Thursday, May 23, 2013

House Searching, Loan Apps and Closings OH MY....

My husband and I are in the process of buying our first home, a first for both of us. It has been a whirlwind, but it's coming to a close (hopefully) next Thursday. I have to say though the process has been amazingly smooth. I have read tons of horror stories online and I went into all of this expecting the same for us. Not for any particular reason, just because it seems like everyone who talks about the whole home buying experience has some kind of nightmare to share.

About a year ago, we found a cute little older house for a really good deal, and that is what started this whole process. It was really a deal we couldn't pass up, but in the end we had to because neither of our credit scores were good enough to get financed. I wasn't very smart in my younger days with my credit (pay your student loans!!!), and being a single mom doing all I could to get by caused a slew of doctor bills to go to collections, not to mention a hefty judgement that was placed against me thanks to my ex-husband. I started getting serious right then about fixing my credit, and did lots of research online. I got a few things removed, got a prepaid credit card with a low limit I could manage, paid off my judgement and a portion I wasn't even responsible for and got my scores where they needed to be. I'm still working on getting them on up, but I did what I needed to for the time being.

We'd been in a not so ideal renting situation, renting a house that I loathe from a friend who had been having some financial issues. I, well both of us really, were dead set on getting out of his house and into something of our own, and all my hard work in regards to my credit had paid off. Back around the end of February I found out that my credit score was right where I needed it to be to qualify for a mortgage so we got the ball rolling. Luckily for us we know a really good local realtor so my husband called him first. I emailed him a list of about 20 houses that we wanted to go look at and we coordinated schedules. He broke the list down into two different sections of our county, and lucky for us in the end some of the houses came off the market before we could get to them. I say lucky because I was more than overwhelmed after about the 3rd house. The first set of houses we went to look at were mostly in subdivisions, and that is NOT my husbands ideal way to live. He judges the house by how easy it is for him to step outside and pee, so he wasn't thrilled with any of these houses locations. While a few of these houses were up to my standards and would have been fine my husband wasn't satisfied. We parted ways with the Realtor to try again another day, with the rest of our list, but before we left he gave us the number of the guy he likes to work with for mortgages. It was this conversation I think that has made this process so easy. The guy he referred us to has been wonderful, and I can definitely tell why their company has such an awesome customer rating. (We dealt with Atlantic Bay in case you're wondering)

The next time we met up about a week later I was ready to see more of the same. Same types of houses, different part of the county, more stuff my husband wouldn't really care for but could live with for a handful of years, and one on that list that was at the VERY top of our price range, and that we actually thought wasn't even in our reach. We went to this house first, and after walking in the front door my husband wanted to look no more. This house had everything we were looking for, both of us. 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, full basement, a dishwasher hole, carport, and TEN acres of land. TEN. That equates to heaven for my husband. It's on the end of a cul-de-sac but there aren't neighbors right on top of each other, and the land sprawls out behind this property and kind of L shapes. We oooohhh'd and ahhhh'd around the house and the yard, and then moved on to the rest of our list. I took notes on all of them, and while some were bigger in square footage, and cheaper, none compared to the first one we saw that day. None had as much land, none had as much privacy, none were as well taken care of, updated, or clean. All we could think and talk about was this ONE house.

I called the mortgage broker first thing the next morning. I explained that I knew my credit background wasn't the best, but I thought my scores were ok, we had a house in mind but thought it might be out of our reach a little, and could he see what we could get preapproved for. He did a quick rundown of questions on the phone. Asking price of the house we liked, income, job, bills, worst case scenario in regards to a contract (who covers what closing costs, etc), and in 5 minutes he tells me the best news I'd heard in a long time. Pre-approved just like that. I think my next phone call was to my husband, and then he called the Realtor and told him we wanted to make an offer. We made another appointment the next day to go look at the house again, and knew we'd be walking away hopefully half way to a contract. My husband walked around the house and did his contractor thing, looking at pipes, panel boxes, ceilings, basement crooks and foundation things, and I walked around figuring out who's bedroom would be where and what kind of furniture I wanted to run out and buy. We decided on an offering price, declined a home inspection (Don't freak out! My husband knows what all they look for and checked it all out), requested they pump the septic since a permit couldn't be found, and picked a closing date. And then we waited. And waited some more. What seemed like a week, but was only 2 days. I don't think Ive checked my phone/email that often ever waiting to hear from the Realtor. Finally he got back to me. They countered, but only on price by $2K (we expected more) and closing date. They wanted to wait til June, and we re-countered and gave them another week. Their house had only been back on the market for 9 days and I think we caught them off guard with an offer, and they hadn't made any moving arrangements yet. And just like that, we had an agreement, and a contract on our first home.

