So here’s the deal. I’m reinventing myself and while I tried to keep a journal at various times in my life, I know that I’m horrible at it. This time I’m goin’ all electronic and interwebby to see if I can sustain it for a bit.
I’ve been entirely too responsible, organized, efficient and dependable my entire life. Through a number of events in the past few years I’ve found myself doing a full review of who I am, what is important to me and where I should be focusing my energy. I’ll likely write about those events through time using that categories thing to note Life Changing Moment or something equally deep-sounding.
I’ve lived in the same community for most of my life short of a few departures for university and such. Part of this reinvention of myself involves quitting my job, selling my house, abandoning 99% of my “stuff” and driving across the country to a new life that is full of unknowns. Yes I’m single. Yes I have no kids. I made these life altering decisions without consulting anyone.
While as a kid I hated reading – every book report I did in junior high was a Stephen King book that conveniently had been made into a movie (I didn’t actually read the books). Now I have a stack of books that I cannot go through fast enough and am adding more to the collection all the time. I finally found what interested me to read about. Woo-woo stuff. There are a lot of stories. I’m an odd duck. We’ll get there.
I suck at keeping secrets. Wait…let me rephrase that. I suck at keeping my own secrets…things about me. I like telling people about me. I like talking about me. I have to consciously ask friends and family “so, what’s up in your life?” when I’m on the phone with them because otherwise I may not give them the chance to speak.
That said, I also like surprises. During my first year of college I was attending school in Calgary, Alberta. I had pre-booked my return flight home for the summer back in August when I flew down to start the year. I didn’t know exactly when my final exams would be when I booked the ticket, but figured I could relax a bit after them if they finished earlier than when my flight was. I get bored easily, though.
When I found out that my last final exam would be some 5 days or so before my planned departure date, I decided to check into changing the ticket. Sure enough, there were seats available on the earlier flights and it would only cost me $50 to make the change. I had no money, but I wanted to go home. I made the change and started planning the surprise for my parents of arriving early.
There were a few problems with my surprise plan. Firstly, I hadn’t brought my house keys with me and my brother was also away at University at the time, I think. Suffice it to say that there was nobody for me to call to get a key into my house without alerting my parents to my arrival. The second problem is that when I left home, the weather was wonderful and I only brought a fall-weather jacket with me. The temperature in Yellowknife when I wanted to return was around -50C. I would freeze within minutes of stepping outside in the jacket and running shoes I had on.
The plan – I would arrive at the airport and call home. Back then, the pay phones in Yellowknife were a dime to use and you didn’t put the money in until the person answered. Once they answered, you could hear them, but they couldn’t hear you until you put the dime in. I arrived, got my luggage and called home. My mother answered and repeatedly said “hello?” until I hung up. I didn’t want to talk to her, I wanted to make sure they were at home so I could arrive and be able to get in.
I left the airport terminal, got in a cab and traveled to my parents’ neighbourhood. I had the cab stop a few doors down from their house in case they were looking out the window – so they wouldn’t wonder why a cab was arriving at their house. I was cold and there was a brisk wind and lots of snow. I dragged my suitcase to their door and rang the doorbell. My dad came to the door and opened it and his eyes lit up. I heard my mother call from the living room – “who’s there?” My dad responded – “It’s Charles!” My mother responded from the living room “no, it’s not”. My dad insisted, “yes, it’s Charles!” My mother, having just had someone (I wonder who?) hang up on her wasn’t in the best of moods for a joke and responded, “no, it’s not!” I came in and went to the living room and my mom began to cry, surprised and excited to have me home early. It was a great surprise and I enjoyed doing it.
My latest surprise is more drawn out, involves more people and is proving difficult to pull off. The plan is to not tell my parents about the whole free money grant I’m likely going to get to help buy a home. They don’t know the program exists, let alone that I’ve applied for it, what I’m likely to get and that I’ll likely be approved.
