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3 Financial Issues

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Hi friends!

First, I just want to apologize for the fewer blog posts as of late. I’ve typically been really good about posting a minimum of 2 per Monday (sometimes 3) plus one more on Thursday or Friday. But the past couple weeks it’s been tough to find the time for even one post! It’s not that I don’t have anything to talk about. Trust me – I could talk PLENTY about our finances/budget/etc. It’s just that there’s never enough time! Now that the semester is really going strong it’s like a balancing act to keep everything together. I love my jobs (both of them) and am so thankful for them, but they require a lot of time and between work and dealing with my father’s health issues….well, saying I feel a bit overwhelmed is an understatement. Regarding the latter, we’re hoping to have his move to Texas (closer to family) complete-ish in the next couple weeks. I say “ish” because there will still be lots left at his house in Utah that my siblings and I will have to deal with in the coming months. But as much as we want to get the house on the market ASAP, we’re thankful to be in a financial position where we have the flexibility to let it sit a couple months until we have the proper time to deal with it all. Regarding this – anyone have experience with selling a (still furnished, in need of some repair) home out-of-state? I’m hoping we can hire an estate planner person to go sell the remaining stuff and subcontract out any needed repair work. We’ll also have to hire a lawn company and perhaps a cleaning service to keep it looking nice while it’s vacant and on the market. Any tips or suggestions in this regard?

That aside, I really had planned for the purpose of this post to be about 3 financial issues I’ve dealt with this month.

  1. Comcast:  In my last budget post I mentioned that I’d been dealing with some cable/internet provider issues. Our bill has typically been around $110-ish, but then I received a bill in August for $150!! I’d called and thought everything was resolved…until I got a new September bill also for $150! No way, Comcast! Not today! You’ve messed with the wrong person! Generally when these issues pop up it’s 100% worth it to go into the store (the local branches have infinitely better customer service than the call center people). But I logistically couldn’t make it happen between work and childcare schedules. So I called and basically geared up for a fight (though, to be clear, I always try to remain respectful when in these types of situations. It’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar!) I did have to ask for a manager, but I explained the situation – basically, last month they said they’d given me a credit and all was resolved, but in fact the current month bill shows that my payment was considered a partial payment. Meaning, there was no credit ever given to my account. So it showed I still owed the remaining balance. I’ve found that it helps when you tell the manager exactly what will make you happy. I mean, be reasonable. But it’s not okay to scream and yell and pitch a fit. No one wins in that scenario. Instead, have some idea of a compromise or solution that will fix the problem and be mutually beneficial for both parties. I already had in mind my solution:  just give me a credit that will take my bill down to $110 (the normal monthly payment). I’m already in a new promo rate so I don’t want to change that, but I refuse to pay the full $150 bill when I’d been told my account had been credited, all was resolved, yada yada yada. So make my bill $110, and we’ll be good. The manager had me hold for a minute and did one better. Gave me a credit so my current month’s bill is $97.02. Even better than what I’d asked for. Next month should be back to the regular rate (about $110ish). This time, I got the manager’s name and took notes of the call so I have them for reference just-in-case. But I’m hopeful that this situation is now fully resolved.
  2. Phone service: A couple months ago we switched phone providers to get a (slightly) better rate and get a free upgrade to newer phones. After canceling we received a GIANT ($250) phone bill from our old provider. But part of the deal with our switch is that our new provider would reimburse us the cancellation fee to buy us out of the contract. Rather than send us a check, they just take it off our our bill. So last month we had a huge bill to pay (to our old provider), but I was hoping it would even out this month when we got our new provider’s bill, showing the $250 credit. Turns out all is good in that area. This month we’ll have a much lower bill (but to remind you so it’s not a surprise with my next budget post – I’d fudged my August budget a bit. I paid the full $250 for the old phone network last month, but I cheated a little and split it half-way in this month. So I’ll still be reporting charges this month in my budget update at the end of the month. But really that was money that was paid for awhile ago). In October, things in this regard will be all smoothed over and we’ll be comfortably paying our new bill.
  3. Navient. Y’all. I can’t even. I cannot. Remember my “best day ever” post where I said my Navient issue was resolved? Ha! Nope! It seriously makes me so angry just thinking about it so I’m going to keep this brief for the sake of my blood pressure and psychological wellbeing. Long story short – issue is NOT resolved. They still have my loan (which was just transferred from another loan servicer, ACS) categorized as unsubsidized. They claim its a valid unsubsidized loan. Many, many hours (literal hours) of my life have been spent talking to all kinds of people – Navient’s customer service, Navient’s escalation department, the loan guarantor, national student loan database services, and on and on and on. We’ve reached a point where I’ve had to contact a loan mediation service (it’s free for me – part of the federal government, I guess). But they don’t move quickly. My last call to them was Friday and they said I wouldn’t hear back for 7-10 business days. So, yeah. In the meantime, I’m being charged interest out the wazoo for this student loan that is supposed to be subsidized (and, therefore, unpaid interest is supposed to be forgiven). So its going to totally mess up my debt totals when I do my next debt update (hopefully coming this Thursday! I’ve been holding off hoping that I’d get this issue resolved so I could report accurate debt totals, but no dice). I swear this issue has taken years off my life due to the stress and headache of it all. I know on my last post many people suggested reaching out to a class action lawsuit attorney (since Navient has so many pending lawsuits against them for wrongfully charging extra interest, etc.). I’m hoping the mediation can help us come to a resolution. I’m just so strapped for time I don’t even know what to do. It’s a huge burden in my life and just makes me wish I could write a check and be debt-free today. It’s just so wrong and it feels like there’s no ramification. No way to hold them accountable. I feel a little bit defeated at this point. But I’m keeping the course with the mediation route and hoping for some success at the other end. I’ll keep you updated.

