Unburdening the bank

Over the last month we have been navigating the quagmire of German mortgage offers. Not that we are moving house, you understand. We are merely moving mortgage, as our original 10 year loans are nearly up.

To cut a long story short, having shopped around we finally found an offer which combined the various terms and flexibility which we wanted, and which our tax accountant approved of. This led to the paperwork stage…. which as you would imagine in Germany is painstakingly thorough and completely unavoidable. In fact the bank appears to need documented proof of absolutely every aspect of your life, and indeed that of your children and pets. This, to the British mind, is nothing short of nosey parker behaviour.

It is also a very arduous process, purely from a practical point of view. If you are British, you will inevitably lack the Germanic virtues which are summed up in that single term: Ordnung.

This means that the paperwork stage involves you searching through corners of the house you’d forgotten even existed, in a last minute attempt to track down some insurance policy document or a missing letter from the tax office.  You have to arm yourself with a good quality eraser, so you can expunge the hastily scribbled recipe for banana bread from the margin of your Bausparvertrag. And you also have to locate the iron, which you last used a decade earlier, so as to smooth out the crumples from your last three salary slips.

Eventually you will have located and arranged the fourteen thousand individual documents necessary for your mortgage application. You will have filled out the longest and most complex set of forms that German bureaucracy could devise and you finally sign the eighteen different documents, each in triplicate, which mean that your children and their children are bound in servitude for the next millenium. Or something.

Anyway, after multiple failed attempts (sorry, we do need the original deed/salary slip/tax return) we returned home with a signed, sealed and stamped set of forms and an acute sense of relief that this hideous process was over for another decade.

And then yesterday a package arrived in the post from the bank in question. The covering letter was very short.

Anbei übersende ich Ihnen die uns überlassenen Originalunterlagen zu unserer Entlastung zurück.

Literally: I am hereby returning your original documents so as to remove a burden from ourselves. (My emphasis)

Now, I may be missing the point here but it seems a bit rich to me, that the bank should feel burdened by our document pack. The document pack which they insisted on receiving, down to the very last tax statement and Grundbuchauszug. In fact, I’m pretty sure that we’re the ones who ought to feel burdened for having spent weeks rummaging through drawers and cupboards in search of some elusive but essential certificate.

The very fact that we managed to get the whole thing together is nothing short of a total fluke, because over the last ten years those life insurance policies could just have easily been used for starting the barbecue or demonstrating paper aircraft design. The bank should be in awe at our archaeological excavation skills in getting that lot together, intact and more or less unscathed.

The burden, gentlemen, was entirely ours!

No documentation loans? Excuse me?

No documentation loans? Not in Germany.... No way!


Check out my latest posts on Birds on the Blog:

John F. Kennedy, doughnuts and some very messy Germans

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Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany

12 responses to “Unburdening the bank

  1. At the annual Eigentümerversammlung, we are asked to “unburden” our building administrator.
    This means, if he completed his job and squared the account, then he gets discharged from any further liabilities.

    Deutsche Ordnung muss sein…:-)

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  3. Did you also have to appoint a German citizen, who then had to verify themselves to the bank with their Ausweis, who would – in the event that you legged it back to Blighty – be able to sign the Einschreibung telling you that they your house is going to be re-possesed?

  4. It feels great once the thing’s paid off, but whoa – read the fine print first. We could have paid off the principal years earlier than we did on our 10-year mortgage thanks to my finally getting a job, but the bank wouldn’t let us do it. We’d have had to pay a penalty equal to the interest we’d have paid out anyway, so why bother? Maybe things have changed and banks are a little more flexible now, but not 12 years ago they weren’t.

  5. In Australia these days – most of the banks and money lenders come to the customer! (They could have helped you search!)

    (Quite a different world.)

    I too, had to have a “Zustellungsvollmacht”… for some reason we chose the “Schwierigmutter” – who hasn’t been talking to us for the last 4 months. Just tonight I suggested to my German (who, understandably, is a wee bit upset with the situation) that perhaps we should start defaulting on the mortgage & then she’ll have to contact us! (For some reason he didn’t find the idea as amusing as I did!)

  6. All funny, you forget, the bank is not there to lend you money in Germany, the people there just don’t want to get fired for making a mistake, so they need every document issued to you in the last 10 years of the loan, ignoring that fact you have been paying down the capital at about 1.5% a year or something like that.

    It’s ironic 10 years ago you were the risk, 10 years later the bank are the risk!!

    At least you only have to go through this hell every 10 years, we have to do it many times a year helping expat clients buying large buildings in Berlin, trying to explain why a bank not only wants tax statements but evey payslip for the last year on top of that to the brits is a bit belt and braces…

    Domestic German banks do all this to make sure the money the brokers need to bet with is there for them to blow..

    Good luck with it all, a very funny read..


  7. “zu unserer Entlastung” could also be translated as ‘to our relief’, which they probably meant as they were sooo relieved to have FINALLY received all required documents!
    Now file them all away properly and get yourself a notebook for those recipes 😉 …………………………………….. (disappears quickly before being hit on the head with a HUGE pile of important documents)

  8. It has to do with “Ordnung” and “Verantwortung.
    I think the most know this already thou. Those who keep the papers are also responsible for them the next 2 – 10 years depending of the kind of papers/document.
    As German by myself it seems to be part of our growing up to have at least one special folder or box for all such papers as soon as you’re leaving the family.
    Nearly everything comes inside: bank and tax documents, warranties, wedding docs, well, everything.
    There will be also a special place for this box, a little hidden spot somewhere in the shelves or locker. All this you may sum up in the word “Ordnung”
    As soon as you give away parts of these documents, the receiving part will be held responsible for them for a specific period of time. Here we meet “Verantwortung”.
    A bank would have to store all these documents to fulfil the laws. Doing so the storage room would definitely be one of the world wonders.
    Therefore we get our papers back and so the “Verantwortung”.
    And woe you lose the documents when you need them most….
    Well that’s why there is “Ordnung”.

    Beside this, if you have ever lived or worked in the former Soviet Union you will start to love the German way. But this a different story.

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