All the small things

Today I had to open a new bank account so I could close on the house.

Here’s why:

In NYC, you need to bring certified checks (cashiers checks) to the closing table. No wires, no money orders, nothing. I, as of earlier today, only banked with Charles Schwab and ING direct, two online banks who are, for the most part, fabulous.

I knew I would need cashiers checks for the closing so I called Schwab and asked them how they would get them to me. They said they could send them overnight wherever I needed (for an extra $10 for the check and an extra $15 to overnight but who’s splitting hairs). Honestly, based on what these magical checks would be for, I didn’t even put up a fight on the cost. Schwab told me that as long as I ordered the checks by 2pm, they could send it.

I called my lender who told me that my attorney would have the final numbers.

I emailed my attorney who told me she wouldn’t get the final numbers until 24 hours before.

I called my attorney’s office and asked her assistant if 24 hours meant 24 hours or just the day before whenever that might be. She confirmed the latter by saying that she had a closing on Monday where she still didn’t have the final numbers. This was 2:30 in the afternoon on friday.

I needed a walk.

I left intending to purchase a second lunch – my first one was smaller than I remember packing – and instead ended up spending an hour at wells Fargo, opening a bank account.

They will issue cashiers checks as I stand there. Sometimes, you need a real bank for stuff.

Even better, since I’m going to have my mortgage with them, I got into the fancy bank account where checks are free, including, that’s right folks, cashiers checks.

Hoping to get a blender out of the whole thing too.

Later this afternoon, I get two voicemails from my lender. Uh oh. Turns out we need a new addendum to the contract. The contract originally had a sellers concession an we removed the concession because the sellers bank vetoed giving us any money back. In all yes-concession no-concession hubbub, we forgot that the contract said yes-concession.

And tomorrow I’m off on vacation for a week, biting my nails and hoping the hotel can print a word document or we somehow clear the whole thing up on a technicality.

So so so so close.

Closing on the house in two weeks!

This is it folks. The home stretch. We close two weeks from today and like every awesome thing in life, it feels so quick and so far away at the same time.

We have some ways to go to clear the loan. I called my loan officer yesterday to get the word on what was left because I’m leaving for vacation on Friday so I can’t guarantee what my printing/scanning/faxing situation is.

Today I was told that something needed to get signed that we already signed and the homeowners insurance policy they said they could take they couldn’t actually take. Great. I love hearing that I have to do things again that I already did.

Luckily, the other people involved (my contractor and p&c agent) are super fast at getting back to me. My p&c agent sent me an updated policy within a few hours and my contractor has been notorious for 24 hour turnaround throughout this whole process. Hooray for having good people on your team! (seriously though, if you for some reason need either of these two people in your life, I will pass along their info.)

It’s been weird to have it but not have it. My boyfriend and I have been saying the whole time that actually getting the short sale was the hard part and I hope of all hopes that it was and we are mostly done.

But I’m going to be nervous as shit until we get that deed.

The day I learned an angry email works better than a nice one

About a month ago, we needed a HUD report redone yet again because of new information we discovered (a HUD by the way is a document the short sale bank needs to see to get an idea of the sale price and the amount of settlement charges they will need to pay that will come out of the sale price, very big deal to get right, it turns out, and can only be done by the sellers attorney).

Of course, the seller’s attorney did not say a peep about when it was going to get done (he had already complained to my attorney that they had to redo the HUD SO many times already), despite all the calls placed to his office. So, after being copied on an email to him, I wrote back:

My apologies if I am out of line in reaching out to you. I just wanted to let you know that I really, really want this house and I am doing everything I can to make this process as smooth as possible on both ends.

If you could please, please, please set up a call to speak with the seller’s bank as soon as possible, I would be so grateful. We are working really hard on the other side to make sure we have everything ready to close on the house as soon as the short sale is approved.

If the seller’s bank won’t accept the seller’s concession or will only accept part of it, despite your explanation to them, please know that we are prepared to take less than the full concession if needed. I wish I could draw up all these HUD’s for you – I know it’s been frustrating to have gone through so many, but I feel like we are in the home stretch here.

