Monday, December 18, 2006

I hope we never have to move...

Because so help me God, I am never applying for a mortgage again.

Most housebloggers have mortgages, or at least have had one in the past. There's a Byzantine application with loads of records to produce. Even so-called "low-doc" loans require a lot of documentation. But once you get approved, you set a date to close, sign your name a million or so times, and the loan is done. A pain in the neck, but not unreasonable given the amount of money involved.

Then you have the SBA. Because our property was damaged in a disaster, I am eligible for an SBA loan to pay for damages not covered by insurance. Until August of 2005, both Mr. Nola and I had very good credit histories. We met the loan requirements pretty easily, filed a fairly standard mortgage application, and were approved for the loan a little over a year ago.

12 months later, we've still only received about 10% of the approved loan. It has been a constant struggle to move our loan through the SBA's system. Every few weeks, I call asking about the money. Every few weeks, they come up with another hoop for me to jump through. I've visited the office multiple times to turn in forms, paid multiple processing, application, or title fees, and it's just never done. I paid recording fees in August, and again in October (when they realized they charged me the wrong amount in August.)

Most recently the SBA lady told me I had to get title insurance - even though I still had a valid title policy at the time the loan was approved, it has expired during the processing period so it has to be reissued. Who do you suppose will pay for that? Nonetheless, the rest of the funds cannot be disbursed without a title policy naming SBA as a co-insured, so off to the title company I go. And what do I learn there, but that the SBA has not recorded the mortgage with the city, despite my having paid nearly $500 in recording fees. So I can't get the loan money from the SBA because they have failed to do their own paperwork. Meanwhile, my house is eight feet in the air, and Boudreaux the contractor wants his money.

I know government programs are supposed to be bureaucratic, but really. This is Kafka-esque.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

FEMA Study Shack

'Tis I, Nola, ensconced in my FEMA trailer while I study for my first-ever law school exams. To my right, I can see Mr. Nola and his dad painting in Maison Derriere. To my left, I can see straight through to the street around the lincoln-log type pilings holding That Old House off the ground. The lone remnant of landscaping is there, a sad little desiccated camellia, the only one in the hedge that survived the flooding, but not the subsequent neglect. All of the other trees/shrubs have gone the way of the dumpster.

Earlier, some of Boudreaux's crew were here, jackhammering the walls of the old basement. The rubble from the walls is being tossed into the area below ground level, so less fill will have to be brought in to eliminate the sunken basement. Around the perimeter, all of the old foundation has been removed and a trench dug for the new chain wall. There were at least four different types of structure used as the old foundation. No wonder the house settled crooked.

It's very comforting having the whole thing resting on steel I-beams right now. Something about all that steel just feels more solid than wood beams, even though I know intellectually that wood beams have physical properties that are in some ways superior. I kind of hope we can keep the steel beams. We certainly wouldn't have to worry about termites getting through them.

The guys with the jackhammers are back, which tells me that I should get back to work as well. The FEMA trailer may be completely impractical as a dwelling, but it's a great study shack. I've got a table to work at, a bed to nap in, a refrigerator and microwave for brain food, plus there's nobody around to object if I cough my head off. Beats the heck out of the library.