Note: This column appears in the 10/28 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/29 issue of the Peoria Times
Talking about mortgages is not fun, or funny. Whenever a friend or acquaintance attempts to become involved in a conversation about mortgages, interest rates, or anything involving finances, my strategy is to draw upon enough acquired knowledge to prove that I am not an idiot, and then make a forced and ill-timed joke in an attempt to steer the conversation back to an inane topic, like sports or celebrity gossip. You know who should refinance? David Arquette! What a jerk, huh?
If there is anything worse than talking about mortgages -- besides, of course, having one -- it’s reading about them. Please consider a forthcoming column that even I wouldn’t read evidence of my immense frustration.
Like many Americans, we have watched our home and greatest asset depreciate in value exponentially. This has been wonderful, especially since we purchased our home at the peak of good economic times, and committed to a high interest rate. In this respect, moving to Arizona was like a crazy night in Vegas, in that we were down $50,000 before we unpacked our bags. (I hear that moving to Vegas three years ago was also like a crazy night in Vegas, as their housing market is no better than ours.)
The good news is that we love it here, and have been content to wait in the hope that things will turn around economically. While we wait, we thought it would be a nice idea to try and refinance, as we had watched interest rates plummet. In the meantime, friends and acquaintances foreclosed, or strategically foreclosed, and the squatting epidemic became national news.
We wanted to go about things the best way we knew how. We were fortunate enough to still be able to pay our mortgage, but thought we could earn a new rate. My humble attempts to go about this were met with roadblocks and misinformation, but I didn’t give up, because I am the hero of this story. A hero who wants to save $300 per month.
Throughout this entire mortgage crisis, I always felt a little bad for the banks. The way I figured, it’s easy to blame an institution, a “bank,” but it’s more difficult to blame people -- people with families. It’s easier to blame a business philosophy and those who took part in it than to trace that philosophy back to its roots, where it becomes more complicated to pinpoint fault.
I do not feel bad for the banks anymore.
Eventually, I made progress with our bank. We had our home appraised, which was humbling, yet it placed us in the bank’s arbitrary window to refinance. We worked out a good rate, and we were on our way.
Or so I thought. First they sent paperwork with incorrect names. Then they lied about sending the corrected paperwork, and only “resent” it after I insisted. It took weeks for them to respond to any issue. As the projected closing date approached and then passed, they stopped answering their phones and returning emails. Here we were, trying to go about things the right way. A major, national bank chose the teenage-jilted-lover route, and just didn’t answer their phone. Nice.
After locking in a 90-day rate, pretty much the next time we heard from them was 92 days later, when they informed us that they had input the wrong property address in their system. Ya’ know, small detail. After three months of waiting for them to get their act together, the bank needed us to close in two days.
Your hero closed, thanks in no part to the bank itself. Even after ultimately succeeding, I can see why our country is in its present financial state. If you ask me, it's not very funny.