Archive for August, 2013

Hammer Time

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

So now it’s done. I’ve bought a new (to me) house. I’m not generally prone to buyer’s remorse but I do know that after I’ve moved in there will be an adjustment period. There will be a series of moments when I notice something new (to me) that’s wrong with the house. It may be as simple as a nail sticking out of the fence at an inconvenient place or as big as a hole in the wall that was hidden behind some furniture.

It doesn’t bother me that things will bother me, I just hope they stay on the small side of things. The last time I bought a house I was slightly scammed by the sellers. They detached from the wall, which they’re not allowed to do without having called it out in the paperwork, a set of shelves in one bedroom. I don’t even begrudge them the shelves but they left dozens of small holes in the wall from where the screws had been and that was not cool. Even that though didn’t compare to a section of the concrete wall in the back that they strategically hid behind patio furniture which was not just cracked but precariously and dangerously leaning out over the patio.

God tells me it’s a dance, moving into a new house. Both you and the house feeling each other out, trying to decide how well you fit and where you can agree to just disagree. He says it’ll all work out in the end, and I believe him. After all, I own the place so anything that I really don’t like, I can probably change. And if it can’t be done gracefully? Well, sledgehammers are fairly cheap.

Waiting Gamely

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I’m in that twiddling my thumbs stage of the home buying process. I’ve done pretty much everything. I’ve given all the information to the lender and the sellers and the escrow/title company that any of them wants from me. I’ve had the home inspected and appraised and gotten a contractor’s quote on doing the repairs that the sellers are paying for.

But now I have to wait.

The lender has already set all their terms. They’ve guaranteed a rate. We’ve set the amount of the loan and the length of the loan. I’ve arranged for insurance so the loan will be taken care of should the house suddenly burn down.

But still I wait.

I’m sure they’re doing something. We’re actually going through a short closing from their point of view, moving aggressively to finish this deal at least a week faster than they prefer. So there must be something going on within their system. Some checks and cross checks that need to be completed.

While I just wait.

I asked God if this is what Purgatory is like. He said actually this is more like the waiting in line at the supermarket. You’ve already done your shopping, put everything in the cart, but now you have to wait your turn to actually get rung up. This is not like the queue to get into Heaven, it’s more like that period of boredom that the tabloid papers are counting on to pull you in, to entice you with their lurid headlines. Well, I won’t be lured. I’ll patiently wait my turn. Of course it couldn’t hurt to just look at one or two of the articles while I wait. Maybe just chuckle over the table of contents.

The Value Game

Friday, August 9th, 2013

I got to do a new thing with my current house purchase that I didn’t do with the last two. I “disputed” the appraisal. I did this, obviously, because the appraiser came up with a value that was lower than what I’m paying for it. Mind you, based on what I’ve seen on the market and the prices that houses I’ve seen have been selling for, I think I’m getting a good deal, but apparently the appraiser doesn’t agree.

I could probably make a bigger stink about this but it would be a lot of work and quite possibly wouldn’t gain me anything. The appraisal didn’t come in so low as to crush the deal, but it means I have to put in more money out of pocket and I was already stretching a bit.

The part that’s most interesting to me is that this got me to look more closely at the appraisal than I’ve done in the past. This got me to pay more attention to how the appraisals are actually done. The thing that amazes me is how little information actually goes into valuing the property. The main thing is what they call “comps,” which is short for “comparable sales.” They pull information on recent, though not too recent, sales for houses with similar stats. The thing is the stats are only the most basic information. They look at total square feet, both for the house and the land. They look at the number of bedrooms and bath rooms and the number of stories. And that’s really about it. There’s nothing about the quality of the construction. There’s nothing about the style of the architecture. They take the seller’s word, or more accurately their agent’s word, about things like has the kitchen been updated.

This is like taking a writer’s word about how good his book is without actually reading a paragraph to see if he knows how to string two sentences together. So my agent and I disputed the appraisal and provided our own comps to support the price that I’m paying. All the lender did with this information was send it back to the appraiser and ask him to look it over. Like that had any chance of getting a changed number. The appraiser has no incentive to change his mind, human nature is not to admit we’re wrong, and there was no upside to his adjusting the value. At best he’d seem open minded, but at worst he’d seem like he’d been incompetent. And “open minded” wouldn’t get him any more or less work.

I told God that the more I learn about how the world works the more amazed I am that civilization holds together at all. She just grinned.

Location Paperwork

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

The old adage is that the three most important things when buying real estate are location, location, and location. That may be true fro find the place you want to buy, but I’m busily finding out that the actual three things are paperwork, paperwork, and paperwork.

One of the first things you do, even before you’ve found a place, is put together a bunch of paperwork to get a pre-approval on a loan. You have to show that you have money, that you have a job, that you have a credit history and that it’s not too bad of a credit history. Then you get to start going through a bunch of paperwork that everyone has put together to convince you to look at their house that’s for sale, to understand that it’s their house you want to come see, because it’s their house you’re going to want to buy. Then having done all of that, having sorted through dozens and dozens of listings, and having actually set foot in dozens of house, you find a place and decide that these particular sellers were right. They do have the house you want to buy.

Then you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork to let them know that you want to buy their place. You have to show them that you really can afford to pay what you’re offering, you have to show them whatever you can to convince them that of all the people proposing to buy their place you are the one they should pick, you are the one that will give them the right price and without giving them too much trouble through the closing process.

And then they pick you.

And then it’s back to the loan company.

Sure you already gave them a bunch of paperwork, but now they need to actually look at it all. They need to verify things. They need to look over what you gave the sellers and make sure that it meets their requirements too. Then they want even more paperwork and there’s a Title company involved making sure that the lender gets everything that they need, making sure that the sellers get everything that they need, and, yeah, also making sure that you get all the paperwork that you need, that you’ll need sometime down the line when you become a seller or in any number of other situations that involve you as the legal owner of the property.

And where is God in all of this? I don’t know. Every time there’s paperwork involved, he just seems to disappear.