My dad is a Plan B kind of guy. He worries too much. Throughout my life he has always cautioned me to have a backup plan for whatever I’m doing…be ready for the worst and such. I’ve always bucked this advice – I buck most advice. My theory with this particular advice is that if I don’t focus 100% of my attention on my intended goal, in my brain – even a little bit of it, I’m admitting that failure is possible…which increases it’s chance of happening. I don’t know whether probabilities are impacted by me and my positive thoughts, but I figure every little bit counts. I figure that should things not go my way, which has often happened in my life, I’ll deal with it. I’ll figure out what to do and get on with it. I don’t want to have a whole, elaborately planned out backup plan, though.
My parents know that I want to buy a house. They know I’m saving for a down payment and that I hate paying as much as I do for my apartment. They know that my plan is to buy in March or so of 2003. Even with that little bit of information, every time I mention the house purchase to my dad he cautions of the negatives of owing a home – unforeseen bills and emergency repairs, property taxes, utilities, lawns, snow, furnaces, hot water heaters, etc. He seems to relish thinking about the possible negatives that could happen. I know that he’s simply trying to caution me – share his life experiences to save me some possible hardship. I know me, though and know that I’m incapable of learning from advice. I have to experience everything personally to learn from it…sometimes repeatedly before I actually ‘get’ the lesson.
I’ve chosen not to tell my parents about the down payment assistance plan because I know my dad would obsess about it. He would call and e-mail me constantly asking if I had heard anything about it yet…am I approved, when will it happen, are there houses on the market, how much do I want to spend, can I afford it, etc. I’m already asking myself all of those questions and more and am obsessing about the whole thing enough all by myself. That’s one reason I’m not telling my parents about this. The other reason is that I love surprises.
I think it would be absolutely too much fun to go through this entire process of being approved, finding and buying a house and moving in without them knowing about it. Then, I’d tell them by sending them a change of address card in the mail. The latest plan removes the change of address card and actually has me taking a ton of digital photos and maybe a digital walk-through video of the place, burning them all on a 3″ CD and mailing that to them without any markings on the envelope or CD other than “insert in CDROM and view” or something equally vague. Maybe the last photo would be a photo of a change of address card with my name and new address on it. I think that would be a ton of fun to do.
I also think it would be very cool should I ever meet a woman I want to marry that if she’s okay with it, to get married as soon as we’re engaged. I have no interest in “being engaged” forever. My friends and family live across the country and planet so that there really is no central place where I could get married and it not cost a lot. I think it would be much cooler, surprise-wise to get engaged, marry right away and rather than send out engagement announcements, or wedding invitations, to instead send out cards announcing my marriage. Finding a woman who not only tolerates me but also will agree not to have a big whoop-dee-doo wedding will be quite the challenge.
My main accomplice in these surprises is my brother. He understands that our parents don’t NEED to know everything about us and allows the person to divulge the information at our own pace. The latest secret was my purchasing of this ThinkPad. There’s a whole story behind me getting it through a work computer purchase program that is allowing me to buy it through pay cheque deductions over two years without any interest being charged. I know my parents would understand the advantages of the plan, but I know they would focus on “you can’t afford that” if they heard I had a new $3,000 computer. I kept my brother updated on how much/little I had shared so he knew what to/not to say. Eventually, I did tell them in a conversation that fit it perfectly. They thought it was a wonderful decision and weren’t remotely upset about it. If anything, they’re jealous of me and want it should I die in a horrible car wreck.
The latest of our ‘secrets’ is that my brother has been influenced by me…he bought a ThinkPad of his own. Keep in mind that this is the computer guy who already has I think eight desktop computers networked in his house…he lives alone. It is rather surprising that he never had a notebook before. His reasoning has always been that he can’t customize it…open it up and add/remove stuff at his liking. He found his ThinkPad on eBay for $1500 and has since ordered I think $300 worth of RAM upgrades for it. He is loving it and having a ball remotely controlling the other eight computers from this new little box in his living room. He doesn’t have a wireless network like I do, so he’s not taking it out on his deck and has yet another network cable stretched through his house, but he’s still enjoying it to it’s maximum potential. Although he hasn’t asked me yet, I know that it’s hush-hush from the parents until he officially says they know, or they mention it. They just don’t need to know.
