Are We There Yet?

The Gingerbread Diaries

And by ‘there’ I mean home-owners.

5 more minutes or 2 more hours. Take your pick.

A couple years ago I was on a road trip with some friends and the ‘are we there yets’ started–though just in fun, it was only a 2-hour car ride after all. One friend said her parents would always answer ‘5 more minutes’ regardless of where they were in their journey while another’s always answered ‘2 more hours,’ even if they were pulling into the driveway.

So, are we there yet?


Up until yesterday afternoon we were scheduled to “arrive” today… but you know there’s more to the story than just a simple postponement, right?

Last month we were dealing with the contractor snafu, but we’d found a solution and just after my last post on the subject, Contractor S got the paperwork turned in to the bank and we got the HUD work write up redone (thankfully that didn’t cost me another $600), the paperwork was off to validation and we thought we could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

[box type=”tick” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Note: Never engage in a premature sigh of relief. Not until the ink is dry on the page and you have keys in your hand do you dare breathe that sigh of relief because to do so ahead of time is a sure-fired invitation to the Universe to knock the wind right out of you.[/box]

Y’all, we had a license issue. Again.

Only this time it was one born of, I believe, one hand not knowing what the other one intends, or maybe not caring all that much.

Supposedly, the State of Georgia requires general contractors who are representatives of LLCs or corporations to have said license in said company’s name. And Contractor S had it in his given name. Now, logically (and I tried to argue this with the bank) if S’s LLC was formed in 2003, and S is listed as the registered agent of said LLC, then wouldn’t they have had an issue with S registering for his contractor’s license in 2008 (Georgia only started licensing contractors in 2004 and it was only mandatory by 2008–let that sink in for a bit, too) in his own name? Doesn’t the fact that it was allowed through subsequent annual reports and license renewals negate the concept of the hard-and-fast rule?


So Contractor S had to apply for an updated/replacement/appended license in the company name to be validated by Wells Fargo. Thankfully, that process was only supposed to take 2 weeks (not that we had that much time, really) but they only needed proof of application to move forward. (With the understanding that until the correct license was produced no draws could be made on the renovation funds. So let us all hope that 2 weeks was an accurate estimate, otherwise the renovation could be held up. The good news is that they estimate the work only taking 6 weeks, total, so there’s that. A 203(k) Renovation Loan technically allows up to 6 months for the work

And, of course, in par-for-the-course fashion, I didn’t find out about this little hiccup until after 5 pm on the Thursday that fell a week after all the paperwork was turned in. And of course the contractor was heading out of town, pre-dawn the next morning. More waiting, more anxiety.

I recently joked to a friend that all 203(k) applications should come with a 3-month prescription for Valium or some such.

At any rate, the application was submitted, we finally got our validation, and all we needed was for the bank to confirm the funds were in the bank and we could send everything to final underwriting.

And that was the other headache of this past month.

To refresh everyone’s memory, we were not planning to buy a home so soon after getting married. The opportunity fell into our lap, pretty much, and we jumped on it, but we weren’t exactly ready for it in the we-have-a-savings-account-for-the-down-payment-and-closing-costs sense. Instead, the funds for this adventure were coming from two sources:

  1. A whole-life policy of Todd’s that his grandfather had taken out for him when Todd was just a baby. It was about 60 years from maturation, but it had a decent surrender value that we’d planned to use as the starter funds for our house savings.
  2. A draw on my 401(k) account (not always a great idea, but it’s one of the 5 legit reasons to withdraw from our plan since we don’t allow loans against the balance and it makes sense for us right now).

The one thing we could have done differently is get the funds out of the life policy before now. We’d talked about it, but I fully admit we got lulled into the plenty-of-time illusion with the snail’s pace everything seemed to be taking, plus the fact that the beginning of the year is pretty much a stressful time for anyone in finance and accounting and we kept putting it off. We had (and by we, I mean Todd, since it was in his name and I couldn’t request anything from them on his behalf), by this time, made the funds request, but the first person Todd spoke to insisted the forms had to be mailed. Two days later (and no forms having yet arrived), Todd called back and finally got someone who understood how modern technology worked and was able to use email and fax to get the forms completed, so then it was just a waiting game.

And boy did we wait! It took almost 2 full weeks for the check to arrive from that insurance company, while my 401(k) request went in on a Wednesday afternoon and I had it in the bank by 2pm on that Friday–they, of course, had a better process and an Express option, but still. Night and day difference. And it was that difference that put this week’s closing in peril.

