Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Money Issue

I wanted to call this post "The Money Shot," but thought that would get too many hits for the wrong reasons.  And also, it's not nearly that exciting.

An earlier post of mine referenced that Tom Hanks and Shelley Long movie "The Money Pit," a movie about two crazy people sinking all of their money and their relationship into the renovation of a house, with terrifying and hilarious consequences.  I had mentioned that this project wasn't a money pit, but rather a time pit, since it was pretty much on budget, yet way, way behind schedule.  Well, that's still the case, but we've basically hit our wall.  Yes, we now officially have no money left.  Creditors beware.

I realize I may be overreacting here.  Some people are used to being in debt, whether from credit card bills or IOUs or whatever.  I am used to having a mortgage and some student loans, but I have never not paid a credit card bill in full, and have always been such a good saver. (Some would say I'm downright miserly, although I prefer the term "frugal.")  But this week, we've hit a wall.  And that wall is partially our fault, mostly necessary, and entirely freaking me out.

You may recall our meeting with the contractor in January where we decided we would be paying for all the remaining materials to ensure reimbursement was still available from our loan before it expired mid-February.  Well, that decision proved worthwhile, because all the materials magically appeared at our doorstep, from tiling to wood flooring to toilets to light fixtures.  What also showed up was a Master Card balance of $24,000, and that was fine because it was balanced off by a reimbursement check for $22,000.  No sweat.  My bank has no brick-and-mortar branches, so any deposits I make have to be made either by mail or by scanning the check in and sending it online.  Well, the limit for the latter method is $3,000, so I had to send it in.  Ten days later, as I'm wondering why the check is not showing up in my account (it usually takes 3-5 days), I get the check returned to me in the mail, along with a letter from my bank telling me that because the check was made out to "Servicez Unlimited and Gregory Wahl" they were unable to deposit it.  "Not a big deal," I think, because I'll just pass this check on to the contractors to pay for services rendered, and ask the bank to make the next check out to me alone.  We owe the contractors about $13,000, so I hand it over and tell them it includes a $9,000+ advance, which should pretty much cover everything else we're going to owe them.  Then I call Patty at the bank, who proceeds to tell me all checks have to be written out to me and the contractor together.  Can she write "or" instead of "and?"  No.  Can she direct deposit the check?  No.  In other words, when the next check, for $14,000, comes in, it'll once again be made out to "Servicez Unlimited and Gregory Wahl," and once again will be undepositable by yours truly.  

In the meantime, Chase would like its $24,000, so I attempt to muster up all of my money.  Seven grand from Citibank maxes out my home equity loan.  Ten more from savings pretty much empties that out, save for what we'll need to pay the mortgage.  And that's it.  So for the first time ever, I'm going to have to carry a balance on my credit card, and I'm not excited about that in the least.  Because we all know how this whole procedure has gone timewise, and there's no guarantee even that $14,000 check will materialize any time soon. That's because I have a more-than-sneaking suspicion that we have to have some sort of municipal inspection to certify the job's complete in order for them to release the final amount, and although we've made great strides in the last three weeks or so, we're still not completely done.

In addition, it looks like Pepco wants its money too, although not from us.  I guess the electrician set up the account, and now Pepco put his name and info on the bills, and is hounding him because (surprise!) he's not paying the electric bill.  (As an aside, the bill is $250 a month-- more than we've ever paid in DC-- since we're pretty much heating the neighborhood, what with all the holes in our walls...)  He apparently contacted Lee frantically, because Pepco was threatening to shut off power and he didn't know how to reach us.  Of course we'll pay it, so I called Pepco to sort things out.  The phone call was a bit ridiculous.  After explaining that my electric bill had mistakenly been issued in my electrician's name, I asked if they could put my name on it instead.  Heck, I can give them my credit card number now and pay the thing in full, plus set up automatic withdrawals.  Nope.  I need to go to the Pepco office in Forestville (FORESTVILLE?!) in person with documentation proving I own the home.  What?  Truly, I do not need to venture an hour out of a major city to deal with an electric company do I?  "Oh," says the guy on the phone, "I guess you could go to the office in downtown DC if you want."  D'oh!  I chalk this mistake up to the fact the guy's in a call center in Alabama or India or something, and doesn't realize how inconsequential the state borders are around here.  Only at the end of the conversation, though, does he casually throw in that I could just fax the documents in rather than trekking down to the office on the same day I need to run to the Azerbaijani Embassy to get my visa and then schlep myself out to Dulles to fly out.  Yeah, guy, thanks for that late addition.  I hung up, printed and faxed the document, and it was all done in about three minutes.  Sheesh.
Okay, so Forestville doesn't look as far on this map as it is psychologically,
but you understand that faxing is a much better option, right?

So where we currently stand money-wise is at the end of our loan, with no more credit line, with no more savings, with a balance on our credit cards.  It's not like we're broke, and that's making things even more frustrating.  When we started this process nearly two years ago, we had to put $50,000 cash into an escrow account to prove we had the financial wherewithal to complete the process.  In theory, if we were to flake out of rehab, they'd use that escrow money to complete the job themselves-- whoever "they" is.  But since we're done with the loan, and pretty much done with the project, that idle money is just pissing me off, because I know it's sitting there (earning like a quarter of a percent in interest) while I'll be paying something like 18% interest on my credit card debt-- something I only have because their check won't work in my bank.  But I have no idea how to get it back, and no idea whether it too requires that final municipal inspection-- and neither does the bank.  They'll "get back to me" on it.  Oh, and as if to rub it in, we get a mystery check for $900 in the mail this week from Montgomery County.  Apparently it's a "brownfields property-tax credit."  I don't care what it is-- it's an unexpected $900, and I'm all about it.  Only it's arrived soggy, and to the wrong address.  (How is it that the people responsible for my property taxes don't know the right address to my property?)  One or the other of those issues has made this envelope come about six months late.  The check is dated August 3, 2012.  It also says it's void after six months.  That means it was void as of February 3, 2013-- three weeks ago.  I called the county and they were as puzzled as I was as to why it came so late, although they're the ones who verified that, no, it was not a mistake and, yes, it was supposed to come to me.  Although to 9618 Dewitt Drive, not 9618 Dewitt Avenue, to which it was addressed.  A new check will be issued shortly, although that $900 could have been used very well presently.
I've never understood the theory of charging a tax to someone who had no money.

This all feels rather ridiculous.  So many people are out of work or have massive medical bills or are otherwise down on their luck.  Meanwhile, we have a second home for which we spent inordinate amounts of money on countertops and wood floors and a designer closet, and can't make one credit-card payment.  I understand these are truly first-world problems.  But it is what it is, and I live in the first world.  A month from now, when I'm on vacation with my family in Florida, this will all seem like a distant (or at least recently-dealt-with) memory, but for now I'm pretty freaked out.  And those of you who know me well can understand, because I'm the one who runs across an airport five minutes before my flight to grab free food from the airport lounge rather than pay six bucks at the kiosk at the gate.  I'm the one who buys the small cup at McDonald's and volunteers to go back and forth to get the refills.  Heck, my upcoming vacation includes airline tickets paid for entirely by airline miles, and lodging provided in a house Abby's family owns-- not exactly disposable-income luxury!  So yeah, this is foreign territory for me.

That said, all will be well.  Eventually.  Eventually...  Right?

No comments:

Post a Comment