The other part of these secrets is RambleMan’s existence. A few of my close friends know about it, but my family doesn’t. I don’t bash them or anything, but I do feel more at ease knowing I can write without concern for what they might think of me. I can talk about the house and share prospective properties with you without worrying about receiving parental advice. My co-workers also don’t know about it…it’s very weird to have an online presence and not be able to tell people around me about it. The most bizarre part of that is that my account with www.powweb.com, my hosting service includes 250 @RambleMan.com e-mail addresses. There are many situations where I’d like to use them, but wonder if they’d track it back to me personally if I used one. I’m thinking that in time I may offer RambleMan up as an online journal place for guys to write online…give them free space and an e-mail address, and figure out how to grant FTP access to only their directory and go from there. Could be cool and would certainly make better use of all the space I have. I could probably even charge for the service and cover my own hosting costs. Let this posting serve as my offer to consider it if you’re interested in starting your own online journal through a sub-directory of RambleMan. I’m not saying it’ll happen at all, let alone quickly, but I’m willing to try to figure it out if you’re wanting to pursue it.
I’ve gone off on a tangent and need to get on with my day. Thanks again for dropping by.
Please excuse me. I’m in shock right now. I had my meeting with my bank and the Housing Corporation today and the results of it are all starting to hit me. For some reason, I didn’t think about it at work.
It’s all good news, although after my meeting with the bank I felt like I had been in somebody else’s body for a while. I am, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most mellow, cheerful and friendly people you’d ever meet. When I got into the meeting with the banker guy about getting a pre-approved mortgage, I got damn close to being outright rude to the guy. I was certainly confrontational and louder than I normally get.
I know why I acted like a freak, but it doesn’t excuse it. My brain operates in really interesting ways that I find fascinating. I hate my bank. That’s at the crux of it all. I have only ever gone to them to borrow money twice before and they were pricks about it both times. Certainly, the last time was only about 6 months ago and my financial situation was dramatically worse than it is now, but the truth is that they didn’t treat me like a valued customer when I was in need, they treated me like scum who couldn’t be trusted to keep a plant alive. That all flooded back today, even though this new guy had nothing to do with that. The point where I almost lost it completely was when I saw he was putting down my available credit on my one credit card down as a liability. WHAT?! ARGH! I may as well have it maxed out if they’re going to count it against me!
Okay, I understand that they have to keep their best interests at heart…they have to assume that I’ll run out and max out the card, and they want to ensure I have available income to handle that – at it’s minimum payments, as well as regular living costs and this new mortgage I’m applying for. In the end, I was approved, of course – I knew I would be…I just don’t like how they do their math. Banks are evil, evil empires that don’t care about you and me. I am convinced of that and I have no idea what it would take to change my mind. In this meeting with Seann, all those pent up emotions of “die bastards, die!” came out. Ah well. Nothing I can do about it now. I did apologize for being abrasive. Do I really care what he thinks about me? Not really…but right now he has the ability to control the mortgage university for Scotiabank.
My next meeting was with Jason at the Housing Corporation. I liked Jason. I think you can judge a person largely on what they put on their office walls. They have only been in their offices for a week or so now and this guy already has a photocopy of a Far Side cartoon on his wall of a guy sitting on the edge of his bed looking at a big sign tacked to his wall that says “first pants, then shoes”. Jason is my kind of people…I could tell that right from the start.
The other thing I liked about Jason is that he’s a numbers guy. From the way he spoke, I could tell that he resents giving government money to people who always seem to be standing in line for yet another government handout. He made it very clear to me that he was the one that would be reviewing all of the applications once he’s finished and that need wouldn’t be the deciding factor, but instead it would be decided based on ability to pay a mortgage down. I like that. Also, my thoughts earlier about people living in low-cost housing was true. He said that he only has about 13 people left on his list that are in that category, and out of those, only about 3 of them will likely qualify because most of them either earn too little, as in they couldn’t afford a mortgage and NEED to be in low-cost housing, or their credit rating is horrid, or their monthly expenses are too high – car payments, etc. This all works in my favour.
