Friday, September 19, 2008

Demand To Close Escrow

Here I am, again writing about our journey through the wonderful world of home buying. This process has been, to say it gently, emotional. The ups of a God performing miracles on your behalf, and the lows of dealing with impossible after impossible situations has left Christopher and me spent. When we went into the escrow office last Thursday to sign papers all I really wanted was for this whole thing to be done.

The signing went fairly well, although our escrow agent was not in attendance, so rather than have all those final questions about financing, closing cost estimates, and quirky realty-speak explained we had John condescending to us with one comment, advising us with incorrect information the next, and always reminding us that it was, "good we brought our questions so we could make sure and get them answered." It was incredibly anticlimactic. But we persevered, knowing that in only a few more days the house would finally be ours!

On Monday we met with our realtor, Margarett, to have the final walk-through. We took a couple of pictures with the family in front of our soon to be new home, and as we began to part ways Margarett asked Christopher if he had told me about the last minute glitch facing our close date the following day. What glitch?

Apparently the selling bank (remember, we bought a foreclosure) was disagreeing about their point of responsibility for the pest work ordered, and performed, on the house. Their computer system said they did not approve it, and they were working to get the backup invoices from the actual work so they could issue an approval. "This is nothing to worry about," Margarett assured us. "The escrow company has already filed a special form that will allow them to fund and record on the same day. I had to deal with this in the purchase of my own home, and while it obviously isn't ideal it shouldn't cause any extraordinary problems." My first reaction was to clarify that we had a written contract which clearly spelled out the seller's financial obligation in paying for pest work. "Oh yes," Margarett confirmed, "they will approve the work, they just need to verify with their backup invoices before they can issue an approval." Famous last words.

Christopher decided to take the first portion of Tuesday off so he could be home when we received the call that we owned a home. We waited. We waited a little longer. Finally at about 11:30am Margarett called, but instead of the joyous proclamation that she had keys to bring us we were told that it might be just a bit longer before that approval came through. We were again assured there was nothing to worry about, that the approval would probably come through later that afternoon and we would close escrow the following day. She would call us as soon as she heard news either way. Christopher headed off to work with a heavy heart, and I made phone calls to rearrange the work we had already ordered to begin that day on the house. Both Christopher and I had that sinking feeling that this wasn't going to be easy.

We spoke with Margarett later that night, and found out that the approval was not coming through that day. Apparently Countrywide had a system wide glitch that they were aware of, and needed to fix. Why they didn't approve our contract, which they wrote, and fix the problem on their own time was driving me near to distraction. Basically the worksheet used between Countrywide and their listing agent wasn't synchronizing accurately, and while the listing agent had confirmation of the seller's commitment to pest work the sellers computer did not have this same confirmation. The point needs to be made again... we all had the same written contract which stated on page 4 that the seller was to order and pay for pest inspections, and section 1 repairs/remediation (basically those things that show active infestation of pests and/or damages directly related to active infestation). Once again Margarett assured us we should hear from Countrywide first thing in the morning.

Wednesday morning dawned with no news from Countrywide. It turned into Wednesday afternoon, still with no news from Countrywide. At this point we were being told that a manager higher up in the organization should have the approval form. We were getting fed up! This was our house. We had done everything to get our paperwork filed, get our money to escrow, manage all the disclosures, agree to all the fees, and finally be prepared to close on the date stipulated by our contract which was signed on July 25th! The ironic thing was that Countrywide made a huge stink in our initial requirements for making an offer that we be prepared to close within 45 days - no exceptions. So here we were, over 45 days later, and they were the ones making the exceptions. Not only making exceptions, but admittedly aware of the issue before our escrow was to close, but doing nothing to take care of it in a timely manner. Christopher realized we were going to just sit and wait until we decided to make it evident that we weren't going to sit and wait. He contacted Margarett and told her we needed to escalate this to the next level. Margarett prepared a Demand To Close Escrow and we filed it at 1:15pm on Wednesday giving the seller a countdown of 3 days until they were in complete breech of contract, and we could pursue legal recourse.

