I seem to have gotten myself into a bit of legal trouble.

If learning from one’s mistakes is the most important lesson, I have learned, if anything –and oh yes, learned me somethin’ good– to a) always read the fine print and b) never (attempt to) buy a house again. Ever. I am officially moving to Fiji to learn the iniquitous and taxing bum-on-a-beach craft. I won’t even have to worry about shoes, only skin cancer. Which, you know, has its ups and downs, I do look hot with a tan.

The house problems are not interesting which is why I didn’t mention them earlier — I wish I had a tale of hot sex or heart-meltingly gooey romance, but fuck, this mess is the only thing occupying my days and nights. Sorry to bore you, but it’s all I can process right now.

First piece, the bank: even though the market sucks, prices are down, and it’s a buyer’s market, this also means that the bank is requiring buyers to jump through hoops to prevent money loss from foreclosure. The hoops, taken from interest.com, for a down-payment are as follows:

3% of the purchase price if:
• You can qualify for an FHA loan. The Federal Housing Administration was created to help first-time buyers, especially low- to moderate-income families and minorities, get the home financing they need. The federal government guarantees repayment, so the lender knows it will not lose money on the deal.

Townhouses are often FHA approved. Mine, as luck would have it, is not. A surprise we all learned after the contract was written and signed. Which meant we had to go to the next bracket:

A 5% down payment if:
• You have a credit score of 700 or higher.
• Are borrowing less than $417,000.
• Want a traditional fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage not backed by the government.
• Aren’t buying in what your lender considers to be a “distressed market” — areas suffering from the highest foreclosure rates and steepest price drops. About 9,600 ZIP codes in 34 states have popped up on various lists, and it’s not uncommon for the entire states of California, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Ohio to be considered distressed.

Fine. Perfect. Whatever. Pushed out the closing date to save extra cash but I got it done and waited for the results of the appraisal. The appraisal came back assessing the house in a declining market (a reflection of the city, not necessarily the house). Which meant our only course of action was the next financial bracket:

A 10% down payment if:
• You need to borrow more than $417,000, which requires what lenders call a jumbo loan.
• Don’t live in a distressed market.
• Have a credit score above 700.
A down payment of more than 10% if:
• You have a credit score below 720 and no significant assets.
• Live in a distressed market. Wells Fargo & Co., for example, recently told mortgage brokers it wanted a 25% down payment in the hardest-hit cities.

Goddammit. I do not have ten-percent –or, fuck, 25% could be the equivalent of millions.

Second piece: the contract. And here’s where the legal trouble makes its entrance into the plot. The contract, the one that The Realtor from Boston wrote, the cute, talking one who likes to play scrabble and date glitter-wearing hoochies, gives my earnest money to the contracting company. As defined by Wikipedia:

An earnest payment is a deposit towards the purchase of real estate to demonstrate that he/she is serious (earnest) about wanting to complete the purchase … If the offer is rejected, the earnest money is usually returned, since no binding contract has been entered into … If the buyer retracts the offer or does not fulfill its obligations under the contract, the earnest is forfeited.

At the beginning, the contract stated that all earnest money would be returned if the bank found fault with my financing options. That clause has since been overturned. The earnest money is $5K. As of right now, not only won’t get the house, but I won’t get the money either.

I would like to keep that money, if possible. My legal team Kid, Sweets, and Friend are using very official lawyer words like addendum and contingencies and consulting real lawyers with whom they are interning this summer, but they all say the same, “Tell your friend she’s fucked.” Sweet. Thank you.

I am trying not to think of this as a sign that I should have moved to Paris or Fiji when I had the chance. Maybe I’ll still go. Escaping would be nice. I’ll make sure to post a forwarding address for all of you.

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