I know we don’t have any control over the seller’s bank on how quickly they get back to us or what their requirements are, but what we do have control over is how quickly we respond to them. I would love to have us shaking hands in early July over the closing table if at all possible and I think we can do it if we all stay on top of it.

Thanks for all your help so far and hopefully we can get this done in the next few weeks.

Which I thought was a very heartfelt, pour-your-soul-out type of thing.

No response.

For five days.

It was only after constant prodding from both the agent’s assistant and my attorney that he finally got it done.

Fast forward to two weeks ago when we are trying to set up the date for the closing. After examining everyone’s vacation schedules, we determined that the only days everyone would be available by the short sale deadline were August 8 or 9. We confirm everyone for the 8th.

The next week, we receive an email from the sellers attorneys assistant saying if we can close this week that would be ideal.

I write back and say I don’t think that can happen.

She writes back and says the sellers attorney had to push back his vacation one week so he would not be back until August 12.




In that instant, this attorney shut out the only two day window we had to close.

I immediately called my loan officer. Work phone – straight to voicemail. Cell phone – off. Email – inbox full.

Then I email the back up to the underwriter – out of office on. I call him and leave a very frantic message.

I email my attorney and ask if she is free to close on Friday.

Then I call the other phone number on the loan officers out of office and someone finally picks up.

He says he will relay my message immediately.

Back up underwriter calls me back. I ask if we can close by Friday and he says it’s impossible. If the file was finished that day it would take three days to be fully reviewed.

I get an email from my loan officer saying he thinks it will be impossible while I’m on the phone with the underwriter.

I hang up with the underwriter and call my loan officer. He tells me the same thing he told me in the email but says he will try.

I call the sellers agents assistant and ask her if she can do anything. She said she tried to call already and no one will give her a straight answer.

I say, get his assistant on the phone.

She conferences her in and I don’t even register what I’m saying, just a jumble of thoughts that culminates into a curse word and a very quick I’m sorry. She cuts me off and says tell my attorney to call the sellers attorney, she will not stand for being spoken to like that.

I get a call from my attorneys office after I hang up. My attorneys assistant tells me my attorney is not available to close that day.

I send a very sad email to my loan officer and tell him to forget it – my attorney can’t close on Friday anyway.

I run downstairs and call my boyfriend and start crying. Ugly crying. In my lobby at work. Oh it’s bad.

Why would he do this to us? Whhhyyy ? Can he be a bigger asshole? He knows, he KNOWS this is the only day we can close. What are we going to do? What are we going to do?

I’m losing my ability to think straight now. I can only speak in curse words.

While I am on the phone with him, I tell him to wait. I am going to send an email right now. He tries to keep talking as I put him on speaker and tell him to wait. Silence on the other end as I write:

Here is what needs to happen:

1. The seller’s attorney needs to come back from his vacation by August 9. He has been aware from the beginning that the only days everyone is available to close is August 8 and August 9.

2. Someone else needs to go in his place on August 8.

Pick one and let me know.

I read it back to my boyfriend as I’m hitting send. My stomach flips over as soon as the phone confirms it’s sent. That’s it. I really did it this time. I curse out his assistant. I’m practically barking orders at him via email and copy every person ever who is involved. He is going to be so pissed when he sees this. I am imagining him throwing his hands in the air and shredding my file. He is never going to let me close on this house.

I’m going back upstairs, I say. I have to go back to work.

I email my attorney at the end of the day and say I would really appreciate a call from her. She calls back within the hour.

I didn’t want to call you until I knew for sure, she starts off. But they are working on finding someone to go in the seller’s attorney’s place right now. They haven’t made any guarantees, but we all got your email and you said to pick one or the other and we both know he didn’t want to pick the other one, so they are finding someone else to go. I’ve told my assistant to call them back on Friday if we don’t hear from them.

Oh. Okay. Wow. Thanks.

Yeah, and his assistant was going on about how you were really rude and starting cursing at her or something…

I feel my face getting hot. Yeah, sorry about that.

That’s okay, I completely understand where you were coming from. She kind of laughs a little.