It is amazing what a single piece of paper can accomplish. At 6:30pm we suddenly had word from Countrywide that the approval for the pest work came through! We would close escrow the following day. We were relieved to be one step closer to the end of this process. Late the next morning we received the call that all the money was in escrow, and recording would happen at 1:30pm.

Margarett came over at 2:30 to give us our key, along with flowers, a new welcome mat, some champagne, and even "Just Moved" postcards she had made with the picture taken at our final walk-through. It was a neat moment.

Friday, September 12, 2008

big means BIG

Many of you may have done me the favor of reading my post about God being big in our home buying adventure. Little did I know at the time of writing that post that there was a sequel already in the works. It never ceases to amaze me how I limit God. But through this process my appreciation for his absolutely amazing "bigness" has been firmly established.

Starting where I left off, we were just over 2 weeks out from close, and everything was coming together smoothly. Then, rather suddenly the floor dropped out from under out feet! Christopher received a phone call a mere week before we were slated to sign escrow papers that our financing had some to a screeching halt. A necessary third party component to our mortgage was denied. YIKES!

I interrupt this news report to give you the following: For those of you, like me, who believe ARMs are the appendages attached to the side of your body you can read this little paragraph for a fuller explanation of the details. Apparently when you do not invest at least 20% of your own capital into the purchase of a home you are required to carry a special insurance policy with the lender as your beneficiary. This special insurance is called Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI. Basically, statistics show that those people financing more than 80% of the purchase price are more likely to default on their loan. So PMI is issued until you have paid into your principle 20%, or your home's value has increased enough to appraise 20% higher than the original purchase price. PMI is standard, and if your lender accepts your financing package and is in the process of underwriting your loan then PMI is generally guaranteed. It was certainly nothing we, nor anyone else, anticipated giving us a problem. Now I return you to our regularly scheduled program.

Our PMI was denied. Our lender, who owns his own mortgage company and has worked in this field for decades was shocked! Our credit portfolio made a very strong statement of good credit risk, and his investors were excited to give us our loan. But the PMI company, Radian, said our appraisal was inaccurate, and placed the property far above actual market value. We could not understand what they meant. Our appraisal came back 15k over our offer and stood very solidly in the middle of the comparisons used for the context of what the market could bear. The only statement Radian could give for the reason of denial was the decision to mark our finished garage as a benefit to the property value. Apparently the truth is that finished wall board, double paned windows, stained wainscoting, and upgraded louvered garage doors should have been noted as a liability. That makes sense. Who wants a pretty garage? And anyone mentally well would willing pay over 15k to have the garage reverted to open wall studs, old wood garage doors, single light bulb fixtures hanging by chains, and rickety single paned windows. But I digress. The main point is that we were sitting dead in the water.

Of course our first reaction was to panic. What do you MEAN we have no financing? What do you MEAN we don't have a loan? What do you MEAN? We were told that we could go with a government subsidized program and be guaranteed PMI, but we would need to deal with some of the nuances from the program. Christopher continued to feel strongly that buying our home was something we were doing to get away from government intervention - financing with them would be a somewhat major step in the wrong direction. Our lender told us that he might be able to work something out if we came up with a more substantial down, and that he would also "do the ole hale Mary pass", where he took our application and put it back out to his investors to see if another set would bite. The theory was that a new set of investors might allow us to get a different PMI company. When we asked about Radian changing their minds we were told that was an impossibility. Apparently our lender doesn't know my God.

Friday came and we were no closer to hearing anything, but our nerves were shot. We kept holding onto the fact that the bible says God brings all things to completion which he starts, and we knew that God had started this home-buying adventure.

Saturday was awful. In an attempt to help support the original appraisal our lender went ahead and issued a government appraiser to the site. This appraiser got in touch with the listing agent, who then got in touch with our realtor. Our realtor called us to say that the listing agent was distressed over what appeared to be a "bait and switch" on our behalf, namely one of the largest components to the government subsidized program is the agreement of the seller to pay 1.5% of the selling price into the program for future funding of other candidates. This clearly affects the sellers bottom line profit and can not simply be added without negotiations. The listing agent said we would need to renegotiate the entire contract. YIKES! Later than day our own agent called us back and tried to assure us that things were going to get worked out. She realized we might have felt a little alarmed at her initial call, and felt badly that she may have scared us. It was nice that she called, and it was nice that she encouraged us, but the fact was that we knew we didn't have any money to buy the house and no amount of pleasantries changed it.

