home improvement

The Litter Box

By home improvement, kona the kitty, life-changing purchases, mele the kitty 2 Comments

plant litter box1

Over the weekend, J and I attended a lovely wine party at the fairly new home of my former co-worker, Dave, and his wife. As they took us on a tour of their place, I became instantly jealous of their multiple faux plant cat litter boxes. So much so that, as Dave poured me my first glass of wine, I was already on Amazon, shelling out $59.99 for one of my own (with free two-day shipping). The quality item arrived today, was assembled in a mere five minutes, and is currently awaiting its first cat crap. The foliage on top has really changed the entire ambiance in my living room, and I don’t even have to water it. What a classy solution to (literally) the shittiest aspect of cat ownership. I’m so excited.

Moving On

By back to renting, breaking news, condo, home improvement, milestones, packing 3 Comments

Guess what! I’m moving! =)

My roommate and I signed a lease this weekend on a two-story condo about a half mile from the beach. We move in October 1, and I seriously cannot wait.

It’s been about five years since I last moved, and since then, I think I’ve really improved my packing skills, so I’m expecting this move to be pretty easy. Over the last year, I’ve really paired down my closet and gotten rid of a lot of things I don’t wear. I’m also not very big on clutter, so I don’t have much miscellaneous crap to pack up either.

The new place is simply gorgeous inside — the owner has updated everything, and she has impeccable taste. I love the paint colors, the carpet, and especially the patio and balcony outside. It’s the perfect little beach house. There’s an L-shaped balcony on the second floor accessible from both bedrooms upstairs, and it overlooks a spacious, fenced-in, rectangular patio below. The first floor features a living room, dining room, kitchen, and half bath, and the second floor has a master bedroom/bathroom, plus another bedroom and bathroom in the hallway. Once I get there, I’ll definitely share some photos. In the meantime, I’m on the lookout for some new artwork for the lovely walls, as well as some furniture — a dining room table and chairs, new barstools, some patio furniture, plus a new coffee table and end tables. Oh, and maybe a TV stand.

It seems like I always move in October, so it feels like everything is falling into place perfectly. My first lease in Virginia Beach began in October, and so did my second. Even though I closed on the condo in August 2006, I took a few weeks to fix it up before I officially moved in, so that move was end of September/October-ish, too. Ironically, the air conditioning in my condo died shortly after we signed the lease this weekend — just one more sign that getting out of there is the best possible option. I feel like I’m saving myself close to another $5,000 since I don’t have to fix it.

A little less than six weeks until I move! It’s going to be an excellent year near the beach. =)

Short Refi: A Status Report

By condo, financial wisdom, hazards to my well-being, home improvement, mortgage, not ruling at life, skills, top notch communication blunders, you might learn something 2 Comments

I’ve gotten so much feedback from my mortgage-related posts that I figured I’d post a little status update. I actually feel like my experience may be helping some of you or at least pointing you in the right direction, which is pretty cool because it makes me feel a little less like I’m wasting my time with this whole issue.

So the status is this: back on track for the short refinance. Quicken Loans ended up being much more intelligent than I initially thought. After about six phone calls, I managed to reach some super-efficient department in their company who processed all of my paperwork and had a conditional loan approval and a preliminary HUD-1 in my hands within three days. Sweet!

I thought the loan approval would be the downfall of this entire plan. It’s the paperwork that Wells Fargo was previously unable to provide. It turned out that Wells Fargo (and several other lenders that I contacted) were doing short refinances inside their own bank, but not outside the bank. Bummer for me, since my loan is serviced by a company that doesn’t write new loans.

Turns out, the trick to getting a conditional loan approval is this: they approve it conditionally for the new loan amount (the short payoff). What Wells was doing was trying to conditionally approve it for the current payoff amount, which left a huge chunk of money unaccounted for. Therefore, the underwriters couldn’t really approve it. Does that make sense?

What Quicken provided me with is a conditional loan approval with for a decreased amount of money (with a super low new interest rate), which I then forwarded on to LBPS in order to be reviewed for a short payoff. Unfortunately, LBPS can’t get their shit together, so they keep accidentally reassigning my account back and forth between Group 7 (their liquidations department) and Group 8 (their loss mitigation department). Group 7 handles short sales, short refinances and forclosures. Group 8 handles modifications (I believe HAMP, HARP, internal modifications and initial HAFA reviews).

