Monday, July 13, 2009

A Housing Update, July 2009

(For those playing along at home, the last update was the May 22 Housing Update.)

A lot has happened in a little amount of time, but here are the big updates and what drove us to make them:

  • We've decided to stop working with ACORN, at least for the time being.
  • We've reconnected with Rachel Melniker at Corcoran.
  • We've gotten some helpful advice from a broker at Manhattan Mortgages
Stopping work with ACORN
On June 4th, I met with ACORN with updated paperwork and begun my 2-3 day wait for a Pre-Qual from the bank. By June 29th, I still hadn't heard back, and they had stopped returning my calls altogether. With help (see next paragraph) I was able to pick up the pre-qual on July 1st. The numbers were nothing in line with what I'd been told, and the authenticity of the letter itself appears to lack credibility. While there's been no official break, our relationship with ACORN may have outlived its usefulness (or if nothing else, our patience).

My intake package was delivered on April 4th, 2009, stretching a 10-15 day process to 3 months. There is financial incentive to working with ACORN, but working with someone who doesn't respect your time comes with its own cost: mental and financial. If nothing else, in those 3 months, the mortgage rate has increased about a half point.

Partnering with a Real Estate Agent
Never having bought before, we knew that we were going to need someone on our side to represent us. We had a great experience working briefly with Rachel Melniker last year, and we contacted her again. Within two days of working with her, she'd sent us listings, took us to an open house, made one call to ACORN and got directly connected to our MIA loan councilor, and she did some ACORN research of her own which proved very insightful.

Contacting a Mortgage Broker
When we finally got the pre-qual from ACORN, and it seemed off, Rachel suggested connecting with a Mortgage Broker, if just to get some advice and more accurate numbers. We did make the call, and it was a very smart decision. the broker gave us real numbers, explained why they were what they were, and was very generous with information and answers to our questions. With clearer numbers, we were able to better refine our search which made everything a bit less stressful.

...And compared to ACORN taking 3 months to give us a pre-qual, Beth gave us an estimate in 15 minutes.

What's Different For Us?
When you walk in to ACORN, you take a seat on faded couches and stare at a rat-bait-box across the waiting area. You walk into the back and it's a mob of cubicles and papers, and no one seems especially happy to be there. Comparatively, everyone on the private sector has been helpful, courteous and professional, and with good reason -- they're compensated based on performance. While we might miss out on potential savings at ACORN, we wonder if a transaction would ever take place. Swift action and prompt replies have made our search go from twiddling thumbs for months to looking forward to making an offer on one of a few apartments in the next few weeks.

My dad has an expression, "Never let a poet fix your sink". This comes from some DIY plumbing of his that ended up with a more serious problem, and eventually calling in a professional. We initially thought we could do it alone, you know "save some serious money", but regardless of how much you hear "you can do yourself", there's too much on the line to miss important steps or get hustled by the seller's team.

We could have exciting news in the next few weeks. A real fixer-upper might be in our future -- we couldn't be more excited or more nervous, but we think it's the right move for so many reasons. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Manhattanhenge 2009

You may remember when Columbia first told you about Manhattanhenge, when the setting sun falls directly inline with the street grid that is New York City. While there are 2 days a year when this magnificent event occurs, in truth, for several days around each set day are also breathtakingly beautiful.

2009's 2nd and last 'henge of the year is July 12th at 8:25pm.

Be sure to check out Hayden Planetariums's page on the phenomenon that is Manhattanhenge to satisfy all of your sun-worshipping curiosities.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's New in New York City: BurritoVille Reopens!

I think I hear the angels singing in heaven: BurritoVille is open again! At least the one on Water Street is, according to When Columbia first wrote about their closing, we never thought we'd see our old friends again. The wiki on them reports many more will be opening soon:

The Financial District location (36 Water Street) that re-opened on July 6, 2009 is just the first of several planned locations in New York City and throughout the country. In NYC, many of the new locations will be at or near the old stores. (Planned locations are 226 West 23rd Street and 36 Seventh Avenue).

I'm crossing my fingers for the one on West 72nd Street to open again. Pumpkin needs a Vegetarian Sloppy Joe with tofu sour cream! (Or at least her Mama does. ;)