Refinancing My Home - Final Update

As I said in my first update on this subject (Refinancing My Home - Update) I would have an update if Reliance First Capital would refund my $425. for the appraisal I spent due to what I perceive as negligence on their part. I am happy to report that Reliance First Capital saw my point.  They refunded my money as of January 26, 2013.  Now, they are not referring to this as a refund since they steadfastly maintain that the appraisal company had nothing to do with their company.  I'll accept that to a certain degree.  It is true the appraisal company is not a part of Reliance First Capital (RFC).  However, since I was never informed by the refinancing specialist that this $425 would not be refunded (or reimbursed as RFC wants it to be referred to) if the refinancing of my home loan did not go through for any reason, I felt I deserved this money back in my bank account.  As I asked the VP of RFC, how many other people have lost money due to not being informed of this loss of funds if their loan is not approved for any reason?  I never did get a good answer to that.  I suspect I never will.  I was led to believe that the appraisal was a mere formality.  However, after being told I had $1700 worth of repairs needed before the loan would be approved, I was put in a sort of holding pattern.

Communication was very poor with RFC.  In the maze of all the paperwork that I had to do for this loan, there was a small passage that revealed I would lose that money if, for any reason, the loan did not reach a final process..  But, I felt this is something I should have been told, up front, the moment the refinancing specialist said I needed to have this appraisal. That was not done.   The VP told me in order to prove the company operated in good faith, they were going to reimburse this money to me.  Let's be honest here; no type of company is going to "reimburse" money to a customer unless they think they could possibly be at fault or liable.  So, while I am appreciative of this money being refunded...eh, I mean reimbursed to me, I do not believe RFC is doing this out of the goodness of their heart.  There is more here than meets the eye.  I have my suspicions why I am getting this money back.  But, I think I will just keep them to myself for the present time. I will say that it is strange they were willing to hold up this loan since it is a VA loan.  A VA loan is a federally guaranteed loan.  No matter what happens, the lender is guaranteed their money back.  I was given an answer that just confused me.  I tend to think that was intentional now.

So, do I think you should do business with Reliance First Capital (this lender is affiliated with Lending Tree) if you are seeking a home loan or refinancing of your present home loan?  The only way I can truthfully answer this is both yes and no.  Yes, because they did realize I was given bad customer service (as the RFC VP admitted to me over the phone).  I was not informed, verbally, I could lose this $425 if the loan did not go through for any reason.  Yes, I should have noticed that in the paperwork for the refinancing.  I admit that is my fault.  But, please consider the amount of paperwork involved with this process and you'll understand what I mean how easy it was to overlook it.  No, because, as stated, I got poor customer service.  I should have been verbally warned I could lose this money.  What if, for example, the appraiser had said the loan was more than the property was worth?  I would have lost that $425 appraisal fee for that also.  What added to my confusion is that the refinancing specialist stated, at least twice, that the $1700 needed for the repairs would not be any problem for the continued process of the refinancing of my home loan.  I thought I would be closing in a matter of days.  When I was told of the need for repairs, I lost all contact from this refinancing specialist.  So, do I feel justified in demanding this money back?  Yes! Absolutely YES! Do not let lenders or mortgage brokers bully you if you are seeking a home loan or refinancing.  You have rights if you just make it known.  What am I going to do now?  I'm not sure. Right now, I think I will just wait to see if interest rates come down even more.


KFC: A Driveup Charge?

On Sundays, I always go to KFC for my lunch.  I love their grilled chicken.  I mean, absolutely love it.  So, I usually go there for a three-piece meal and two vegetables to go with the chicken.  After paying for my order, I looked at the receipt to make sure I wasn't overcharged (which is something I always do).  I noticed something that really caused me to be confused and angry all at once.  I noticed there was a "driveup charge" of $.30.  Dumbfounded, I asked the KFC employee what this was about.  She said it is now standard to charge a driveup fee for the convenience it provides to customers.  Huh?  I told her that this is the first time I have ever seen or heard of a company charging customers for the "convenience" of using their driveup option.  She then said it was non-refundable and is "stipulated."  I ask, "Stipulated where?  There is nothing at the order window that says I will be charged an extra $.30 for using this 'convenience'."  The exasperated driveup employee then called for her manager.  The manager told me this charge is to defray expenses accrued by customers using the driveup.  "What?"  She told me I was free to contact KFC customer service.  She then told me I need to leave since I was holding up the line behind me.  Enraged, I did just that.

I filled out the form at the KFC website.  I gave all pertinent information such as name, address, phone number and email address and, of course, my complaint.  I did this on Sunday, January 20, 2013.  To the date of this blog post, I have not heard back from KFC.  I think it shows just how customer unfriendly they are about someone who had a legitimate complaint.  I have not received what I consider a valid explanation for the "driveup charge."  I do know a former KFC employee.  He quit as assistant manager two months ago.  He said he was informed this driveup charge is to help defray expenses, as the manager at the KFC bluntly told me.  But, he was led to believe it was to help pay the costs of Obamacare which is devastating businesses all over the nation.  I have no idea if this is true or not.  But, it would not surprise me.  Needless to say, I am greatly displeased with KFC and my experience with them.  I do not intend to patronize KFC until they at least clear up things about this so-called "driveup charge."  It's not the $.30 that they want you to pay.  It's about the principle of the money.  Charging customers to simply use their driveup service is unconscionable.  I hope to provide an update soon.


Careless Gun Owner

I realize there is a lot of debate going around the country concerning gun control in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Both gun control advocates and anti-gun control advocates are at each others throats these days.  It didn't help matters when President Obama seemingly stepped outside his authority as President to arbitrarily sign executive orders on gun control.  I have no intention of making this a political post since I already have a political blog here.  But, anti-gun control advocates must have been disheartened to learn of the incident that took place at a gun show in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Gary Lynn Wilson took his .12 gauge shotgun out of it's case for inspection at the entrance for the gun show.  As Mr. Wilson took the shotgun out of its case, it discharged and wounded three people.  None of the injured people were considered to be seriously wounded. This took place at a time when gun rallies were taking place all over the country in support of the Second Amendment. 

I am a gun owner, as I have stated several times on this blog.  I own a .12 gauge Mossberg 88 Maverick.  It is strictly for home defense since I am not a hunter.  One thing I do know....always respect a gun even if you think it is unloaded.  The old adage, treat every gun as if it is loaded, holds true today and forever.  The moron that placed a loaded shotgun in a carrying case, at the North Carolina gun show, should have his permit, license and shotgun taken from him for being such an idiot.  Never place a loaded gun in a case.  In fact, never transport a loaded gun.  I know, at least, in Alabama you can be arrested for doing that.  Now, I'm as big a supporter of gun rights and the Second Amendment as you will ever see.  But, with the right to own guns, should also come with the knowledge to use guns safely.  I also support mandatory gun safety classes.  While I am an NRA member, I part with them on some issues in this regard.  I'm not sure if the NRA supports mandatory gun safety classes or not.  If they don't, they most certainly should.  Maybe a few gun safety classes could have prevented an almost tragic incident in North Carolina.  But, in the case of Gary Lynn Wilson, I see a Darwin Award for Stupidity in his future.


A Senseless Attack

In New Windsor, NY, three teenage girls ruthlessly attacked a 34-year old mother as she put her child on a school bus this past Tuesday morning.  Police learned from the girls that they did this at random and call it "popping" or "mobbing."  The mother was repeatedly punched, kicked and scratched as the attack ensured in front the horrified children on the school bus.  The teens said they did it for "fun."  There was no word on the condition of the mother, according to the report linked above.  The teens were charged with gang assault (a felony) and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.  All three were released to the custody of their parents after police processing. 

I have to say this is a most disturbing story.  In this day and time, it shouldn't even be newsworthy any longer.  But, I can't help but notice it.  Is there nothing more innocent than a mother placing her child on a school bus?  For her trouble, the mother is attacked by three teenage thugs out for some "fun."  Now, these three girls will probably get six months in juvenile detention at most and possibly probation with community service.  It will do nothing to deter these teens from going down the road they have chosen.  It's time to stop coddling criminals regardless of age.  Try everyone as an adult.  In just a few years, these three teenage girls will be tried for another felony anyway.  Try them as adults now so that another law abiding citizen does not suffer the same fate as this 34-year-old mother.


Retire to a Foreign Country?

