Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

5/10/2006

How Canadians are made

File under: Home And Native Land, Talking To Strangers, Welcome To The Occupation. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 7:13 pm.

Today I met with a client, who arrived late and frazzled. I didn’t ask him for an explanation, but he offered one anyway, the same explanation he offered me the last time he arrived late and frazzled: “I have a newborn…kid isn’t sleeping through the night.”

This is the same newborn he had when I met him last Christmas.

“Lots of people in the office have new babies,” I remarked idly. “Annie’s little girl must be five months old by now, and Roger just got back from parental leave in March, and Frank’s son was born on Valentine’s Day. And it’s not a large office, either.”

“Well,” said my client, who’d obviously given the matter a fair bit of thought already, “there was no hockey last year.”

4/25/2006

Murphy’s Law: Homeowners’ Edition

File under: Righteous Indignation, Talking To Strangers, Oh, Give Me A Home. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 7:39 pm.

I’m alive. I’m just running around acquiring a property, that’s all.

The deal closes tomorrow morning. Based on the assurances of my agent and other relevant parties - it WILL close tomorrow. I know things are really rushed right now, and it’s taken a bit longer to get all the papers in order, but it WILL close, I assure you - this means that there are only twelve hours left for everything to go horribly awry, thank God. Meaning, in twelve hours, I will no longer have to deal with the extensive cast of characters with whom I have interacted, to varying degrees, for the past six weeks:

My agent. She found me the property! She negotiated with the realtor until eleven o’clock at night to save me $5K! She comes to my office to bring me papers to sign! She works stupid hours so I don’t have to! She hooked me up with a mortgage broker, a lawyer, and a guy who does flooring! She comforts the newly heartbroken (see below)! I love my agent, and would bear her children if such a thing were biologically possible.

The home inspector. I never met this guy face to face. My agent hooked me up with him, let him into the house, and delivered his extensive report to me. All I had to do was pay him a lot of money. This made my dealings with the home inspector far less time-consuming and stressful than my dealings with various other people, for instance,

Every bank manager in the Lower Mainland. Some free advice from your friendly neighbourhood curmudgeon: by all means, diversify your assets, but for the love of God, diversify them within the same goddamned bank. Trust me on this one.

The mortgage broker. I’ve never met this guy either, but I’ve talked to him a lot - around fifteen times in the last three business days. He’s the one who sends the relevant papers to the lawyer, except that they didn’t get in on time, which is why I’ve talked to him around fifteen times in the last three business days. Most of my calls went something like this:

Me: The lawyer just called! She doesn’t have the papers yet! Closing is on Wednesday April 26 and it’s almost then and this is going to fall through she needs the papers now!!!

The broker: Hmm…the papers should have gotten there already. I’ll go check with the people who are supposed to send her the papers. I don’t know what the delay is. But I assure you that everything will be completely taken care of by Wednesday April 26.

I later found out what the delay was: my agent explained that it had to do with

The appraiser. “The only thing you have left to do is pay the appraiser,” my broker told me last week.

“Do I have to go to the other side of the city to sign stuff?” I asked, worried about taking yet more time away from work. “Do I have to go meet him?”

“No,” the broker assured me. “You can pay by credit card. I can have him call you now.”

Five minutes later, I got a call from the appraiser, which went something like this:

The appraiser: Hi, this is the appraiser.

Me: Oh, yeah, the broker told me you’d call.

The appraiser: I need your credit card number.

Me: Here you go.

It occurred to me later that I had no idea who the appraiser was, or what I’d just paid for. I could very well have just given my credit card number to some disenfranchised Nigerian prince, or peddler of penis-enlargement elixir. Spammers, take note: if you want to get rich dishonestly, you could do worse than to tap into the market of frazzled homeowners-to-be.

And what had I just paid for? Not much! Two days after the relevant papers were supposed to have arrived at the the lawyer’s, but one day before they actually did, I received a cryptic email from my agent:

Dear Moebius Stripper,

I hear you’re back in town. There have been some complications, but don’t worry. The deal will close on Wednesday, April 26. Call me.

I called her.

“What the hell is going on?” I demanded.

“Oh, there was a problem with the appraiser,” she informed me.