Sunday we get a call before we head out the door for church from our lender that he thinks we may have a deal, with the original loan application, but he will be in touch with more when he gets it.

Monday afternoon our lender announces that he has heard back from Radian and they have changed their opinion on our appraisal! They accepted our PMI, and the investors are still eager to fund our loan. We are in business!

Tuesday morning Christopher gets another call from our lender that because the original loan stopped in the underwriting process he had to restart the entire process again. This has caused some thins to be reevaluated, including interest rates, which had dropped since we first locked. To our utter amazement we were told that because of the PMI debacle the new loan configuring would take these falling rates into account and, along with an increase in our credit score since the initial application, we would end up with a below 6% 30 year fixed mortgage. Speechless would be an understatement. Apparently God wanted to make sure that the previous humanly impossible circumstances were made clear by yet again making the impossible the very reality of our lives.

With our loan in our back pocket, our signing date set for 9/11, and a crew of people lined up to start work on the house once we closed, Christopher and I felt like nothing more could touch us. You will need to read the rest of the story in the next post because, we are beginning to learn, there is always a sequel.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Honey, Bunny, Bearie and Mac

Leah is the equivalent of a bag lady when it comes to her bed, and the arrangement of stuffed animals that reside upon it. She usually has at least one baby doll, some smallish marine mammal, a few bears, two or three random animals purloined from her siblings' beds, and of course Honey, Bunny, Bearie and Mac.

We didn't realize there was a naming scheme until we began limiting the number of animals she was allowed to sleep with each night. While going through the rigors of explaining why she didn't need all seven beanie bears I grabbed one of the sacred four and receive a howl of utter desperation.


Bearie? Okay, not bearie. But certainly you don't need both baby dolls? And I think you can live without...


Leah, you won't even allow Mac* to look at you, much less come near you. You can't sleep without Mac? (Shakes her head emphatically) Alright. But you need to put back this fish, and you can also put away...


You named this one Honey? (She nods her head, while sucking her thumb) Are there any others that you simply must have with you?

She looks at the chaos on her bed, and grabs only one more. Bunny.

I have to have BUNNY, Mama.

So you need to have each of these four? You can't live without any of them?

Nope. Honey, Bunny, Bearie, and Mac all need to stay here with me or else I won't ever sleep.

We still deal with weeding out her bed from time to time. I find hair bands, Sunday School pictures, single socks lost from their mate forever, and of course seven dolls, two pairs of shoes, a missing pajama shirt, and her sister's book. But we have struck a deal that works for everyone - I am allowed to remove all the excess toys down to a sheet, blanket and pillow as long as I understand that Honey, Bunny, Bearie and Mac do not fall into the category of "excessive", and must live next to her pillow until Christ returns.

I won't be utterly shocked to find them in heaven.

*Mac is our next door neighbor's dog. He is a big dog who could mean business if he wanted to, but has been adopted by our children as their dog while we work on Daddy's resolve for a puppy of our own. Mac's owners gave Leah her stuffed Mac, and even wrote his name on a cute little dog collar that her version wears. We have been working for the better part of 2 years on breaking Leah of her fear of dogs, so the irony of her choice of beloved stuffed animal is made all the more humorous to us.


Mary knows how to say, "Josiah." She is quite cute when she says it. Lately however, she has taken to a less intimate nomenclature.

Mama, Someone is hurting me. (Josiah is grabbing her hair.)

Oh no! Someone is getting into your fizzy. (Josiah is teething on my seltzer water can.)

Ahhhhh, stop it Someone! (Josiah is using her as an aid to help him stand.)

We have no idea what prompted this dehumanizing progression. She doesn't use it exclusively, and can be heard just as often cooing his given name while covering his face with kisses. In fact, even when she uses her new pet name it isn't reserved only for discipline. She will kiss "Someone" and scold "Josiah." Whatever the reasoning, we all find it pretty hysterical.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Can We Welcome You To The Kirby Family?

