Yes, You Need A Lawyer; You Also Need A Very Organized Spouse; And A Finely Tuned Sense Of The Absurd

After agreeing on the price of the house we set out to secure the mortgage. We also knew that there were legal things that we had to look over, so we decided to run it by some people.

When I say "we decided to run it by some people," I mean that I thought it would be OK just to send the real estate binder to a friend who graduated from law school and who once worked as a practicing attorney. Jen of course knew better, and our attorney friend said something along the lines of, "Are you smoking crack?" when we inquired whether this was advisable.

In short, we needed a real estate attorney to shepherd us through the process. And "shepherd" is a good word to use, since we really were like sheep during the process. Truth be told, in the end the real estate attorney's retainer probably worked out to less than minimum wage given the work he put into the transaction.

We had plans to go to Egypt and Jordan at the end of December for two weeks, so we were a little nervous about missing anything. George, the realtor, reassured us that the whole process took time — maybe two or even three months, he said. Without getting into it, he explained that these things take time.

We gave our lawyer power of attorney to execute the contract if it happened while we were away. When I dropped off the document at his office, I joked that this didn't mean that he'd be able to pull the plug in case we were incapacitated; entirely seriously, he said he would never do that. I've noticed a similar lack of humor with doctors; maybe they just don't know who they're dealing with and they're hesitant to be funny; maybe they just don't have a sense of humor.

The contract of sale was executed at the end of January. Our closing was scheduled for the end of February. The mortgage was the other part that had to be finalized. "Finalized" is perhaps a misleading term, since in December the mortgage was very far away from being anywhere near final. The pre-approval didn't take much time at all, but I don't really understand what pre-approvals are for, especially given all the wheel reinvention that followed.

When you get a mortgage, there is an originator who is basically the agent of the bank that gives you the mortgage and then an underwriting department that does all the background work making sure you can pay the mortgage. We sat down with the originator and he took down all our information. We got our loan commitment at the first week of February. Then it went on to the underwriting department.

Now there's a wall set up between the loan originator and the underwriting department where they're not allowed to talk to each other. The only link is an administrative person, a document specialist, who requests documentation on behalf of the underwriters. Which is to say that your experience during the underwriting process is only as good as the document specialist you're working with.

Later in the process — probably around late March — I posited that writing skills were on the decline in the country, and that those who lacked such skills were not necessarily "dumb," per se, but rather symptomatic of a failing educational system. Because, really, when do any of us have to "write" nowadays? Except for a handful of specialists for whom writing is part of their responsibilities, so much of what we do doesn't have anything to do with writing, much less reading, and . . . Michael and Jen both vehemently disagreed. They're probably correct. Or definitely correct.

I say this because there's a special hell in having one of the biggest rites of passage in your life — the purchase of your first home, for example — be dependent on the communication skills of one document specialist.

We'd get these cryptic emails asking for this or that and we'd have to ask each other "What's this or that?" And then we'd Google it and try to figure it out. There was the Real Estate Certification we suddenly needed out of the blue, which turned out to be the same thing as the FHA Amendatory Clause — both or at least one of which we already signed, but underwriting needed it, except that they couldn't just tell us this because there was this middle person who couldn't quite communicate what that thing was. It went on like this during the underwriting process, which lasted almost two months.

Now keep in mind that this was just the mortgage process. We were also right in the middle of the back and forth with the sellers — this after the contract of sale had been finalized. At some points it seemed amazing that any homes ever got sold at all.

Posted: December 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: ,

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