Where this gets kind of scary exciting is when I found out that indeed, based on my household income, I qualify for the full 40% they’re offering. What I’ve realized now that I’ve gotten home and had time to think is what this means. I could actually buy a NEW place priced at $170,000 and have $68,000 given to me for the down payment – my mortgage would only be $102,000. Whoa. This changes everything that I’ve thought about so far. I need to think about this a lot and look at all the options. I would sooner still have a lower mortgage so my monthly payments are much more manageable than what I pay now. If I was to get a $130,000 place, they’d give me $52,000, meaning my mortgage would only be $78,000. Wow…I have to think a lot about this. The big plus of getting a used place is that they’re usually landscaped. A new place will have everything brand new, but it won’t come with a washer & dryer (I don’t think), and the yard would be rocks. I could pick the interior layout, though…but my payments would be higher. So many things to think about!
Okay…so I asked Jason how long it would take to find out if I was approved and would get the word that I would get the cash. That’s when I found out that this could take some time. The program is for 189 families over 5 years. They’re going to be approving about 9 families per month for the rest of this year. Jason thanked me many times for bringing all of the information they required for the application – he said a lot of people’s applications aren’t complete. He said that on Thursday and Friday of this week he would be reviewing the money they’d be giving out for this month and that while the cutoff for this month had already passed, because my application was complete and all looked good, he would try to include it in the immediate review/ranking process. Wow.
Next, I told him that my apartment lease expires at the end of August. I asked his opinion on whether he thinks I should sign another 6-month lease, or go month-to-month at $100 more per month on my rent, still having to provide 2 months notice because of how long I’ve lived here. He thought about it for quite a while, and suggested I sign another lease because if the $100/month is going to be a hardship on me – which it will, unless I know it’s only for a few months. I don’t even have the slightest thought that I’ll be approved by this Friday, because he said to get in touch with him in 2 weeks to check on my application’s status, but I’m going to not sign a new lease until Friday…may as well drag it out until the last day…just in case. You never know what could happen in 48 hours.
Once I’m approved, I have 90 days to complete the sale transaction. That’s 3 months. I’m thinking that once I’m into my 6 months, I am confident I could probably get out of my lease. Apartments are at a premium in the city right now. I would still give them 2 months notice…unless they’d let me get away with less. You never know…a new tenant that they could lock into a longer lease might be better for everyone involved. I could also talk to them about sub-leasing because if I’m handed that much money for a down payment on a house, I can’t say no because of an apartment lease.
So, now it’s a waiting game. I know I’ll be approved based on what Jason said, it’s just a matter of where I rate for priority. I’m looking forward to the day I get that call so I can seriously look for a house. Being about to look at places knowing you can, right there and then make an offer on it is exciting.
It’s a happy day.
This ramble is meant to serve as instruction of how to apply for a pre-approved mortgage online. Take what I share with you and see how far you can get before you tear your hair out.
First, though, an update on the whole getting 10 to 40% of the down payment for a house for free from the Government. When I first found out about this program I went to the Housing Corporation’s website and followed their direction and sent an e-mail to one of their people asking for more information and an application form. He told me that I’d have to contact their receptionist to book an appointment/interview for the application process…but, they were moving offices and she wouldn’t be reachable for a week. Good time to move – when you’re insanely busy with a new initiative.
So, I calmly waited until the day I was told she’d be accessible and called. I got the general government switchboard and was told they were still moving and should be available to call the next day. Okay. I can handle that…things go wrong sometimes. I waited. I called back the next day. Same operator. She offered to take a message for me. I asked if the person was on e-mail during the move and was told that yes, in fact that’s how she’d be sending the message I leave. I suggested I e-mail her directly, which she said would be a grand idea.
Now, I know how the world works. You have to be super pleasant to receptionists. Often, they decide who gets past them or not. You want to see the president of a company, don’t be a prick to the receptionist because even if you have the most important thing to discuss, they may not let you through. With that in mind, I sent this woman a pleasant e-mail asking if I could be scheduled for an appointment – at their convenience – for this program. I went out of my way to be understanding of moving offices and such things, without obviously sucking up (that’s sometimes just as bad). She responded that I should wait another few days and then I could call and make an appointment. Shiite. Okay.
I waited…more days and called and actually connected to her. Turns out she’s not the brightest flashlight in the Disneyland light parade. She had trouble typing in my name and phone number, repeatedly asking me to repeat it and I could hear her typing – v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Right. I type about 110 wpm and while I don’t expect people to go this fast, I expect a receptionist to be able to type faster than a high school student. Whatever…I wasn’t going to gain or lose points on how I treat her – that was obvious.
