Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The high cost of living (in a house)

This week's life improvement project has been working with a mortgage broker to get a pre-approval letter so we can start house hunting in earnest.  We've finished the initial application process, and we're waiting for the great and powerful Underwriters to send word to us through the kind and benevolent Mortgage Broker.

It's been a fascinating experience, and I've learned a huge amount about the process. For instance, I always thought that the biggest obstacle to home ownership was down-payment funds, or possibly your credit score.  It turns out that I was wrong entirely.

Yes, a healthy down payment will make your offers stronger and reduce your monthly payments.

Yes, a good credit score will qualify you for a lower rate and a better mortgage with lower fees.

However, it turns out that those are not the most important things to have. Now, don't worry; if you're considering your first home, I'm here to clear away the fog.

It's less than obvious, until you get pretty far into the application process, but I'd recommend you start your quest for home ownership by purchasing stock in your printer's manufacturer. That may seem random now, but when you realize that the mortgage company wants 2-6 month's of bank statements, 1-7 year's tax returns and W-2's, 1-3 month's worth of pay stubs, your first born, 1 kidney, half a lung, 1/3 of a liver, and 2 years worth of cancelled rent checks, it will make a lot more sense.

The first thing you're going to need is supplies.  I'd recommend you start out with at least 3 reams of paper.  That should be enough to get you through your initial application for pre-approval.  You'll need at least a full case of paper to complete the mortgage and home purchase process, but 3 reams should get you out and house hunting.

You may be thinking that a good supply of pens would be the next logical item on your list, and you wouldn't be far off.  However, we need to make sure you're in proper signing shape.  I'd recommend you pick up one of these bad boys first:


Once your hands are up to the challenge, you can pick up pens, a case of printer ink, and maybe some aspirin.  At that point, it's simply a matter of demonstrating the necessary patience.

It can be difficult at times to keep wading through the mountains of paperwork, but I found that repeating a simple mantra was more than enough to keep my spirits up, and complete the paperwork.

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

"No more downstairs neighbors smoking pot."

The power of this mantra is simply amazing.



All joking about our horrible neighbors aside, the truth is that it's been a seriously long road to get here. It's hard to feel any serious regret about your life as a whole when you're happily married with a boat load of good stuff coming down the tracks, but I know I spent a long time messing up.  From 18 until just a year or two before I met my wife, I pretty much trashed my credit up one side and down the other.  I had the really ugly stuff all cleaned up before I ever asked her to marry me, and honestly thought I was pretty much out of debt.  Turned out it took a few more years to clean out all the financial skeletons from the closet.

Now we're well on our way to home ownership.