After years of renting an apartment, I have finally purchased a condominium. I got tired of giving money away to a landlord every month and have decided to give it to a mortgage company instead.
Everyone kept telling me I should buy instead of rent so that I could build up “equity.” I have no idea what this alleged “equity” is, but if one acquires it by signing a lot of forms, it must be coming out my ears by now. (Something’s coming out my ears, anyway. I hope it’s equity.) By the end, I think they were inventing new forms just so I could sign them. It would be easier to buy $106,000 worth of crack than it was to buy $106,000 worth of condo, and it would require less paperwork.
The most entertaining part of the mortgage process is the comical array of documents the mortgage people want. Now, I will confess that I didn’t even have the basic things, like recent check stubs and bank statements. When I told Debbie the Loan Lady that I didn’t hold on to things like that, she looked at me like I had equity coming out my ears. I explained that she was the first person who had ever asked me for recent check stubs or bank statements, and so I’d never seen a reason to keep them. But apparently, grown-ups are supposed to keep every document they ever encounter, just in case some day they buy a condo.
They also wanted my W-2 from 2000, which I had, since it was tax season. Then, the day we were supposed to close on the deal, in a special surprise announcement, they revealed that they’d also be needing my W-2 from 1999. This seemed strange to me, because no one had ever questioned before whether I had a job in 1999. Everyone had always taken my word for it.
But the assortment of documents and blood samples required was a Sunday matinee at the Roxy compared to the co-signer issue. According to the mortgage people, I would ordinarily qualify for a loan, no questions asked, because I get paid thousands and thousands of dollars every week for writing this column. However, I also have so much outstanding debt — and it truly is outstanding; I mean, this is some really nice debt here — that if I were to pay it all at once, it would cripple the economy. To counteract my high “debt ratio,” as they call it, I had to find a co-signer.
I first thought of my parents, of course; I believe this is who one is expected to first think of when one needs to get bailed out of something. My parents could not co-sign, though, because they just bought a new house their own selves, and mortgage companies don’t like people buying two houses in the same month any more than you like people saying “their own selves.”
After my parents, I didn’t have a lot of options. Most of my friends are young and single and don’t have established credit or a job. And besides, co-signing a loan is a big deal. You can’t just say, “Hey, remember how I bought you lunch last week? Yeah, I need to call in that favor….”
But I found a co-signer the mortgage company approved of, and last week we went into an office in Orem that was filled from floor to ceiling with documents. Each of these, needless to say, needed to be signed or initialed. Some needed to be signed AND initialed. Some needed to be baked in a white-wine sauce at 350 degrees. This avalanche of documents included a Federal Truth in Lending Disclosure, a Deed of Trust, a Statement of Not Liking Jimmy Buffett, the Magna Carta, and someone’s birthday card.
As we would get to each document, Tammy the Document Lady would explain what the documents said. My co-signer and I listened politely, said “Mm-hmm,” and had not the faintest clue what she was EVER talking about. All I know is, I left the office with keys to a condo and a heaping handful of equity. I think I’ll have it bronzed.
I declined naming the co-signer because I thought he might want his generosity unheralded (get it? Un-Herald-ed?). Also, if I said who he was, soon EVERYONE would be hitting him up to co-sign for them.
I got a few more columns out of the condo-buying process, and I lived in it until 2004, when I sold it to my parents (suckers!) and moved to Salt Lake City. My parents kept it as a rental property thereafter, so I guess it's still in the family, if I wanted to stop by and saying hello to it or something.
The Roxy was one of the old "movie palaces" in Manhattan, built in 1927. Known as "the cathedral of the motion picture," it was at Seventh Avenue and 50th Street and seated 5,920 people. It was torn down in 1960. If you've seen "Guys and Dolls," you've heard it referenced in the title song as representing THE movie theater of the day: "What's playin' at the Roxy? I'll tell you what's playin' at the Roxy: A picture about a Minnesota man so in love with a Mississippi girl that he sacrifices everything and moves all the way to Biloxi." (Sounds like a date movie to me.)