Archive for November, 2008

Some Things Are NOT the BCS’s Fault

No one on earth hates the BCS more than I do, so this is not a post about how the BCS is fine and dandy. It’s not. It’s a cancer that is causing a huge number of only partly-understood ancillary diseases in college football.

But it is not responsible for all the problems the game has.

It is not responsible for the mess of the Big 12 South this year. That is an unpreventable disaster. Having three very good teams in Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech at the top of the division is a circumstance so unlikely that it couldn’t be anticipated, and clearly wasn’t. Even if you had a playoff, that still wouldn’t solve the problem with deciding the conference championship. What they should do is decide the division champion based on what happened on the field, not what happened in the incredibly stupid Harris Poll. I understand that we have a 1-1 trifecta here. That doesn’t bother me. In ten minutes, I could design a system that would decide the division champion based on on-the-field results, without giving anyone incentives to run the score up in a meaningless victory.

That said, the rest of what’s going on with this IS the BCS’s fault, and there are other travesties, like Utah eliminating Boise State from the BCS (in all likelihood – though that’s not a guarantee), and having four undefeated teams with only one getting a chance to play for the title, and so, so many other extremely ridiculous things. All of those things are the fault of the BCS.

I remain insistent that the only way we’re going to break this system up is to set up an extra-BCS tournament for those 5 conferences that are not allowed to play the same game as everyone else. Set the tournament up for the top 8 non-BCS teams – the 5 conference champions, plus an extra team from those 3 conferences that have the best out-of-conference records against the BCS conferences (the first year – every year thereafter, you get an extra team in for winning the tourney, one for making the final game, and one for being the team that lost to the tourney champion in the semifinals). Keep running that tournament until you get a deal that makes you BCS money. Every year, offer to play another game the first weekend in January against the BCS “champion” to decide the tre #1 team in the nation.

Barring this, there will always be a BCS. To our shame.

In Which I Laugh at My Worthless Self

I’m in Florida on a family reunion/vacation. We got here Monday after a totally uneventful flight on which the Great 8 were truly great. There were several families on the flight, all together numbering fewer children than we have, and you couldn’t have told where we were sitting if you closed your eyes. The kids made not one peep.

We got here, and we got bunked in, and the kids went to the pool, and then yesterday the government announced a huge purchase of mortgage-backed securities (the little devils that control mortgage interest rates), and mortgage rates dived by half a point in about an hour.

I spent the entire day – the entire day – sitting in front of my laptop sending email and talking on the phone. I went outside for a grand total of 2.5 minutes, all of which was travel time to and from the adjacent condos where the other families are, because that’s where breakfast and dinner were. For lunch Jeanette brought me a plate and set it in front of me. Six straight hours I never got up, at one stretch.

Perhaps this is unhealthy, and I did, last night, have a major attack of the guilts. Well, telling the truth, the guilts and the martyrs, because not only was I feeling that I should have done at least something with the family, I also was feeling sorry for myself. Jeanette and I talked about it at length, and she in her wisdom kept asking me the salient question – did I do what I should, or was I supposed to be doing something else? And I thought about it, and I think that I did the right thing. One of my jobs is to watch over my clients and protect them, help them to take advantage of opportunities in the market so they can save money. This is protection they need and that I think they paid for when they became my clients. My vacation time is not an excuse for not performing those services my business commits to. Additionally, we could certainly use to do the loans that would result. The kids had a great time shopping and playing the Wii, and it was raining part of the day so there wasn’t going to be any swimming or shuffleboard. All in all, it was a good day to spend working, so that’s most of the guilt taken care of.

Most of the martydom comes from the fact that I worked all day and didn’t really discern that I made any progress. It’s possible that I picked up one loan, at most three, not that that’s a bad thing, but with this kind of opportunity I had expected that number to be much higher. I planted a lot of seeds but saw little growth. So, to mangle a C.S. Lewis phrase from Screwtape, I spent the day doing neither what I liked nor what was profitable. I sacrificed, as I told my wife, but I sacrificed to the wrong god. Add to this that I know I should have a better attitude about it, and that having a crappy attitude denies myself the blessings of the sacrifice, and it was just an “I suck”-fest last night.