So, as I write this, I’m back on hold with LBPS trying to get my account transferred back to the loan officer I was working with back in August. My biggest issue right now is that it’s pretty much impossible to get any representatives on the phone who understand what a short refinance is and how it works. I’ve been getting the run-around from these people for months, and they keep saying it’s because I’m current on my payments (which, coincidentally is a requirement to be approved for an FHA Short Payoff Refinance loan). Idiots.

If you’re trying to do anything like what I am, here’s my advice so far:

1. Be persistent. I’ve been trying to refinance my condo since late 2008. I didn’t discover the short refi option until August 2010, and I’ve been at it ever since.

2. Take good notes. Make a note of every single person you spoke with, their department, what they told you, and the date. If someone else tells you anything contrary to what that person said, refer them back to the notes on your account from the date and person you spoke with. I use Evernote to keep track of all my notes and documents related to this catasrophe.

3. Do your research. I spend about 20 minutes a day reading about mortgages, Fannie Mae and the options that are out there. I also read legal information about my rights as a borrower. I’ve spoken to several lawyers (free of charge), and I’ve also picked the brains of appraisers, brokers and real estate agents. The rules surrounding the federal programs change often, so I’m always looking for new information and new ammunition to light a fire under my mortgage company’s butt. I even had a 15-minute conversation with a guy who works for a company who changes locks when banks forclose on properties. That was interesting. Oh, and tonight I had to explain to a short sale officer how to read a HUD-1. So that was awesome, too.

4. Be assertive. Do not let a whole week go by without checking the status of your requests. Mortgage companies will tell you to fax things and check up seven to 10 days later. This is BS. Call three hours later to make sure they got it. And then call every day after that to see what they’re doing with it. Also, if there’s something specific you want noted on your account, ask the representative to type it in there verbatim and then read it back to you.

5. Get someone intelligent on the phone. Don’t waste your time talking to morons. When I call, I say, “Please review the notes on my account dated August 17, August 29, September 9, November 6, and December 17.” After they’ve read them, I say, “Can you briefly summarize what I’m trying to accomplish?” If they can’t, I thank them, hang up, and call back. I do this until I get someone who at least understand what’s going on, you know?

Anyway, I’ve had about enough for tonight. For some reason, my account is assigned to a woman in the wrong department who is in training all week and won’t be able to assign it back to Group 7 until next Monday. This is completely unacceptable, but I will deal with it tomorrow. I now have a fax number for LBPS that is completely dedicated to written correspondence. They’re required to answer any written request they receive in writing. That number is 877-371-7799, and I’m pretty much going to fax every single piece of documentation I’ve ever sent them to that number tomorrow.

Want to see the other contact info I have for them?

Main number: 866-570-5277
Fax imaging number (creates documents that are uploaded to your account in their system): 877-649-0723
Direct number for Group 7 (Loss Mitigation): 888-917-6004
Written request fax number: 877-371-7799
Rush fax number (not verified by me): 503-616-3604

That’s about it for now. Wish me luck.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: over it
And I’m singin’ along to: Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

My Attempt at a Short Refi

By condo, drama, financial wisdom, hazards to my well-being, home improvement, life-changing purchases, mortgage, really great money-making ideas, roommates 13 Comments

It’s nice to have this blog back up and running, especially on days like today when it’s cold, windy, rainy, and I’m in no state to be taking photos of myself twirling around in a pretty skirt. I like the fashion blogging, but some days I don’t have the motivation to dress up and take photos to post online. I had a free day off from work today (in return for working all those ridiculously long hours that last two weeks), and now that I’ve run all my errands, my main goal is to put the final touches on my short refinance package that I’ll be sending to the mortgage company.

I know I’ve written some ranting posts about the mortgage company recently, so I thought I’d share some interesting things I’ve learned over the past few years that I’ve been arguing with those idiots.

You’re probably already aware of the fact that I purchased my condo in 2006 with my friend/roommate at the time, and she’s since moved out, gotten married and started a family. We financed 100 percent of the value of our condo when we bought it, and since we had hardly any credit established between the two of us, we’re paying a ridiculous interest rate on our loan. (Ridiculous.) We’re obviously updside down in the property — just like everyone else on the planet — and we’ve been trying to figure out a way to get her name off the loan for almost two years now. She’s not interested in owning the condo anymore, but I live there, so I’m not really willing to sell it or give it up any time soon.

