October 30, 2015 2 Comments
I rarely blog nowadays unless something remarkably significant happens in my life, or I’ve had some sort of relevant epiphany and I deem it substantial enough to express a few thoughts about it. In today’s case, it’s a bit of all of the above. There’s actually so much in this story that I almost don’t know where to begin.
If you’ve ever had the stress of not having your housing situation figured out, you can relate to much of what I’m about to say. Knowing where your home is: a sense of peace, solitude and sanctuary at the end of the day when you lay your head to rest, your life’s belongings, along with countless other blessings we all take for granted, is one of those luxuries that you won’t realize how valuable it is until you don’t have it. Since January of this year, we’ve been living out of suitcases and boxes. I’ve kept my toiletries in my travel accessories bag mostly out of convenience. After the sale of my previous house, its contents were dumped into a storage unit that I’ve been paying rent for the past 16 months. Miscellaneous crap from our apartment where we stayed from summer of 2014 until the end of 2014 has been sitting in several Rubbermaid tubs. Furniture that we ordered anticipating a spring move occupies my gracious friend’s entire basement and half of his garage. You get the picture. For someone who loves organization and structure, this has been painfully chaotic. It’s aggravating to stress over the uncertainty of when and where you will move to your own place, combined with the inconvenience of having to go to several different locations to try and dig through your own stuff to find something you need.
I know in my last entry I talked about keeping things in perspective and realizing how fortunate I am, and it’s not that I’ve lost sight of that. The housing situation in itself has been irksome, but it doesn’t even compare to the torture our first loan company that shall remain unnamed put us through.
Q: What’s worse than not having a home?
A: Being told that you will on XX/XX/XXXX, only to be deceived repeatedly.
I’d like to believe I’m a humble, simple guy. I don’t believe in keeping up with the Jones’, and don’t have the desire for flashy things or recognition. I didn’t really care that much about how fancy or big the place my wife and I would be living, as long as it wasn’t in a shitty location and met some standards. The first house that we were under contract with we had opted for new construction and built it from scratch, (only to have our loan company fuck up to the point where they cancelled our contract and began this seemingly eternal housing limbo nightmare), was luxurious, I’ll admit. But it wasn’t the lack of said fancy house that’s caused my frustration; it’s been the ongoing uncertainty of everything else housing related. I thought that even if we had to settle for something much smaller or cheaper or whatever, I would’ve been ecstatic because at least we could plant roots somewhere and call it home.
Here’s a rough timeline of the debacle from House #1:
August 2014: Just having returned from a month long stint in Vegas and having sold my previous place, Tammy and I go house hunting for a place of our own and decide on new construction because of an attractive location and community. We go under contract and give them an earnest money deposit of $15k. They tell us the house will be ready in February.
January 2015: We are now told there’s some delays due to weather and they’re shooting for late February/early March.
March 2015: We are told they haven’t done any work on the house in over three weeks because they were waiting for the gas company to install the gas line.
Late March 2015: Our realtor and loan officer advise the builders not to prematurely set a closing date until the house is completely finished so it wouldn’t cause delays with compliance of homeowners insurance policy/appraisal. They then do the exact opposite of what we ask and try to set up a home inspection without the water pipes installed.
Early April 2015: As a result of their prematurely declaring the house as completed, our initial settlement date of March 31 is pushed back to April 6th.
April 6th: The morning of our settlement date, we get a call that apparently the homeowners insurance company didn’t update their paperwork on their end, thus creating a change in policy and forcing another delay. The new date is now April 11th.
April 13th: we are called early in the morning saying that our file has now been chosen for an audit to ensure compliance with federal loan regulations and will take at least 5 business days. Apparently it’s random, but are more likely to target those who are self employed. (In hindsight I realize this was most likely bullshit by the sketchy loan company, as was every other delay they pulled out of their collective giant ass).
April 20th: We passed the audit, new settlement date is now the 22nd.
April 22nd: We get a call in the middle of the night that now they want the most recent tax return, since it’s been so long that we have passed April 15th. I drive my 2014 tax return over to my realtor’s house since we didn’t have a printer or scanner at 5 am. I happened to declare about 800 dollars less this year than the last. Apparently that can’t happen, and now we are told it creates a need for a new loan application, thus starting the entire process over. We are told April 30th will be the new settlement date.
