Monday, February 27, 2006

Buy a house - where do I sign?

Author's note: This is the first of a three-part series dedicated to the insanity that is home buying.

My wife and I recently purchased a home and discovered that it would have probably been a lot less complicated teaching astrophysics to monkeys.
For example, the load of loan paperwork it takes to buy a house is enormous, tedious and is printed in some language that looks like English, is phonetically identical to English, but reads like the words were pulled out of a bag at random. Holisticists have linked the amount of this paperwork to the amount of homework you screwed up as a kid. Sort of a karmic punishment for those of us who goofed off in class.
The general idea is that if you were stupid enough to put a semester's worth of work into a project the night before it was due, you're stupid enough to enter into a 30-year contract that requires you to spend twice as much on a house as it's worth. In the world of finance, this is called interest. In the real world, it's called extortion.
Not entirely fair, but mortgage companies are allowed to get away with it because not many lay people actually know anything about mortgage companies, and those who do are so paranoid nobody takes them seriously.
It isn't, of course, signing the right lines on the right pages that makes buying a house tedious, by which I mean it's not even fun after the appropriate amount of drinks. It's waiting for approval that drives you crazy.
It's kind of like this ...
Picture yourself pregnant. (Guys, imagine the pain of passing a bowling ball through a part of your body a bowling ball won't physically fit through - then double it.) You're waiting in line for a ticket to a movie you've wanted to see for the past year. Then picture yourself at the concession stand, without a watch, realizing the picture's going to start before you sit down because the jerk in front of you wants to pay for her Twix and Twizzlers with a debit card. Then, picture yourself walking into the theater as you hear the opening credits begin when suddenly your water breaks and some pimply-faced attendant has to race you to the hospital.
That's sort of like buying a house - well, without all the screaming, emotional trauma, expensive prescription drugs and dozens of people you don't know looking at your naughty bits. You have a sense of urgency, uncertainty, frustration, dread and anticipation - all at the same time. Oh, and you've got to pee, too.
This feeling is called stress.
To make the house-buying process a lot less stressful, make sure you find a good real estate agent. A nice real estate agent. The kind of real estate agent who's so nice if you had lunch with him you'd actually feel guilty stiffing her with the bill. They're trained to look after you when all that paperwork causes you to gibber like an idiot.
After signing away the next 30 years of our lives, an amount of money we may not be able to earn, and possibly a kidney or two, we had our house. Now all we had to do was move.

Next week: Moving in.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


After asking for an example of a niche magazine while teaching my introduction to mass media class, one of my students said “Cosmopolitan.” A guy asked what Cosmopolitan was. I said it was cranberry juice, Rose’s lime, triple sec and vodka.
Is that wrong?