Of course, the bank won’t assist us in any way because we’re current on our payments, and unfortunately, since we’re upside down, there’s no refinancing unless we want to sink a bunch of money into the black hole we refer to as “negative equity.” The government loan modification programs won’t help us because modifying a loan doesn’t remove a borrower from the note — it only modifies the terms of the loan, like possibly the interest rate and the monthly payments. (And I’ve heard lots of sketchy stories about those modification programs anyway.)

After all my digging for options, I’ve only come up with four ways to get my co-borrower off of our loan:

1. Refinance, which would cost tons of money (see above).

2. Short sale, which would ding both our credit reports and most likely result in me being unable to buy another home in the next few years.

3. Foreclosure or deed in lieu, which, again, would ding our credit reports and definitely result in me being unable to buy another home for a few years.

4. Short payoff refinance, the best option yet. This process is similar to a short sale, but instead of the property being sold, it is simply refinanced with a new lender. Well, 97.5 percent of the current value of the property is refinanced with a new lender, and the remainder of the principal is forgiven by the previous lender.  In our case, it would be refinanced only into my name, removing her obligation from the old mortgage and leaving me as the sole owner of the condo. Doesn’t that sound perfect?

Before I learned about this program, I had been asking for years whether it was possible for me to short sell my condo to myself, and everyone kept telling me no. Why not? I’d wonder because it always seemed like a great idea to me — kind of like a price adjustment for my house.

A few months ago, a short sale officer with my current lender suggested a short payoff refinance to me. He explained how it works, and sent me on my way to find a new loan. It took a few calls to locate a bank familiar with the FHA Short Refinance Loan. Apparently the program is pretty rare — there aren’t really any incentives to encourage banks to let homeowners do this, and it’s a huge pain in the ass to convince them. Besides, you have to be current on your loan and have decent credit to qualify for the program. I’m sure a lot of people are already in too much trouble by the time they reach out for help to take advantage of something like this.

When I say it’s a pain in the ass, I’m not kidding. The program was first brought to my attention in June, and it took me almost three months to get another person on the phone at LBPS (the servicer of my current mortgage) who would even acknowledge that the program existed. “We don’t do those,” they’d say. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “I’ve never heard of that.” Finally, two weeks ago, I demanded that someone list off the names of everyone I had ever spoken to at LBPS and the  dates I spoke with them. I caught a date and a name that sounded familiar and waited on hold to speak with that person for more than two hours. When he finally picked up, he remembered me.

I do remember advising you to try that, Ms. DeNoia,” he said. “We really don’t do those, but you’re right. Your situation is a unique one. If you’ll write a hardship letter and gather the required information, I’ll try to make a case for you.”

Many say the program is doomed, but I’ve got my paperwork done and ready to go. If they’re going to make and exception for someone, why not me? It’s at least worth a shot. There’s a chance this could save me a lot of money in the long run and decrease my mortgage payment by a pretty significant amount. It would be well worth the two years of bullshit I’ve had to deal with with these freaking mortgage companies (companies, plural, because my loan was sold in April).

I’m sending in my package for approval tomorrow, and in the meantime, I’ve been sending my mortgage payments via certified mail to make sure LBPS doesn’t try to screw me out of being eligible for the FHA loan by marking one of my payments late. I’ve got a lawyer, a lender, and a new loan all ready to go, and if LBPS approves it, it’s possible that I could close on the new loan before Christmas. Score!

If it doesn’t work, then maybe I’ll figure something else out. It doesn’t make much financial sense to pay as much as I’m paying to live in my condo right now because I could give it up and rent one for a lot less every month month, you know? I don’t know about you, but I’m not convinced that a squeaky clean credit report is worth thousands of dollars. I’d rather take the hit, move out, and save the money if I have to make that choice because I’m not sure my property would regain it’s value in the time it would take me to recover and purchase something new for less money.

Either way, for now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed because this could turn out to be a pretty sweet deal.

