Westpac have done it again! They’ve stuffed up yet another property settlement of ours.

This time, they ‘lost’ nearly $64K between getting it at noon yesterday and this morning when I checked our accounts online and realised there was a significant shortfall. I’ve since been in contact with our ex-local branch people and it looks like it’s sorted, though until I check the accounts tomorrow I won’t know for sure. Thank goodness for the relationship we had with the terrific staff at our previous branch! Without that, I think I would’ve been on hold on the phone most of the day.

So, how did the bank mess it up? Well, I really don’t know, but I’m going to take a guess based on what I *do* know. And that guess is incompetency and not double checking all details. Again.

In one of the documents we had to sign prior to settlement, we had to nominate (in writing) how we wanted the funds disbursed after the sale of the property. In that document I clearly wrote that I wanted an amount taken off our main mortgage (for this example, let’s say it was $150K). Not only did I nominate this amount, but I also had to provide full details like the BSB and Account Number of that mortgage account.

The other part of that form asked us to nominate where we wanted the balance to go after all other settlement fees etc. were taken into account. We nominated our savings account (also with Westpac) and provided its BSB and Account Number. We didn’t know how much would be going in there, but for the sake of this example, let’s assume it was around $146K. This form was duly sent to our settlement agent, and there was no problem with it.

When we put this property on the market some months ago, I had sat down with Tracy in our then local branch and we’d gone through what would happen on the sale — an unused line of credit account would be closed, and the line of credit on the mortgage account would be reduced after we had paid the $150K into the mortgage. Clear, right? I thought so; Tracy thought so.

So, come the day of settlement (yesterday) and the settlement agent transfers the balance of the funds to Westpac to be disbursed as per our instructions ($150K off the mortgage, balance — expected to be ~$146K — into our savings). Simple. Obviously not…

This morning I check our online accounts and find that the bank has put $150K into our savings and $82,400.04 into our mortgage account (where *did* they get that number from???). That means not only did they put the wrong amounts into the accounts, but there’s also now a shortfall of nearly $64K!!!! I checked every one of our accounts and the $60+K hadn’t been deposited into any of them.

So, there I am at 6:30 AM, looking at my online accounts and seething at the incompetency of Westpac for stuffing up ANOTHER settlement (see for details on the most recent one before this — there was one before that, too!). I’m madly printing off bank statements, emailing the settlement agent to get the final statement detailing how much was to be disbursed, getting my ducks in a row, and faxing page after page to the local branch asking them to call me ASAP. Finally, I got a call just after 9:30 AM from the helpful Rob (whom I’ve dealt with before). I explained each page of my fax to him — the documentary evidence that shows that the bank has put the monies into the wrong accounts and that show that the bank hasn’t disbursed all the monies — and left him to chase up those in the bank (the Mortgage Processing Centre??) who might be able to give me an answer… and give me my missing money back!

An hour or so later, Rob calls. And here’s what he said the bank told him:

  • They had never seen the account nomination form from the settlement agent before. (Unlikely. If they hadn’t, how did they know to put $150K into one of the accounts — admittedly, the wrong one? I don’t buy that. I’ve also used our settlement agent several times over the past few years, and she’s REALLY competent at her job. She would have forwarded that information to the bank ages ago. And Tracy and Rob at the local branch are equally competent people.)
  • They split the balance amount for the mortgage payment in two, one amount for the weird $82K figure, and the other for the $60K figure. (Why???? We gave no authorisation for that balance to be split, so what gave the bank the right to split it without our knowledge and without our authority? What else can they do with our money without our signatures??? That’s scary.)
  • When they put the $82K into the mortgage, that triggered the line of credit to be reduced (that’s fine — we wanted that).
  • But when they tried to put the $60K into the mortgage immediately after, it was rejected ‘because the line of credit had been reduced’! (I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that — they were trying to PAY OFF a large part of our mortgage, NOT take money out of it! I can’t see how reducing a line of credit should stop them from putting money IN to the account. That’s just crazy, if it’s the case. Besides, it should’ve been a lump sum in the first place!)

Rob also told us that the bank would pay us the day’s interest on the $64K they held — it’s meant to be processed against the mortgage account overnight tonight. That’s the least I’d expect for yet another stuff up.

