I suggested we show up at Community Housing Works and make Tony talk to us. M thought that Tony might be stalling us because M hadn’t yet completed a full year at his new job. He said might as well wait.
“The guy should’ve said so if that was the case,” I groused.
Meanwhile, we kept our eyes on a handful of Chula Vista properties. One foreclosure that had been listed at $312,000 at the beginning of June was down to $279,900 by late July. Two others had sold, and one was pending. Watching the action online made me panic that the good houses were slipping away; whenever I heard talk of falling prices, I became anxious that they’d go back up before we had a chance to buy.
In August, when M’s first year at work was up, M emailed Tony, promising me that if he didn’t hear back before the end of the week, he’d let me march down to the Community Housing Works office and insist that someone else look over our file.
Two days later, Tony responded by email. Again, he asked that we resubmit the entire packet, including the application that listed our work and residence histories for the past ten years. He needed W2s and tax returns for the past two years, and a list of bank accounts, credit cards, and assets.
We sent everything in.
On August 30, Tony wrote: “Our underwriter has been swamped. We hired a new processor to help with load. You should have your approval this week.”
Then, twice a week for the next month, Tony called and emailed with requests for additional signatures and paperwork — some of which we swore we’d given him twice before.
Finally, in mid-September, Tony informed us we’d been preapproved for a mortgage of up to $315,000.
∗ ∗ ∗
The last weekend of September, our agent of choice, Joe Gover (whom we’d met at that first, dreamy, 3500-square-foot open house 11 months prior) took us house shopping in Chula Vista. Out of the eight properties viewed, we found three we liked, including one foreclosure we’d been watching for months, down now from $312,000 to $259,000. The following weekend, we brought along a family friend and seasoned real-estate investor to look over our choices.
On Tuesday, October 4, we put in an offer of $245,000 on a four-bedroom, four-bath foreclosed townhome in Eastlake, which had been on the market for 127 days. We asked for a 60-day escrow, 17 days for the inspection, 17 days for the appraisal. We asked to keep our loan contingency open as long as possible, because of the type of loan we were applying for. We also asked that the sellers pay 3.5 percent of the purchase price toward closing costs. The sellers countered at $256,00, agreed to pay the 3.5 percent for closing costs, and gave us 10 and 15 days for the inspection and appraisal, respectively, until November 21 for the loan, and a closing date of December 2. Joe thought we could get them to go a bit lower than $256,000 but we chose to play it safe and accepted.
Wednesday, October 5, we met in Joe’s office to sign the contract. Hours later, he called to inform us that we had an appointment with the inspector at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.
As per our family friend’s informal assessment, the inspector (a man named Dragan) found nothing terribly wrong with the place. Repair of the nonfunctioning garbage disposal and garage-door motor were the only requests we made of the seller.
Friday night at 10:00 p.m., the inspector emailed his report. The following day, we signed, scanned, and emailed the request for repairs back to Joe, who forwarded them to the listing agent.
On Monday, I sent Joe a text. “Ok. What next?”
He responded, “We need to follow up with Tony and make sure he gets that appraisal ordered.”
“On it,” I wrote back.
After leaving two or three messages on Tony’s phone over the next couple of days, I called the receptionist, told her I’d been trying to reach him, and hadn’t heard back. Any chance she knew when he’d be in?
A second or two after she put me on hold, Tony picked up.
I apologized for bothering him, then confessed to being slightly panicked about the appraisal. Tony said not to worry about it, that his lender often didn’t order it until 30–45 days into the process.
“But our contract says we have to have it done within 17 days,” I said.
“Yeah, it shouldn’t be a problem to get an extension,” he said.
Having never been through this process before, I knew only what Joe or Tony told me. And the thing about Tony was that, while he seemed nice enough, he was hard to read. Was he spacey and disorganized? Busy but competent? Was our application at the bottom of his list of concerns?
When I asked about the appraisal, his nonchalant demeanor gave me the impression that I was getting worked up over nothing. So I calmed down, thanked him, hung up, and reported back to Joe, who exclaimed: “Thirty to 45 days before they even order it!”
That was day nine.
Meanwhile, I was hearing talk about the potentially imminent death of redevelopment. On October 19, the California Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments in the case of California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos in November. According to Dee Sodano at Community Housing Works, the City Heights program was on hold due to this litigation. Rumors had also been swirling around the potential dismantling of the Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation. There was no telling how long any of this down-payment assistance would remain available.
Then Joe informed me that of the four or five times he’d worked with people trying to buy a home through first-time-homebuyer programs, he had yet to see one successfully close.
I feared that if we didn’t get this appraisal done now, we might miss our chance to buy a house forever. M and Joe seemed anxious as well. They supported the idea of me going in for a face-to-face with Tony, so I could push the appraisal issue one more time and get a reading on the reason for the holdup.