“A problem? What sort of a problem?”

“Well, he was supposed to show up the other day, but he forgot.”

“He FORGOT?”

“Yeah. And then we tried to reschedule, but it was kind of difficult, because -”

It was kind of difficult, I’m told, because the seller - showing wanton disregard for my feelings in this matter - chose the very day the appraiser was supposed to show up to be unceremoniously dumped by her greasy-ass biker boyfriend (whom I met) and go into hysterics. The appraiser didn’t show up, and that was the last straw. Fuck rescheduling, she shouted to my agent. She didn’t want to reschedule! She couldn’t take this! She couldn’t take the stress of rescheduling, let alone moving! She wasn’t sure she even wanted to sell!

My agent whose children I would bear if such a thing were biologically possible high-tailed it to my soon-to-be residence, let herself in, and spent the next hour comforting the seller. You do want to sell, my agent said as the seller sobbed. You do! You have a beautiful new property downtown! You can’t let this stop you from pursuing your dream! You have a bright future ahead of you! You’re smart and funny and have a great job! He wasn’t worth it anyway!

The seller sniffled a little, and seemed to be agreeing somewhat, but she wasn’t entirely convinced.

“And if you don’t sell,” my agent continued, “You’ll be sued for breach of contract by my client, and probably by the seller of your new property as well, and I can tell you from experience that you’ll be out a hell of a lot of money.”

The seller agreed to reschedule the appointment with the appraiser.

My agent is a total hard-ass, and I mean that as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the appointment was’t rescheduled quite in time to get the papers sent this morning to

The notary public. I met with her anyway, and the dozen-odd documents I needed to sign were still spilling out of the fax machine when I arrived. She was scrutinizing one of them closely when I settled into the seat across from her.

“Hmm,” she said. “When do you close?”

Tomorrow, I said. Wednesday, April 26.”

“This says the funds will be ready Friday, April 28.”

I sat there gawking. NOT FOR LACK OF ME TELLING THEM FIFTY TIMES THAT COMPLETION WAS TOMORROW, I said.

“That’s ok,” she said. “I can call them.”

Which would have been less of a problem if the folks preparing the documents weren’t three time zones away, and probably tucking their kids into bed instead of poring over boring legal documents in the office.

Except for one of them, who the notary managed to track down. He was very sorry! He’d get that fixed right now! He’d send over the new papers and talk to the bank first thing tomorrow morning! Everything would be taken care of, and I could sign the papers now!

I signed a bunch of papers. I signed everything except the cheque, which no one bothered to tell me had to be certified.

“Oh, you’ll have to go to the bank for that,” said the notary. “You can’t just write a personal cheque for [mid-five figures].”

“I need to go to a bank? What do they do, just put a seal on the cheque, right?”

“Yes, it should take less than ten minutes.”

“Don’t you have a seal, like right here?” I said. “Don’t all seals pretty much all look the same to anyone who isn’t looking terribly closely?”

She gave me a look that told me that lawyers think it’s really funny when you joke about having them help you commit fraud.

Fine, then; off to the bank tomorrow. To certify the bloody cheque. And then give it to the notary (in trust, always in trust), who will turn liquid assets into solid ones, by tomorrow morning, because that’s when the deal closes.

They promised me it would.

4/13/2006

A Canadian moment

File under: Home And Native Land, Talking To Strangers. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 5:19 pm.

The rain was coming down hard when I waited for a break in traffic to cross the street.

I paused at the intersection, waiting for the Volvo, and the Honda that trailed perilously close behind, to pass. I saw the Volvo decelerate, and I tried to catch the driver’s eye. Speed up, I willed her, don’t stop. I can wait five seconds to cross.

But the Volvo stopped, and within an instant the Honda collided with it. It was a gentle hit, and I stood transfixed at the corner, wondering if the two drivers needed a witness. The Honda was technically in the wrong, but the Volvo shouldn’t have stopped.

The two drivers’ doors clicked open simultaneously, and the women approached the touching bumpers.

“No damage,” said the Volvo. “Sorry about that; I shouldn’t have stopped.”

“No, I’m sorry,” said the Honda. “I was following you too closely. And in this weather especially -”

“No, I shouldn’t have stopped,” repeated the Volvo. “It’s my fault. But no harm done.”

