Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Going overboard on housing

I was reading an article recently about a family’s misadventure with a rented mansion in the New Orleans area, and thinking that it was a good thing they rented it and did not buy it.

It has become a staple of magazines nowadays: The story of how buying a house by using a mortgage turned into a catastrophe. Invariably, the story details the purchase of the house, the two or more mortgages floated and signed for on unfavorable terms, maybe there’s a home equity loan in there, and then the unforeseen circumstance that wrecks it all. What follows is foreclosure and worse.

I can relate to some of the above, as I bought a bit too much house and its payments were doable while I was still employed. Now that I have joined the unwilling ranks of the career changed, I only have about eight months at this writing before I am one of those who has to leave his house.

I have some very unfair advantages, though. I suspected a possible endgame at work, and began saving money. I’m single with no children (thanks to a spectacular inability to connect with women) and while I have used my credit cards, I haven’t carried a balance in nearly five years. With severance and savings, I can take a low-wage job and survive, and keep my castle.

In a past job at an outfit called Bankrate.com, I learned about the wonders and dangers of home equity loans. Not accessing that equity meant that I could sell my houses and realize large profits. The new house I moved into in February 2006 was more a nice place to live than an investment, and I sank a lot of cash into a down payment, but I would have been better off not buying this place. Still, I’ll work myself to death to stay here.

But the price is living in a house with aged furniture, some of which has been clawed by cats, and rooms that have little furniture at all, save for computers and desks. So my sense of interior design sucks. Sue me.

Reading one article about those who go a little nuts on home improvement got me to thinking about August 2002, when I moved into a new house in Vero Beach. A married couple across the street, around my age, moved in soon after me, and I noticed that after they had moved in that a lot of work was being done on the house. These were all new houses, but the wife was having all the cabinets removed and closets stripped to be redone the way she wanted. I kind of felt bad for the construction workers who had labored in the heat of the summer to install all that stuff, and now it was landing in the trash. I’m sure the new stuff wasn’t cheap.

As for me, everything was fine and I was happy in the house. I only sold the place and moved because I got a job on the other side of Florida.

So I bought a place in Sarasota, Fla., and was the second owner of a nice place. Like I said, I should have stayed there but thought I could do better.

In that place, I paid about $900 for blinds, and in my current home, I’ve made no modifications.

Like I said, I like this house fine but worry that with a recession or depression job to survive, I may not be able to afford it and will have to surrender it to the bank. That’s a frightening proposition.

Until that time comes, though, I guess I’ll just keep looking for work and hope for the best. And you can bet that I won’t be doing renovations at all.

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September 28, 2008 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , ,

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