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for bolstering my anemic mortgage estimate when choosing a house. Since I am a very thrifty person with expensive tastes (such an inconvenient combination), I focused my hunt in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), which I felt offered me the best opportunity to buy a castle I wanted to live in for a mortgage I could feasibly wrest from my newfound ogres. NSP is a HUD program that works with local communities, and it’s surprisingly flexible in how it can be used and applied, as long as HUD’s basic NSP rules are respected.

The benefit of getting into the program is that I would get a much better house than I could otherwise buy, thanks to affordable pricing combined with grant money to assist me with purchasing and closing costs.

In exchange, the buyer is obliged to maintain monthly house payments and remain in the house for a certain number of years to help stabilize the neighborhood.

To be approved for the program, I was required to take the HUD-approved educational classes mentioned above (which I found very useful), to go through fiscal counseling (pretty useless—they’d never encountered a writer before and were utterly baffled), and to submit to extensive fiscal vetting. This included providing two years of my tax returns, six months’ worth of all my bank statements, my current publishing contracts, a current royalty statement, quarterly P&L estimates for the year-to-date, a credit report, letters of verification from my insurance company, my utilities company, and my cell phone company, and various other documentation proving that I am not Darth Vader.

Actually, none of that was a particular burden, since my mortgage bank also required all those same items, as well as: a photocopy of every income check I received for a period of about six months, to prove I actually earn income; 12 months of canceled rent checks, to verify my landlord’s statement that I was a reliable tenant; a signed form allowing the bank to get two years’ worth of my tax returns directly from the IRS, based on the stated assumption that I might have forged my own copies of these documents; and authorized phone conversations with my utilities and insurance companies to verify my already-verified payment history.

At one point, I broke down and demanded my loan officer tell me the truth: They were just searching for an excuse not to approve my application, right? I wasn’t going to get the mortgage, right?

He showed me a two-page checklist, in small print, of items to be verified for my mortgage application, most of them already checked off, and told me that they didn’t get this far in the process if they intended to deny the application.

“I know that everyone says getting a mortgage these days is impossible,” he added. “It’s not. It’s just really hard.”

It is, in fact, an epic quest!

Anyhow, after various trials and tribulations (including making an offer that got rejected, which was a heavy blow to me after months of looking), I found the right house in the NSP program, at the right price for my mortgage officer, and my NSP application for it was approved and my offer was accepted.

High-five the plucky fantasy writer who didn’t abandon her quest when she met the drooling Hydra or got lost in the Mists of Gloom!

However... my initial closing date of end-August fell through. I had already given notice to my landlords; and although I’d been a good tenant for six years, those foul-breathed hell-toads insisted I leave as planned, since they had already re-rented my place. So I packed up and put my whole household into storage.

This began my sojourn in Purgatory.

At the time, my closing was only supposed to be delayed for a week, maybe two. So I packed just one suitcase of summer clothes and made arrangements to stay with a friend for a few days after I got back from the World Science Fiction Convention, which was my first stop after vacating my apartment.

Well... there was another delay. And another. And yet another. I had to buy warmer vestments as summer turned to autumn and I still had no home. Sometimes the mortgage people wanted more paperwork from me (because a surfeit is never enough), but the main problem was that the house still wasn’t finished. It was one of a row of derelict, abandoned nineteenth-century townhouses all being gutted and completely rehabbed by the local NSP, and there were repeated delays on finishing mine.   

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