There is a reason door to door salesmen have such a bad reputation. They inspired an entire marketing scheme aimed at advertising a home owner's distaste for their presence before even knocking. The "No Solicitors" sign can be found in classic metal, scripted with airbrush in country colors on wood, handwritten on a note taped to the doorbell, and of course screamed from behind a closed door by a 70 year old biddy. We should have recognized the reason for this national defense. We missed it.

Adam presented himself at our door one fine Saturday and asked Christopher if there was a room in our house that we would like "dry" shampooed for free? He noted that we was a demonstrator for Kirby vacuums, and for the painless task of listening to his sales pitch he would clean any room at no charge. We had just been talking about the need to rent a Rug Doctor for our family room, so this seemed providential. Christopher told Adam we would be ready for him in 15 minutes. Within moments my peaceful afternoon was gone. We raced around to get toys off the floor for the shampooing, and I had to run upstairs and get out of my pajamas (I told you we were planning on a relaxing afternoon). No sooner had I gotten upstairs but Adam was back, some 10 minutes earlier than expected. Eagerness can be a good characteristic. 

I decided to go full bore and take a shower, allowing Christopher the delightful task of entertaining our new friend for the vast majority of his stay. I figured by the time I arrived downstairs some 30 minutes later our floor would be close to finished, and I could go back to relaxing on my couch, albeit cleaner than originally anticipated. You can imagine my surprise when I walked into the family room and was met by Adam, a very unshampooed floor, and small white disks strewn across my carpet (for hygienic purposes they don't actually attach the bag until after you purchase the machine, so they use a special chamber which sucks the dirt into a clear canister and onto white discs of vacuum cleaner bag material so you can see what the inside of your very own Kirby bag would look like. I am convinced they are trained to leave these discs lying around your home in an attempt to subtly remind you of the disgusting state of affairs resting beneath your feet). Adam was very pleasant to meet me and seemed utterly unperturbed that he had been there a solid half an hour with nothing more to show for himself than a cleverly designed display box housing all the mighty Kirby's attachments.

I am in therapy to try and forget what happened next, but apparently I am not paying my shrink enough for the "total recall" plan. I remember, quite vividly, Adam spending the following 2 hours wasting our time while he tried to sell us a TWO THOUSAND and TWO HUNDRED dollar vacuum. Apparently we are going to die as a result of the dirt housed in our carpets. We are certainly experiencing unprecedented illnesses due to dust mite excrement on our tongues in the morning. We have only our lousy old vacuum to blame for the wear and tear on our lovely, military grade, rented for decades carpeting. And with the new Kirby model we could use the latest technology of "dry" shampooing to insure a thorough clean every time. "So, can I welcome you to the Kirby family?"

We tried to explain that we were buying a home with all wood floors, and would not have the issue of carpet padding trapping all that dirt, dander, and death. We tried to humor him when he raced upstairs into our bedrooms, uninvited, while my baby took a nap. We were gentle, kind, and long suffering when he attached and reattached the same special nozzle 7 times because he had forgotten just one more thing he was supposed to show us. One of the best zingers came when he finally accomplished the "dry" shampoo; and we marveled at how poorly conceived the design to turn the Kirby into a shampooer was managed - water sloshing out of the open receptacle while piles of foam thoroughly soaked our carpet. We even allowed him to jump on our trampoline while we discussed the possibility of purchasing the vacuum (read: figure out how to finally get him to understand we weren't going to buy). But it was finally time, and Christopher broke the news.

Adam was nearly speechless. He couldn't believe we didn't seriously want to purchase this wonder appliance, which did practically everything including make dinner. He asked Christopher what would make him reconsider, and without thinking Christopher blurted out, "I don't know, take 50% off the price." Well, Adam was aghast at this suggestion noting that he had never heard of such a thing before. Yeah, that was kinda the point! We reminded poor Adam that we weren't going to have any areas in our new home with wall to wall carpet. It didn't make financial sense for us to purchase such a substantial vacuum. We reiterated that we did not utilize credit for spontaneous purchases and were not comfortable taking that much money our of our checking when we were closing escrow in only a few weeks. Adam continued to remain speechless.