So, I’ll wait and see… Tomorrow I’ll check the bank accounts as soon as I wake up, and see if they’ve got it right this time. I’ve decided not to get them to swap the amounts around — the figures are close enough to each other that I can transfer funds from one account to the other easily if I decide to do so. Besides, I really don’t trust them to get it right! Of course, it could’ve been nasty and cost us dearly if one of these incorrect amounts was critical for a specific payment — would the bank admit their error and pay any penalty fees, had that been the case?? Not without a fight, I suspect.

It will be a VERY HAPPY day when we no longer have a mortgage and won’t have to deal with incompetent bozos.

Update 23 April 2010:

  • The ‘lost’ money went in overnight and I could see it in my online accounts list. Yay!
  • But now there was a fee for $400, then another for $400 which had been reversed. So I still had a $400 fee charge against that account.
  • And there was another unnamed fee for $110, which was also duplicated then reversed, with the net result of a $110 charge against that account.

I wrote another fax to my friendly local branch people, and got a phone call later in the morning explaining these fees, and why the money was split.

  • The $110 was a ‘registration fee for changing the name of the mortgage title with Landgate’. So why not say that on the statement? Why just ‘FEE’? And when I asked Rob about the debit/credit reversal for the same amount, he said ‘that always happens in the system with these sorts of transactions’ and he didn’t know why. I was horrified at the amount of time (and therefore money) Westpac waste because their staff have to answer phone calls and visits from customers selling properties who are querying these charges (and reversals). I have no idea how many property settlements are done per day around Australia, but I suspect there would be thousands. As one of the ‘big 4’ Australian banks Westpac alone would deal with hundreds of these settlements. That’s hundreds of queries every day from customers wanting to know why they’ve been charged a fee twice and why one of those has been reversed ‘by the system’. That’s incredibly wasteful!!
  • The $400 ‘FEE’ was in two parts — $250 for Westpac to ‘attend’ the settlement (do they REALLY attend, or is it all done electronically?), and a $150 ‘document handling fee’ for adjusting the details on the mortgage account. Again, do documents really get produced or is it done electronically? This fee is also another that ‘the system’ duplicates, then reverses one. More wasted money for staff to answer questions from disgruntled customers…
  • The reason I was given for splitting the mortgage payment amount in two was that the $82K amount was to reduce the mortgage to our new limit. Once that was done, the balance was to take more off the mortgage. However, for the second transaction (the $60K one), the ‘wrong code’ had been put on the amount so it was rejected by ‘the system’ — until I jumped up and down and asked lots of questions! How many people DON’T check their statements closely? What would’ve happened to that $60K had I not queried it?? Would the bank have told me they had it and asked me what to do with it??
  • I still haven’t seen any credit for the interest my $60K would’ve earned them for a day…

Bottom line: Westpac’s computer systems suck at dealing with these sorts of transactions.

The office fitout

11 03 2010

Before we could move into our new house, I needed to get the room we’d decided on for the office fitted out. We couldn’t move until I could work — my transition from one location to another had to be seamless for my clients. And I couldn’t work until the office was sorted. I did not want to shift, then have workmen trying to work around me and the computers while they set up the office!

I contacted Flexi Home Offices in Perth — they’d done our home office fitout back in 2002 when we were still living in Perth and I was impressed with their workmanship, their ability to cater for our designs and requirements, and the way they cleaned up after themselves! So I was pleasantly surprised that they were happy to come this far south to do this fitout.

(BTW, I tried a local company too, but they never got back to me to arrange a time to come out to even check out and quote on the job! Flexi, on the other hand, did pretty much everything except the final measure over the phone, fax and email.)

Here are some photos of the office during the two days it was installed — click on a photo to see it in a larger view. Oh, and the design was essentially mine with some adaptations and suggestions from the Flexi people during the design stage.

Wine racks have arrived!

11 03 2010

Some 6 weeks after we ordered and paid for them, the wine racks we wanted have arrived and been bolted to the dining room wall. Now we have to fill them! It’s too hot today to go lugging wine cases from the shed, but be assured that we will fill a lot of this rack with wine we already have  😉

For those wanting capacity, each rack takes 12 cases (144 bottles) + 12 bottles across the top. So that makes a total capacity of 26 cases (272 bottles). My husband’s intention is to stack them like the stores — each vertical column will contain one case and the display bottle at the top will tell us what’s in that column.

BTW, we got the racks from Howards Storage World.