See, the seller was getting fed up with the delays. Not that I can completely blame her, but each time we had to ask for a closing extension there was much hemming and hawing and wringing of hands relayed by the Realtor. And this last one (well, it was supposed to be the last one) was the icing on the cake. We weren’t going to be able to make the closing for March 26th, but we knew that our drop-dead date was April 14th, since our lease renewal is due to the property manager on the 15th if we’re not planning to move. No wiggle room.

Our loan processor had suggested we ask for the 14th on the new extension, since we knew it was as late as we could go, but that we try to close before that date, just as soon as everything was where it needed to be. Seller didn’t like that at all! She only wanted to extend it a few days and, well, that just wasn’t going to happen. We were in the very real position of having the seller cancel the contract after 3 months of stress and anguish trying to make this deal happen.

It wasn’t a happy weekend.

The seller conceded to a 1-week extension and we waited to see if the check from Todd’s insurance would show up, and every day Todd would call to find out the status from the insurance company and get a ‘they’re just waiting for the final accounting numbers to be able to cut the check.’ Meanwhile, the check had actually been cut on the 26th but then took it’s sweet time travelling from Nebraska to Florida, finally arriving on the 31st.

Our current extension was set to expire on the 2nd, but there’s something in Georgia purchase contracts that allows a 7-day unilateral extension to allow for financial processing delays. Could be use that and be able to close within that window?


Ready for another wrinkle? In Georgia you have to designate an attorney for the loan closing (Florida and many other states consider the attorney optional, for what it’s worth, and you just get your docs from the title company and keep on moving) and our lawyer was going out of town the week of the 7th. Can you say crap on a cracker? I can!

Was the lawyer available for a Friday closing? Maybe we could squeak this in? No, he was booked (as anyone would be if they were clearing their schedule to be gone for a week), but he could realistically do 3pm on Thursday (that would be today, folks) IF the bank got their paperwork to him by 10am that day. He said it wouldn’t be as pretty and seamless compared to when he had more time, but I told him I didn’t care if it was pretty, I just needed it done.

And so this week happened:

  • Monday, 3/31: insurance check arrives, but too late to make the bank’s deposit for that day
  • Tuesday, 4/1: Todd deposits check in the morning (being late for work to get there right when the teller’s window opens at 8:30), and writes me a check in the evening
  • Wednesday, 4/2: I deposit the check first thing in the morning (ditto the being late), and then leave work early to drive up to Cairo to secure the needed home owners insurance so it’ll be bound for the next day.

That’s when things ground to a halt.

Because the funds were not inherently mine, we’d had to treat the insurance money as a “gift” from Todd to me to be acceptable by mortgage standards. Because it would have required 3 more documents (including one from the slow-as-molasses insurance company) for Todd to just sign the check over to me (again with the lack of logic/too much red tape), the funds had to go through the accepted chain of custody account-hop to make sure everything was on the up and up. And because the bank had to be able to verify the funds before getting the all clear from underwriting, we were counting on a major miracle that the bank (which is, incidentally, the same as the lender, so why… no, not going there again) would release the “pending” status of my deposit early. That didn’t happen.

So when I got to the insurance office (an hour away from my office, so thanks lost time at work!) was when I checked my email messages to find we weren’t going to make the closing on Thursday.

I mean, I knew it was a long-shot, but everyone seemed to think we could make this work, so we forged ahead, allowing ourselves to anticipate being homeowners by the end of the week. To have that taken away, again, was just… no words are coming to me to describe the mixture of disappointment, dejection, and frustration that settled on my shoulders once again.

I had ice cream for dinner, if that’s any indication of my mood.

But there was hope. By the time I got back to Tallahassee, the lawyer had spoken with the seller and convinced her (citing that it was his schedule, not ours, that was causing the delay–thanks for taking that bullet!) to wait until he got back–on the 14th–to close. He got us this final extension, even while the Realtor said the seller wouldn’t approve the 14th no-way, no-how. Thank you, Lawyer S!

5 more minute. 2 more hours. 10 more days.

For Want of A Nail…

The Gingerbread Diaries

Or, you know, a roof. Point is, tiny things like this have been proving big hurdles these last two weeks as we pursued our home ownership dream.

