Remember back in March when I had all these grand ideas of getting domestic and making some much-needed updates to our house? It was all good intentions, but other than clearing out a bunch of clutter, nothing else has been done.
Don’t get me wrong – clearing out the clutter has been a HUGE undertaking alone. It’s amazing what nine years of “just put that there and we’ll deal with it later” can do to every closet and corner of your house.
Example? This is only part of what came out of our hall closet:
I found my BlogHer ’07 swag bag at the bottom of that closet, along with business cards from several bloggers from years ago. The majority of the closet was reusable shopping bags. Forget the plastic bag crisis – we now have a reusable shopping bag crisis. Where’s the Pinterest boards for recycling your reusable shopping bags into something decorative or useful when you don’t need the hundreds of bags you have? Even my Costco trips don’t require that many bags.
The closet looks a lot more empty now. Considering we have no basement and that closet is the only safe spot in the house in the event of a tornado, it’s nice to know we won’t have to throw five feet of bags and junk out of it just to fit inside.
But every other project I had planned was stalled due to a lack of time and money. It helps that we’re now back to two full-time incomes (yay!) but the debt left behind from previous periods still has to be addressed.
A few months ago, I looked into refinancing our house to free up some extra money. We had an FHA loan and I learned about the streamline FHA refinance program, which is supposed to be an easier way to refinance the mortgage, with fewer requirements and relaxed standards. Seeing how the value of our house has declined as we paid down the mortgage – to the point that it’s worth about what we still owe – it sounded like the perfect program for us to lower our interest rate and payments.
Believe me, folks, getting a mortgage is nothing like it was in 2003. In 2003 we filled out an application and then went to closing when our house was ready, signed some papers, and received money back at the closing. Our down-payment was covered, and there was practically no verification of anything. It felt like a relaxing day out with a new house at the end of it.
Now? There are a lot more hoops to jump through. And they’re smaller. And possibly on fire, too.
Despite this being a streamline refinance, with no appraisal needed and fewer requirements from us regarding income and debt, it was not an easy process. I think it was easier for Aaron to get his military security clearance than it was for us to prove our employment and income.
We went through our current lender because they offered us a discount on closing costs. After filling out the initial application and mailing it back, we were told that a few forms were missing and asked to fax them back immediately. I remembered filling those forms out, but whatever – I faxed them in again.
A week later we were told additional documents were missing and they needed them ASAP. Funny, again they were forms we had already filled out, including one that I had sent back twice already. Fill out, fax, repeat. This happened another round as well.
Then there were issues documenting my employment and income. Now understand: we were using our current lender to refinance to a lower interest rate so we could pay less for our mortgage each month. We have a perfect record of (higher) payments for our mortgage, so why such concern over our ability to cover the lower payments?
Finally, a closing date was set, 83 days after the application started and 7 days away from losing our rate lock. Even two days before closing, another hoop was placed in front of us, as they demanded to see that we had the closing costs in our checking account before they could finalize everything (this was never mentioned before), and so money had to be shifted around and a method of proof found.
This morning, despite my fears that they’d find another reason to make it not happen, we signed all of the paperwork and closed on our new mortgage. We’re saving over $200 a month on our mortgage now, which will mostly be used to help finance all of the improvements we want to make around here. I’m almost giddy at the thought of picking out paint and getting estimates on the breakfast bar I want to add to the kitchen.
I’m definitely not a DIY blogger, but I’m planning to detail some of the changes we make to the house going forward. Or at the very least it’ll be a “what not to do” series.