“Is everything okay?” I called out.

“Everything’s fine,” they assured me, and I forget which one apologized for making me stand out there in the rain watching a minor car accident.

4/8/2006

I’m not signing anything until I read it, or someone gives me the gist of it

File under: Righteous Indignation, Talking To Strangers, Oh, Give Me A Home. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 9:44 am.

Some exciting developments on the home-buying front: I have a banker and a mortgage broker fighting for my business! It’s not often that I have people fighting over me, so I am milking this opportunity for all it’s worth, shamelessly playing the two parties off of one another, and deliberately holding off on making any commitments until that magical deadline, ten days before closing. And, oh, the desperation is a thing to behold. “I can understand that you’d want to talk to your bank about getting a better deal,” wheedled the broker, “but do you really want to go with someone who doesn’t give you their best offer up front, and makes you go back and forth negotiating for something better?”

I replied that 1) actually, yes I did, because the only reason that I was getting better offers to begin with was because of the competition - ain’t the market economy grand; and 2) the broker himself hadn’t offered me his best deal up front, and I’d only told him I’d sign with him if he could negotiate with the bank to get me an interest rate that was 0.05% lower, which he was able to secure without difficulty, so what’s with the sudden “best offer first” ethic? Fair enough, said the broker.

Anyway, I’ll probably go with the broker anyway, assuming I can get some kinks in the contract worked out, where by “kinks” I mean “the part that has me making a huge down payment and taking out a huge loan for the mortgage, thereby having me pay an extra $15,000 (!) that is not accounted for, and could you please issue me a contract where that is not the case?” Assuming that gets fixed, I’m in better shape than I would be if I went with the bank, who offered me (this part was uttered in quiet tones by the banker) “a slightly higher interest rate”, but (more loudly) WITH ONE PERCENT CASH BACK!!1!1!!! on the amount of the mortgage. And that’s a lot of money! Think about that! Over a thousand dollars in my pocket!

I thought about it, but my thought process involved a calculator, which revealed that the over a thousand dollars in my pocket would be more than absorbed by the close to two thousand dollars in extra interest. Well, that’s true, said the banker, but…. I guess could use this as a springboard to another rant about innumeracy, but it’s not even that: even someone who can’t compute these things by hand could make use of any number of online mortgage calculators, which make the comparison process quite easy indeed.

Maybe I’ll try to find a third mortgage specialist, but time is running out.

[Credit where it’s due.]

1/16/2006

An arm, a leg, and then some

File under: Talking To Strangers, Welcome To The Occupation, Oh, Give Me A Home. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 10:04 pm.

The other day, I had the privilege of dealing with a client from North Vancouver who was upset that my company had delivered to him the service that it advertized, rather than the something-for-nothing product that men of his extraction have come to expect from the common people. “Privilege”, because that was clearly how the disgruntled gentleman saw the exchange: didn’t I know who he was? he demanded. He was an established member of the community! He was a successful businessman, and - in case I was unclear about what that implied - he knew how to run a business! By gum, he had a house worth half a million dollars!

This last point was even less germane to the issue at hand than the others, as my company is not in the real estate business; but what could I do? I responded in the way that I’ve learned to respond to such folks: by murmuring the sorts of empty platitudes that are generally misconstrued as obsequiety by those who cannot fathom being on the receiving end of condescension. The fellow relented, and I got rid of him without losing my job; but the house-hunting part of me was almost unbearably tempted to snark, “You live in North Vancouver and your house is only worth half a million? Where do live - in a shack by the sewage plant?”

I’ve started looking for a new place to live, the sort of place that I own, in earnest. Tales of this city’s housing market, I’m sad to report, have not been exaggerated at all. The only affordable place in my neighbourhood went to the other person viewing it with me the other day, but I’m not sure it was much of a loss: did I want to replace the carpet in the kitchen as soon as I moved in? The affordable place with the huge windows sounded promising, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in the suburbs; but no matter, it’s off the market anyway. And I’d have grabbed the place close to work in a heartbeat, were it not for my refusal to sleep in a bedroom without a window.

