WASHINGTON COUNTY, Pa. – Brian and Amy Smith seem to be the first example in western Pennsylvania of a homeowner being denied a mortgage because of gas drilling on a next-door neighbor’s property.
The drilling goes on day and night at a new Marcellus Shale well in Daisytown, Washington County, and Brian Smith told Channel 4 Action News investigator Jim Parsons that he has no complaints — except one.
“As far as drilling and the noise and the lights in the window? No,” he said. “But when it affected the value of my home? Absolutely.”
The Smiths live across the street from the new gas well. They applied for a new mortgage on their $230,000 home and hobby farm, and Quicken Loans congratulated them on their conditional approval.
“They said all the paperwork will be done by the end of the week and we’ll be able to close,” Brian Smith said. “Somewhere in there, they called us and said, ‘Your loan got denied.’ ”
In an email, Quicken Loans told the Smiths, “Unfortunately, we are unable to move forward with this loan. It is located across the street from a gas drilling site.” Two other national lenders also turned down Brian Smith’s application.
Quicken Loans emailed the following statement to Channel 4 Action News: “While Quicken Loans makes every effort to help its clients reach their homeownership goals, like every lender, we are ultimately bound by very specific underwriting guidelines. In some cases conditions exist, such as gas wells and other structures in nearby lots, that can significantly degrade a property’s value. In these cases, we are unable to extend financing due to the unknown future marketability of the property.”
Clean Water Action said that in other parts of the country, when shale gas drilling has arrived, mortgages at nearby properties sometimes get denied. This is the first case they’ve heard in Pennsylvania.
“The banks aren’t stupid,” said Myron Arnowitt, director of Clean Water Action in Pennsylvania. “They’re going to look at that and be more cautious in terms of what they are willing to mortgage.”
“If I can’t refinance, could somebody get a loan to purchase my house? And that would be my concern. That’s definitely a worry,” Brian Smith said.
Homeowners who are denied by national lenders because of gas drilling could try local banks. First Federal in Washington, Pa., said it does not deny mortgage applications based solely on nearby drilling.
Video coverage within link.