One thing that was immediately noticeable was the volume of mail we received. Aside from the regular supply of junk mail (e.g. from nearby supermarkets) the mail we’ve been sent falls into several categories:
1. Promotions addressed to us (name spelled correctly)
2. Promotions addressed to us (spelling mistake in name)
3. “Interesting” letters, some asking for money, some of which, if you were naive, you could imagine were from the bank. Some had the spelling mistake, some didn’t.
4. Mail from ADT (as well as an in-person visit from someone claiming to be from ADT)
5. Some large parcels with good stuff in them (from random companies), addressed to us.
6. Real mail from Los Angeles County.
The companies with the correct spelling probably got our information from the public record, which includes our names, our address, our lender’s name, the loan amount and term, and the date of recording. The ones with the incorrect spelling we think came from the Title insurance people. Let’s start with #3. All photos are in a gallery at the end.
The first piece of mail waiting for us on the day we moved in was a notice about package waiting to be picked up. It had ‘FINAL ATTEMPT’ stamped on it. Again, obviously not from the post office but if you were stressed and rushed (you know, because you’re moving house) you might be tempted to call the number. We didn’t.
One consistent ‘mail solicitation’ was from some companies offering ‘mortgage protection’ (i.e. insurance) — these were the ones that had our lenders name prominently displayed above our names on the address line (and then it says somewhere something like: “reference to lenders name is made strictly for loan ID purposes”). These envelopes often came with a large warning on the front. Some came with ‘FINAL NOTICE’ on the front, and instructions to ‘please complete and return’.
Another couple of letters we got were offering to help us get a copy of our deed. This is similar to one the County of LA warned about [http://www.lavote.net/Recorder/PDFS/Mail_Solicitation_Alert.pdf]. One asked for $89, the other for $83. We’d already been sent at least two copies for free from various places such as the LA county records office. Some of this mail came on the extra-long paper you get when completing Escrow.
Another interesting mail was from the “nationwide biweekly administration” offering to set up bi-weekly payments on our mortgage. They wanted our loan number and terms (interest rate etc).
One mail that I’m still not sure about was from the Title Recording Service offering a Declaration of Homestead. A declaration of homestead is apparently a real thing, you can get the form from the County of LA [http://www.lavote.net/GENERAL/PDFS/HOMESTEAD_DECLARATION.pdf] but it doesn’t appear to cost money. This group wanted $48, but seemed to include a “homeowners real estate package” which is probably what actually costs the money.
What is a Homestead?
• A homestead helps to protect you from losing your house to people you owe money to. Homestead law protects a certain amount of the value of your home from being taken to pay a judgment.
Seriously, they really want us. We get at least one letter a week now. You’ll note the phone number on each letter is different.
The Good Stuff
We actually got a lot of quite good stuff and if you (a) knew it was coming and (b) knew what any of these places were and (c) hadn’t just spent all your money on a house, you could make good use of it. Among other things we got (and they’re still coming in):
- special offers to sign up for Dish TV, the LA Times, and Direct TV.
- special offers from tiling places, places selling shutters and blinds, people selling wardrobes (closets), home security systems, and beds.
- vouchers from West Elm and Home Depot and P&G (see below), and one for a free gift at Plummers.
- cards from electricians, lawn people, locksmiths, and termite people.
- brochures from Room&Board, Home Decorators Collection, Pottery Barn, and a vast package of brochures from Restoration Hardware (e.g. 18″ towel rack: $75, coffee table from $795. We can dream. Or just go to Target).
- various letters with multiple special offers inside. They all seemed to include the LA times and Direct TV and other such goodies as a free haircut at Supercuts, and three free 99c store items (no purchase necessary).
We also got a sample package of samples and a big book of vouchers from P&G.
We got an interesting letter from the LA County Registrar enclosing a copy of our deed, and keeping us “informed of important changes regarding your property and [to] protect your home from real estate fraud”. At first I thought this was in the “interesting” mail category but after some investigation I conclude it’s offical. My feeling is that if they didn’t put everyone’s information in the public record then people wouldn’t have to ring up the Consumer Affairs department so often. I mean, seriously.
Question: when you buy a house in other countries, is your information publicly available?
Question: did you get any interesting mail when you bought a house?
Click on the photos to see more detail: