Opinion: Column: Please Relief Me

Opinion: Column: Please Relief Me

Or let me go. So sang Engelbert Humperdinck way back in 1967 about having lost that loving feeling. His lost loving feeling was not about his mortgage. The lyrics: "I have found a new love dear" imply, if not clearly state, that there's a woman involved. My lost loving feeling is about my mortgage. And contrary to Engelbert, I can't leave it, and believe me, I've tried, though I've never sung about it, only droned on about it in print. To invoke the legendary Ricky Ricardo, aka Desi Arnaz, from "I Love Lucy," originally broadcast in the mid- to late-50s: Let me 'splain.

It's been over 15 years since my last successful refinance. Twice in the intervening years, I've tried to refinance. In each case, I've been denied even though I've had upwards of 50 percent equity and an 800 or so credit rating.

Between multiple problems with the house (lead paint on the exterior, broken windows, etc.) and less than ideal income documentation, debt to income ratio, yada, yada, yada, we've regularly been kicked to the curb, which we also don't have, so I gave up; and have proceeded over the years to fix some of the problems mentioned, which unfortunately has not led to an acceptable resolution.

Time has passed, and after years of television advertisements by Henry Winkler, Fred Thompson and most recently, Thomas Magnum himself: Tom Selleck, promoting reverse mortgages for those nearing retirement, I buckled under the pressure of these years of paid celebrity endorsements and made a few inquiries. It turns out that given my age — and circumstances semi-unique to us (no kids, lots of equity, need the money) — we're perfect candidates. So, we applied to company number one (denied) which led to company number two: denied. The second time the denial was not about income documentation and so forth as it was with the first "reverse-mortgager." No. It wasn't even about the house. This time it was about an out-building on our property, specifically the foundation of a "shed"/stable standing derelict in its duties and of no use to anyone. Not, however, of "no use" to the appraiser, apparently, who mentioned its condition in his report to the mortgage underwriter, who now has, because of those findings, slam-dunked us (put our application on hold) pending the shed's disposition.

To summarize and recall another legendary figure from the 50s: author Joseph Heller, I'm in a bit of a "Catch-22." I can't refinance the house and get access to its equity because I can't meet the financial qualifications. And I can't reverse-mortgage the house — to gain access to the equity I need to live on, because the out-building on my property ("Belly Acres' as I call it) is a shell of its former self, so to speak, and needs upwards of $100,000 of repairs (I've gotten an estimate), money that if I had/could even get to, I'd need to live on, not spend on a building I'll never use/don't need. And neither can I sell the house (nor do we want to, quite frankly) because the "shed" would be part of any deal, which means its repair would still be required. And one more thing, because the house is registered with the Federal Government as "Historic," we can't demolish this out-building, either. In effect, we are stuck between a rock — as in those missing and cracked in the 100 year-old shed's foundation — and a hard place: the underwriter's intransigence and the Historic Preservation's rules. Let's call it a Catch-22 "A."

At this point, I don't really know which way to turn. I'm not exactly damned if I do, I'm more damned because I can't. I don't think I'm asking for any kind of special dispensation. I'm not involving the Pope. I just want, to quote singer/songwriter Nick Lowe from his 1974 song, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," some "peace, love and understanding." I'm not looking to make any trouble. In fact, I'm looking for the opposite: serenity, now and forever, with or without Seinfeld reruns. And I can afford it, if the powers that be won't be less omnipotent and help a fella out. I swear I won't bother them if they won't bother me. Make the approval a Festivus-type occasion, except it won't be for the rest of us, it will be just for me and my wife. I promise I won't tell a soul.