Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Part four: Closing in on an option

A continuation of the How's the house coming? saga...

I work for the federal government. I thought I knew something about mind-numbing rules, esoteric regulatory requirements and the paralysis that comes from running an organization by committee. And yet...

We sent the revised option letter to Road Home in late May. In mid July, we received a call from a title company under contract with the state. "We'd like to schedule your grant closing." Excited but cautious, I asked for details. They emailed me the closing documents ahead of the meeting, which confirmed my fears. They still had us as Option 1 when we needed to be Option 2.

The key difference is that Option 1 is a rebuilding grant while Option 2 is a relocation grant that requires turning over the damaged property to the Road Home Corporation. So while the dollar amounts are not very different in our case, the paperwork is very different. I'm no expert, but obviously Option 2 would require a title search and a title transfer while Option 1 would require only a lien on the property.

I notified the title company of the error and cancelled the appointment. Somebody from Road Home called again in late August. "Come tomorrow morning for your closing," we were told. Is the paperwork fixed? We can't tell you, we don't have your file, we're just making calls to schedule appointments.

Skeptical but unwilling to miss the opportunity to close on our grant, my Darling Wife and I both took off from work to attend our last-minute closing. As soon as they handed us our file, I looked it over and found it was still wrong. We had a hard time convincing the people at the closing center that there was an error but they finally agreed to look into it.

In late September I received another call from Road Home. "I'm calling to schedule your closing," the cheerful lady informed. I asked questions about the grant and the lady put me on hold for a while. When she came back on the line, she determined that our file was still flagged as Option 1 and thus the paperwork was still wrong. She searched our file and found the amendment we had sent in May and said, "I don't know what the problem is or why this hasn't been corrected yet."

My most recent conversation with Road Home was on December 27, when, yet again, a cheerful person called to schedule our closing for the next day. When I asked if corrections had finally been made to our file she put me on hold for several minutes, came back on the line to tell me she was conferring with a "supervisor," put me on hold for another several minutes, and finally informed me that our file was still not updated.

I asked if the title search had been completed yet, and she said the file indicated that a title search had been ordered but not received. I did not bother to ask why she was calling to schedule a closing appointment for a file that was, with just a few minutes examination, obviously not completed.

This is clearly the pattern with Road Home: They call near the end of the month to schedule an appointment for the very next day. And I think I know why--they need to conduct enough closings to make their quota. It does not seem important whether those closings occur with the correct documents, or the correct dollar amounts, or even with the full understanding of the homeowners. All that appears to matter is that they make a flurry of closings at the end of each month.

The bottom line is that as of this writing, we still have not seen dollar one of the grant we were promised from Road Home. In order to get our lives out of this bureaucratic rut, we had to make other financial arrangements which I will explain later. We still hope to receive a grant some day, but whether that will be in one month or one year is anybody's guess.

Now keep in mind that we had signed a purchase agreement for a house in mid July. We apparently were foolish enough to think we could close on that house within a month. So while all this back-and-forth with Road Home is going on, we've had to request extensions on the purchase agreement. Several, in fact. We were amazed and grateful that the seller agreed to our requests.

Still, it would not be fair to focus all attention on Road Home, because at the same time we were also navigating the labyrith bureaucracy of SBA with frustratingly similar results.

Part five: What's the frequency, Kenneth?


Michael said...


Omar Cruz said...
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