Feeling miffed

9 09 2007

When we sold our house late last year, the agent was adamant that the young couple who wanted it “absolutely loved the house”. And when I met them for the handover stuff in mid-February that’s the impression I had too. Because they loved it *so* much we accepted some $50K less than our ‘head figure’. The story was that they just couldn’t go to that extra amount, even after borrowing from friends and family (as well as the bank).

On Friday, after I’d collected the food from the Indian restaurant, I drove past the old house on the way to the freeway. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather! The house has been repainted and is for sale again, only 6 months after they supposedly moved in. The selling agent isn’t a local agent, so when I got home I checked the agent’s website…

I doubt this couple ever moved in at all. According to the website, there’s a ‘brand new executive chef’s kitchen’ and the photos show that the bathroom has had a full makeover, all the rooms have been painted, and all the carpet ripped up and the floorboards polished. Some serious work has been done in 6 months and much of it could not be done while someone was living in the house. The killer is that the price it’s now for sale for is some 55% MORE than the price we got only 6 months ago.

So why do I feel miffed? It’s no longer our house – I don’t have a problem with that. It’s been renovated and is offered for a much higher price – I don’t have a problem with that either. What has*really* annoyed me is that we (and I suspect our agent) were sold a pack of lies in order to reduce the price. Had we been told that this couple were intending to buy and renovate, fine. But we weren’t. We were told all along that they loved the place and wanted to live there forever.

I can’t even justify this ‘churn’ of the property based on a relationship break up. Some serious renovations have been done which would not indicate a relationship gone sour. I just think they saw an opportunity to make some money… and we got sucked in to dropping our price because we genuinely *believed* that they intended living in the house.

I really hope that they get burned with Capital Gains Tax seeing as though they haven’t owned the property for more than 12 months and haven’t lived in it as their principle residence. I know that sounds mean, but I’m feeling quite miffed about being lied to.

Update: It’s now November 2 November 24 and our old house is still for sale. They’ve dropped their whopping asking price by some $30K (chicken feed) and the advertising says they’re relocating overseas and really need to sell. Yeah, right. I wonder what lies they told this time. After I wrote this post back in September, I emailed the agent who handled the sale. She has NEVER responded, which makes me think she knew what they were up to all along, and possibly makes her complicit in getting us to drop our price. Real estate agents in our state are meant to act for the seller, not the buyer. I’m not sure that that’s what happened here. But I do get some sort of perverse satisfaction knowing that it’s been on the market for two three months, with ‘home opens’ most weekends, and it still hasn’t sold…

Further update (24 Feb 2008): The old house went back on the market in late January, with a different (local) agent, and with a further $115K reduction in price. When I went on the new agent’s website yesterday I saw that it was “under offer” after some 3 weeks or so back on the market.

Measure twice

23 05 2007

(Edited title from “Measure once” to “Measure twice”)

Two months ago – not long after we’d moved – we realised that my old sofas were doing neither of our backs much good. And we didn’t have any spare beds, so I had a brainwave… as you do! Why not give away the old sofas to someone needing furniture, and replace them with two sofa beds? Great idea…

So when we were in Bunbury (90 mins away) back in March, we tried out various sofa beds at Harvey Norman’s and picked one that we liked for back support, back height, solid arm rests, choice of fabric colours, and that had an innerspring mattress (not a foam slab) for the bed part. Oh, and it was a one-touch operation to fold it out too – no leaning in and getting snapped up by the jaws of a sofa bed! We chose our colour, paid a deposit, ordered and paid for fabric protection, paid $88 for delivery to Bridgetown, and were told it would be about 2 months before delivery. That was OK as we had to get rid of the old sofas first.

After lots of phone calls (including one to get the dimensions of each sofa), FINALLY the sofas arrived this afternoon. They looked great – but they wouldn’t fit through the front door of the house!!! The back door is even narrower and the laundry door is the same width as the front door but with even less ‘wiggle room’ than the front door. The delivery guy suggested we get a glazier in to remove the front window – seriously! This in a town where it can two weeks for a tradesman to come, and that only after a few phone calls. We sure weren’t going to leave those sofas on the front porch – and nor did we entertain the idea of taking the window out! We’d have to do it all again when we left this house.

I made a call to Harvey Norman’s in Bunbury – fortunately it was before 5pm and they were still open. I spoke to the manager and he said they’d take them back and give us a refund – less another $88 freight as they had to be put back on the waiting truck and delivered back to the Bunbury store.