It’s a seller’s market, and it’s discouraging to see how the various sellers I’m dealing with are reacting to that reality. There’s the mild-mannered realtor who phoned me apologetically this evening to let me know that the place I saw four days ago has been sold, sorry about that, he’ll let me know if anything else comes up; there’s the hyper one who phones me every other day to tell me of a hot new place! that I’m going to have to view right now! because it won’t last long! - something I’d chalk up to hyperbole if it weren’t for the fact that he’s been right every other time; and then there are the many laid-back agents who don’t even get back to me to arrange a viewing, because if I can’t make the open house, they’ll have no trouble selling to someone who can.

So…anyone in the Lower Mainland got a condo they want to get rid of? I’ll, like, make you pottery and stuff.

12/23/2005

A somewhat tense hour and thirty-nine minutes

File under: Meta-Meta, Talking To Strangers. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 8:29 pm.

The other day, I found myself lamenting the lack of bloggable material that has crossed my path of late. I did not, however, then say to myself, “Oh, I know! How about I leave my wallet on a bus, and then write about my experience trying to get it back!” Nevertheless, you take what you can get, and I couldn’t be happier with what I got, really:

  • Prior to taking this bus, I had to buy a transfer from a machine. All I had on me was twenties, so after buying the transfer I had $19 in loonies, twonies, and quarters, which I pocketed. So when my wallet and I parted ways, I still had $19, which would be enough to get me through the next few days, if it came to that.

  • The guy at the transit system’s customer service centre managed to strike a formidable balance between I’ve-dealt-with-this-sort-of-thing-a-hundred-times -before professionalism, and nothing-is-more-important-to-me-than-your-case compassion. He took my name, and told me that every bus is swept when it gets to the end of the line, and that this bus in particular would be back at my door in an hour going the other way, and if I wanted I could go try to catch it.
  • I did, and explained my case to the driver, who stopped his bus and let me on to try to find my wallet, but informed me that he hadn’t found a wallet when he’d gotten to the end of the line and doubted that it was here. Still, though, he’d take a few minutes to look, as would all twenty people on that bus. Alas, nothing. But then the driver asked me when I’d gotten on the bus.

    “Seven twenty,” I said.

    “Oh, this bus was at your stop at seven-oh-five,” he said. “So your wallet wouldn’t be here.”

    “So is the next bus going to be the seven twenty one?” I asked.

    “No, that bus goes back to the lot,” he replied.

    I thanked him and and he let me off. A passenger at the front, a woman of around eighty who minutes before had been on all fours to check under her seat, wished me luck.

  • But what does a bus driver know, I thought; I knew the schedule, and there’d be another bus coming by in exactly fifteen minutes, and it would be the seven-twenty bus, no?

    So I waited, and the drizzle gave way to pouring rain, and fifteen minutes later I was drenched, but there was a bus. He stopped, and I explained my situation.

    “You weren’t on my bus,” said the driver matter-of-factly. “I’d remember you.”

    “Yes, I was, I got on at the beginning of the line at seven twenty.”

    “Naw, this bus came ’round your way seven thirty-five.”

    Very well.

  • Back home, I called customer service again, and got a woman who took my name. “You saved me a phone call,” she said. “We just got word that a wallet was found, has your name in it.”

    “How much cash is in it?” I asked.

    All of it.

  • “All of it” was under a hundred dollars, as opposed to the ten thousand-odd dollars that you read about every now and again in front-page articles around Christmastime, in which some homeless person finds a wallet full of some obscene amount of money, leaves it all there, and then doesn’t accept a reward. I was glad that I hadn’t left ten thousand dollars in my wallet because I didn’t want there to be a front-page article about me. By the way, for what it’s worth, if I found a wallet with that sort of cash, I would return all of it to the owner, but I damnwell would expect a reward, and I would accept every penny. Because I returned a wallet to someone who walks around with ten thousand dollars in cash.
  • Got it back the next day.

Longtime readers may contrast the relative ease in obtaining money from the transit authority with to the crazy-making ordeal of acquiring same from the Employment Insurance office. I wonder if we could streamline the Employment Insurance system by having employers place cash in wallets on buses, and have unemployed people collect their benefits directly from the transit authority.

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