I normally wouldn’t share my financial information on the Internet like this, but I’m sure there are others out there struggling with housing issues. If all the time I spent trying to get this loan under control could assist others in some way, maybe I wouldn’t feel like it was wasted — even if my attempt at a short refi falls through. I’d love to hear your real estate stories if you’ve got any good ones. E-mail me if you’re not comfortable leaving a comment. I’d be happy to give you some advice on how to get your mortgage company to respond — for me that’s been the biggest challenge.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: persistant
And I’m singin’ along to: Walk Like A Man – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

Pearl Harbor

By boys, condo, conversations, drama, home improvement, life-changing purchases, memories, not ruling at life, roommates, weather 2 Comments

Note: This entry is somewhat exaggerated for the purpose of being more entertaining. While it is loosely based on actual events, it is solely meant to be a satirical short story for your enjoyment. Thanks.

Pearl Harbor ruined my life. No, not that Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor, the Sherwin Williams paint color. It’s the color I decided to paint the master bedroom in my condo after obsessing over at least 47 different shades of tan and blue for three months. Personally, I like the color. It’s kind of a light coral/khaki color – neutral, but bright and kind of beachy. It looks great with white trim and the wood floors I’ll put down someday. But, that’s not the point.

I rent the master bedroom out to a girl who was out of town for the weekend. I had been telling her for weeks I was going to paint it. But, that’s also not the point.

Maybe I picked a bad weekend to paint – it was supposed to rain, but it ended up being the last beach weekend of the season. Maybe I should have been more prepared – I was still wavering on a color choice, and I had no supplies or ladder ready the morning we were supposed to paint. Or maybe I should have just painted the room blue.

Either way, on a partly cloudy Saturday morning four weeks ago, I woke up and decided my boyfriend and I were going to paint the room. And then I decided we weren’t going to paint the room. And then we checked the weather, and I decided we were going to paint the room. If I can offer you one tidbit of advice here, it’s this – don’t ever believe what you read about the weather.

“If it’s going to rain, then fuck it. Let’s just paint,” I said.

“Okay, just decide. I told you I’d help you, so, whatever you want to do.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Let’s just paint the room if you want to paint it.”

So off we went to Lowe’s. We picked up the paint (I decided on Pearl Harbor) and the rollers, some tape and a few tarps. We drove back to my house (in the 80-degree sunshine) and began to paint. We painted all that beautiful day and then we finished up on Sunday afternoon.

When we finally made it to the beach – where I can assure you my boyfriend would rather have been all weekend – it was late Sunday afternoon, and he was barely speaking to me.

Let me tell you a little bit about my boyfriend. My boyfriend is my best friend. He’s an amazing person, the nicest guy I’ve ever met and always fun and easy to be around. However, he is very non-confrontational and not much of a communicator, so it appears that he’s afraid to tell me anything that might piss me off. For instance, “Baby, let’s paint next weekend. I’d rather be at the beach today.” Here, I can offer you some more advice – don’t be afraid of your girlfriend (even if she’s from New Jersey).

By the time this painting debacle was over, my boyfriend had decided that perhaps he was unsure about whether or not he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. He also decided that he was too strapped for cash to go on our vacation that we had been planning for three months. And last but not least, he decided he needed some space.

Some space? Over painting? What the hell is that? We never even fight! We always have fun! I know he loves the beach, but I had no idea how much my boyfriend must really hate painting.

Anyway, fast forward four weeks. My perfect boyfriend is taking a break from dating me. My roommate has her shit strewn haphazardly all over the master bedroom, so it sort of looks like the actual Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. And I am just trying not to go crazy.

The only thing I could think of to do yesterday to prevent an oncoming anxiety attack was paint the hallway. I figure if I paint the condo one wall at a time, it should be done by December. So, I got out the bucket of Pearl Harbor and started slathering it on the wall. My roommate didn’t even notice.

“Did you notice the hallway?” I asked this evening.

“What about it?”

“I painted it.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Granted, it’s the hallway,” I said, “but you didn’t notice?”

“No,” she replied.

“Well, do you like it?”

“No. Not really.”

What? I thought you said you liked this color in your room?”

“I did. But, I don’t anymore. Nothing matches it.”

So, there you have it. I have no boyfriend, and my roommate hates her bedroom. She’ll probably move out any day now, and I’ll be forced to file for bankruptcy because I won’t be able to pay my mortgage. And then my condo will be foreclosed on by the bank, and I won’t even have any more walls to paint Pearl Harbor to keep me sane. I’ll veer off course into a downward spiral of depression and anxiety attacks and most likely kill myself by the end of the month. And when I do, I guess you can just tell everyone Pearl Harbor ruined my life.