Saturday, November 13, 2010

How I Met My Mortgage

Where do I start with the saga of my mortgage application? What a lamb I was at the outset; it's a wonder I am not a lambchop today. Last May I began with what we call the pre-approval phase.

Squaring up records and information is one of life's harder tasks for me. I never feel adept at organizing data. Locating and faxing forms mutates into a vast, ever-disturbing moil of dark symbolism for me. But isn't self-scrutiny supposed to be good? Shining that antiseptic light of day onto the shadows of your fiscal behavior? Yet I just HATE collating pay stubs, verifications of employment, bank statements, tax forms, decrees, licenses, credit card trails. And I'm one of those untidy circular people who frets about any ability to reach precise answers and codify the proof. I freak! (I recall the same unease back in middle school when I had to construct an apron and I could see the gobs of remaining creased yardage lurking beyond the waistband. How would so much fabric fit into the confines of a dainty little garment?) More to the point, how could I assemble what I needed for an ongoing mortgage application when my records and I dwelled in different locations? Many locations, over what became a five-month episode.

In July I located a sweet little cottage in Altadena that I wanted to buy. Danny Schmitz, my thorough, realistic, steadfast real estate agent, guided me through the bidding and purchase. Little did we know that the next eight weeks would be dominated by an extremely difficult-to-acquire mortgage. In August I even took a trip to the Florida Panhandle. Instead of studying oil spill effects, I ruminated over the elusive mortgage.

By Labor Day the mortgage application was floundering. The accommodations of house-sitting and guesting were starting to curdle. My stoic facade was showing stress fractures. By October 1, I started craigslisting apartments for my own nervous recreation. My car had become a mobile Smithsonian, the kind that never had a curator. Here I was again, striding into another school year, sowing my upbeat philosophy to continuation kids. Meanwhile, the exact opposite feeling was furring up my insides like an aging jack-o-lantern's.

Then by serendipity (or was it better business practice?) Danny announced, "You're going to Steven Kim, another mortgage guy." The day of our appointment I gritted my teeth across town, canvas bag crammed with all those odious documents. I realized this office was mid-Wilshire, near the very building where my dad's boss had jumped to his death back when I was a kid. Now I arrived late, hot, crabby about facing more mortgage torture. I met our Mr. Kim. He was a tall, calm man with a kind, heart-shaped face, and when he said, "No worries," I winced, "That's what you think, bub." He also observed, "I know you teachers are very organized," while I was muttering and pitching out forms and folders like so much inventory at Big Lots.

If I hadn't been so absorbed by my own tension, I would have sensed that Steven Kim was going to be my lucky charm. He actually stated it only takes 48 hours to determine whether you are a viable applicant. He got right to work on my case and phoned/texted me frequently to keep me out of that dark bog. Over the next 3.5 weeks, my little army of supporters helped me provide whatever the loan processor needed. Only one time was I about to burst into tears with Steven, but somehow I reined it back.

Fast forward to October 28. Just a few days before, Steven had assured me, "You'll have your house." And I, with a drop of jaundice, replied that I'd believe it when I saw the key. Danny gave me that key. I was able to hand out Halloween candy in my own home. And that simple pleasure was directly due to the efforts of two men who were "just doing the job," bless their hearts.

Danny Schmitz, Keller Williams, 323 691-1307
Steven Kim, Hillside Home Mortgage, 213-591-6300