What a bummer! I was *so* looking forward to those sofas – and I was especially looking forward to being able to loll about and read a book in comfort flopped on a couch. And to have guests stay. Alas, it is not to be. I don’t know what we’ll do next. The current seating arrangements (dining room chairs) aren’t suitable for us or for guests, even just guests for the evening.

BTW, the problem wasn’t with the dimensions I had – the guy at the store happily called me and gave me the width and depth. It was the height of the back – the one measurement I didn’t have or ask for – that was the critical one. I guess if we decide on sofas again, we’ll make sure that the back height will fit through the door too!

Maybe we’ll just go to single lounge chairs… Beanbags, anyone?

Meantime, we’ve experienced one of the downsides of living in a country town. This little exercise has cost us $88 each way in freight ($176) + fabric protection we can’t use ($199), a total of $375 that’s just evaporated into thin air. Bugger!

Update (6 June 2007): I got the refund cheque from Harvey Norman’s in Bunbury today – and they only charged for the freight to and from. They refunded us the $199 for the fabric protection! That’s service.

A month today since we moved

19 03 2007

There I was today, working away on client stuff, when I checked the date. It’s exactly a month today since we moved out of Perth! It all still feels very new, yet it all feels very familiar too.

ALL the boxes (those that aren’t in storage) are now unpacked and out of the house – I did the last one on Saturday after I cleaned out the old aviary and made it into a shed to store the gardening tools etc. Most of the boxes were done by the end of the first week, but there are always stragglers. I’m just glad we’re not living in “Box City” any more. The house is definitely looking like a home now.
I’ve been getting as much work done for my clients as when I was in the office – in some ways more, as I’m not distracted by water cooler chat, people dropping by your cube, the “just a quick question” situation etc. Of course, I miss some of that too, but as I’ve been working for one client for 5 years and the other for 2 years, I’ve found that many of the nuances of body language and voice can still be achieved via email and instant messaging with those I know well.

Some things I’ve ‘dropped’ since we’ve been here…

  • Office clothes – I now dress for comfort and the weather, so if that means shorts, T-shirts and thongs, or tracky dacks and uggs, then that’s what it is! Both clients were pretty casual about work clothes anyway, but not THIS casual! Oh, and no bra, but you really didn’t want to know that, did you??
  • Setting the alarm – no alarm buzzing at 5:10am like in Perth. I’m waking up naturally and finding that my typical waking hour is around 6-6:30am. That gives me time to read the paper, have a cuppa, check email, have a shower, have breakfast, etc. before starting my workday at 8:00am. I walk three steps from the kitchen to my new ‘office’.
  • Watch and jewellery – I’m only wearing my watch and jewellery occasionally, and never at home. So I have to reset and rewind the watch every time I put it on.

A couple of times a week we’ll pop into town when I take a lunch break to do the grocery shopping, go to the butcher, bank etc. Town is about 1 minute away, so it’s not a long trip!

I’ve already made one trip back to Perth to do face-to-face with my clients, and I have another 3-day trip planned for early April. That first trip worked well, except my intentions of catching the train from Bunbury were impossible as there is no secure parking at Bunbury train station. It’s out in the boonies these days, and the car park is wide open and unsupervised at night. With a 90 minute trip back to Bridgetown after the train trip, it just isn’t worth taking the risk that my car could be smashed, stolen, or just undriveable when I got back in at night. So it looks like I’ll be driving, which is a real shame. I had a good run on the first trip back to Perth – I left at 4:45am and was at the southern end of the freeway in Perth by 7:30am. And then I hit the biggest traffic jam! It took me 1.75 hours to get from the Anketell Rd exit to the Powis St exit! Unbelieveable – and unacceptable. I’ve told that client that in future I’ll leave a bit later so I can avoid that situation. Fortunately, I’d had a pitstop just before Mandurah, otherwise it could’ve been embarrassing! Getting home took just over 3 hours, but getting to Perth took 4.5 hours, all because of that freeway situation.

I’ll write more later about some of the things we’ve discovered about living in a country town. Don’t worry – it’s all good!

Lessons learned from the move

4 03 2007

Well, it’s almost two weeks since we shifted from Perth to the quiet of the southwest of Western Australia. So what have we learned about moving?