So that’s the update on my 3 financial issues. As per usual, this was way lengthier than I’d originally intended. heh. Guess I had a little time after all. I’ll try to get a debt update post put together for you guys for later this week (Thursday or Friday). Thanks for your support along the way!!!


21 Comments

  • Reply Jean |

    Could you hire a property manager to take care of your dad’s house? In my area, real estate agents often double as property managers. If that’s the case in UT, maybe you could find one that would also list the house when the time comes – would make things a lot less stressful for you on the ‘home front’.

    My dad has PKD and is on home dialysis. We went to my brother’s house for the weekend last week and it was an eye opening experience for me. Even though the dialysis is making him better clinically, it hasn’t improved his quality of life. I ‘only’ live an hour from my parents, but I need to get more involved.

    If Navient is going to charge you interest, I’d be half tempted to take out a personal loan & pay them off & be done with them. Hope you can get everything straightened out. But having worked for a gov’t contractor in the past, I know that NOTHING is easy & efficient when dealing with the gov’t.

    Hang in there!

    • Reply Ashley |

      We could try the property management route, but the plan is to just sell the house (not rent it out….though if it doesn’t sell then that may be an option).
      Regarding the personal loan, I doubt I’d be approved. In total I owe about $85,000 and since its an unsecured debt (nothing they can take from me if I were to default), I doubt I’d be able to talk anyone into that much of a personal loan. I could try for just the one debt that they’re currently screwing me on (it’s about $12,000ish?? This is off the top of my head, so not exact but in that ballpark). But that’s still an awful high unsecured debt for a personal loan. Not sure if it would happen.

  • Reply Kay |

    Not sure what part of Utah he lives in but I just had a friend who lives in the Salt Lake City suburbs get his empty house broken into. The city had posted a “water turned off” notice on the door so theives knew it was empty and tried to steal the copper. It would be a lot safer if you have a person locally check on the house on a regular basis. Or leave some lamps inside the house plugged into a timer switche so it looks like someone in home at night.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Scary! Luckily, we are friends with the immediate next-door neighbors. They have always been very good to my Dad, and are actually the first people to alert us (family) of my Dad’s deteriorating health situation. I know they would help keep an eye on it while vacant.

  • Reply Juhli |

    Talk to at least 3 real estate agents before picking one and do thorough interviews re how they will market it, the value range they see, how they will show it, etc. We interviewed 3 for my Mom’s house in a very rural area and 1 only would talk to my brother (yes, this was a woman), 1 was inexperienced and had too much going on and the 3rd was a good match. Empty the house so you don’t have to worry about contents. We found people to buy the large items and a second to buy the “smalls” such as dishes, end tables, etc. They gave a lump sum and hauled it away. We had to fix things to close the sale but most things can be negotiated to have the buyer do the work in exchange for lowering the sales price. If the property is in an area that has winter you will need to keep the drive/walks/roof clear, etc. In some locations nothing sells in the winter but in others they do. Good luck!

    • Reply Rose |

      How many sadniwches and cups of coffee were consumed? If they stayed true to the book 70% of the movie should have been Mikael eating a sandwich and drinking a cup of coffee.

  • Reply Emily N. |

    What about hiring a company that does estate sales to clean out your dad’s house? I have no personal experience here, but from what I understand, they run the whole sale, clear out what doesn’t sell, and give you a cut of the profits.

  • Reply Rachel |

    Beware mentioning to the homeowner’s insurance agent about your dad’s house being vacant. Mentioned it to my agent while my house was listed for sale (ex was still living in the house at the time) and agent said the homeowner’s insurance would go up $1000 a year (or more) if the house was vacant. Much bigger risks with the home being empty and nobody taking care of it.