Friday morning I get the confirmation email that they’ve found someone to go to the closing on August 8. That’s right folks. Sometimes e-yelling at a grown man totally works.

Now fingers crossed on getting this loan file cleared in the next two weeks. Not out of the woods yet.

Cast of Characters

This whole buying a house thing has truly been a production. And like every good (and bad) production, there’s a collection of characters who cause all the drama:

The sellers agent: slick salesman with a heart of gold (and LED side business)

The first time I walked up to the house, there is a man in a black pea coat handing a drill to another man in one of those shiny baseball jackets. It turns out they are drilling a new lock to the front door of the house. No, I don’t know what happened to the old lock.

The man in the pea coat holds out his hand and introduces himself as the agent. The other man nods in my direction as the agent identifies him as the current owner.

Holding up his pea coat to his face, the agent gestures me to follow him inside and tells the owner he can handle showing me around.

“It kind of smells” is the first thing he says as I walk through the threshold. He doesn’t say much as we walk through the house besides be careful, no we can’t get that door open, you can just look at the backyard from up here, and why don’t we talk more once we’re outside.

As soon as we get outside and I fire off my list of questions though, the salesman in him reappears. Almost every answer is I’ll take care of it, 50k in renovations tops, the short sale bank gets back to us fast, stick with me and I’ll get you this house (thereisthesmallissuesofaseventhousanddollarwaterbillbutyoucanfinancethat). He also gives me the line about how he’s gotten a million offers on this house, but, he says, from mostly investors who lowball the price because they want to flip it.

“I intend to live in it after I renovate it,” I say.

His eyes light up. “That’s the best case scenario. They don’t care about all cash buyers like other banks. They say get someone who will get a mortgage, we don’t care. Let’s put in an offer to the bank.” He tells me the amount he thinks they will take and tells me to reduce it by 10k. “Let’s see what we can get.”

I sign the offer letter and we shake hands again. Let’s see what we can get.

The Owner: the guy playing the tree because they ran out of speaking parts

In a short sale, the actual owner of the house has almost little do with the negotiating. He is technically the person who is legally signing contracts, amendments, closing documents, etc. We’ll meet him at the closing table. But really, his role in this whole thing is limited to being inconveniently on vacation when we need a very important document signed and sent to the bank on 10 days or less.

The Seller’s Bank: the man behind the curtain

Now here’s where the smoke and mirrors really start. There are requirements this bank has and then there are arbitrary preferences they make up along the way that aren’t really requirements so much as they-may-as-well-be-requirements-for-us-to-look-at-your-file-but-technically-we-can’t-force-you-to-have-these. Like having a contract drawn up before we even submit an offer letter. Which meant we had to scramble to find an attorney ASAP to contact the seller’s attorney to have him draw up the contract so we could review the contract and send it with the offer letter I signed two weeks ago.

Or the time the agent talked to one person who said the total settlement charges could be 10% of the offer price and then received another rejection notice stating they couldn’t be more than 8% of the total settlement charges, and then got someone on the phone who said they couldn’t be more than 10% of the settlement charges. Who’s on first?

Or the time we were under the impression that they wouldn’t pay the outstanding water bill, but somehow it fit into the settlement charges so they agreed to pay them.

Yeah, curtains.

The buyer’s attorney: the fast-talking, no bullshit, career superwoman (and mom) who you definitely want on your side of the table

The first time we meet her, she tells us to take a seat and then literally does not stop talking until we leave, making it clear that she 1. knows her shit, 2. you don’t disagree with her, 3. she’s always right, and 4. she’s never wrong.

While she’s explaining the process (and asking us if we understand without waiting for us to answer), she takes a very quick call from a client, demonstrating 1-4 above telling the client she is with another client right now, but she couldn’t believe the other guy thought he could get away with what he tried to do and wasn’t she right to predict that he would try it anyway, but she can’t really talk right now because she’s with other clients, but didn’t she tell you he would try to get away with it and then he did?

She also is someone who never forgets a conversation, especially when it proves 1-4, and loves citing exactly what she was doing when the conversation took place as proof that she remembered. She never uses emotion to get what she wants, only the facts. Adamantly the facts.

