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Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Home Office

Years ago, when I was working full time, I had access to office equipment that I was able to use for personal use.   Receiving faxes was not always the easiest but to send a fax, copy some documents, it was great.  Having a fax phone line run into your home was expensive and carried a monthly charge as it required a separate phone line, etc.

Now that I am not working, I have to take care of office chores at home.   Running to Staples is a pain, fax machines are basically like cassette players anymore and everything needs to be done quickly.   So you kind of need to have a set up in place at home.    When I went through the mortgage process for my house, I was amazed that not a single piece of REAL paper was exchanged until the closing.   All documents, applications, forms were sent via email and returned via email.   Had to think quickly about how to keep up with this paperless trail and move the very slow process along quickly.

The solution is a combination of the following items.  A scanner, copier, printer, computer and a membership to efax.  No phone line needed.  Just an internet connection.

When applying for a pre-approval, a basic screening process takes place to check our your financial status.   Mortgage guy sends an application via email, that you can fill out and return.  No meeting each other, no sitting at a desk in a bank branch.  All done over email and a phone call here and there.   Scanned drivers licenses, social security cards etc. and returned the completed mini-application and was given a pre approval, by email within 24 hours.  

Thank God for my 3-in-1 scanner/printer/copier.   Pages had to be printed out, scanned and resent not via email attachments.  They can send ME documents via email attachments....but they wanted them returned via fax.  Their faxes were delivered to their email inbox.   A little bit confusing but if all I had to do was go out to fax some things here and there, that's fine.  

Then my husband told me about efax.  www.efax.com gives you a fax "number" that delivers your scanned documents via internet from your efax number to their fax number that somehow has nothing to do with a phone and appears in the email inbox even quicker than the papers in a fax machine would take to feed in and transmit over the phone lines.

Once the pre approval was given, we reached a deal on our house and that 3-in-1 printer became the most popular appliance in the house.   Mortgage guy emails me a checklist with about 20-25 items that he needs.    One of the things on the list is....tax returns.  Organized as I am, I have them in a file folder, labeled with the year, beside last years and the year before.    I find about 20 sheets of paper and think, ugh....scanning these one by one and email attaching/efaxing all of these is going to be a nightmare.   Can't I just gather these 20-25 things and bring them to this guys office?     I ask him how he wishes to receive the tax papers and he says, "Have your accountant email them to me."   I'm like....what?   My account is old and gray.....I can't imagine that he emails 20 page documents.  I call him up and suggest this, knowing that he has an entire WALL in his office filled with file folders.   He says, "Sure.....give me the broker's email address and I will get them over today."

WTF?  Seriously?  Old man accountant does this?   Apparently, every time a client needs them for a home purchase, he can email them.  Who knew?

Next order of business is bank statements.   Back to my hard copies in my file folders, nicely labeled.   They need a handful of statements, maybe 6 months or so.  I have them all but again its another bunch of papers.   Then it dawns on me-- these documents are all online.....so I go to my Chase account and I am able to download each months statement to a PDF file and email attach it.  6 months, 6 emails, took me about 6 minutes.

As speedy as all of these items were electronically transferred back and forth, the process dragged......I wonder if this is how it was in the "old days" when people did not have the internet.   Did someone receive the checklist in the mailbox.....gather the pieces of paper and go to an office and sit down with someone who would review them in real time?   How, with all of this technology is the process as slow as it is?   Technology is supposed to speed things up, make everyone more efficient, etc.    This process was the single most stressful experience of my life.   There has to be a simpler way.

Now that I am settled in to the house, my 3-in-1 printer/scanner/copier is still used on a regular basis.   I have a USB drive that holds all of the pages that I scan and I can refer back to them when I need them.    A doctor once gave me a list of good and bad fruits and vegetables.   I scanned it and I review it regularly.   My kids birth certificates and medical records/immunization forms are scanned in case I need them for school, camp, extra curricular activities, etc.   I scan papers from my kids school such as the "change in dismissal" form.   I can print it out as often as I need to.   I started scanning my daughters cute notes (she is beginning to spell in "kids spelling") and drawings.    I have folders that contain all of these scanned items.  Some are for practical day to day use and some are just to preserve memories.    I keep saying that I am going to post pics but really, I am going to do it tomorrow.   I plan on making a photo book with all of these scanned images and making sort of a "year in review" using these scanned images and pages.    I can hold these memories the way a photo album would.   :-)

If you buy one item for your home, buy a 3-in-1 printer/copier/scanner.   Eventually these manila file folders will phase themselves out.  I can scan my Con Ed bills....my cable bills.... everything!  

Tomorrows entry:  More Gadgets.   Cameras, phones, iPads
And PHOTOS!   Will go back to older entries and add some in.

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