Fifteen years ago I was looking for a house to rent in Rensselaer County.
I had a budget of about thirteen hundred dollars a month to work. After calling a few places, a real estate agent asked me why I wasn’t just buying a house. I explained that due to the circumstances of life, I didn’t have a large amount of money to put in or the thousands that I would need for closing costs. He assured me that none of this was necessary.
Keep in mind; that was in 2006, just before the bubble burst and the housing crisis nearly bankrupted the country. If you’ve seen the highly entertaining movie “The Big Short”, you know that a stripper with bad credit could buy a house back then. Excuse me, I meant exotic dancer. I wasn’t a dancer or a little exotic, just a TV guy who didn’t realize how relaxed the rules had become.
I should never have been able to buy my house in North Greenbush, but six weeks later I was holding the keys and mowing the lawn. A few months after my purchase, the bottom collapsed in the housing market, and I felt like the last guy to reach Noah’s Ark.
Since that purchase my life has changed dramatically, marrying a lovely wife and adopting a small group of dogs with special needs. Suddenly the half acre of land around the house felt a bit cramped. So my wife and I have spent the last year and a half looking for a new home.
Finding a home in this market has been difficult. For months it seemed like you saw a house on the market, only to see five people offering the seller more than they were asking for. It left you unable to buy everything you wanted, unless you were ready to go into an unlimited bidding war, which I wasn’t.
I’m an old fashioned guy, I think you give your price away and if someone gives it to you, the deal is done. Back when I left Channel 13 to do the Fox news, my future boss asked me what I would do if my old boss exceeded his offer. I said, “I’ll tell you what it takes for me to jump, if you hit that number, I jump.” End of story. âAnd I jumped.
Anyway, after over a year of searching and disappointing, we finally found a home we liked with almost four acres of land around. Room for dogs, quiet for my wife and privacy for me. It was a victory, a victory, a victory for all of us.
What I hadn’t realized was how much things had changed with banks and credit unions since the housing crisis and my last purchase. Where no one cared at the time, suddenly everything you have and do is suspect. You are suspicious until you can prove to the lender that you are not Al Capone.
You think I’m exaggerating but no. The lender has done the required credit reports on my wife and I more than once. I had to give them months of bank statements, which had to be signed and stamped by a bank clerk to prove that I wasn’t preparing the books.
If you have deposits in your account that are over a few thousand dollars, they want to know where that money is coming from, even if the bank statement shows where it came from. In my case, I took out a small loan on my 401k to cover closing costs and they needed me to contact the investment group and prove that they sent me the check.
At one point I had a meltdown and asked the mortgage lender if they wanted me to assign the bank statements and request their surveillance video from the day I walked into the bank and I deposited the check? They didn’t appreciate my humor and assured me that everyone was passing by.
Once I went through all of this and my loan was approved and my rate was frozen, I was told not to open an account, make any large purchases, or pull my own credit report. It looked like an additional order for rice from Taco Bell could lead to the collapse of the entire loan and the cancellation of the fence.
Finally, I held my breath and everything went well. It’s always fun at a fence when you’re the buyer because everyone at the table seems to get some of your money. You don’t mind paying the seller, realtor, or lawyer, but when the government reaches out and gets paid for doing nothing; It’s boring.
I know the tougher rules are all the result of the real estate crash. It’s typical though, that the guys who caused it got rich and walked away unscathed, while the rest of us are now jumping through hoops. In the end, it’s all worth it. My blind deaf puppy now has a nicer yard to sunbathe in. Ultimately, in the grand scheme, nothing else matters.
John Gray is a news anchor on WXXA-Fox TV 23 and ABC’S WTEN News Channel 10. His column is published every Sunday. Email him at [email protected]