We left her office thinking she was a badass, and we were not proven wrong.

The seller’s attorney: the jaded, lazy would-be villain who just can’t be bothered

“I know this attorney very well,” my attorney tells us when she sees his name. “We’re good friends. He’s very lazy though. Sometimes I’ve ended up doing his work for him just to move things along.” She laughs and we nervously laugh with her.

And then #3 and #4 above come true. This is a man who goes through the motions, at least for this particular case, and acts like he’s been through this one too many times to get his hopes up that this time around is going to be the last time. You later find out from your attorney that you are the fourth person who’s tried to buy the house in the last year and a half and he just can’t waste more time on this.

He is never available to speak on the phone, he always seems to be out of the office until 4 pm every day (but never gets in before 11 am), and his assistant never knows what’s going on in the office, despite the fact that she is the one who manages his schedule and paperwork. It takes him at least a week of constant prodding to get anything done, and to really get something done, you have to phone-yell or e-yell at him.

He is technically the villain in the sense that he proved to be the obstacle and main conflict in the whole story, but villain would also be giving him too much credit as it implies that he had any intention or motive.

The buyer’s loan officer: the number cruncher who keeps it moving

This is the key supporting character in the whole thing. He stays out of the drama as much as possible and is mostly unassuming. You ask him a question he answers. He tells you the rules and then tells you how it actually plays out in real life. You call him when you need someone to remind you that everything takes time and it’s all going to get done and no, we can’t make any promises, but we will do our best to get it done.

He is very nonchalant about the fact that he is about to give you hundreds of thousands of dollars that will take you 30 years to pay back and he is going to scrub every part of your financial life to make sure you sure will pay it back.

The contractor: the guy who is down for whatever

This guy gets it. You’re a young couple who is is buying their first house and has decided to also undertake the project of gutting and renovating said house. He knows you’re going to want it how you want it but also need to keep it within a very strict budget.

He’s real. He walks through the house thoroughly and takes good notes, helps envision what the backyard should look like (“maybe you want to put a bench or swinging chair in this corner”), and shows that he’s human too and wants to help you build something you’re going to be excited to live in, not just some cookie-cutter job that the investors who come to him ask for.

The seller’s agent’s assistant: the quiet heroine who holds the whole show together

You ask her how long she’s been working for the agent (because you’re thinking she must have been working for him for years to know everything she knows) and she says 8 months.

Without thinking, you exclaim, how did he ever do all this without you! and she laughs and humbly says, yeah, he says the same thing every day.

You call her at least once a day, sometimes a few times a day when you’re feeling really manic, and she gets to work, calling who she needs to call, faxing who she needs to fax, and emailing who she needs to email. You air your frustrations out on her and she says, I know, I agree, and I wish I could do it myself. When the agent answers the phone, you ask to speak to her instead because while he’s the guy whose name goes on the commission check, even he’s acknowledged that she’s the brains behind the operation.

You attribute any relative sanity you’ve maintained throughout this whole process because you know she’s on your side (really) and does whatever she can to keep it moving.

This one’s definitely getting flowers.

The chorus line: the appraisers, surveyors, HUD consultant, expediter, underwriter, etc.

It’s unbelievable to you how many people get involved and need to get paid even before the house is yours. I’m sure I’m missing someone, but they’ll definitely be waiting in the wings for their cut.

The buyers: she – crazy, he – okay with the crazy

And then there’s the two of you. Idealistic, new, naive, working hard to be taken seriously and being reminded every day that you’re the young couple who’s trying to do grown up things.

It’s an every day thing for four months that it feels like it’s never gonna happen and that it better fucking happen.

The day the call comes that the short sale is approved, she misses it because she’s having lunch with a friend and complaining to her about how this short sale is never going to end (and explaining to her that a short sale is when the seller owes more money on the mortgage than the house will sell for and the bank is willing to forgive the difference).

She calls him and says, baby we got it.

Baby, we got it.

So we’re buying a house!