Next came the scary part for me....financing. We were pre-approved, sure, but all these stories on line say so what. A million things can still go wrong. The mortgage guy told me what all I needed to bring with me when I met with him, so I gathered it all up and went to his office. W2's and taxes from the last 2 years, 2 current pay stubs,most recent bank statement, proof of child support, and a copy of my divorce decree, DD214 from the Army, and a copy of my VA home loan guarantee, drivers license. I met with him, he filled out the official app, made copies of all my stuff. Asked me a bunch of questions I can't remember but they weren't anything crazy. He had me write a letter pretty much saying I was an idiot when I was younger, and explaining the bad things still on my credit report, and the circumstances around the judgment and me paying it off. And that was it. Have a good day, we'll call you if we need something. Surely they'll call and have another million questions, or want 10 more copies of something I can't find. Right? Wrong! He called me a few days later and asked me for explanations for three deposits I'd made that were over a thousand dollars. I explained them and that was that. I called back a few days later to check on it, and when he called me back he told me that they'd ordered the home appraisal and as long as that came back good to go everything was fine.

We waited for about a week, and then they sent me a copy of the appraisal report. This is where some people can get in trouble again I guess, if they're in a bad market and homes aren't selling for what they're actually worth, what the owners are asking for it, or there are a lot of foreclosures. We aren't in the greatest of areas, but the market is stable. The house we're buying is by far the nicest of any comps that they looked at in the same range, but that has a lot to do with the fact that in our area people buy a house and stay there. There aren't a ton of houses like the one we bought in a 10 mile radius that have sold in the past few years. The house appraised for exactly what we needed it to, and once again I got a call that said everything was good to go. I can't figure out if people try to send in incomplete loan applications, and then the underwriters have to ask for documentation ten times and it just feels like a pain in the ass or what. Maybe these other people online aren't dealing with very good brokers, but this process has been amazingly smooth for us. I did a whole lot of worrying and fretting over absolutely nothing, based on the stuff I'd read about online. And it was all for nothing.

We close next Thursday, and I absolutely can not wait. The broker called last week as I was on the phone getting the electric switched over, just to tell me that all was good to go with the loan and that the Realtor would be in touch as far as final inspection and closing time. I suppose something could still happen, if the current owners decide to destroy the house before we close, but I don't think that's going to happen. We still have to finish packing and actually get everything moved, all while dealing with the last week of school activities for the kids, but hopefully this time next week I'll be arranging furniture inside our new house!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Parents Please Stop Doing A Disservice To Your Children!

Let me start out by saying that I work for a University. A pretty good one I think....we aren't like those Ivy League folks, but we have a good reputation, for the most part anyways. We graduate a lot of science nerds and Engineers. Most days I wonder how the majority of these kids have gotten as far as they have. Parents, all of you, listen up. Helicopter moms, dads, grandparents, parents afraid to go ahead and cut that cord, it is time to pop that child of yours off the tit and let them be adults. TEACH them to be adults. You are doing your children a very big disservice by not teaching them how to do things alone and by themselves. Here are a few rules you should follow when raising your young adults and sending them off into the world.

1) Teach your children how to make phone calls on their own behalf. I hate the phone, but I have been calling and making my own appointments and things of that nature on my own since I was about 13. And I can guarantee you that if had asked my dad at the age of 18+ to call my doctor or the college I was attending to set me up an appointment he would have laughed in my face. They need to do these things themselves. Here are a few things I've encountered :

A mother calls and asks if we can tell her where her daughters final exam will be, which building and time please. Ok, first of all, I'm sure they went over this in class, and she should've either written it down or put a reminder on her phone/laptop/tablet/other electronic device. Second, it's on the SYLLABUS, you know that thing they hand out at the beginning of classes? Third, I work in the BUSINESS office, we deal with money matters for the most part, I don't know your daughters schedule, nor do I know the times and locations of exams for our 30+ faculty members of this department. I can't even tell you where their classrooms are. Lastly, she should have a phone number, an office location, and an email address for said professor, and it's HER exam. Not yours, not mine, hers. She should be the one trying to figure out where this is, not her mommy.