Whether I suck or not is hardly in dispute, but it brought up something that I struggle with all the time, and not just on vacation. I do sincerely want to do the right thing. I even want to do the right thing when there is something I’d rather be doing instead, like playing instead of working, for instance. But I feel sometimes that doing the right thing ought to be hard, and that I deserve credit much more when I do it in the face of something really fun, like, say, vacationing, than when I do it just because it’s Tuesday, and that’s what you do on Tuesday. Does any of this make sense? I worked yesterday instead of playing, and that was hard, but not very hard. I like working. But I like not working, too. Most of the time, I like doing whatever it is that I’m doing. That’s a great thing, no? But when I feel compelled to work through my vacation, shouldn’t I see everyone else playing, desire to go play with them, but remember my duty, square my shoulders manfully, and soldier on? Isn’t that how one sacrifices?

I didn’t do that. I sat at my computer and I wrote email and talked on the phone, and I was fine. I didn’t make any money that I’m aware of, which stinks, but I did do my job and my duty and a bit more. And I hated myself when I was done, not for doing the wrong thing, but for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. And because it wasn’t hard to do, when I felt like it should have been.

How screwed up is that?

So then I read Elder Holland’s talk (LDS religion alert) about angels being around us to help us in time of trouble, and I felt a bit better, and this morning I’m just laughing at myself. Feel free to laugh with me.

In other news, last night I finally watched Love Actually, and with one quibble, I thought it was great. I thought the director had trouble keeping the stories weighted correctly, so that we got far too little of the gal in the office (Laura Linney, the one with the suicidal brother in the hospital), and a bit too much of Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson, not that they are not perfection on the screen, and I really, really wanted Rickman to pull the necklace out of his pocket at the play when his wife confronts him, and show her that his heart is with her still. But he didn’t and Thompson’s performance in the face of that heartache was ringingly truthful, one of the things I liked the best about the movie, so I forgive. And the rest, well, the rest was magical. Liam Neeson really CAN act, after all. His performance as stepdad was spectacular. I can officially add Colin Firth to my list of people I’d watch even if all they were doing was reading the London phone book (short list, by the way: Hugh Jackman, Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, and Colin Firth. And Anthony Hopkins [English films only] and Ben Kingsley) (And Kate Beckinsale [non-vampire] and Hugh Grant) (and Nathan Fillion) (okay so it’s a long list). 4 stars out of 5.

Sunny and bright today. Happy Thanksgiving.

Just Had to Say

Today was a very hard day.  The future is bright.  The past is funny/sad, with an emphasis on funny.  Right now is just hard.

So I had to post this which I thought of while reading C Jane’s blog, referred by Alison Wonderland, whose blog you really oughta read.  A lot.

Anyway, once upon a time I thought that it was comforting to say, or to hear, “well, I’m doing my best.”  Then I witnessed the following, reproduced verbatim:

Underwriter’s assistant: I don’t know what is happening with the loan file you submitted.  I’ll try to find out.
Loan officer: That’s not good enough.  You told me that when I called the last time.
UA, a bit hot under the collar: This isn’t my fault.  The underwriter has been out sick.
LO, calm, but firm: I understand that, but I don’t care.  I have clients that are losing thousands while I wait for your company to do its job.
UA, indignant: Sir, I am doing my best.
LO, with a small sigh: I was afraid of that.

Since then, I have never been able to take much comfort from knowing I was doing my best.  Because frequently I know how pathetic my best really is, and how woefully inadequate my efforts are in view of the tasks I am set, I struggle to believe that my best is really the best.  In fact, I know it is not, and I see the size of the gap as the size of my failure.

Here’s another one.  Dad is helping daughter onto the swingset.  She’s grateful, and turns to her father and says “Oh, Dad!  You’re the best dad you can be!”

Hear that and don’t feel stung, I dare you.

