I’ll Grant You That

Five years ago I had a few realtors sniffing me up and down because I showed some interest in a weird little house on the west side of Overlook Park, between People’s Park and High Bridge Park here in Spokane. The house was made if four parts with little skyways that bobbed and weaved between the sections, connecting them all together. The house was redwood and nestled in the pine trees. The owner wanted to sell the house for just over $300,000, which I thought was kind of exorbitant, what with the train tracks that ran a mere 50 feet from the house. As I was touring it, a train passed by causing every single item on ever visible shelf to vibrate around one another kind of like those old electric hockey games. I actually burst out laughing when the showing realtor made a comment and I couldn’t hear a word she said. In the silence that followed the train’s departure, I said a quick “no thanks.”

But I heard from her again, along with a few others who had heard there might be a live one on the line, and came to see what kind of mortgage they could talk me into. Before they had my social security number or even my full name, I had been offered mortgages of a half million dollars. That’s a pretty good qualification for a $2000/mo network engineer. They even told me they could give me a loan for the down payment, and then said to never mind the down payment. Just sign here, Mr. um, Bob and we’ll put you into that house!  I, of course, realized that my monthly mortgage payment would have been approximately 150% of my monthly income and so I wasn’t enthused about signing up. So they told me that I could have a mortgage with only $500 per month payments and a balloon payment of the entire balance after a mere two years, and that by then, why I could renegotiate my mortgage and take advantage of the appreciated value of the home getting cash back while lowering my payments. That’s when a little angel settled on my shoulder and intoned that something that sounds too good to be true usually is, and so I again declined the most generous offers afforded to me. I was still in my little rental on the 3rd floor of a quaint apartment building 18 months later when everything crashed and go boom, and the very people who were trying to bring me into the fold were complaining that their homes were about to be repossessed.

I did not jump to take advantage of the mortgage boom primarily because of all of the laws I figure are inviolate, that the law of gravity and Murphy’s Law are on a pretty even keel with one another. I don’t trust things that are definitely true and good, no less the things that just sound good. A great example of why I am so mistrusting just came up. The VA offered me a grant for specially adapted housing so I could get into a home of my own that accommodated my handicaps. The way it was phrased to me sure sounded like they would help with acquiring a property and a mortgage for it, and so I started looking into buying a house again. After staring at the five little questions my credit union had placed in an online form, I totally gave up. They were asking me about the price of the property versus the worth of the property, which confused me right off the bat. I figure that if a house is for sale for $170,000 then that should also be the worth of the home. If the worth of the home was less than the asking price, then why would I want to buy an overpriced house? I would demand that the price be lowered to match the worth or I would take my money somewhere else. Then they asked me what the property taxes for the home were. Well, if I haven’t selected the house yet because I was trying to get pre-authorized so I knew for sure how much money I had to spend, then how on earth could I know what the property taxes were?

I called the bank and a polite woman asked me the same questions and I stated my problems with answering, reminding her that I was trying to pre-authorize. She replied that I could just make up a value to get by the form and they could straighten it all out later. Hrmmm. This is not what I wanted to hear. But I went ahead and faked the answers for the form and was then told I could get a loan rate between 3 and 4.5% and showed me what the monthly payment would be and a breakdown of all of the costs associated with the loan. There were about 20 items with associated fees that added up to twenty five grand, which, coincidentally was the down payment they insisted I provide to close the loan.  So I went and checked out the process for using the specially adapted home grant and found out that I apparently needed to buy the house, and then hold up paying for it while the VA would decide whether or not to participate. In other words, they offered what amounted to reimbursement services and being eligible did not necessary mean that I would be given a grant. I guess they misspoke when they put it in writing that I was qualified for the grant and here they were offering it to me. If it makes no sense to you, then welcome to the magical world of the Veterans Administration.

In order to qualify for the price home I was interested in buying, I would need to include the VA grant as a part of my resources. But the VA makes it clear that a vet should not try to encumber the grant, but to get everything all lined up and then apply for the grant we are qualified for.  And they say that hip hop is difficult to fathom. So there I was with the VA’s newly minted Catch 22 on one hand and a bogus-information  based mortgage application in the other, being asked again what the difference between the price and worth was again.  I was in my car and aimed at a bar where I might get drunk when I remembered that I don’t drink. It doesn’t mix well with the menu of drugs I have to take.

I long for the good old days when a guy could get a mortgage by sneezing at the wrong moment. The happy realtors and financiers were all atwitter about how they would do all of the paperwork and leave me to simply pick up the keys to my 1.5 million dollar home.  No wonder no one is buying houses out there. No one can get past the stupid four questions they ask when you request a mortgage, no less navigate the rocky outcroppings of an actual home purchase. I understand why they say only the rich can afford to buy a home in this climate. They’re the only ones who can afford the six or seven lawyers it’s going to take to complete the paperwork. Lawyers live in a world similar to the government, where absolutely nothing makes any sense. They can also lie with a straight face where I would be stuttering and wetting myself.  No, I belong back in the days when a man could tell his banker he’d pay that loan by God and mean it for the most part so long as I had a job. I’m not sure there ever were good old days like that, but I’d like to think so and so we’ll just go with it.

And meanwhile, I think I’ll peruse the Houses for Rent pages on Craigslist.