Archive for May, 2012


The entire process of pulling back the curtain and seeing what goes into being a homebuyer is fascinating. If you’d asked me 6 years ago what the home mortgage process is like, I wouldn’t have known a damn thing. But 5+ years in the mortgage industry, you pick up a few things. Granted, I’m removed from the front end process. I not only see the back-end product, I see it after someone else has signed off on it. The loans are already closed; we’re not in a unique position per se (plenty of other businesses have correspondent operations), but it is different than being a closer or a loan officer on the front end. There are certainly unique aspects to it, but the process of getting a home loan is pretty much the same from place to place. Going through it and knowing how things are going to be looked at on the back-end makes it a little odd, though.

I know how someone on the back end is going to look at the information I provide. Not exactly, of course. But I know how all the information is going to make my loan application look. I know what factors make me a risk (and which ones don’t). It’s an odd bit of knowledge I never thought I’d have in this lifetime. Understanding the process front and back, though, does nothing to make the entire process of buying any easier. I’m not so naive as to think that it’s too much of a magical process. Plus, it does nothing about the ineffable qualities of buying a place. There’s an aspect to any large decision that can’t easily be quantified. And much like anything, there’s a tendency to try and take it down as many branches as possible (if you are me). How will my life be if I buy here? Or here? Or if I don’t buy at all? Do I really want to lock into Lowertown? Wouldn’t it be a hell of a lot more convenient to live in the North Loop? Is anything worth that much money?

There aren’t easy answers to it. But forecasting just isn’t possible. This is a risk. I know it is. We all probably have some expectations of where the housing market is heading for a variety of different reasons. We are all informed by a variety of different knowledge bases. Maybe seeing loans every day isn’t a good thing. Maybe it’s making me wait for a deal that will never happen because I see some things get through and they seem positively like steals, even for the Twin Cities. But when I set that aside and I look at reality, I know some things. I know it isn’t much more to pay a mortgage than it is to pay a lease. I know I do want to continue living in Saint Paul, specifically in Lowertown, because I love it. I know that I’m probably here for the next couple years because it looks like there are enough good professional challenges in my current role to make that last. I know that I would like to go back to school, so I probably should stay put for a while. But mostly, I know that it just may not work out the way I want it to, buying a place.

That’s important. Too often, it seems that people just don’t understand the risks they are taking. I’m not just talking in regard to home loans. I’m saying in many things in life. Maybe this is just me, but it seems that people want to be told one version of the truth and that they then expect that to be what happens. But it’s not. I’m not absolving banks from a lot of the things they’ve done during the housing crisis by any means. All I am saying is that someone had to actually sign that paperwork at close too. Too often, I’ve found, we expect to be shielded from the unpleasant realities. We blame large entities for telling us what we want to hear when we won’t, in fact, listen to the contrary information. I think this is human nature. People have that inenarrable ability to talk themselves into just about anything, given the proper circumstances. Whether it’s a decision as small as to whether they should have dessert or as big as whether they should have signed that option arm. It is, of course, much more complex than that, with various societal pressures (i.e. in the case of home ownership, it being the American Dream) that inevitably sway the thinking of individuals as well as our own thoughts and feelings. But on a basic level, it doesn’t seem like it’s much of a stretch to say that we frequently expect certain things in the face of facts if that’s what we want to believe. I’m certainly no outlier, though I constantly make an effort to check that sort of feeling in myself.

I read somewhere, though I cannot recall now, that he point of flipping a coin to help you make a decision is to see which way you pull yourself before the coin has cast its inevitable heads or tails. That is, while it is flipping, what is it that you are hoping for? I think there’s a ton of truth in that. We, as individuals, talk ourselves into things all the time. Hell, I talk myself into my bike ride every day, and I’ve been doing that pretty solidly for almost two years. We all constantly still have debates with ourselves, even over the aspects of our lives that we institutionalize. Be honest, do you really want to get out of bed 5 days a week and go to your job? Maybe most of the time, but all of the time? The weight of the consequences weighs heavy though, doesn’t it? While it’s perfectly acceptable to call in every so often on a sick day where you are filled with nothing more than terror and ennui at the thought of doing what you do, we obviously can’t make the habit of that as individuals. Unless we are willing to accept the consequences that go along with that behavior. What we can’t and shouldn’t do is complain when get caught trying to play both sides of that, expecting no consequences while not owning up to the responsibility. It’s just not a healthy way to live.

All of which brings me right back around to whether or not to buy. I’m not forcing anything. I found a place I like, but I think the price is a bit high. I’ll see if I can’t get that down. Maybe I can and I’m comfortable. Maybe I can’t and I’ll end up finding a short-term lease or month-to-month option. Maybe I’ll panic and pull the trigger anyway. God knows. I suppose I’ll find out. At least in the Twin Cities, the scale has shifted. It’s no longer advantageous to be a renter. And I no longer feel uncomfortable about the prospect of locking into something. I have fewer overall financial concerns in regard to what I’m going through in the rest of my life. It could be a huge mistake. It could be the best decision I end up making. That could be said of a lot of things though. All I can do is be cognizant of both the upside and the downside of the decisions I make. And I am. There are definitely aspects of buying a place that I do not appreciate from my current vantage. And there’s nothing I can do about that. Quite likely, I’ll just find out. What more can we do? I have certainly pondered the various consequences, but there’s not much good that can come of thinking too much. Even a few years ago, I never thought I’d say that. But it’s true. There’s that balance between act-first impetuousness and paralyzing forecasting that I’m trying to get better at. Buying a place? It’s another time to practice that. I’m not being flippant. Just honest. It’s hard to realize it may never be perfect but it still may be right. It’s harder yet to embrace that. I’m gonna try.

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