Mommy #2 calls, because her daughter needs to change her schedule. Again, HER schedule, why isn't she calling? Again, business office, I am pretty sure at orientation they told you all that things of this nature have to go through the advising office, we deal not at all with scheduling or classes.

2) If your child has any intention of working while they are away from home, please send them with their legal documents. Birth Certificate, social security card, passport, etc. They can't work for us as student wage employees or anywhere else for that matter without proving they're working legally. And no, copies are not ok, I have to see orginals by law. "But my mom has that at home in Indiana, and I don't have access to it right now. Well sorry Charlie, you can't work until I see them. These are things you need to have access to in life, and if you're going to send your children out of your house to live, then send this stuff with them. You can get another copy, just fill out the paperwork if that makes you feel better, in the event they can't keep track of these things (though they need to learn that as well). While we're at it, please explain to them what these are, and that even though their school ID is called a XXXXXpassport, it does not count as the passport from list A on the I9 form they need to fill out for a job, that is in reference to the kind of passport that can get you into and out of the country legally.

3) Teach them responsibility and priorities. I know those Superbowl tickets you bought were expensive, as was the rest of the trip. But just because you treated your son and his friend to this awesome trip to New Orleans does not mean he doesn't have other things to do at the end of the semester, you know like turn in his required assignments for a big grade, so he can graduate, from this University where you're spending your hard earned money, so he can get a J-O-B and stop leeching off of you. Priority. Emailing after you get back and asking for an extension is not OK. Assignments aren't just sprung on you all of a sudden. Telling your Professor that you had no email/computer/etc access while you were "out of town at the Superbowl", doesn't fly in this day and age. I hope once I forwarded this to the person they were actually trying to email that they were told what I wanted to reply and tell them, which was along the lines of Sorry you're an entitled feeling little brat, but shit like this doesn't fly in the real world the rest of us live in and you're shit out of luck. I hope this kid has to retake this class and his graduation was pushed back because of it.

4) Teach them to take their jobs seriously. From the first one they ever have, until the last. I don't care if it's cleaning toilets, flipping burgers, or working as a work study student in a lab on campus. I don't care if they make minimum wage, or $20/ hour starting out, take it serious. Your future career and the rest of your life depends on it. My first job was cashiering at Kroger at 16, it was 35+ minutes from my house. I was putting in a full class load at school, and working 40 hours a week. I thought that $5.15 an hour I was making back then was awesome, and even then I didn't understand how the other kids there just goofed off and did whatever. No customer service, no politeness, no sense of needing to be on time, or any sense of respect at all really. I still see that with the kids we have working in our labs. Teach them that if they make the commitment to work they need to do that, work. When they're supposed to, for the whole length of time. These kids take these jobs, and while the schedules are flexible if you have one set, you can't just say F it and come in whenever you want. We all have unexpected things pop up, but there has to be some responsibility and accountability. I'm sorry you were scheduled to work, but your Sorority was having a party, you still need to be at work when you're supposed to. This also isn't acceptable. And please tell them not to act all kinds of surprised when their supervisor fires them, and calls the Financial Aid office, they did this to themselves. There is email documentation showing the argumentative and "I don't care" attitude, they stacked the deck against them on their own. Again, real life stuff here. Own it.

5) Please stop teaching them that they can have anything they want, anytime they want, just by asking (or throwing a fit), whether they deserve it or not. You're not helping them. Things, big or small, are worked for and earned. Put in the work, you can earn it, opt not to and well, go without. They're not entitled to a diploma, or a good grade just because they've gotten every other thing in life handed to them. Today on our campus is graduation, and I can't tell you how many kids have called their advisor this week asking if they can withdraw from a class, pleading for it. Begging. After final grades have come in. What in the world do they think this is? "I'll do anything please. If not I can't XYZ, it'll cause XYZ" Well child. I'm sorry your parents set you up for failure by giving you this attitude, but you caused this. This is no ones fault but your own. Accept responsibility, learn from it, and move on. Don't come in here throwing a fit, it won't change things, and you should use this as a learning experience for the rest of your life.

I know it's hard, and this isn't even covering all of it, but these are things that need to happen. Sooner rather than later. For the well being of your children, who are going to be running things, in the not so far off future.