I know that tomorrow I will realize that the Atonement of Christ makes my ineptitude irrelevant, as long as I trust in Him.  But tonight, deep in the night, all I feel is that I’m awfully afraid I’m doing my best.

Isn’t This How We Got Here?

Here’s a fun one (from Mortgage Ledger Newsletter):
The CEO of K. Hovnanian Homes, Ara Hovnanian, recommended to Bloomberg TV that interest rates should be lowered to three percent for the 30-year fixed rate mortgages in 2009 provisionally.

In 2010, the rate would then increase to four percent with the future direction unknown.

Now, I can’t believe that Hovnanian is ignorant of how this stuff works, so I want to ask him – who, exactly, should lower the rates? The government? The government, when last I checked, didn’t set mortgage rates. The lenders? They can set the rates wherever they like already. Brokers? Brokers take the rates from the lenders.
I suppose, in theory, the government could buy so many mortgage-backed securities that mortgage rates would drop into the 3% range, but I can’t see any way to make them stay there, no matter how much money the government spent. And believe me, $700 billion doesn’t go anywhere near where you’d have to go to cut rates more than in half, which is what he’s talking about.
He went on to say that the major problem in the housing market is affordability. Well, Mr. Hovnanian, you can cure the affordability problem much faster by chopping the prices of your ridiculously overbuilt stock than by spending a few trillion – of other people’s money – to game the mortgage market.
Fortunately, the market ignored him. We’re trading in a very tight range for the past week. Rates are holding almost steady, but did get fractionally better today.
Incidentally, if you live local to Lehi, you can start looking for my articles in the Lehi Free Press, as I’ve been asked to write a weekly financial column for them. It’s called “Singin’ in the Rain”. Ideas would be greatly appreciated. I’m gonna get stuck for stuff to say, I just know I am.

P.S. Just to remind everyone, we do loans in nearly every state in the Union, all programs that exist, including in-house underwriting of files down to a 540 credit score. We do FHA, VA, and conventional, purchase and refinance, cash-out and rate/term, owner-occupant and investor. If there’s a loan program out there for what you’re trying to do, we do it, and we do it in-house with our own underwriting. Just so you know.

P.P.S. And we love referrals. A couple of you have asked how to refer people to get them on RateWatch. Easy. Hit reply and give us their email address. Or you can go here and sign them up.

Waiting for the End of the World

Well, okay, no. I’m not.

It might happen, but I’m not going to wait for it. The mortgage industry has stabilized pretty well, albeit with a very, very tiny product line, and we are starting to get market share from the collapse of other brokerages. That’s a huge positive for us, and we have to thank Lail Chavez and especially Jonathan Heaton and Skylar Thomas for their referrals. Jonathan is a partner in the office next door, and Skylar became the top referring Realtor in Group history in less than a week. Thanks, guys.

Thought I’d post something about how to refer someone to us. Fact is, the phone is glued to my ear all day. If you are talking to someone that needs to discuss a mortgage with me, here’s how the conversation will likely go:

Friend: I really should refinance my house. My rate sucks.

You: You should call this guy I know. He did my loan. He’s really good.

Friend: Sounds great, maybe I’ll call him.

You: I’ll get you his business card.

And that will be the end of it. So If I could suggest something different, could I ask you to try this instead?

Friend: I really should refinance my house. My rate sucks.

You: I know the guy. You go see anyone else, you’re crazy.

Friend: Maybe I’ll call him.

You: Ha. Good luck with that. Nobody gets through his gatekeepers without a pass. The guy only works by referral. I have a back door, though, because I’m a client. I’ll have him call you. He’ll take my call.

And THAT’S how you give a referral. Best part of it is, it’s true. I really don’t take many calls from numbers I don’t recognize. If I did, I couldn’t get anything done. But if you call me, and you’re a client, whatever you need goes to the top of the stack. You really do get special privileges by being a member of the Group. Remember, the Group is family.

Besides, it makes you look good, too. Everyone wants to be the person with the connections, with the pull, who can get things others can’t. Well, if you’re here, you’re one of those people. Use that clout to help your friends.