Without making this a political post (I do have a political blog here), many retirees are concerned about the ever increasing tax rate in the USA.  Last week, workers paychecks began to shrink as an increased federal tax rate kicked in to help make a dent in the federal deficit.  Good luck with that.  I'm not sure how many retirees are being hit or if any at all.  People on a fixed income have to carefully watch what the federal government does.  Every little penny counts when you are retired.  A $16 trillion federal debt is going to call for even more austerity measures, which most likely means measures that will hurt retirees at some point.  What to do?  Well, one might want to consider living abroad.  Yes, you read that correctly.  In some cases, if not all, you are still going to get hit with increased taxes even if living abroad.  But, the overall cost of living in certain countries can help you counter that possibility.   Forbes came up with a top ten list of the best countries to retire to if you are so inclined.  Let's look at a couple, including one that has my attention.

For the fifth year in a row, Ecuador tops Forbes list as the best place for North American retirees.  Why?  Several reasons.  To name just one, for the nice sum of just $1600 a month, you can live quite comfortably in Ecuador.  Yes, that includes rent as well.  You can get even more value in real estate.  A condo that cost you $150K in Ecuador would cost you ten times as much in the USA.  There is an abundance of beaches, mountain villages and plenty of cultural offerings.  The best thing about Ecuador is that they welcome Seniors to live in their country.  The country even offers 50% discounts on international airfare if you need to get back home for any reason. 

Panama is the #2 country on the list.  Panama is a very cosmopolitan country that makes it a point to attract Seniors to live there.  Panama makes it very easy for Senior retirees to find residence here also.  They make it very attractive to live here year 'round. Cost of living is another attraction for retirees.  For about $2000 a month, you can live quite comfortably here.  This is the country that I have considered if I ever decide to move abroad. Costa Rica is another country that is equally suitable.  It finished at #5 on the list.

Malaysia is #3 on the list.  A major attraction here is that English is widely spoken throughout the country.  In fact, it is considered the "unofficial first language" here.  Malaysia is well known for its excellent healthcare system.  This is an important point for all retirees, of course.  Cost of living is even cheaper here.  The article points out that one Senior couple rents a sea-view apartment with a pool and gym for the price of about $1000 a month.  Another good thing; living in Malaysia is safe.  Foreigners are considered guests in the country.  They are afforded the utmost in hospitality by the locals. 

Safety is always an issue when you leave the "safe confines" of the USA.  I put that safe confines in quotes because this country is far from safe if Newton, CT is any indication.  But, for the most part, countries such as Panama, Costa Rica and certainly Malaysia protect their foreign guests.  Foreign retirees bring in a great deal of money to the economy.  These countries could not afford to lose that economic boost.  But, these are a few countries to consider if you have the urge to ever just live abroad. 


Refinancing My Home - Update

As I stated back in October of last year (2012), I decided to refinance my home (Refinancing My Home)  to a lower interest rate.  I went through the Lending Tree form and was contacted by several mortgage brokers and lenders who were interested in my business.  I said  (in my post linked above) everything was going smoothly and I was expecting to save about $300 a month.  The lender, Reliance First Capital, informed me that I would need to have a VA appraisal of my home that would cost $425.  I thought that was kind of steep.  But, based on savings, I thought I could recoup that in less than two months.  The VA appraiser came out to my home and took maybe twenty minutes to do the appraisal.  This is the point where everything started going wrong.  My home was not quite worth what I thought it was.  With the VA processing fee and the estimated $1700 worth of repairs needed, my refinancing request was still within the confines of the appraisal itself.  I was assured by the mortgage specialist this would be no problem....repeatedly.  I was repeatedly misinformed.

After three months of getting the run around, I finally ceased all contact with Reliance First Capital.  All I wanted, at this juncture, was my money back that I paid for the VA appraisal.  I should have known better.  I contacted Lending Tree and demanded my $425.00 appraisal fee.  This was on Tuesday of this week.  Yesterday, I was contacted by a Vice-President of Reliance First Capital wanting to know about why I wanted a $425 fee refund.  Long story short, he stated that since I refused to have the repairs done (and despite being repeatedly told the repairs would be no problem with the refinancing request) , that his company was under no compulsion to refund the fee.  They did not feel obligated.  Furthermore, the VA appraiser had no connection to Reliance First Capital. So, now, I am out $425.  I feel I was lied to, misinformed and just generally given bad service from this company.  I have no intention of letting it end here.  I have other options to continue this fight.  At the very least, I can see to it that this does not happen to someone else.  Even the Vice-President said I was given "bad customer service" when no one told me if I did not have the repairs done (as indicated on the appraisal) that there would be no VA refinancing.  My question to the VP was since this is a federally guaranteed loan, what difference does it make?  He stated something about a montage of requirements that still did not answer the question to my satisfaction.

