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Free at last!

| The long real-estate nightmare is finally over. The sale of my Palm Springs condo has finally closed, 287 days after it was listed for sale.

By the numbers
Days to get the first (and only) offer 194
Days in escrow 93
Days for the Buyers to get their loan 72
Days to get complete other approvals 21
Days to complete the transaction 287
Number of unexpected and unreasonable snags countless

Who could have guessed that it would take so long to sell a condo to people who really wanted it and who had both money and good credit?

It was not surprising that the condo was on the market a long time before a buyer came along.

Over the following months, my agent and I lowered the asking price by $90,000 in an effort to attract a buyer. Originally I had hoped to make enough on the sale to pay for my new house, but as time wore on I realized that a much bigger worry was the looming tax bills on the money I had taken from my IRA to buy the house. My new goal became to close before the tax deadline and have enough left over after paying the taxes to fix up the back yard and replace the kitchen counter tops. When the offer came through in early January with a promised 30-day escrow, I was delighted — ecstatic might even be a more appropriate word.

Then the travails began.

Wells Fargo Bank threw up one obstacle after another for the Buyers to jump over. Every time the Buyers complied with a demand, the bank raised another demand. About the only thing they weren't asked to document was their shoe size and trans-fat consumption. But they complied, satisfying every requirement imposed. Finally, after more than two months, WFB produced the loan documents for the buyers to sign.

With the loan finally squared away, everyone thought it would be clear sailing from that point on. Wrong again!

Two years ago I had refinanced my mortgage through Fremont Bank; that in itself became an ordeal but was eventually completed. Or so I thought. When the escrow company took all the paperwork to the master leaseholder for what should have been a routine transfer of the sublease from me to the new buyers, it was discovered that Fremont Bank had neglected to get approval for the refinanced mortgage. Now who would have suspected that anyone except the bank would have to approve a refinancing? I certainly didn't and apparently neither did Fremont Bank.

The master leaseholder decided not to levy a $2000 penalty for failure to ask "Captain, may I?" but warned that the Bureau of Indian Affairs might not be so lenient. And they weren't.

The Bureau insisted that because Fremont Bank had not sought approval, the refinanced mortage constituted an "unauthorized encumbrance" on the leased land, and was invalid. Therefore, according to BIA, the unauthorized encumbrance would have to be cured before the sublease could be transferred. Furthermore, the Bureau would have to be satisfied that the property was not "over-encumbered," and therefore the two-year-old appraisal would have to be produced to prove that the refinancing was not for more than the property had been worth at the time!

Never mind that a two-year old appraisal doesn't mean diddley-squat in this market. Never mind that the property was about to be mortgaged for substantially more than my refinanced mortage.

Fortunately, the government did not shut down last week as had been threatened, so the Bureau was at least still open for business to continue playing these not-amusing games.

When I stopped by the escrow office on Tuesday afternoon, I learned that the Bureau had since approved my portion of the deal, but they were now demanding one more piece of paper — with a blue stamp — before they would approve the Buyer's part of the deal. The escrow officer was dashing out of the office to hand carry said piece of paper with blue stamp over to the Bureau so the approval could be obtained on Wednesday.

A note about the color blue: For some reason known only to the Bureau — if even they know a reason — documents submitted to the BIA must be signed or stamped in blue ink. If not, they are sent back and must be re-executed in blue. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, "Either the world has lost its ever-lovin' mind, or I have."

But now it's done. I've just sent checks to pay my tax bills, my car loan, and my remaining credit card debt.

Free at last! Free at last! Free at last!

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018

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