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I was looking forward to seeing something from MortgageDesignGroup today as I was promised on Friday, but it’s 5:00p, end of the business day, and I haven’t gotten anything.

On the other hand, I got a call from Ann this morning and she was exceptionally up front with me on some things that I hadn’t heard from anyone else.

The question was how flexible she could be on some of the closing costs and broker fees. She said that, frankly, she could make them all go entirely away. With that, though, is a sort of caveat. She likened it to a car dealership: You might get the dealer to give you a lower price and cut his overhead more than he’d like, but that rebate you might have qualified for… you suddenly don’t qualify for anymore. Basically, you might not pay the fees and closing costs up front, but you may end up paying it anyway in the loan’s percentage rate.

It sounds kind of crappy, but I won’t lie to you - I’d rather someone be honest with me than try to sell me into something of a lower value. I appreciated her honesty on that one.

And with that, I think I’ve picked my broker. Sure, I’ll wait to see if MDG sends me anything, but I have a very, very strong feeling I’ll be calling Ann back to ask what next steps will be. Jenn pointed out that, of all of the brokers I’ve talked to, the only one that doesn’t stress me out when I talk about her is Ann. I think that says something right there.

In other news, I’ve scheduled with the realtor to do a couple of walkthroughs this coming Saturday - houses he recommended that Jenn and I drove past this weekend. In the meantime, he’ll continue looking for stuff in our desired area and maybe we’ll have more to see when we meet up with him this weekend.

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Jenn and I drove past the three house candidates on Saturday afternoon that the realtor sent over and further reduced the competition there down to two potentials. Those are the two we want to see inside so we can better gauge whether or not they’re any good. The outsides (and neighborhoods) on the two are good, though. So I guess we’ll see.

I find that the descriptions in listings are slightly misleading in some cases. For example, the house we ruled out was supposed to be on a cul-de-sac. Last I checked, that implied a street that has sort of a round end to it. My parents live on a cul-de-sac and it’s decent. What we found when we got there was the house situated at the squared-off end of a one-lane road. Yes, that means no room to turn around, no curbside parking for visitors, and a very cramped feel. Thank you, no. As nice as it might be inside, that’s not something I think I could put up with for years to come.

I’m kind of excited, in a sick sort of way, to see what MortgageDesignGroup.com can come back with estimate-wise. The more I think about the features and services they offer, the more I like them.

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I met with Beth on Friday afternoon and was… hmmm… less than impressed. I’m not sure what it was. I guess I felt like she was selling me too hard on using her services. Like, an impersonal sale, rather than a genuine concern for what’s best for me. She was nice, though, and she did have lower closing costs than Ann did. I put in a call to Ann (and left a message) to see how negotiable some of those things are.

I was strongly leaning towards Ann for my mortgage broker until the people from MortgageDesignGroup.com called Friday evening. I first talked to Nicole, who, it seems, just gathers information so they can get a feel for what you’re looking to do. Then, a few minutes later, Ben (the underwriter) called.

MortgageDesignGroup.com is an interesting beast. They’re apparently both a bank and a mortgage broker. What they do is they fund you through their own bank, then they show your loan for 10 business days to 275 other banks. If they can get you a better rate elsewhere (and, according to Ben, they do about 20% of the time), then you get the better rate. Not bad, eh? Plus, being their own bank, the speed with which they can process things seems much better. Ben said they were on track to close things in 7 days in some cases. I think that’s pretty fast (though, admittedly, I don’t have anything to compare to).

After talking to Ben, I find that I’m pretty comfortable with him and with Ann. So I guess now it’s down to who can get me the best rates and the lowest fees. I feel good about Ann; she’s spent a lot of time with me and I sort of feel personally involved in that relationship. That said, Ben offered some pretty good benefits and, after all, we’re talking about money here - not being best friends. Friends is good; saving me money is better. If I can have both… well, that’s where I’ll be.

I’ll get the estimates - three separate ones - from Ben on Monday. Then we’ll see. In the meantime, I guess I’ll wait to hear back from Ann.

I went through all 54 properties that Gregory sent me to look at and, based on feature set and location, narrowed it down to three that I am interested in checking out. Jenn and I will do drive-bys to see what the neighborhoods look like and generally how far out they feel in relation to the MAX and my work. One property in particular is currently standing out to me, but it’s about $13K over my price limit, so if it turns out to be the one I’m going to have to do some haggling. I figured I’d have to do that anyway, but I’m wondering if people will come down that much. Jerry (who sits next to me at the hockey games) says they will, and for some reason I think he’s had a lot of experience with stuff like that, so I tend to believe him. I mean, the worst they can say is “no.”

That’s where it sits. I need to get Ben’s estimates so I can make a broker decision (and then send polite break-up emails to the brokers I don’t choose) and I need to see what these houses look like that Gregory’s sent over. Things are moving a lot faster than I had anticipated; it’s looking like we could be finished with this process in a couple of months, tops. I guess I anticipated it being like a three-month project getting all this stuff together and finding the right place and everything… if you get it all going in parallel, though, it moves totally fast.

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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.