April 30th: Last summer, when we first applied with the loan company to see what we qualify for, there was a bogus charge on my credit report that was completely false. I called them back then right away and thought I had it taken care of, and that the credit bureaus would update accordingly. I also didn’t trust those idiots to do it correctly so I had them mail me a confirmation letter that it was indeed removed. Apparently they didn’t do their job, because it was now popping back up in my credit report, causing yet another delay.
May 6th: We are told by the builder since we have failed to close in April, we will be charged a per diem of $330 for every day we don’t close. New settlement date is may 10th.
May 10th: Get the usual call in the morning, credit report is still fucked up because of that errant company. Rescheduled for May 13th.
May 13th: Loan company calls us and tells us they have to reduce our loan amount …..causing another restart of the entire process. New target date is May 20th.
May 20th: Loan company calls and says they have to reduce the loan amount again as well as plug us into a different program (so they make more money). Standard necessary to restart the loan and more delays.
May 21-27th: Jamaica.
May 28th: Return (happily married) and find a letter from the builder threatening to cancel our contract if we don’t close by the month’s end. Loan company still dragging their feet with underwriting and bullshit.
June 1st: Builder gives us an extension until June 3rd to close, else we lose the house and the $15k deposit.
June 3rd: Loan company tells us they are almost done, but the builders tell us it’s too late.
June 4th: Apparently our loan officer has been in touch with the builder’s closing manager, who advises them to continue working on the loan, and that we should be fine if we can get that taken care of.
June 7th: Now the sales rep who sold us the house tells us there is another contract on our house somehow so we are out of luck. We then go over the fine print on our contract and discover not only have the builders not followed what was written in terms of protocol, but also legally they cannot cancel our contract unless we explicitly tell them (sign) our lack of financing or no longer with to purchase the house (obv we have done neither ).
June 8th: Our loan officer physically goes to Freddie Mac to obtain the last two signatures we need to finalize the loan. She gets one and the other has to be done by someone in a certain high position of authority, who obviously isn’t available. She’s told to come back the next day.
June 9th: She is told she can’t sign until we have a settlement date given by the builders, which we obviously don’t have because we are unsure what the fuck is going on with everything. Their closing manager for some reason tells us that off the record, she will send us the extension form we need…which leads us to wonder how the fuck our house can be under contract then if she’s offering to help.
June 10th: Obviously the closing manager fakes, but our loan officer says she may have found another way around it. Meanwhile we can’t contact the builders because they are afraid they’ll contact our loan company, who apparently has grown weary of our loan and may give up completely on us.
July 2015: I’m trying to focus on playing my best while in Vegas, but with this constantly hanging over my head it’s admittedly really difficult to. My results ended up being mediocre, and despite signing power of attorney over to Tammy so she could sign in case we miraculously would close with the builders, nothing came into fruition and I came back with still no home and I feel my state of mind on the downward spiral.
This is where shit gets even weirder: the entire time that our loan officer was “going behind the scenes” and “doing things we weren’t supposed to know about” in hopes of trying to get us the property, I felt very strongly that this was not the correct way to buy a house. There should be zero gray area or tiptoeing around the builders, or shortcuts. Things have to be done in a clear cut, legally binding manner…and the fact was, we were told different things from our L.O. and the builder. According to the L.O., we were still very much in contention for this house, despite there being another contract on it now. According to the builder, they had followed through on what they warned us about cancelling our contract, and now the house that we had built and waited ten months for had been sold to someone else. At some point in late July we reluctantly cut emotional ties with the house and had to accept that someone else was now living in it. The L.O. and realtor reassured us that they had been in constant communication with the builders and negotiated a way to get our $15k deposit back, despite zero communication on our end. Seriously, not even an email or phone call. More on that later.
I should add that in between all those days of waiting, we were always agonizing about what would happen next with the loan. It became a perpetual cycle of being told one thing, only to have it changed the next day. The underwriter had to wait for a higher up, who had to wait for a different person to sign off on something the first person needed. Updates on the status of the loan were scarce, and we often clung onto whatever little information (albeit misleading and untruthful) we were given as truth. In hindsight we were fed a steady diet of complete bullshit. Hours became days, days turned into weeks. Weeks dragged into months and we were still on the fence waiting for something that ultimately would never happen. But they always made it sound good, to keep us emotionally invested and hopeful for the next target date. We would lie awake at night uneasy and wondering what would happen and where we would end up.
