Thursday, July 26, 2012

Politics: Negative ads and the undecided voter

There you have the race right now.

About 46% for the President and 45% for his opponent.

Baring some unforeseen event, that is pretty much going to hold steady.

The elections is in the hands of 9% of the voters who are undecided.

One can produce the most positive rose-colored ad for your favorite candidate and his opponents will not be swayed.  Likewise, the most negative ominous ad, outrageous or factual, will not sway the supporter away from his/her support.

Nonetheless, I do hope there will be some positive ads along the way so the undecided voter doesn't base her/his choice exclusively on fear or disdain.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Life: First Time Home Buyer Experience, Part II

Our bid process was relatively uneventful.

We made an offer.  The seller made a counter offer.  We accepted.

The train began running down the tracks!

The loan process

It is a lot of paper work so get on that right-away.

We got the feeling the industry is pretty competitive as the rates and fees cited by three mega-banks (Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America) was pretty much the same.

Since we have a lot of our financial services handled by Bank of America, we went with them.  

Everyone has a horror story about bank mix-ups in the loan processing.  

On one hand, I'm surprised given how many loans are processed over the decades you would think the process is well worked out.  But on the other hand, so many hands touch the documents that something inevitably gets fouled up.

I won't name names at Bank of America but, on the whole, our customer service experience from them would not get an "A" rating; maybe a "B-" and more likely a "C."  

Maybe my expectations were too high.  Alas, we were told that the boo-boos on the paperwork, missed deadlines and general air of low communication we experienced were not unusual.  

So my only advice would be to read everything as careful as you can.  At various points we found the city of the property wrong, birthday listed incorrectly, conflicting instructions on how to fill out various forms, phone numbers mistaken, etc.

Also, keep track of the timelines and be sure to call to check that things were on track.  Even with our consistent contacts with the lender and our agent's contacting the lender, deadlines were missed by a couple of days on two occasions (conditional approval and final approval).  

Everyone will have advice for you and you just have to weigh it for yourself.  Certainly, if you got a good realtor, and we did, that helps.  He or she will know about local conditions in the area you are buying into.  He or she will also know about what kind of issues are cropping up from lenders.

Get input from web pages and others who have purchased recently.  We also leaned on Home Buying for Dummies.

Multiple Steps

After the loan paperwork gets started, you will be working with inspectors.  Our realtor recommended Advanced Group Property Inspections.  You can inspect as much as you like but the cost is on the buyer as part of the due-diligence.

The inspector checks the place out for problems big and small.

Indeed, if they find a big problem of deal breaker proportions, it is part of the purchase contract that you can bail out and recover your deposit (in our case 3% of the agreed upon price).

For smaller problems, you can ask the seller to fix something or offer some cash credit to fix the problem later.  If your requests aren't a deal breaker for them, they often will meet you part of the way on the request to keep the deal moving forward.

In our case, there were a few things here and there so we requested some cash credit and the seller agreed to meet us half-way on that.

You will also work with an escrow company that serves as the neutral third party between buyer and seller handling funds and documents.  The seller selected Peninsula Escrow.  The mountain of paperwork is quite daunting.  In end, we didn't read every line of every page but we did look closely at pages that were obviously specific to our situation and we did find one document that belonged to another file that was being worked on in their office.  Peninsula Escrow staff communication skills were much better than Bank of America!  And that is all I'm going to say about that!!

So after the initial flurry of activity with loan applications, inspections and escrow forms, things become quiet as the various entities beaver away at the paper work ...

Non-profit of the month: July 2012 - Venice Family Clinic

There is an ongoing debate on how medical care and health insurance should be regulated. I suspect that is going to continue going on for a long time! But, in the meantime, I'm very happy to support organizations like Venice Family Clinic.

This organization is helping provide medical care for low income, uninsured and underinsured people in the westside of Los Angeles county at multiple sites.

I'm pleased to read on their webpage that they get a lot of support from UCLA Medical Center (I'm a UCLA alum), Santa-Monica-UCLA-Orthopaedic Hospital (I'm a research at the Orthopaedic Hospital Research Center) and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (I've worked there as well as been a patient there). 

These types of medical service non-profits meet needs in local communities and need our support.

Regardless of whether you think the Affordable Care Act is helpful or not to the overall situation in the USA, you can find an organization like Venice Family Clinic in your community and give them your financial support. And if you are a medical professional, I'm sure they would welcome your time and talent!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Non-profit of the month: June 2012 - Stand to Reason

Enjoy and have learned a lot from the Stand to Reason podcasts. The extended comments given on the show on current issues of theological, philosophical and ethical importance is helpful. When one hears about those kinds of issues from Time magazine, Los Angeles Times newspaper or the television news, it is usually from a worldview that says there is no god. Worldviews matter because they serve as a foundation and filter for thinking about things. Layered on top of the worldview is the logical steps taken by people when they think through issues. On the podcast, I've learned that the logical mistake most often made in contemporary discussion of issues is the genetic fallacy. This is the problem where an idea is dismissed because of the person or origin of the idea. An example of this kind of thinking: (A) people believe god exists because they need something to help them through the difficulties of life; (B) therefore, god doesn't exist. Statement A actually tells us nothing about statement B. I'm trying to be much more aware of this kind of thinking where an idea is criticized not for the idea itself but because of denigration of the person proposing/defending the idea. Anyway, happy to donate to STR! Keep up the good work over there.