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Opinion: Column: Apparently, Not a Stable Genius
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Opinion: Column: Apparently, Not a Stable Genius

Let me get this out of my system, because until I do, I won't be able to write about anything else. Not to worry. This is not a cancer column. I am fine until they tell me otherwise, which occurs every eight weeks after my bi-monthly CT scan tells the tale of the tape.

No, this column is about my lack of understanding and business acumen, which twice has led me down the garden path, only to be asked to leave before I got to smell any of the pretty flowers. Once (twice, actually) had to do with attempts at refinancing this old house (carbon dated to approximately 1750, according to a plaque the previous owner hung to the right of the front door), and most recently (also twice) to do with reverse-mortgage financing this same now older house.

With respect to the attempts at refinancing, I will make this short and not particularly sweet. Without getting into the lead paint, bathrooms, roof, door and window issues, it always perplexed me that if I could afford to pay $1,800 per month at 6.75% interest, I could probably afford to pay $1,400 per month at 3.75% interest. However, and this is where my lack of common banking sense manifests itself; my presumptive inability to pay $400 less per month was problematic for the lenders-to-be. And an over 800 credit rating did nothing to dissuade the lender's notion that whatever financial wherewithal I had exhibited over the previous 30-plus years was irrelevant borrowing forward.

As concerns the current issue: the reverse mortgage. To say my financial life depends on its approval might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not if you're in my shoes, even occasionally. I can understand the need for the installation of safety rails on the left and right side of the staircase going down to the basement. And grudgingly, I can understand the need for the structural integrity fix relating to the five wooden pillars sitting atop the cracked concrete slab which floors our front porch and apparently prevents the house from falling forward. But I can't understand why the old stable matters so much to the appraiser/underwriter.

It is not used or functional in any way other than as a repository for junk and as a landing spot/vantage point for the Turkey Vultures who nest there. This building is approximately 50 yards from our house and 10 to 15 yards from our neighbor's house. If it fell, like our barn did years ago, it would land on part of our two acres. Given its age, likely over 100 years, it was not, nor has it ever been, covered by our home owner's insurance. "Too old," they said. The structural engineer who submitted the report about our house did a walk around the stable with me and made note of its peculiar structural fixes which included cinder blocks and some rocks. However, in response to my "What do I do?" question; his answer: "We don't certify the structural integrity of 100 year-old buildings." Now I'm being told by my reverse-mortgage banker that I have to fix/secure the foundation of the stable or else the deal is likely dead. Dead over an outbuilding that nobody uses and was likely built before two centuries turned?

The whole point of this application was to spend nothing and get something. It was not to spend something and get nothing. This stable, either structurally sound or not, provides me nothing as a living benefit. We're not moving into it. Nor are we selling the property. We're here for the duration. The stable, if it matters at all, will matter to whomever sifts through our financial remains, and since we have no children, those "remains" are not really our concern. Yet according to the most recent email I received, either I make it my concern or stew in my own juices and slowly wither away.

When I began this process, I had hoped there would be an end in sight. I didn't realize it would be my own.