  • Reply first step |

    I’m not licensed, but I work for a real estate agent. We often have vacant listings with out of town sellers. Here are my suggestions for finding an agent and what to do to get the house ready:
    1. Talk to multiple real estate agents to see when/if there is a best time to sell the type of property your dad owns. If this isn’t a good time, try to find a short-term renter to get you through to prime sales time or use the additional time to get the house in top sales condition.
    2. Choose an agent who has experience in the neighborhood or with the type of home your dad owns. Ask how you will receive updates and feedback on showings and how negotiations will be handled. Confirm that he/she is willing to take on the extra effort that a vacant house with out of town sellers requires, e.g., assisting with scheduling repairs/painting/updates with local vendors, checking on the house periodically to replenish marketing materials, etc. Also ask if they use electronic signatures for paperwork since your dad or whoever will sign on his behalf lives out of the area.
    3. Consider keeping some of the furniture for staging so that the home shows well, especially if it has a floor plan where buyers would need help to see the potential.
    4. If possible, use a senior moving service to assist with selling or donating items that your dad doesn’t need and family doesn’t want. Since many baby boomers are downsizing for health or housing need changes, there may be a local business that specializes in this type of move.
    5. If you aren’t going to winterize the home or you can’t turn off the water because of how the heating system works, have the neighbors check on the house daily. Several vacant properties that we listed have been damaged due to plumbing leaks, regardless of the weather.
    6. Consider changing the homeowner’s insurance to cover vacancy or possibly convert to 2nd home coverage if the house is going to be vacant for an extended period.
    7. Set up a system with neighbors to be notified about showings so they can confirm that lights are turned on/off as appropriate and to confirm doors are locked after the showing. Give the neighbors gifts or money for checking on the house–they can be your best source of info about how the sales process is going.

    Best wishes to you and your family as you work with your siblings to tackle this project and help your dad!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you so much for the detailed list of suggestions! I really appreciate the time it took for you to give me so much helpful info!

  • Reply Maureen |

    On another note, it won’t help your unsubsidized loan paperwork nightmare, but ACS is MUCH easier to deal with, allocate extra payments, etc. Silver lining, probably not?

  • Reply Lana |

    Check out a company called Caring Transitions. They handle these kind of things for families, throughout the U.S.

  • Reply Shannon (also from Boston) |

    You should call the local office of either Congressional Representative or one of your Senators. I am sure they get calls about student loans all the time.

  • Reply Cathy D |

    Here in Atlanta there has been a problem with vacant homes being sold fraudulently. When an out of town owner comes back to their home, someone is living in it! Thieves find the empty homes and create false paper work and then sell the homes for a profit. This is not legal, but the person buying the home has no idea and it turns into a mess! I only mention this to you so you are aware that this happens and keep in touch with those next door neighbors! They can be a real asset. Hopefully this isn’t happening in Utah. Good luck with your father’s house.

    • Reply Angie |

      This happens a lot here as well. However, instead of fraudulently selling the house (which seems much harder to fake IMHO), the houses will pop up for rent on craigslist. They have people sign a lease and give them a security deposit. Some have even gotten to the point where they’ve had the “tenants” move in before anyone figured it out!! I’ve seen lots of these stories in my area. So definitely let your neighbors know if you do or do not plan to rent. They will be your biggest defense.

      Along the same lines, have you thought about offering them something out of good faith for keeping you informed on the property? Gift cards?

  • Reply Jen |

    I had to deal with an issue with Navient as well. I hated dealing with them, so I did a loan consolidation with another servicer. I originally started the process in May and canceled it. In October, I decided that I would go ahead with it because the “service” I was receiving from them was far from stellar.

    Long story short, almost $3,000 of payments I had made to Navient went unreported to my new servicer and I was then being double charged for them and interest was accruing on the full balance instead of my new lower balance. I called both servicers multiple times over several months and the issue was never resolved. I was being bounced back and fourth between the two playing the blame game. I began research and found the mediation service which is the “next step” when problems cannot be resolved. In that process, they required that I contact them in writing. What I did was send both parties a registered letter that stated I wanted an accounting of ALL of the transactions that had occurred on both accounts. I gave them 10 days from the date of receipt and made it very clear that I would be contacting a lawyer if I did not receive the accurate information within that time frame. Low and behold, the amount + interest was sent over to my new servicer within 2 days and I will NEVER deal with Navient again.

    All of this is to say that you may need to send a strongly worded REGISTERED letter which puts them to the fire and forces their hand. Keep the RRR receipts and copies of the letters that you send. I would in fact contact a lawyer if it did not get resolved ASAP. Their tactic seems to be delay delay delay and it is absolutely ridiculous. Finally, do not hesitate to call your local state representation to report the problem as well. I have heard from a friend at work that his representative helped him a lot when he was dealing with student loan servicer problems several years ago.

    Good luck and I hope it works out for you!

    • Reply Ashley |

      That is horrific! What an awful nightmare! Thanks for sharing your story – definitely makes me think twice about doing a consolidation (but also lets me know how to best be prepared for this type of nonsense!)

So, what do you think ?