He finally broke the spell by deciding to call his up-line manager and find out what kind of deal he could make for us. We tried to dissuade him, explaining we were not buying the machine. He called anyway, but received only his manager's voicemail. Ahhh, we sighed internally. Maybe now he would get the point! We were growing weary, and were ready to have him gone. And yet Adam persisted. He began to explain that we would certainly never see the kind of sale his team was offering for quite some time. He became snippy, mumbling under his breath about how much he hated packing up "these beasts" when only moments before he had been asking us if he could welcome us to the Kirby family. In the midst of this tirade his manager called him back and after several moments Adam hung up and announced that he was authorized to give us the Kirby for 15% off. This was such a significant price reduction he was sure we would jump on it. In fact, he stopped packing his "beast". We held firm, once again reminding him that we were not interested in spending that kind of money on a vacuum at this time. Adam began to pack again.

Over the next several minutes, while Adam literally took his sweet time getting his things together, I tried to initiate conversation with him about his job, how much he liked it, and what had made him get into the business. I thought perhaps it would help ease the embarrassment he must be feeling at spending nearly 3 hours in someone's home and having nothing to show for it. Had I not known he was in his mid-twenties I would have thought him closer in age to a 4 year old throwing a bit of a tantrum. He barely acknowledged my questions, giving me the briefest possible answers, and continued to huff and puff about how much he detested packing up. Suddenly his phone rang again. This time it was his area supervisor asking for a status update. Adam explained that we just weren't interested even though he had already offered us the exorbitant deal of a lifetime. After several moments of listening Adam recalled to his supervisor that Christopher had mentioned the "50% off" deal. Adam listened for another minute, and then hung up the phone. He stopped packing, went over to a piece of paper with the original sales price and promo information on it and wrote $1100 on it before handing it to Christopher. "I can get it for you for the price you asked."

"Adam, I don't want to buy it. I am not interested in it."

"But you said you if it was 50% off that would be the right price. Well, here it is."

"Adam, I don't want to buy it. I changed my mind."

"You said you would take it if it was 50% off. I have never seen this before. They have never reduced the price like this before. You will never get this kind of deal again."

"Adam, we don't want it."


Christopher finally had to say to him that he was tired of discussing this, and he needed Adam to pack his things and get out of his house. I don't think I have ever seen my husband come so close to decking someone out of sheer exasperation than that day. It still took Adam nearly 10 minutes to leave. His supervisor called him again, and Adam recounted, in front of us, how Christopher told him he had to get out of our house. He didn't say goodbye when he left.

A few weeks later Leah was talking about how much she missed her friend. 

"What friend, Leah?"

"You know... my friend. Adam."


"Yeah, with the vacuum. He's my friend."

Thankfully we don't run a democracy in Odd, we run a monarchy and Adam has not been invited back.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Pssst, I have a secret and I'm not gonna tell you.

Remember those days in elementary school when keeping secrets meant purposely dropping hints so your friends knew you knew something they did not? You were queen of recess for that one afternoon as all the playground consulted with you to learn your secret. Best friends were dropped, all bets were off, nations were divided and rejoined under the auspices of who was (and who was not) worthy of your secret. And if you had a genuinely good secret to tell you could set yourself up with power and influence on the monkey bars for the rest of the year. You had to be careful though, because that fired burned in both directions and God-forbid if someone scooped you! I don't know that there was a shunning worse than the overrated secret, except perhaps the loud fart. But I digress.

I was never good with the secret game. I never seemed to be "in the know", and when I was I genuinely didn't want anyone to know my secret (like being the one who farted). I liked immediately sharing whatever juicy tidbit I had with my girlfriends as quickly as possible. I would rush to school, race to the playground, run home to get on the phone, whatever was necessary in order to talk, talk, talk about my secret. I have always preferred talking, not secreting.

My aversion to secrets remains to this day. I can barely contain my enthusiasm waiting for Christmas. I would actually prefer to tell someone exactly what I want for a birthday present rather than manage the suspense of a surprise. Because of all these factors I knew I could never hold in this secret:

Christopher and I have been eternally rewarded with a microscopic blessing due in April. What a mighty God we serve!