Saturday, March 26, 2011

Singing The Refi Blues

One of the most humiliating experiences I have had lately occurred this past summer when I made the decision to take advantage of the historically low interest rates.  As you may know, I am not a fan of anything that requires me to do even the simplest mathematical calculations, but I have People.  Said People advised me to refinance...blah, blah, blah…fixed rate… blah, blah, blah…lower monthly payments…blah, blah, Excuse Me?  Lower monthly payments? 

So, potentially, I would have more available cash for the things that make me happy; that make my life meaningful and complete?  Like Stein Mart fashions, Sona MedSpa procedures, Key West excursions, Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Skinny Girl Margarita, etc?  All of a sudden I was listening attentively.  My financial People, okay, Julie, scribbled a few numbers and pronounced that I could probably free up about $100 per month to invest in my future.  Now Julie, I-can-dig-up-enough-cash-in-the-bottom-of-my-Vera Bradley Clutch-to-buy-a-small-Caribbean-village, you’ve known me for how long? Invest in my future? Please!  How can I even think about my future when I am in desperate need of these adorable mustard-colored patent leather wedges I saw last week?  Needless to say, I decided to check into this “refi” business. 

Being duly diligent, ‘cause Julie said I should, I contacted three different banks.  All the loan officers were very professional and courteous, but they all talked a little too much about financial matters…blah, blah, blah….mortgage equity, blah, blah, etc.  However, I did remove the pencils out of my nostrils and switched the telephone off speaker mode when one of them starting blabbing about a “cash out” concept.  It seems that, depending on the amount equity you have in your home, you can actually borrow extra money to make home improvements.  Home improvements…like additional closet space? More room to house my wears?  A place where my Ann Taylor slacks and Jones New York blouses could freely roam and graze in the pastures of closet vastness?  Oh how happy they would be…and so would my son Wesley, who was currently sacrificing one third of his wardrobe to the Vera Wang dress gods.

Granted, this refinancing process began very well.  Miracle of miracles, my credit score was really high….the first time I have ever been measured by a number and liked it! Apparently, my lifelong obsession with not disappointing anyone, including the faceless masses at Chase and CitiBank, had paid off.  By my warped calculations, I deduced (math word!) that I had been paying on the house for four years and had lived frugally, relatively speaking.  Well, not really, but God and NeNe and Bill had been really good to me. I had been making a mortgage payment of $600 per month for 48 months.  So, $600 times 48 is $28,800.  Wow, close to $30,000 built up; fashion pastures, here I come!

I made my appointment with the loan officer a la carte after gathering all the requested pertinent documentation, and entered the bank with my near “excellent” credit score, a low debt-to-income ratio, and a sense of entitlement.  Hey, they needed me, I thought, I am going for a 3.5%, and take no more than a 4.0%.  I mean, look at all of the stimulus money I, as the taxpayer, had given these morons.  Geez.  They owe me.  So, strutted in, shook the loan officer’s hand firmly, and sat my cocky ass in front of her over-priced oak desk.  Little did I know I was about to be brought to my knees by the ghostly presence of the Fiscal Grim Reaper.   

“So, do you have your last two banking statements?” she asked.  What a pretty lady—so sophisticated.  Of course, I thought, and handed them over with a smile.  “Where is page 7?” she asked.  My, that dress may be a knock-off.  “What?” I said.  “Page 7 of 7?  Where is it?,” she queried.  “Oh, that page didn’t have anything on it…just an advertisement for a free ham if I charged up the bank’s MasterCard.”  She just sat in silence for several moments, then looked at me over her glasses.  Wow, I hadn’t noticed that wart on the side of her nose.  “I need the complete statement.  The entire document.”  Her hair is kinda messed up, stringy, snake-like, even. “But you have it!” I cried.  “No…I… don’t…I have pages 1 through 6 of 7.  I need PAGE SEVEN OF SEVEN,” she spewed.  Don’t look into her eyes…don’t look into her eyes, lest ye be turned to stone!  “But, I threw it away!” I bawled.  I am certain that her head swiveled 360 degrees as mine hit the shellacked surface of her desk.  And things rolled down hill from there. 

Despite my stupor, I managed to make a list of everything I needed for our next visit, including the original page where my name was written in the Book of Life.  A PDF copy could be substituted if sent electronically directly from Heaven along with a certified, verified list of all of my aliases for cross-referencing.  As I was leaving, I caught a glimpse of the Refi-Underling I had met first.  She walked me to the door, put her arm around my shoulder, and whispered, “I know all these requests seem unbelievable, but everything has to be perfect for the,” she looked nervously from the window to the door and lowered her voice even more.  “The, the… Underwriter.”  At that moment, I could have sworn I heard Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor playing through the bank’s sound system.  

I ran from the FDIC-insured institution, clothes disheveled and mascara running; cursing the liquidity shortfall in the United States banking system that triggered the scrutiny which now plagued me.  For the next month or so, the All-Powerful Underwriter became a source of intense pain and frustration. Not to mention, a serious threat to my wounded self-esteem.  I couldn’t chose my own appraiser because “The Underwriter” wouldn’t allow it.  I had to explain all deposits into my checking account, as well as how I paid for my child’s after school care, in writing, because “The Underwriter” needed verification.  I had to bring my mother into the bank to swear the $3,000.00 she was giving me for closing was a gift (even though I was giving it back to her when I got my tax refund check), because “The Underwriter” demanded it.

The end result was this:  I received my refinancing at 4.3%, barely escaping the dreaded PMI and had NO money for my ubercloset addition. “The Underwriter’s” appraisal came in $10,000.00 below what I actually paid for my domicile, and my tax refund vanished.  Thus far, the brief therapy sessions for economic-related post-traumatic stress symptoms have eaten up my extra $100 dollars a month. And last week at a Chamber Coffee, I found out the elusive “Underwriter” is actually a paid employee of the bank.  Go figure.  Apparently, it is all a deranged math version of good cop/bad cop designed to make the loan seekers submit to their demands.

So, my Donna Karans and Liz Claibornes are still spooning in my closet, and my Ralph Laurens still remain hostages in my son’s repository. But, life goes on. The therapy is working, the embarrassment is subsiding and I even managed to scrape up enough change for my mustard wedges. Of course, I have to wear them every day because there is no place for them to live, other than my feet! Oh well, live and learn and buy new shoes…because looking good is an investment in your future!    

A. Ballerina

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