My appointment – their next available was the following Wednesday – tomorrow, August 28 at 2:00 pm.
I requested and received a letter confirming my employment and salary and sat back. I knew that I didn’t have copies of my 1999, 2000 and 2001 Revenue Canada tax assessments, but I figured I could bring in copies of the tax returns I filed instead…I figured they’d be enough. That said, I did buzz by the Government of Canada website, found the Revenue Canada section and found a place to send them a message/request and did submit a request to receive copies of the three years’ assessments. I never heard back from them via e-mail, so figured it was sucked into the big government void. To my surprise, on Monday (yesterday) when I checked my snail mail, I had a package from Revenue Canada with copies of my assessments! Bonus! I had everything I needed to qualify for this program. Okay…not everything. One of the requirements is that I be pre-approved for a mortgage. I knew I could get this within half an hour of sitting online, so figured I’d just leave it and deal with it after I get approved. Then, my brain woke up and said to me “you’ve got EVERYTHING they want except the pre-approval – it doesn’t cost you anything – get the bloody pre-approval so you have it in hand when you walk into the appointment”. For a change, I listened to myself and ventured forth to bank websites.
I started at my own. I went into their electronic pre-approval application section and started plugging in information about me, my financial situation and everything else they were asking. When I finally hit “submit”, it came back with errors that I had not entered Co-Applicant information – their name, address, employer, etc. Huh? There IS no co-applicant. Had I missed something?
I backed up and looked around – there was no yes/no question for co-applicant and in fact, there was no mention of co-applicant except space to enter a co-applicant’s financial information. I went through that entering “n/a”s and zeros and hit “submit” again. Same errors. I backed up right to the start to ensure I didn’t miss something. Nope. They never asked me if I had a co-applicant, nor asked what their name is or where they work, but they continued to fart back errors because I hadn’t told them that information. Bloody hell. I went into a “Contact Us” section and sent them a snarky e-mail about how I was now proceeding to another online bank application for my pre-approval and that I may or may not return for my actual mortgage because satisfying me is largely based on how convenient they made it. So far, they were losing.
Next, I was off to the Royal Bank. They seem friendly enough. I plugged in all the information, but, where they would normally ask how much you owe on your credit cards, they asked what my limit is. Wuh? My VISA people just increased my limit and decreased my interest rate because I’m being all responsible ‘n’ shit. Sure enough, the Royal Bank held it against me and told me I’d only be eligible to borrow about $92,000 because they counted my “available credit” as used credit. Fuck off. That’s not fair at all if I’m managing my credit responsibly and have a good credit rating. NEXT!
Okay…I’m to CIBC now. I have a thing against the CIBC because of a few experiences I’ve had in the local branch. My VISA is through them, though I never deal with the peons at the counters – I’m an online and telephone kinda guy. My big story with them is that it took me 40 minutes to get $200 in travelers cheques a few years ago…U.S. travelers cheques. There was a whole discussion because I actually wanted $50 cash and $150 in cheques. They only had $20 values sold in $100 chunks. I said fine, I’ll take $200 and cash in $60 immediately if they had American cash. They said they did and I could do that. I’m going way off on a tangent here. Welcome to my life. Anyway…40 minutes later I had the cheques, signed three $20′s and handed them back…and the girl asked me for identification. Fuuuuuck! The experience ended with me going into a customer service manager type’s office to tell them how unimpressed I was and how I would never bring my banking to them because of such events. The manager person didn’t seem to care, telling me it was their policy to treat me as they did. Wow…they INSIST I get treated like that…out of principle! Anyway, I called their toll-free number and shared with a woman there who told me the local branch were idiots and that I was completely in the right. I’ve since realized that I rarely if ever go into my own branch. As I said, I’m an online, telephone and bank machine kinda guy. It doesn’t really matter where I bank, as long as they don’t let the morons touch the machines I’m dealing with.
