We recently finished refinancing our home again. It is part of the homeowner’s tradition in the US.
The dance is a little different these days. Back in 2006 when we bought the house, the loan company was happy enough to let me finance it 100% before we had even sold the old place. For a month or so I was in debt in the seven figure range. Do I get an achievement for that?
Since the boom, interest rates have come down. The last time we refinanced, the rate was low enough that we told the finance guy we work with that he would probably would only ever hear from us again via a yearly Christmas card.
And then rates went down even further, so that we could shave off more than a full percentage point from our rate, which in turn would peel a decent chunk of money off of our monthly payment. Some of that comes from resetting the 30 year clock and the fact that we have paid off a chunk of principle as well, but the low rate helps too.
Getting documentation together took more effort this time around, all the more so because I had been self-employed for the last couple of years. I had to document where all the money came from since 2010. The years of really easy money are over. It is back to the way it was in 2000 or so, and then some. But we managed it.
The whole refinancing effort culminates in the signing “ceremony” at the title company. You go sit in a conference room with your loan guy and a title company representative and sign all the documents the loan company wants you to sign. The title company verifies this, tells the loan company you have jumped through all of their hoops, gets the money, pays off your old loan, and gives you whatever is left over. That is pretty much how escrow works.
We had our daughter in tow this time around, and while I had the iPad handy for her to play with, she wanted to sit and watch what we were doing. So I asked her to count how many times I had to sign my name during the process.
The answer: More than 60 times.
That number includes pages I just had to initial. For every multi-page document, I had to initial each page and then sign the final page.
But given my scrawl of a signature, writing out my initials takes about as much effort as signing something.
Some of it was the usual stuff. The multi-page document with all of the loan details. The special document with the interest rate, which includes an explanation of how interest rates work, for people who missed it in the previous document. The line in the notary ledger. The detailed list of where all the money was going.
Some of it though was kind of silly. I had to sign no fewer than three documents that basically said that the house being financed was my primary residence. There were a few cases of signing documents that seemed to have the same purpose as some other document. And at one point I had to sign a photocopy of a signed document I had submitted on a previous occasion in order to verify that I had indeed signed it.
My wife had to sign and initial nearly as many documents. There were a few just for me, but she was still over the 50 mark.
This is what happens when you make people accountable for their practices. They make you sign a bunch of forms to “prove” that they have done everything required by law, whether or not you know the law or the relevance of any given document. I recall back when a federal regulation came out saying that doctors could not share you medical history without your express written consent. At my next visit to the doctor, I had to sign a form authorizing the doctor to share my medical history with whomever he damn well pleased or they would simply refuse to treat me.
That is how it always plays out.
Anyway, during a lull in the signing, I asked the woman from the title company if I could ask her a stupid question.
She laughed and asked me if I wanted to know why I had to sign so many documents.
I said no, my question was much sillier. Besides which, I have worked at big companies, I know about papering over processes with documents and signatures to CYA.
What I wanted to know was why title companies seemed to be staffed entirely by women.
This was my sixth or seventh time to the title office for signing papers in my lifetime, and I could not recall there ever being a man working in any of them.
At this point our loan guy said he hadn’t actually noticed that in all his years of hanging out at title companies, but that in hindsight I seemed to be right.
The woman from the title company told us that, basically, the job involves getting yelled at a lot. Pompous real estate agents, shady loan officers, cranky buyers, they all seem to target the title company staff when things aren’t going right or closing fast enough or what not. She said that they do get men in the office from time to time, but that they do not have the temperament for that sort of thing, so do not last very long.
At least that was her theory. And it certainly has some merit.
Based on what she said, I suspect that pay enters into it as well.
In financial organizations, the people who actually do the customer facing work tend to be paid poorly. Go ask a bank teller how much they make. This, along with the fact that she said that the sales end of the business (where commissions come into play) and management over a certain level (where the pay is good) were heavily staffed with men makes me think that, among the things she and her colleagues have to put up with, mediocre compensation might very well be on the list.
But I did not say the part about pay aloud. That is just my theory.
And my sample set is just title offices in Silicon Valley, so it could be a regional thing.
Anybody out there with title company insight that can confirm or deny my theory?