Dear Annie: My husband and I recently purchased a new home. It took us a while to reach this point. In the course of trying to purchase, we were offered help by a good friend, "Mary," who lives 1,500 miles away. Mary referred us to her mortgage lender, also 1,500 miles away. We engaged the lender, who worked hard, but things didn't move as quickly as we needed, and we lost a large deposit on the house, along with the costs of an appraisal and inspection. This was money we could ill-afford.