Things have been moving at quite a rapid clip on the home-front, since we decided to put in an offer on the pink Victorian the day we viewed it. By the end of that week (which included Christmas), we’d also gotten the offer approved without countering, and started calling around for quotes from inspectors as I’d seen anywhere from $400 to $1500 mentioned online. Thankfully, the prices were much more reasonable than expected and one inspector said he could even do it the next day. So on the 27th we met up with our inspector, hoping for good news. Or at least not-horrible news.

Trying out one of my Christmas presents from Todd: I admit, hearing it say "New Home is ahead on the right" was kind of cool!

Trying out one of my Christmas presents from Todd; I admit, hearing it say “New Home is ahead on the right” was kind of cool!

The roof was the big news. We’d been hoping that we might have a couple years before things were dire but, in the words of the inspector:

We don’t get much rain this time of year, you could probably wait til spring.

For the record we planned to close at the end of February, so spring wasn’t much of a grant. And after 2 weeks of calling 13 roofers and getting only 4 quotes, here’s what I’ve learned.

  • When a roofer says, for instance, 36-square or 55-square, that’s shorthand for hundred’s of square feet. A roofing “square” is 100 square feet. One guy tried to tell me his quote of 36 square was based on what I told him–how could I when I didn’t even know what it meant?! (Granted, that was the same roofer who quoted me based off Google Earth pictures and didn’t actually go out to the property.)
  • As asphalt shingles start to wear off, their surface can just wipe off in your hands and create a ball-bearing effect underfoot. Thankfully I didn’t learn that first-hand, but one roofer who did call me back emphatically said he was happy to be off that roof!
  • Old homes were commonly topped with wooden shingles or “shake.” Most older homes have had this old covering removed long ago and replaced with modern shingles. Notice I said most.
  • Wood shake was applied to 1-by-4s stretched out over the length of the roof and are (charmingly) know as “rat runners.” shudder
  • Modern shingles don’t work with those rat runners, and require the entire roof to be re-decked (i.e. covered with sheets of plywood).
  • The labor to remove the 2 layers of shingles, redeck, and install the new shingles drives the roofing cost out of the maybe-we-can-work-something-out range.

I never thought I’d say asbestos shingles would have been a walk in the park compared to what we found out!

Without many other options, I decided to ask the seller (despite her desire to sell as-is) if she’d be willing to replace the roof. Barring that, we’d want reduce our offer a bit, ask for closing costs to be paid, and seek to add the cost of the roof into our mortgage through a renovation loan. The seller wouldn’t budge on the price, nor were they willing to replace the roof. (You don’t know until you try, right?)

So we had two options: walk away or try to get the renovation loan for the offered price plus the cost of the roof. This meant financing more than we’d really wanted to, but not so much that we’d be overextending ourselves. After all, for such a big house, the price does reflect the state the house is in, and it’s far less than we’d pay for anything here in Tallahassee. The additional hoops and fees of the renovation loan does mean our up-front costs are higher than we’d originally planned (if you can call what we had any sort of plan), and that the few months of overlap between our current lease and taking possession of the new-old house will be quite, uh, “squeaky” as far our budget goes. 

It was a tough decision. Frankly, I hated the idea of wasting those 2 weeks spent researching and obsessing over the possibility of the house purchase more than the inspection and earnest money that we laid out. There were also some tears of disappointment, I fully admit. But I was willing to walk away if Todd thought we needed to. Even though (for reasons I might discuss some day, once it’s all cleared up) it would be my name on the documents, I’m not foolish enough to insist I get my way just because I want it. It wouldn’t be worth straining our marriage so early on.

Imagine my surprise when, Friday afternoon, just as I’d thought to myself that I was finally distancing myself emotionally from the house, Todd calls up and says we should go for it!

So that’s our next step. We have decided to try for the renovation loan, with its aforementioned hoops and fees, and its 45-60 day processing time. Our closing has been pushed back to mid-March at this point and I have no idea whether it’ll even be approved as it’s based on the homes appraisal. And I have to corral a bunch of paperwork from the contractor, as well, which makes me uneasy in that I’m-not-in-charge-here way. But we’re decided to see it through to whatever end it comes to. Either we’ll have the house and a new roof by mid-March, or we’ll sign our lease renewal by mid-April and stay put.

Either way, it’s an adventure!

(And if your curious about the inside of the house, I put up a Facebook album of the pictures I took while up there for the inspection.)