Beyond frustrated and weary from all the nonsense from before, I looked online and fell in love with a house in an ideal and familiar location with very comparable features to House #1. We’ll call this one House #2. The pictures that were posted in the listing were shoddy at best and most likely taken from an inexperienced realtor’s cell phone, but immediately I saw the potential. We went back on the house hunt, nearly a year later from when this all first began, and sort of went through the motions walking through dozens of other properties. When I first stepped foot into House #2, I already knew it felt like home to us. We quickly put an offer in, and it was accepted. The settlement date was scheduled for August 28. Shall we do another timeline of misery and empty promises?
August 27: Our realtor advises pushing it back a week to September 4th because a title search revealed the seller had some sort of lien that needed to be cleared up.
September 3: Our L.O. calls and claims the bogus credit report issue came up again and triggered a redisclosure. New settlement date is the 11th.
September 11: L.O. claims that “since the loan already had “Freddie Mac approval and that is supposed to be the final step of the loan process, their systems would need to update to the point prior to this step and that would take 24-48 hours.” Yes, by this point I’m taking whatever they say with several grains of unrefined salt.
September 15: Once again, the morning of our supposed closing, we’re fed some more bullshit about how the credit report issue popped up again in their final pull (I’m wondering how many times they can pull our credit throughout the span of the year?), and they’re paying some third party company to expedite the removal of this bogus account. Understandably so, the sellers are getting pissed off with all the delays. They’ve signed several extensions at this point and said they would not sign any more.
September 18: “Good news!” is what we’re told. The L.O. claims that the credit issue was taken care of, but all we have to do is wait another 24-48 hours for the system to update and we’re in the clear! (yeah, right). We’re told that we’re “clear to close” (it means that it sounds like; all documentation and final verifications have been made and the funds are ready to be disbursed), and that nothing else could possibly pop up to ruin our day again. They claimed that the closing documents had been drawn and ready to send to the title company, and that reaching the settlement table was only a signature of an extension away, which they claimed was the biggest challenge at this point. Our realtor and L.O. conspire to tell them a tall tale that my wife and I were out of town on a family emergency and we would settle when we get back, which makes me very uncomfortable since I despise dishonesty. The sellers reluctantly agree and we think we’re finally in the clear.
September 21: Surprise! The morning of, we’ve been sent a text that our file mysteriously got pulled for an internal audit, with a new set of demands and conditions to be revealed to us a day, two days, five weeks from now, it didn’t fucking matter. I was losing what little sanity I had left at this point. Eventually the “auditor” requested what’s known as an audited profit and loss statement because of my self employment, which costs $5k when I called and asked my CPA about it. When I expressed how ridiculous that is for a piece of paper verifying income that they should’ve done from the very first stage of the application process, our realtor bluntly stated that it was either eat the $5k (and we’d still be unsure if the loan company would deliver or not), or eat the $15k deposit for failure to comply with conditions given by the lending company, which would result in a default from the buyer.
Devastated and annoyed beyond comprehension doesn’t begin to describe the mood Tammy and I were in, and while we were debating how to proceed, the sellers decided they had enough of us and pulled the plug on our contract. Thirteen months of waiting to move, and we were 0/2 on houses, and -$15k. It certainly wasn’t funny at the time, but a circulating thought of mine during all of this was that reaching the settlement table was like reaching a poker tournament final table. It’s no secret I’ve had a dismal lifelong track record with tournaments, and had been weaning myself off to the point where I rarely entered them. You’ll see why it’s funny soon.
September 24: Despite the unbearable situation of being back to square fucking one, had a great time taking my mind off of things with my close friends watching Armin van Buuren perform.
September 25: With no plans and not wanting to sit at “home” (the term being used loosely because we had crashed at our best friend’s) and stew about it, went for a double header and saw Oliver Heldens. Had a blast again and enjoyed the music and escape from reality.
