Yogi is My Yogi Redux

Unknown-3Two stories caught my eye this week. One – heightened concern about new regulations for residential loans (google TRID) going into effect after Oct. 3rd ( almost certain to cause delays in escrow.) And the other – the passing of Yogi Berra, all-time great Yankee Catcher. The synchronicity of these two stories was an eerie reminder of a column I wrote back in 2009, when underwriting guidelines were getting increasingly convoluted (causing frustrating delays in transactions.) At the time, I invoked the wisdom of Yogi Berra and as I reprint portions of that column below, on the eve of the Oct 3rd date, I feel compelled to invoke another famous Yogi-ism: “Holy Cow! It’s déjà vu all over again!”

Excerpts from Real Estate of Mind, October 2009

I’m wracking my brain. Looking for a simple expression that comes within a few million miles of explaining this to you. This odd place real estate has stumbled into. This strange dream it has woken up in. This brave new world where some kind of unintelligible intelligence has hijacked the process.

I don’t mean one transaction. I mean all of them getting sucked into the same wormhole that grabs socks between the time they go into the washer and are supposed to come out clean and smooth from the dryer. Welcome to escrow. The new and unimproved version. Where transactions go to drag on, in a bone-numbing, jaw-dropping, torturous drip of delay-without-closure.

What do we call this period between when escrows are supposed to close and when they do close? Purgatory? The Twilight Zone? Extra Innings? The old notion of Close of Escrow (COE in Realtor-speak) was something you could count on. It wasn’t a liquid. Or a gas. It was a solid you held in your head. There was a contract. Wheels were put into motion that would eventually converge in time and space. And voila – the deed would record and money would change hands. Now COE has become a fuzzy, moving target, constantly getting pushed back in time.

Didn’t underwriting get the memo? Or perhaps they did and they lost it? Maybe they got the memo but want us to verify that we insured it? Or certify in a separate memo that we really sent it in the first place? And that needs to be a non-faxed, non-scanned memo with wet signatures delivered in person to the processor, who will move it along to the closer, who will run it by the committee, who will assign it to the great decider-er for a really quick turnaround.

Folks, the system is in the throes of a grand mal and my brain hurts. I’d love to explain it to you but I’m waiting for someone to explain it to me first. In the meantime, all I can do is summon the wisdom of Yogi Berra, the man known as Mr. Malaprop, for answers to the avalanche of malaproperty-isms we are experiencing. Yogi-isms are just about the only things that do make sense in this impasse of an escrow juxtaposed between the now and maybe never.

Try this one: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Or: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” And if you are in the middle of an escrow that isn’t closing:. “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Me? I’m sticking with this one: “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering the question.”

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