I am not a happy camper right now, as you can imagine.  I can not advise anyone, who wishes to do a home loan or refinancing, to do business with Lending Tree or their lender in my case, Reliance First Capital.  Now, things my change.  Reliance may see that I was treated unfairly.  I doubt it.  If they do refund my $425.00, I will make note of it in another post.  But, until that time, I advise you to avoid Reliance First Capital and Lending Tree.


Last Wishes of Baby Boomers

There was a report (article link) about the last wishes of the baby boomer generation.  Specifically, baby boomers are developing a penchant for motorcycles and how their obits will be handled.  As far as motorcycles, baby boomers have really taken to them.  It is something that represents that "hippy generation's" last hooray.   However, the lengths to which baby boomers have taken to motorcycles is a bit abnormal.   They want their last ride in the casket to be not in a traditional hearse.  Many boomers are requesting that last ride to be made by a motorcycle funeral coach.  It has become such a popular request that funeral homes are making more and more purchases of the motorcycle funeral coach for their customers, which just happen to be the baby boomer generation.  Another popular way baby boomers are making their departure known is via social media.  In this case, their obituary is announced on Facebook.  In this way, everyone who knew the dearly departed can be informed almost immediately of their passing.  But, there are drawbacks to obituary notices on social media.  What is said there cannot be controlled.  Those that held a grudge against the dearly departed boomer can release their feelings without a face to face encounter with others.  So, there are definitely drawbacks to this form of announcement. 

I do agree that baby boomers are gravitating more and more to motorcycles.  I know many of my generation who love to get on a bike and take off somewhere for the weekend.  I got over my love for motorcycles much earlier in life.  I bought my only motorcycle (Triumph 650 twin) when I was stationed in Naples, Italy in the U.S. Navy.  I sold it in the early 80s.  I do miss it from time to time.  But, I just have no desire to get on a motorcycle with all the crazy people driving now.  Yes, there were crazy people driving back when I was riding my bike.  But, it just seems like there are more now.  Announcing my death on Facebook?  I don't know about that.  I won't be around to see it, of course.  But, I tend to agree with the above article this could cause problems.  I suppose this is one baby boomer who just doesn't conform with the ideas of my generation.


Neil Armstrong's Moon Speech

It appears that Neil Armstrong's moon speech in which he uttered the famous line, "That's one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind," was not improvised as Neil Armstrong always claimed it to be, according to the younger brother of the famous astronaut.  Neil Armstrong's brother, Dean, stated that Neil (who passed away in August of 2012) actually made the transcript of the line two weeks before Apollo 11 blasted off for the initial moon landing.  Dean Armstrong, the younger brother of Neil, stated this in the documentary, "Neil Armstrong - First Man on the Moon,"  The documentary took place on BBC Two this past Sunday.  Dean Armstrong went on to say that he and his brother Neil were playing the board game, Risk, right before Neil was to leave for Cape Canaveral one night.  During this time, Neil slipped his brother a piece of paper with the famous moon landing line.  Dean told him that the line was "Fabulous."   This all runs counter to what Neil Armstrong always reiterated, that the line was made up spontaneously.   Neil Armstrong always said this was the case publicly, throughout his life, that the line was an impromptu speech.

I have many questions concerning Dean Armstrong's claim about his famous older brother.  As asked in the article (linked above), why wait to make this known publicly after the death of Neil Armstrong?   Was it part of a sibling rivalry or jealousy that Dean had of his famous brother?  I really believe that to be the case.  I think the bigger question, what difference does it make?  It does not lessen the achievement of Neil Armstrong or have any bearing on his integrity.  So, what's the point of making this claim now that his brother is not around to defend himself?  I do believe it is a bit of sibling rivalry on the part of Dean Armstrong.  Furthermore, Dean Armstrong was interviewed for Neil Armstrong's autobiography in 2002.  Dean made no mention of this claim at that time.  So, why wait until now in the documentary?  It makes the younger brother of Neil Armstrong appear petty and small-minded.  Neil Armstrong was known to be humble, quiet and a bit shy.  It does not mix with his character to be considered a liar about such a trivial thing as to when Neil Armstrong settled on the words to the moon landing speech.  Regardless, Neil Armstrong will always be thought of fondly by Americans and people around the world.  Dean Armstrong may not now be thought of fondly by his own family.

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