Saturday, June 26, 2010

Heavy Under Fire

Oy! Seems that we have been under some serious fire lately. In the past few months we have had to pay out... I dont even know how much cash.

Lets see, it all started with the plumbing. Our main sewage line was breaking, and needed to be fixed. That was a few hundred, and it was a quick fix that I am not real thrilled about, but for now its working. Then, our garage door broke a coil. Since our door was on our repair list anyway, we decided to replace the entire thing. Whoever installed it last didnt use a level, and forgot a support in the door. Again, it was a cost we anticipated, but we weren't excited that is sprang on us, and it wasnt by our choice. That was a thousand bucks there.

Lets see, after that we got hit with another plumbing problem, the drain in our kitchen sink rusted out and broke its seal. That wasnt a huge expense, but its really when we started thinking, "what the crap is going on here??"

Lets see, then we had some major medical bills from an emergency room visit. They ran a ton of tests, like 20, of which one about 5 were covered by insurance. Did I mention it was from a miscarriage? We were exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually, but we weren't through it all yet.

We were starting to think we had made it through, and my birthday came around on June 22, just four days ago. Amy decided that we would go up to visit our parents and have some cake and ice cream... I wasn't going to argue. We had a chiropractors appointment in the morning, and decided to go to our most favorite restaurant of all time, Korea House. As we pulled in, I noticed something leaking out of the car, while Amy asks me if I could smell "that".

Engine coolant. All over. I had seen this tragedy before, I used to have a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am with a quad four engine. That engine was so notorious for problems they changed the name of it to a Twin Cam. It wasnt as bad as what I had seen, but it wasn't something I was happy to see either.

There was nothing we could do until it cooled down a bit, so we went inside and ate lunch. When we came out, I checked the fluids. No oil, no coolant. Oh yah, we were also out of gas, but that was totally unrelated. I ran next door and found some coolant, and Amy drove over to the next door gas station. We filled up on gas, oil and coolant, and then called to get it into a shop.

After a few hours we heard back that the engine wasnt holding compression, which meant either a cracked head, or cracked head gasket. Either way, it was a minimum of a thousand bucks. He would have to send in the head to check it checked out while we prayed it wasnt a cracked head (upwards of $2000). During this wait, we were also informed that the timing belt was going bad ($600). Now if that wasn't bad enough, the car had JUST crossed over the 100k mile marker, which means no more warranty.

We decided to call Hyundai to see if they would honor it anyway, since we were only 283 miles over it. After a long conversation, the answer was a no.

We did get some good news later in the week, it was only the gasket, and the timing belt would be as much as he thought. All in all, we got a good deal from a trusted mechanic, and he said that if we continue with good maintenance, it would last another 100k miles.

Tonight, only two days after we got the car back, Amy took it up to Grand Rapids, and on the way home, the Check Engine light came on... My first thought was the O2 sensor, but we had just changed those out less than a year ago. Right now I have no clue, but will likely call the tech back to ask him his thoughts on it. The downside is that they are in Lansing, and we live an hour away.

In conclusion, we just feel like we have been under heavy fire financially. Our Emergency account has been a real blessing, but its starting to get small. We are trying to step back and look at the whole picture, trying to discover if God is trying to teach us something. Maybe He is just testing us to make sure we continue to stay faithful financially. As we continue on with life, we will continue to give thanks, even in our hardships we can be thankful for forgiveness and salvation.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

PMI can be a Pain to Remove

After refinancing our mortgage in 2008 we have been able to pay down the principle to the point that we have a solid 20% in equity. That's the magical formula which should allow us to get rid of our Private Mortgage Insurance payment. I have been looking forward to this for sometime so when I knew we were getting close I called our mortgage company, Citimortgage, to see what we needed to do to remove the PMI portion of our payment.

It turns out it's not as easy as I though it would be. Surprise, surprise! After calling and getting transferred around, I finally got someone who was able to go over the process with me.

  • First off, you have to formally request that the PMI be removed from your account. Thankfully that was easy enough to do since I was on the phone with them.
  • Secondly, they will research our account on their end and then send us a letter within 8 weeks stating if we are eligible to have PMI removed.
  • After about 5 weeks of waiting we got a letter from them in the mail. I ALMOST threw it out because I thought it was more junk mail from them trying to sell us on their bi-weekly payment plan. Luckily I opened it anyway to glance at it. That's when things became more complicated
  • Thankfully they agreed that it looks like we are eligible to have PMI removed from our payment BUT first we need to hire a Citimortgage appraiser to re-appraise our house. As my niece would say "Aww... man..". I was bummed. You see, my husband and I bought during the housing boom and I'm not sure what our house would appraise for nowadays. But that's not all of it.
  • The Citimortgage appraiser would cost us about $350 out of pocket and if they appraised the house for less than a certain threshold we wouldn't be able to drop our PMI after all.
Now, I don't usually think of myself as a conspiracy theorist but I just don't trust Citimortgage to send out an appraiser who will do a fair job. They're hurt for money right now just like everyone else. I'm sure my mistrust isn't helped at all by the fact that we have had some shady appraisers in the past that didn't give us a fair deal.

Something else we had to take into consideration is the fact that we're only paying $15 per month in PMI. If we break down the $350 that means that it would take 23 months, or 2 years, to get a return on our investment. And again, that's only IF it appraised for a certain amount. So given the facts my husband and I have decided to wait and take a look at it again next year. I'm bummed, but at least we're paying off that principle much faster in the mean time. I look forward to the day when we can kick PMI to the curb for good!

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