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I continue to search for the “perfect” mortgage broker. The jury’s technically still out, but I’m definitely leaning towards Ann right now, since she’s spent the most time with me and has spelled things out in an easy-to-understand fashion. Beth has been tough to get ahold of. That said, I’m actually meeting Beth in person later today so she can go over her Good Faith Estimate with me.

Yesterday I got a Good Faith Estimate from Ann, and it’s looking pretty decent. If I go that route, I only have to come up with the appraisal ($300) and credit report ($18) fees up front; everything else goes into closing costs.

(That’s how you compare brokers - you get Good Faith Estimates with the same loan types and parameters and then you can see how their closing costs and fees stack up. I’m thinking if Beth beats Ann’s numbers, I’m going to contact Ann to see if she’ll meet or beat Beth’s estimate. I have to keep in mind, though, that it is only an estimate, not a quote. The big part is going to be locking in a loan rate.)

I learned from her that there are two ways brokers can bill fees (generally): They either list them separately or bundle them together in one big fee. Apparently, if you see one broker list “administration fees,” it breaks down into “document preparation fees” (fee for them to type up the docs), “document recording fees” (fee for them to file the paperwork), “funding fees” (fee for them to give you money), “underwriting fees” (more fees for them to give you money), and “processing fees” (fee for them to push your paperwork through). That stuff, plus some other stuff (taxes, federal flood evaluation determination, etc.) make up your closing costs. I’m going to have to find out how negotiable that stuff is; basically, that seems to me like it’s just money I’m paying them for the courtesy of getting me a loan that they’ll already be making money on.

Yesterday I also contacted Gregory, a realtor I was recommended by a friend of mine, Colin. I told Gregory all of the things I wanted in a house, and after about two hours he called me back and said he was going to send me over a bunch of listings to look at in email. (He called me later on to say we had somehow garbled my email address over the phone, so he had to resend them, but I did, in fact, get 54 different properties to look at.) I’ve since printed off those listings so I can sort through them and start weeding out the ones I don’t want. Then I’ll send him some feedback and we can move on with this. It’s seeming to me like the realtor portion of this house-buying-thing is not the stressful part. Sure, you may look at a lot of different places, but it’s like walking around a car lot. The tough part of buying the car is the negotiation and paperwork. I anticipate the same for house buying, and so far, that end of things is definitely causing the most hair loss for me.

General Ramblings comments edit

Jenn and I went last night to Mr. Bill’s Traveling Trivia Show again. This time, rather than going with family, we met a couple of friends of mine. For anonymity’s sake or something, we’ll call them “Susan” and “Andrew.” Heh.

Also there, we met a bunch of new (for me) people, and I’m horrible with names so if I spell or otherwise mangle or forget your… um, anonymous… name, forgive me… We saw Susan’s husband Brian, a guy named Scott (who I think was at the last trivia show we went to, but showed up late), another guy named John, and Susan’s cousin… You know, I can say her name but I probably can’t spell it. It’s like “Tanya” but starts with “Dawn.” Or maybe it was just too loud in the place and I’m going deaf. We’ll say it’s “Dawnya.” Something like that. Regardless, cousins. They have the same teeth, so you know they’re not lying.

Dawnya’s into NASCAR. Not that it really matters in the context of what we’re talking about here, but almost every time anything sports related came up, it inevitably led to NASCAR somehow. NASCAR is something I just don’t comprehend. I suppose it’s just one of those things - some folks like it and some folks don’t. I think if I’m going to watch races, I want Formula 1 or motorcycle races or something. I’m a hockey fan - I need asses getting kicked and blood on the ice. I just don’t think I’m going to find that in NASCAR. But I digress…

We played a good game, and this time Jenn and I even won a dollar-off coupon that we applied to our bill. As it happens, Andrew’s even less lucky than Jenn and I - he’s been five times and never won anything. One would think he’d start feeling slightly beaten down. If I were him, I’d probably have a few words outside with Mr. Bill. He seems pretty patient about it, though.

Andrew’s actually quite a kick. After he gets a few beers into him, especially. Two things about the evening that cracked me up:

As Mr. Bill was reading out the numbers of the winning tickets, Andrew gets up, stoked that he won the drawing… just to see someone else go up and claim the prize (because his ticket was actually not the winner… maybe it was an unconscious desire to finally claim a prize?). I’ve never seen anyone turn redder than that. Like hot lava, baby. Yow.

Then, last round of the game, Andrew’s five beers into things, and the question is, “Who played the Joker in the 1989 movie, Batman?” Andrew basically pulls out this virtual PA system and addresses the entire crowd, yelling, “OH! JACK NICHOLSON!” Hey, man, put the bullhorn down. The “contest” part of the “trivia contest” is that not everyone knows the answers. It was too hysterical. I hope he’s there next time we go.

That was pretty much it for the evening last night. I’m exhausted this morning, but I don’t really know why, and I can still taste the basket of onion rings from last night. Maybe I shouldn’t have had the whole basket. Oh well.

