The web site for the California Housing Finance Agency features a slogan: “Keep Your Home.” That’s a good slogan.
So far, so good.
Below the slogan is a photo of a couple standing outside of their home with their arms around each other, their backs to us, looking at their home.
It makes me wonder.
Did they get to keep their home?
I can’t see their faces. I don’t know if they’re happy or shooting tears like a squirt gun. If that picture is meant to convey a happy ending, well, it fails. It’s ambivalent. They’re outside. Are they taking one last look at their home? What should I expect as a homeowner? Should I purchase a banjo in anticipation of riding the rails? That’s just nonsense. I’d have to steal a banjo.
If the folks at CHFA want to create a feeling of security in potential home losers, they should show a photo of a couple sleeping in bed with smiles on their faces. I can only imagine so many scenarios for that and they’re all good.
I checked out the web site because my mortgage company (GMAC) just told me to call back in 15 minutes. I guess they’re a little busy these days. To kill time (or to avoid the kind of sob story where someone might actually be sobbing), they told me to check out the web site www.makinghomesaffordable.com, which is where I see the backs of this couple who may or may not get to keep their home.
After mulling over the site, I call back and listen to the options the robot secretary gives me and then listen to Kenny G music for about five minutes. To avoid dealing with us, maybe their goal is to drive us to suicide. Hence, Kenny G music.
Someone finally answers.
When I tell her I want to talk to someone about a loan modification, she tells me to call the number I just called to reach her. I’m not making this up. “That’s the number I just called,” I say.
“Let me connect you.”
She connects me to the number I just called… again.
Robot lady: Call back later, our system is still down.
According to the reliability of their system and the familiarity of the employees with their whereabouts, I’m not getting my hopes up.
I give it 30 minutes before I call back.
System’s still down. Guess their IT guy didn’t show up today. Maybe he’s losing his home.
They ask for 30 minutes this time. I graciously give them an extension, hoping they’ll get the hint.
My wife and I are now in the position to refinance our home. It’s been three years. While waiting in line at Starbucks, I’m told by a random stranger that it’s extremely difficult to refinance your home. (Here I thought I was praying quietly under my breath, “Help us refinance our home, Lord.” But I guess the guy in front of me heard me.)
It can be difficult to refinance your home? Not at all what our trusty real estate agent told us three years ago when we were buying the home. Then someone else in line tells me that agents received kickbacks by promoting these ARM loans. “Will you people please stop eavesdropping on my prayers!”
Refinancing is not something I’m looking forward to because every story I’ve heard (in line at Starbucks anyway) has included a minimum of 250 phone calls to the mortgage company dealing with different people each call. I wonder if mortgage company will ask me about how much I spend on Starbucks. I thank my barista for the financial lesson and head back home.
Later, I call back.
Press number two.
Then a real lady answers and asks, “Are you calling about (unintelligible) program for refinancing?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m calling about whatever programs are available for refinancing.”
“Can you answer a series of questions about your financial status?” she asks.
“Can you make this month’s payment?”
Darn it. We just made this month’s payment, thanks to God’s miracle of two last minute gigs during the same weekend.
“Yes,” I say dejectedly, expecting to be disqualified immediately.
“Would you like me to set up payment now?”
“Ah, we just paid it. Today. This morning.”
“Okay,” she says trusting my check’s in the mail speech, which just so happens to be true.
“Have you experienced a change in income?” she asks
“Yes. I’m self-employed and with the change in the economy and the implosion of my booking agency I’m not making as much this year.”
“That’s okay, Sir. Don’t worry. I’m here to help you.”
“Thank you. I am here to be helped.”
“One of the requirements you will need to fulfill to qualify for a loan modification is a hardship letter. Can you write a letter?”
“Dear Phone Support Lady, yes I can. Sincerely, Thor Ramsey.”
She doesn’t laugh, so I’ll assume she just smiles. It’s the comedian’s way.
“Do you occupy the property?”
“Yes. Mostly, I occupy the couch, but that is on the property.”
Then she asks me about our monthly income and if we happen to have $25,000 or more in gold bricks, bonds, savings or other such things.
“I just lost a seven book deal,” I tell her.
“That’s okay, Sir. I’m here to help you.”
I get the feeling she’s reading off a script.
Then she says in a very strong New York Bronx accent, “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
Yeah, she’s definitely reading off a script.
She tells me to go to their web site and fill out a financial analysis form. I want to ask her if that couple on the web site gets to keep their home. We have 15 days to complete the form. “Send it in as quickly as possible because it takes us 30 days to respond. Do you have any questions?”
“No,” I say, feeling hopeful, assuming everything worked out for that couple on the web site.
Keep your home.
That’s a good slogan.