September 26: Woke up at 12:30 PM with a depressing realization that I had no agenda for the day. Debated internally on some options of what to do to avoid thinking about the housing situation for a good half hour in bed before tentatively deciding to enter a rare tournament. The WPT happened to be in town at MD Live, and Day 1B of their $3500 Main Event was already underway. I stumbled in at around 2 PM, at the end of level 2, with a starting stack of 30k. Cards were rather uneventful, and I went to dinner break with a meager 28k. I came back from dinner break to a new table, and started picking up a few spots here and there. I could feel myself getting focused, slowly but surely entering the ever elusive “zone”. I resisted the urge to be on my phone in between hands and instead observed every action from every hand from every opponent at my table, tuning out all the negativity from the previous year in my mind. I chipped up to 60k, when I got in KK>QQ for about the same amount. Now I’m at 120k, and get in QQ vs KK on QJ73cc in a 3b pot for piles. We hold, and end the day as overall chip leader at 286k.
September 27-28: Get moved around a lot, half of the time to unfavorable tables with very tough players, but still adhere to my self imposed phone ban. I feel like I’m on all sorts of adderall but I haven’t taken anything except copious mental notes and water. Our realtor is still sending emails and texts and I choose to ignore all of them, which feels incredibly liberating. Nothing was going to break this seldom attained zen-like concentration I had going.
September 29: I made the WPT final table, which is six players, in a virtual tie for 2nd in chips. The chip leader is none other than my longtime friend and former backer/lifesaver Greg Merson. I hadn’t been sleeping much during this whole tournament, and everything leading up to this moment had a very ethereal, dream-like feel. Because of my tough opposition at that table, I consider myself very fortunate to have finished in 2nd place. It could’ve easily gone in such a way that things would have ended differently for me and for others. I took home $164k, super appreciative of the overwhelming support from my friends and family. Tammy and I had something to smile about again, and for those four days, my mind was free from the clutter and negativity.
We then went back on the house hunt (yet again), but this time changed lenders. I cannot express how glad we are to have done that. It was like night and day. This will serve as a shameless plug for them, not out of any financial motive on my end for doing a little advertising for them, but because they deserve to be recognized for excellence. We met with Daniel Rivera, the Vice President and one of the founders for New America Financial, and he’s been nothing but kind, honest, dependable, and professional. As opposed to always being made to feel like we were second tier clients who are always being told to wait for things that never came, he followed through on exactly everything he said would happen, when it would happen. We put another offer on House #2 on October 5th, and when we were informed that there were two other offers on the table, we thought it was impossible that we’d be accepted again given how many times our previous loan company had given them the runaround. Daniel said he would personally speak with the sellers and their agent on our behalf despite only meeting us once. While the sellers were considering our offer and others, Daniel and his team ran our application through underwriting and emerged with an approval. This is different from the standard pre-approval letter that most lenders issue to unsuspecting clients, and then unleash a slew of never ending conditions that end up causing major delays. The items he asked of us included standard documentation that all self-employed individuals have to provide at the beginning of applying, which makes me wonder why our previous loan company didn’t think to ask for it until an audit was pulled and the sellers were already too pissed off to continue dealing with us? More importantly, he requested everything all at once and up front, instead of one thing at a time. At the conclusion of their meeting, he reassured us that he was 100% certain they would accept our contract, and he must have successfully relayed the finality of his approval to the sellers, because on
October 12: The sellers ratified our new contract! Somehow we’re back in the running for House #2.
October 16: Appraisal is ordered and completed. Daniel says the report will be ready on the 19th.
October 19: The appraisal report is submitted and deemed satisfactory.
October 26: We’re given the clear to close.
October 30: We closed and ended our seemingly never ending state of homelessness.
As cliche as it sounds, I’ve learned and re-learned that things happen for a reason, and sometimes they’ll fall into place eventually. Life can be harrowing and difficult and filled with uncertainty. Who you choose to surround yourself with is what will get you through your darkest times. To my dear friends who are reading this, you know who you are. Thank you for showing me time and time again how compassionate and important you are to me. We’ll continue to build each other up and tune out the hate and negativity, and instead focus on how to mutually improve one another’s lives, and positively influence those around us to our best ability.