Okay, so I know this is probably the 20th blog you’ve seen from me but just think of this as an extension of my other house blog, just new insomuch as the actual status of the house buying is more a joint effort now than it was before.

What can I say, I like to keep my domain names accurate.

So yes, this is exciting, very, very exciting. I almost don’t know where to start because at this point, the beginning is almost impossible to pinpoint.

I guess I can start with the time my house got infested with carpet beetles.

Yuck, I know, who has carpet in New York??

In any case, I got some pretty alarming bug bites back in November 2011, i.e. they looked exactly like bedbug bites and I freaked out and asked my landlord to have the place inspected. His trusty exterminator came and luckily, no bedbugs. Just more harmless, more gross looking bugs called carpet beetles (of which I refuse to post a picture, you can google it later).

He would need us to move all of our furniture and plan to be out of the house for the day. Then we would need to vacuum and clean like crazy.

The only problem was, we didn’t have a working vacuum cleaner. So I ordered one online that would take 10 days to get here (a purple dyson, totally worth it) and in the meantime we got the brilliant idea to paint the apartment since all the furniture was now sitting in the middle of our living room.

This meant I ended up staying at my boyfriend’s house for about two weeks and, well, we nested. I got an official drawer. We cooked dinner and washed dishes together. I woke up to him stumbling in at 3am and he woke up to me stumbling out at 7 am.

After the vacuum cleaner came and the paint had dried, we realized that while living separately would always financial sense (our living situations are dirt cheap right now), it might be time to think about whether or not it made relationship sense.

So we started looking. Casually. What would it cost to rent a one-bedroom in bushwick these days? Wait, almost as much to buy? Maybe it was time to revisit the thing I’d put out of my head for some months because it was just so discouraging. Maybe doing it under this context would change everything.

So back to my old website haunts we went. Trulia and zillow every day. No one would really take us on realtor-wise because we dropped our price range after looking at our budgets together. It was just us, calling realtors every week, getting email alerts and checking the website anyway because we (I) was OCD about missing ANYTHING.

December passed us, then January, with almost nothing. No, less than almost nothing. Just nothing. We were starting to panic. Houses in our price range were almost non existent and if they were, we were told that they had 18 other offers, all higher than the asking price of course.

February rolled around and almost ended before we even looked at something. The other problem was, there were all these co-ops in our price range where they required you to have a $50,000 down payment but somehow also be making less than $65,000 a year.

We finally finally got our first appointment at a condo building on Flushing and Bushwick that was in our price range, in the right location, and would take 3.5% down.

We saw it and we fell in like with the place. The thing we were most excited about was that if we moved out in two years, it would be a great investment property. But we panicking and it was there and it could be ours in two months. We told the realtor we wanted the weekend to think it over. Think it over and decide how many compromises we were willing to make.

It didn’t have a backyard for the dog. It was only a one-bedroom so an office or studio would be nixed. It was newly renovated and had no real personality except for the intentionally exposed brick on one wall. It was still a lot of freaking money – top of our price range actually.

We then reminded ourselves of a house we had been following up on just about once a week, trying to schedule an appointment with the agent, who kept telling us every week that the house would be ready to view next week. We made our final plea:

I wanted to follow up on the property you said was still available when we last spoke. I know you said the owner isn’t quite ready to show it, but if there was a way to see it this week, we would really like to take a look sooner rather than later. We are deciding on another property but want to see this one before we make are decision. We understand it needs some work and are willing to take that on as well.

And we got ourselves an appointment. I saw the house first – it was filled with trash, it smelled like a combination of stale bodily fluids and vomit, squatters had been taking turns in it for the last few years, and I loved it! I immediately made an appointment for Brian to see the house and before we knew it, we had a lawyer reviewing a contract and a HUD inspection scheduled. It had everything on our list – backyard, second unit, fixer upper, at least two bedrooms, big kitchen, laundry room.

It’s going to be a weird journey to recount all the crazy that happened in the last 4 months that I didn’t actually have time to write about at the time I was in the middle of it, but here we are, short sale approved, tentative closing date scheduled, and so very very close to buying a house.