  1. Stressful though it is, we should do it more often – 16yrs of STUFF is too much to deal with!
  2. Life in the country has so far lived up to expectations – the air is cleaner, it is quieter, the birds sing, all the people we have met have been friendly and welcoming. Oh, and there are more bugs that come into the house…

Next, my list of essential tools for anyone considering moving:

  • box cutter so you can remove that packaging tape easily when either you stuff up or when the box gets to its new location
  • packaging tape dispenser (like they use in shops/warehouses) – saves your fingers, stops scissors from getting gunked up (technical term!) with the sticky stuff from the tape
  • pedometer so you too can be amazed at how much walking you do moving stuff from its home to a box then back from the box to its new home (and any double or triple handling in between)
  • bubble wrap – go buy a big roll from your office supplies store; you’ll be glad of it for all sorts of things, including artworks and mirrors as well as the small breakable bits and pieces
  • sense of humour – ‘cos you’ll need it!
  • mental health check before you start – ‘cos you’ll question your sanity and that of your partner at various times
  • time – allow enough time to consider each item and then make a quick decision on whether to toss (charity or garbage) or keep
  • a comprehensive list of what’s in each box – saves your verging-on-madness sanity when you need the xyz item NOW! (I needed a replacement fax roll three days before we moved as the bank sent through a 27 page fax! I located and had it installed in about 5 minutes because I knew it was in a specific box – all I had to do then was find the box in the garage, open it, feel around, and voila! new fax roll!)

Whoa back!

24 02 2007

A neighbour in our small street came by this morning and introduced himself. After asking “what we did for a crust”, he asked if we were Christians, then asked if we’re affiliated with any church! And said he’d given up drinking alcohol for Lent.

I was brought up to believe that subjects such as politics, religion, and sex were off-limits in general conversation and should only be entertained once you knew the people you were talking to really well. This neighbour is older than us, so I presume he was brought up the same way, but maybe not. Then again, he may belong to a church that is all about grabbing new members – there’s a strong JW community in town, I believe…

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked those questions before! Certainly not by someone who I’d met for about 2 minutes.

Updates on the move… Day 4

22 02 2007

Well, not much more to report… just unpacking more and more boxes and putting stuff away where it will live for the next couple of years.

All I know is that this is strenuous and exhausting work! My back aches, my feet ache, my legs ache, my hands are wrecked, my nails are all broken…

One thing I have been doing most days though, is wearing a pedometer. Mostly because my feet have been killing me and I didn’t know why. Now I do. Almost every day I’ve been walking some 14,500+ steps around the house just moving boxes, unpacking boxes, shifting stuff from boxes into their new home, shifting furniture, etc. They reckon you should do 10,000 steps a day – well, for a sedentary computer person like me, doing over 14,000 steps each day is exhausting! At least I’m sleeping very well – a combination of the fresh air, the silence, the stars, and physical tiredness.

So, now I’m up to date with the blog. Tomorrow we’re off to Bunbury (an hour away) to get supplies we can’t get locally, from places that we don’t have in Bridgetown. Then we’re taking out S and G for dinner to thank S for all her help in organising the tradesmen. Saturday will be my last full day unpacking boxes, as we head off to Lake Towerinning (near Darkan) on Sunday to see friends who are racing in the West Australian Speed Boat Association’s ‘weekend away’ event.

Then on Monday I’m ‘back’ at work, though from home. A new chapter has begun…

Updates on the move… Day 3

22 02 2007

Computer day today… and unpacking boxes, of course!

I’d got everything sorted as far as possible yesterday (Day 2) for the arrival of the computers (server + 2 desktop machine). Chris from PC Guru arrived at 11am with my babies, and spent the next 5 hours getting the network set up, getting the internet connection working, testing emails, faxes, scans, wireless connection, etc. and doing some small fixes too. Then he had the long drive back to Perth – so it was a very long day for him. But it was SO worth it for me. I probably could’ve set up the network myself, but it would’ve taken me much longer, and had something gone wrong I wouldn’t necessarily have known where/how to fix it. It’s critical for me to be up and running and working remotely on Monday, so it was worth the expense in getting someone else to do it.

More unpacking of boxes… and somewhere in there we had the call that told us Settlement had gone through, so we’ve officially sold the South Perth house we’ve called home for the past 16 years!!!

We cracked open a vintage Voyager Estate wine early in the evening and served it in the Riedel O-Tumblers to celebrate. Then instead of me cooking, we got pizza from the local pizza shop.

A good day all round.