The result was a rare Romney flop: The housing market soon collapsed, and he was stuck renting out the houses for years before unloading them, mostly at a loss, in the late 1990s, according to property records. The renters were offered the first chance to buy, but the Stampses could not qualify for a mortgage, recalled Mr. Stamps, who at the time had recently lost his job at an oil company.

“Then I got this phone call, personally, from Mr. Romney, asking if we really wanted to buy the house,” Mr. Stamps, 63, said in an interview the other day at the barbershop he now runs. “I said, yes we did. And he said he would loan us the money. He really helped us when we needed it.”…

When Mr. Stamps took the call from Mr. Romney, he and his wife, a nurse, had all but given up hope of being able to buy the house they had been renting for five years. Mr. Romney told him it looked like the couple had been taking good care of the property and that “we would be good people to buy it,” said Mr. Stamps. Mr. Stamps said he never heard from Mr. Romney again, and only became aware of who he was when he started running for president four years ago.