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Hear radio reports touting the lowest interest rates in recorded history. Find out everyone you've ever met just refinanced at what is surely the bottom of the market. Become convinced that rates will rise four points by tomorrow. Panic.

Rip interest quotes out of the Sunday papers. Visits helpful sites like,, Become confused by disparities in points and fees. Toss a coin and pick a bank.

Receive bulky package demanding entire life history plus first born child. Throw papers in the trash.

Spouse retrieves application and says start writing. Read instructions and call bank for translation.

Climb into crawlspace and hunt for ancient financial records. Take shower. Thumb through jumbled files for two years worth of tax returns, mortgage records, bank statements, credit card receipts, car loan papers, deed, title insurance policy, certificate of occupancy, and survey. Find half of what you need. Celebrate with slice of cake.

Call bank. Find out rates dropped one-eighth point. Celebrate with more cake.

Resume record search. Spend eleven hours completing application. Collapse into bed. Dream about errant copier eating irreplaceable documents. Dream your bank representative was fired, went berserk, and shredded application.

Wake up in cold sweat. Make three copies of everything. Make one more, just in case. Mail with large, non-refundable check.

Bank phones twice to demand more stuff. Lose argument. Take aspirin and go to bed.

Bank wakes you up with alarming news -- rates just rose one-quarter point. "Do you want to lock in at current rate?" bank queries. Ask if it's likely to drop again. Evasive answer. Inquire how you lock in. More paperwork and lots more money. Ask what happens if you don't lock in and rates rise. Tough luck. And what if you lock in and rates drop? Ditto.

Bank demands decision today. Spend hours trying to reach spouse. Argue. Unable to decide, so resort to trusty coin toss.

Fail to reach bank rep. Leave message that you want to lock in at current rate. Spend weekend with paranoic conviction that rep won't get message and you'll lose your rate.

Call bank. Message lost; paranoia justified. Panic until you learn that rates haven't risen. Heart rate stabilizes. Beg for lock-in papers so you can part with more cash.

Make appointment with appraiser. Wait all day. Call to complain about "no show." Appraiser claims he was there and you weren't. Lose argument and schedule another appointment.

Await appraiser with door wide open so he'll know you're really there. Ignore icy gusts of wind.

Call from credit company. Asks why you didn't tell bank about massive debt. Some firm you never dealt with claims you owe it $11,337.28. Faint.

Call mystery company and rant. Mystery company says your account number can't be traced. Explain that there isn't any account and isn't that the whole point?

Mystery company admits it has no record on you, but refuses to call credit company to put you in the clear. Says credit company must make the call. Ask for name to call. Mystery company says credit company can speak to anyone. Try once more to coax name out of speaker. Give up.

Call credit company and tell tale of woe. Go into shock when credit company agrees to place three-way call. Start over with phantom account number, name, address, and social security number. Mystery company says it has no record on you. Credit company asks "Are you confirming that she doesn't owe you any money?" Mystery company says "No. I'm confirming that we have no record on her." Credit company says "Doesn't that mean she doesn't owe you any money?" Mystery Company says "No. It means we have no record on her."

Credit company requests written confirmation. Mystery company requires a written request and lots of lead time. Several weeks after your lock-in rate expires it will send letter stating it has no records on you. Credit company rep gives up. Takes pity on you and says she'll approve you without it. Offer to kiss feet.

Call from bank. Bad news -- appraisal came in, and house isn't worth what you paid for it. Plus bank isn't convinced you can make your payments. Point out that you made larger payments when you and your spouse earned far less. Bank benevolently agrees to refinance home.

Closing day arrives. Bring buckets full of cash for points, mortgage tax, escrow, recording fees, title policy, appraisal fees, credit reports, hazard insurance, attorneys fees, and other stuff you've never heard of. Use up checks. Wonder whether this was really worth it.

Celebrate with spouse. You're the proud owners of a brand new payment book. You did the right thing ... you think. But you'll never, ever do it again.

Drive home with radio tuned to business news. Hear mortgage expert predict that interest rates will plummet.


© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine

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