One Fart and It’s All Over

I know there’s a crisis in the housing industry. I know people bought waaay more house than they could afford, and as a result more people are foreclosing on their mortgages than are wiping their tushies. Almost.

And I’m all for simplifying one’s life. There is so much we don’t really need, and so much cluttering our lives. I love the idea of really paring things down and living a less stressful life.


Short of a complete and total financial and societal breakdown (and even then I’d likely squat in bigger digs) there’s just no way I would live in one of these voluntarily. At least as long as I’m married and have a 4 year old son. And a doggie.

When Husband and I were first together he could not even sleep in my double bed – an antique handed down by my grandmother. It currently lives in pieces under our king tempurpedic-knockoff bed. Even now he feels crowded.

And he’s a loner at heart. He needs time to himself, and I make sure he gets it every day. There is no way he’d keep his sanity in such a small place. And his complaints would drive me insane, too.

Besides, one fart and it’s all over.


The Forgotten Foreclosure Victims: Pets

I’ve talked before about how the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and how it’s resultant foreclosures affect all of us in my article Foreclosure Affects New Buyers, Old Buyers and You.

It occurred to me today that there are other victims that many haven’t yet thought about.

When people are forced to foreclose on their homes they can pretty much forget about getting another mortgage. That will force most of these people, these families, into the rental market. This is, of course, going to be terrific for the rental market, which suffered along as everyone with decent credit (and, obviously, many who didn’t) rushed to borrow 110% of their home’s value with zero money down on a 3-year Adjustable Rate Mortgage, and left many complexes with higher vacancy rates than ever before. Their time has come…

But. Most rental properties don’t allow pets. Whether they’re a large conglomerate of apartment complexes or a single unit condominium owner the reasons are mostly the same: fear of damage, fear of being sued, not enough space, etc. You can find properties that will accept pets, but they usually only allow the the lives-in-a-fishbowl or poops-in-a-box variety. Finding one that will accept dogs is not nearly as easy. Along with three-or-more bedroom units they’re likely the first to be snapped up. That leaves dogs, quite literally, out in the cold.

So what is a homeowner on the brink of financial collapse, about to be homeless, homeless, to do when faced with the prospect of choosing between no home for their family or having a home but leaving their pet behind?

Now in addition to the emotional turmoil of leaving their homes, their neighborhoods and their financial security behind, people are choosing to leave their pets behind, too. I certainly would not want to be the mother who, in the face of her own heartbreak, has to tell her children that their beloved mutt – the one that they fell asleep cuddled up with as babies, the one that accepted the pokes and tail pulls when they were toddlers, the one that waits by the door every day for them to come home from school – has to be given away because they just can’t bring them to their new home. I’d never get over it.

And the poor pets. They don’t understand. All they know is they’re not with the ones who love them. They have fear and uncertainty, and they miss their families. If they’re lucky they find a new home with new people to love. If not…I just don’t want to think about it.

I just couldn’t do it. I honestly think we’d move wherever we needed to before we’d let our dear dog go. She’s one of us…

I also don’t want to think about the others. The people who don’t take care of their dogs, at the very least making sure they are taken to a shelter. I read a story today about someone who just left their dog behind. Alone in the house they abandoned. No food or water.

How could they do that? How could they? I think that person deserves whatever they get and more. People (and I use that term loosely) that would do that should be shot. They should lose all of their teeth. They should develop open sores all over their bodies so that they are as ugly on the outside as they are on the inside. Then they should die a slow, agonizing death that takes many years, so they they get a taste of what waits for them in the afterlife.

And there’s nothing we can do about it, either.

If you are thinking about adding a pet to your life, please make sure you’re prepared to take care of it for the long haul. And please don’t spend thousands on a puppy mill puppy – go to the Humane Society and save a life.


Counting Chickens and Eggs and Christmas Bonuses

Husband works for an advertising agency that specializes in real estate. Not surprisingly, business is bad. With all of the foreclosures in our market and everywhere, no one can afford the million dollar homes that are this agency’s specialty.

Business is reeeeeeeally bad.

So bad that they have laid off about 25% of their workforce, and are scrambling to increase their presence in other industries (something Husband and I have many times discussed is oh, about five years overdue). Really not a great idea to put all one’s eggs in one basket, is it?

Christmas Bonus time comes around. Because Husband is very good at what he does, is very reliable and has an excellent work ethic, his bonuses have always been…commensurate with his contribution. Last year spectacularly so.

As a result, when I was pondering the viability of buying Husband the new Apple MacPro computer he wanted as his Christmas gift, I factored in the probability of a nice bonus again this year. I shrewdly did not expect it to be as abundant as last year, but in my consideration hoped for it to be even half. Even if it wasn’t, I reasoned, we do have the money in savings, and he will get more freelance projects to replace what we use within a few months.

When Husband told me in mid-December that bonuses weren’t going to be paid until the mid-January pay period, I wasn’t upset at all. In fact, it is better for our tax bottom line in 2007 to defer that income until 2008. Rock on.

I went ahead and bought the new computer, and all is right with the world.

Then, today, Husband calls and tells me he got his bonus. It is 1/10th of what it was last year.

I was completely flabbergasted. There must be a mistake! No? The injustice!!!!

Then I was embarrassed. Given the state of the company, we’re lucky he got a bonus at all. Many people don’t.

Given the state of the company, we’re lucky he has a job at all.

Mea culpa.

No more counting my chickens before they hatch, even if I leverage them.

Foreclosure Affects New Buyers, Old Buyers and You

The current state of the housing market is big news all over the country. Here in Florida, consistently in the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) five for foreclosure frequency, the situation is dire. I heard the other day that one in three Florida mortgages in foreclosure. How scary is that?

Many of us saw this coming, but could do nothing to stop the train wreck.

First, home prices were overinflated. I love my house, but it’s just not worth what I could have sold it for 18 months ago. No one wants to admit it, but it’s true.

Second, mortgages were cheap, and offered attractive up-front terms. Interest rates were low, especially with ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages). Greedy, badly trained and/or just plain stupid mortgage brokers sat down with eager, badly informed and/or just plain stupid buyers and made deals on loans that they didn’t quite understand, that should never have been made. The buyers’ dreams of home ownership blinded them to the very real probability of future rate increases. Many bought more house than they could afford, regardless of the type of loan.

And here they are.

And they’re not the only ones. Many people who haven’t bought a new house in the recent housing boom are filing for foreclosure, too. Why? Because when people who had been in their homes for five, ten, twenty years saw their home’s value double, they took out their equity by refinancing, or by taking out a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit). They used the money to renovate their kitchens, pay off debt, buy other properties to flip or any one of a million other uses.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Now that housing prices have plummeted (my own home’s value has decreased by 1/3 in 18 months), they are in trouble. Some refinanced to an adjustable rate loan and find themselves in the same boat as those recent home buyers who simply cannot pay the adjusted rates. They can’t sell their houses – they have mortgages for far more than their house is worth.

So, many are just walking away. Some from houses they’ve had for a year, some from houses that they’ve had for twenty. It’s sending home prices into a tailspin. It’s sending our economy into a tailspin. All while prices for everything else are going up (thank you $100 a barrel oil!).

But the cycle of greed continues.

I’ve heard that some people are taking out every last bit of equity they still have (through a HELOC), then walking away from those debts and buying another place for cash. One of the foreclosed properties. You can get them really cheap now, you know.

They call it cutting their losses. I call it fraud. I call it disgusting.

But I still have a roof over my head, as my financial paranoia has us living below our means, with our fixed mortgage payment at a very comfortable 10% of our income. How do I know what I would really do in their position?

Still, how do they sleep at night?

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