Musings on mattress money

Jim Porter

Solano Real Estate Scene: Jim Porter

Article By: Jim Porter – January 12, 2024

A loan officer’s job is to help buyers figure out all their financing options to purchase real estate. The loan officer needs to know how much the buyer has in assets, how much they owe and how much income they make.

Mattress money is a term used for assets that cannot be easily verified, like a cigar box with $25,000 in $100 bills, or a 10-ounce gold bar worth $21,000 in a bedroom drawer under the underwear.

I have heard hundreds of stories about mattress money over the past 40 years from my clients. I am sure some clients never told me about their mattress money because of IRS fear, but I have become pretty good at prying information out of most folks because there is nothing illegal about saving money in a piggy bank, especially if we are only talking about $20,000 or $30,000.

On many occasions, the potential client would be hesitant to give me specifics on how much cash they have under their mattress and say things like, “Don’t worry, I can get money!” “How much money do I need for the down payment?” “I have some gold!” and “Why do you need to verify my cash?”

Mortgage companies need to paper trail funds to close escrow and to make sure the money being used is not an undisclosed loan from a loan shark, a finance company, or worse, a secret undisclosed loan from the seller or Realtor.

Yes, institutional licensed lenders must avoid being involved with money laundering and funds coming from illegal activities, but 99% of the time mattress money is simply savings making zero interest in a safety deposit box or some secret hiding place at the house.

Yeah sure, some mattress money is from cash made under the table by plumbers, laborers and mechanics moonlighting nights and weekends doing side jobs for friends and family, and there are full-time folks in businesses that have been stashing away cash for years and only claiming a percentage of their revenue to the IRS.

This is more rare today than it was during my first 20 years in the business because nowadays everyone pays with a debit card, credit card, Venmo and Apple Pay at restaurants and laundromats. The government has slightly better technology today than they did in the olden days.

Lenders need to see funds in a bank account seasoned for two full months for it to be used for a home loan. Gold can be used with an appraisal from a gold dealer and proof of liquidation and crypto is now an acceptable source of funds once converted to cash and deposited in escrow.

The funny thing about mattress money is that many clients tell me that they do not trust banks. I call it funny because this must be passed down generation to generation, because my parents never had any money at home, and today, every time I have a couple thousand dollars in my sock drawer, it seems to disappear.

I remember my mom sending me to Charlie’s Market, our corner store down the street, to get bread, milk and Virginia Slims Menthol 50 years ago and charging it to my parent’s store account.

As I am thinking about an ending to this column about mattress money and people that don’t trust federally insured banks and the IRS, I am remembering my great-grandparents, who died 45 years ago. We called them Amma and Ampa. He worked at Lucky Lager Brewery in San Francisco for 40 years. They were the best great-grandparents my six brothers and sisters and I could ever ask for, but I bet he had some mattress money during the ’50s and ’60s because for a while I heard he was a horse-race bookie.


Jim Porter, NMLS No. 276412, is the branch manager of Solano Mortgage, NMLS No. 1515497, a division of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation, NMLS No. 1850, licensed in California by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the CRMLA / Equal Housing Opportunity. Jim can be reached at 707-449-4777.

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