Oh! I had this weird onion-ring-driven dream last night where I was starring in an Indiana Jones style movie with my Tiny Cat, who somehow spoke English. We got caught by the Nazis and in order to escape, the cat had to sit on an ostrich egg and try to get it to hatch. I was tied to a chair, telling her to hurry up, and she was generally indignant about the whole thing. I mean, how could I expect her to hatch the egg if I wouldn’t shut up? It was pretty funny.

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Starting the process of buying a home has been stressful. As Greg put it, “You never really know when the process has started.” I think I consider the process started now that I’ve made first contact with a mortgage broker.

I started out this morning at 10:10a by leaving a message with the assistant to a mortgage broker, Beth, who a friend of mine recommended. I was told Beth would call back at 11:00a.

At 11:35a I started getting impatient, and after talking to Greg and figuring I should talk to three or more mortgage brokers (to really shop around), I put in a request with MortgageDesignGroup.com to get in touch with one of their brokers. From their web site, it’s looking like I can get a 30 year loan at 5.5% - 6.125% and get around $185,000 for $1050 - $1124 a month (without insurance or taxes).

11:55a - Marty called me up and referred me to a broker named Ann who he’s worked with several times. Went online and got her contact info. Decided to call her after lunch.

It’s looking like rates at Oregon Telco for a 30 year loan will be about 5.5% on a 30 year fixed loan.

1:25p - Beth finally called back. I gave her some information and she’s going to call me back tomorrow with some numbers.

1:45p - Left a message with Ann. She’ll call back.

2:35p - Ann called. She’s probably the most helpful person I’ve talked to so far and after talking to a couple of people, it turns out everyone who works with NW Mortgage Group is happy with their service.

It seems there are a few ways to go with this loan. I can put less than 20% down on the house and pay mortgage insurance; I can be “self-insured” by putting at least 20% down; or I can do some “creative loan manipulation” and get an 80% first mortgage, 10% second mortgage, and put 10% down (or 80/15/5, or whatever). With the third option, you’d have the same monthly payment, but you’d be paying towards two different loans and wouldn’t have to have mortgage insurance.

Sounds like, assuming an arbitrary guess for taxes and insurance, for a monthly payment between $1300 and $1500 a month (including the taxes/insurance), I could get between $193,000 and $220,000 with a 5% down payment on a 30 year loan. To get some firm costs, though, I need to settle on a loan amount and figure out how long I’m planning on staying at the house.

Now I need to start comparing one broker to another. According to Ann, you need to get what’s called a “Good Faith Estimate” from each broker which lays out the fees and such. Then you can compare apples to apples (so to speak) and see who’s actually getting you the better deal.

It’s starting to sound like a catch-22, though. I can’t get a firm loan cost until I decide on a house, but it’s hard to really get a house until you know how much you can afford.

I’ll wait to hear back from Beth tomorrow and see what she says. I’m hoping to hear back from MortgageDesignGroup.com, too, to see what they recommend. Pending on what they say, I’ll probably get ahold of all of them to get those “Good Faith Estimates” and start comparing brokers.

At this point, I’m leaning towards Ann, though. She called me back quickly, she was the most helpful, and she spent the time to work things through with me. Doesn’t hurt that I’ve heard recommendations from three different people for them.

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I’ve started actually (gasp) hearing back from some of these mortgage brokers that I’ve been trying to get in contact with, so I decided to put up a new category - Realty Check - to include my home-buying experience (and probably, after that, home maintenance experience). I’m sure it’ll be old hat to the people out there who have already bought homes, but if anything, it’ll be good for me to look back on and laugh.

Plus, maybe I can sell book rights to it. Heh.

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I called the mortgage broker that a friend of mine recommended at about 10:00a today. I got in touch with her assistant, who told me that I’d be getting a call back at 11:00a, after the broker got out of a meeting.

It’s 11:25a right now, and I’ve not gotten any calls.

I appreciate that people are busy and whatnot, but I value punctuality. Don’t tell me - or have your assistant tell me - that you’re going to call me back if you’re not.

It doesn’t help that I sent this broker an email on Monday and never heard back, either. This whole thing smells rotten. I’m wondering if I should just look for someone else. I mean, if I can’t count on calls getting returned or emails getting answered, why would I trust this person with the largest purchase I’m bound to make?

Greg told me I should talk to three different brokers anyway, to make sure I’m getting the best deal. I don’t think that’s too bad of an idea, but it does mean a lot more work on my part. I suppose in the long run it’ll be worth it.

*Sigh*

I wish this were easier, like buying a car. I suppose technically I could go to the “house lot” and pick out a house, but I’m not too big on the whole manufactured home thing. If only they could make manufactured homes as nice as regular homes.

I had an idea, too, and I’m not sure whether to go with it or not… For the first time home buyer, like me, it would be nice to see a journal-style account of some other first time home buyer’s experience getting a house. I’m thinking I may start a new category for blog entries and start the journal there. Then maybe it’ll be helpful to someone down the road. Or, maybe, just for me, to look back and see all the stupid mistakes I made. Hmmm. Maybe that’s not such a great idea.