A big part of the American dream is to own a big mortgage, and a little piece of a home. If owning one home in America is a good thing, owning two must be awesome. So my wife and I bought our first, and then our second home in Miami. We have a lovely house in Coral Gables, next to the University of Miami where I work, and a condo in Hollywood Beach. The two poor immigrants were now part of the American dream.
Then we started thinking that our perfectly fine 1200 square feet condo in Hollywood was not good enough for us. So we, the embodiment of rationality, thriftiness, prudence, and frugality, acquired on an impulse a third home, and a third mortgage. Ora and I saw a unit for sale in the same building of our condo, and we fell in love with it. All of a sudden the view from our condo, which had mesmerized us for the last two years, was not spectacular enough. All of a sudden the place was not big enough to accommodate our son and his wife.
Our congenial mortgage broker, who had helped us with previous loans, told us that we would have no problem getting a third mortgage. “For you, no problem” she said. Reassured, we proceeded to put an offer at full price, and then some, to make sure that we got this particular unit. In a moment’s notice, rationality went out the window. But what a window that was! With unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean and the intra-costal, we fell in love with the place the way suckers fall prey to whatever the Property Bothers sell them on TV.
The process began simply enough, requesting salary statements, W2 forms, printouts of bank accounts; the usual stuff of mortgage applications. Then the mortgage company had to look into the financials of the condo association and our credit score going back to the destruction of the second temple. After an interminable series of emails, phone calls, faxes, texts, scans, pdf files and more emails, phone calls, texts, and scans, we were told that the building did not pass certain Fannie Mae Freddie Mac mortgage certificate of estoppel reserves escrow HUD deed warranty of good behavior, and that the mortgage company would be able to give us only 70% of the value of the house. That was the first time we heard about such possibility. I started getting a little more worried.
Every time I looked at the computer there was another email from the mortgage company requesting twenty more documents going back years about every financial transaction that I had ever done or considered doing. At that point, I thought that the inquisition would have been a breeze.
Because Ora and I were so rational, controlled, measured, and prudent, we made our offer unconditionalto make sure that we got THIS unit and that NOBODY ELSE did. So, we could not get out of the deal on account of not getting a mortgage. Well, perhaps the inspection could save us, but it happened so early in the process that the mortgage company had not yet initiated its inquisition. So, in summary, we were stuck and we were being screwed by a mortgage company that kept blaming Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and JP Morgan and Countrywide and the Democratic Party for putting in place so many requirements for a second home mortgage. And every day the mortgage broker would contact us to let us know that there is a NEW law that they did not know about that pretty much required that they conduct a financial colonoscopy of our entire family.
All I could think about at this stage was Kafka. We were in the midst of a Kafkaesque play, and there was no way out. I dreaded going to the computer to read the new requirements and the emails going back and forth between the various mortgage company employees, our lawyer, and us about estoppels, escrows, underwriting, insurance, inspections, appraisals, taxes, condo fees, reconciliation fees, flood insurance, HUD warranty deeds, reserves, transfers of money, new printouts of bank accounts, and new salary stubs. Whatever I had submitted last month was no longer valid, so it was a Sisyphean financial bolder all over again.
Ora kept reinforcing me and praising my patience and organizational skills for being able to produce the Amazonian quantity of paperwork required. As I tried to cope with the tsunami of requests I asked myself, “and why do we need this headache?” At that moment I realized that we had just become full-fledged Americans.