So…the CIBC online application. It actually went quite well until I got down to banking information. They wanted to know where my current bank is, account numbers and balances. I figured it wasn’t any of their goddamn business what my account numbers are, but I’d tell them the bank name and my balance since it’s relevant to the application. Then, they wanted to know my credit cards, their account numbers and balances. Again, mostly none of their business except for that I have my VISA with them. I figure they could bloody well look it up if they cared that much. I told them it was a VISA with them and my balance of squat.
The machine then told me a human had to look at it (oh…good thing I applied online!) and that they’d get back to me the next day – here’s your secret name and password to get the results.
Next…ING Direct. They’re a virtual bank that has amazing interest rates. Their mortgage rates were a few percentage marks lower than the big banks. Their online application was kinda fun – it was all pull-down boxes. Then, they asked me how much I wanted pre-approval for…I told them. After, they wanted to know the value of the property. Uh…what property? I’m going for pre-approval…not purchase. There is no actual property in play yet. Fine…I gave them the same amount. Later, they wanted to know the square footage of the building. What building?! Didn’t we make it clear already this is pre-approval in your own drop-down menu? Weren’t you paying attention? I picked a random number that would be about a house and hit “submit”.
You are not approved. Excellent. The fun part is that they didn’t actually say why, but gave suggestions like – you may not have provided enough of a down payment. Great…except that their application form didn’t ask me how much of a down payment I was going to provide. Other suggestions why I wasn’t approved referred to question numbers and the question that both didn’t match up with the application form AND didn’t even exist on the application. I don’t think I want to deal with them if they can’t get their own form right.
I went to bed a little deflated thinking I was going to have to make a real-live appointment at my bank which could take a week or more to get…but my appointment is on Wednesday. I called my bank this morning and they actually said they could take me today – this afternoon. That was a little soon – all my paperwork was at home and I was too busy at work to disappear. They scheduled me in for noon tomorrow. Then, of course I have my Housing Corporation meeting at 2:00 pm. Lookin’ good.
Tonight when I got home from work I had a couple of excitedly worded e-mail from CIBC telling me I was definitely approved for the amount I asked for…and I could have more if I chose to do so. I printed that pre-approval certificate and will bring it with me to the bank meeting I have tomorrow, as well as have it for the Housing Corporation meeting in case mine doesn’t go quickly enough. CIBC seems to actually be interested in my business. I don’t much care where I bank and will tell my mortgage interview person tomorrow that if CIBC gets my mortgage, they get all my accounts – I’m not flipping between banks to do different things. If my banks wants to keep me, they can bloody well work for it.
So…tonight I have all my papers organized and ready to go. I’m anxious about the whole process and have a list of questions ready for the Housing Corporation guy, the leading one being “when will I find out if I’m approved?” A driving factor right now is that my current lease expires at the end of August…days away. By the end of the month I need to either sign another six-month lease, or give my two-months notice that I’ll be moving out ’cause I’m approved and buying a home. I of course had to drive by the place I’m still watching on my way home to see if it’s still for sale. The sign is still on it…that’s good.
I’m preparing myself to know that there’s no way they’ll approve me and hand me a cheque for $40,000 tomorrow…but I also want to stay positive about the whole thing. I know this is all really boring for you if you haven’t bought a house yourself before, or borrowed money in mass quantities or anything like that. This is where my brain is right now, though.
The kids came back to school today. I’m finding myself going to bed earlier and earlier each night to build up the energy I need. I’m having to keep up with 700 students that all want and need individual attention and 60 teachers who equally need my attention. I cannot tell you how many times today I said “no problem!” in a cheerful and happy tone while being interrupted AGAIN from whatever I was trying to accomplish. They all start classes tomorrow, so hopefully things will calm down. I’ll be gone for 2 hours of the day for my financial meetings, so I’ll miss a good part of the afternoon excitement.
I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m hoping I’ll have amazing news and can call the owners of the house I’m stalking to ask for a viewing. I don’t want to waste their time unless I’m approved for everything and can actually afford to buy it. My dream right now is to be assured I’m approved, give two months notice and take possession of the new place in mid-October…or even the start of October so I have plenty of time to move in. I know I have to remain patient…not easy for me. Things will happen in their own good time.
Off to bed I go at 9:30 pm.
Charles…the wild man