A tale of two refinancings
Earlier this year, we got a come-on in the mail from CitiMortgage, which held the mortgage on our home. We didn't deal with them originally -- we had taken the loan out from a Dutch outfit, ABN-AMRO -- but Citi wound up with our paper.
In the mail piece, Citi offered to waive $500 of fees if we would look at refinancing with them. We took the bait and called in, and were greeted by a nice, knowledgeable loan officer in St. Louis, who told us we could refinance at 4.375%, which was nearly a full percentage point below our existing interest rate. Our credit score was high, there was plenty of equity in the house, and so things looked good for approval. We chatted with the loan officer as he filled out application forms for us on January 11, and on January 27 and 28, we scanned and e-mailed quite a bit of supporting documentation -- within a day or two of being asked for it. It took hours, but if you want to save money, you have to work at it sometimes. We also forked over $545 cash for an appraisal, which the appraiser knocked out in a matter of days after a drive-by of our house.
Then the wait set in. No one at Citi touched our file for nearly two months. By the time a loan processor finally started working on the file, it was March 8. On the phone from her office in Roanoke, Texas, she didn't listen very well, and she kept coming back to us with more dribs and drabs of documents and information that she needed, including some stuff we had already gone over with, and sent in to, the loan officer guy. O.k., fine, we thought. These things take time, and mortgage lenders are more careful these days than they were a couple of years ago. We told ourselves to be patient.
By April 13, with no progress in sight, we started asking what the heck was going on. The loan officer tried to be helpful, but he wasn't getting anywhere in moving things along. Finally, on May 11 -- four months after we applied -- a new loan processor called us from Roanoke and informed us that all the documentation we sent in in January was now too stale and would all have to be updated. If we did that, she told us in a robotic tone of voice, maybe she could get underwriting approval and we could close by the end of the month. Maybe. If we were good.
It felt a lot like starting all over. We thought to ourselves, "If we're going to start all over, why would we do it with these people?"
We called the loan officer in St. Louis with a proposition: Can we get our $545 appraisal fee back and call the whole thing off? After checking with a supervisor, he agreed. And that was the end of that.
On May 28, we contacted Umpqua Bank, the Roseburg institution that's as close to a local bank as one can find these days. We had moved a few deposit accounts there in recent months, and we suspected that they'd be much more attentive to our deal. We were right. We filed our loan application on line that day, and paid $460 for another appraisal shortly thereafter. The appraiser was quick to contact us, was surprisingly thorough, and spent about an hour with us at the house. The loan officer, in Portland, was every bit as knowledgeable as the Citi guy in St. Louis, and she answered phone calls on her cell phone after business hours and on weekends to see the deal through. The loan processor, in Tigard, stayed focused on the file. It seemed as though the next thing we knew, the title company was calling with escrow information.
We signed the papers last Thursday, the deal closed on Tuesday, and the old loan was paid off yesterday. That's 33 days from start to finish. Our new interest rate is 4.25%, which by our calculations cuts four months off the end of the term of our loan. In our geezer way of looking at things, that's four fewer months of working for the man. (O.k., at least not for the banker man. At that point we may be paying Yale.) Our net out of pocket, with all the fees, was about three quarters of a month's mortgage payment. That's a darned good return on investment, if we keep the house and pay the loan off gradually, which Lord willing we hope to do.
Not to jinx it, but our whole Umpqua move has been pretty amazing. Chase and Citi are out of our lives, at least for now, and now we like the people at our bank. Their branches, which they call "stores," are goodwill-generating places, but more importantly, Umpqua's paying 2% interest on checking account balances at the moment. Dealing with a financial institution has not been this satisfying in a while. We're getting nothing for saying this, but even if you're not ordinarily into the "buy local" bit, that outfit is definitely worth a look.