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Speaking Out

Evolution of Getting 'Escrewed' When Buying and Selling a Home

July 31, 1994|CARRIE WULF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Wulf lives in Laguna Niguel

It's an amazing evolution in history that man has gone from walking onto a piece of land and staking a claim to buying property through escrow. Or as my husband and I now call it, "escrew."

I was taking a walk one day when I noticed many houses in my neighborhood had gone up for sale. I got the itch myself and decided to sell my single-family dump. Surprisingly, it sold in two weeks, at a $55,000 loss of course. My husband looked over at me with one of those "this-was-your-idea" looks and said, "I think we just got escrewed," and I agreed. And that was before the realtor got his chunk.

Yes, the realtor. Another modern day phenomenon. Who invented this job? Can I not find ads and look for houses myself? I thank my grant deed we don't need these agents in other areas of our lives. Can you imagine a realtor for Bullocks charging 6% to find you those Liz Claiborne pastel suit sets you've been looking for? Or imagine a 6% charge by the grocery store agent for cutting those turkey slices? All I know is, my realtor took 6% for coming over and crunching numbers with me one night over a Diet Coke (which I bought without an agent), running a listing and having all his realtor friends over to my house for lasagna and Chianti during their caravan: $12,000 he got for this. And my husband just looked at me and said, "I think we just got escrewed," and I agreed.

*

Then there's buying your new home. I went out with my realtor and looked at homes for a total of five hours before we made an offer on a house we ended up buying. Not only that, but we bought his listing. By my calculations, it was not hard to see that he had made about $18,000 for a long afternoon's work showing us houses we couldn't afford. I wondered all afternoon if he used an agent when he bought his $70,000 car. Then I decided I didn't care. I was the one who was buying the front end.

Then we opened escrow, the derivation of which must come from the Latin root meaning "to screw or to take advantage of." I thought I was prepared. I am not young. I am not a naive person. We'd been through this two times before. But I've come to realize, escrow is like labor. How easily we forget the pain. I found myself signing document after document practicing three hees and a blow. My husband kept looking around for a nurse to get some ice chips. I began calling for an anesthesiologist before the 45 days was over. And all I can say is, thank goodness we had a short escrow. I don't think I could have handled the usual 90-day formality without an epidural drip.

Then there's the loan shopping and subsequent underwriting fees, processing fees, assumption fees, document preparation fees, and my favorite, the loan origination fee. How nice. And to think I got to pay that on top of points, and then of course, let's not forget the interest rate for 30 years. My husband said to me, "I think we're getting escrewed," and I agreed.

Then in our closing there were notary fees, document fees, fax fees, reconveyance fees, recording fees and this was my husband's favorite: Not only were there escrow, but also sub-escrow fees. Can anyone tell me what that means? Is my telephone bill going to start coming with a "sub-bill?" Will my Summer cruise include the "sub-cruise?" My husband just looked at me and said, "I think we just got escrewed," and I agreed.

Then there were those little, minor miscellaneous expenses that I could have bought the Trump Tower with. The association charging us $185 for a "transfer of owner" fee. What is that? Did someone need that much money to white out the old owner's name and scribble in the new? I know those slope maintenance workers sure don't care.

Then of course all the utility companies charge disconnecting and reconnecting charges. Appraisers need their money for appraising. Pest controllers need their money for pesting, inspectors need their money for inspecting, and the title companies need money for titling. My weary husband looked over at me while we were finally signing papers and said, "I think we just got escrewed," and I cried.

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