Thursday, April 15, 2010

Saving Money (Again)

After several delays, our house is finally going to close as soon as the papers I signed hit Portland. Baruch hashem! The amount leftover is not exactly what we hoped, but in times like these we're only relieved to not have done worse.

Once the buyer's mortgage papers were finally in hand, there was a big rush to get the papers to us to get them signed. We learned that in Georgia one can't simply get a notary for the paper signing. Rather, one must hire a full-blown lawyer/notary. This applies to real estate transactions only. I was informed this by the Portland title company that is processing the paperwork. They put in a request for a lawyer to meet with us through some kind of state clearinghouse. On Sunday afternoon I got a phone call from someone I literally could not understand, other than to figure out it was about signing the closing papers and something about an appointment at noon. It was a very heavy Georgia accent plus his fuzzy cell phone connection that really did me in.

Fortunately, his secretary called me in the morning to confirm the appointment. I said that first I wanted to ask how much we would be charged for this service. She said she couldn't tell me without seeing the paperwork first.

"Not even an estimate?" I asked.

"Well, you won't have to pay for it though," she said, brightly.

"I won't? Does the buyer pay for it?" I asked, figuring maybe that was the case.

"No, the title company will send a check to us."

"From the proceeds of the house sale?"

"Well, yes."

"Then we are paying for it, and I would like to know what the fee is before I agree to the service."

She promised to call back.

Meanwhile, I called the title company and they let me know that they had been told the fee would be $350. With that information, I called a different lawyer who referred me somewhere else. In five minutes I had a new quote of $200, which suited me very well. The other lawyer was due at my house in 20 minutes. Fortunately, he called to say he was running late, and I told him I needed to cancel the appointment because his office would not tell me the fee in advance.

The next day I went in to the new lawyer, had the paperwork signed in 45 minutes, and he even reduced his fee to $150. This may have been because while I was there I also asked about the fees for doing a real estate contract, should we buy this property sometime soon. When I went to check out, the told me they didn't accept credit or debit cards and I had no checkbook with me. The secretary said, "Oh, don't worry about it. You can just send it in when you get a chance." (We did stop there this morning to take care of that!).

So, finally got that all taken care of. It would have been easy, in the midst of caring for and teaching four children, to just say "Oh, whatever" and get those forms signed with Mr. Expensive, but with a little bit of effort I saved $200. In the grand scheme of a real estate transaction, that may seem like small potatoes, but in the little scheme of our personal finances, it's big potatoes.

It reminds me of a book I read on behavioral economics that was talking about how people would go across town with a coupon to get $10 off a $20 item, but would never dream about going across town to pay $195 for a gadget instead of $205. It's the same $10, but a 50% savings seems much bigger than a 5% savings. Might as well just go around the corner and pay $205 and not bother with the longer trip.

Anyway....... in our little world, these amounts add up very quickly. It really irked the title company that we took 48 hours to handle this, but it is our money and we have the right to spend it carefully and not be rushed into doing things. So we exercised that right!

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