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We opened the door and the four of us were greeted with a glare approximating the surface of the sun. The wood floor was beautiful actually, top of the line stuff, but it reflected the horrendous yellow of the walls--two shades of yellow, to be precise, above and below a strip of moulding--to a harrowing degree.

"We can always paint," said my girlfriend (Emet, meet Offsprung; Offsprung, Emet), just before her corneas combusted.

Sure, we could always paint, but we'd also have to replace the perimeter of tile in the family room that failed to match the wood floor, the plum-colored carpet and a handful of other stylistic abominations, the most egregious of which was the study, where the homeowners matched the plum carpet with similar-colored paint. I don't have a clue how anyone could study, or even breathe in a room which looks like Grimace exploded all over the walls, but hey, to each his own. If there were a fancy Pottery Barn name for this particular hue, I'd imagine it would be something like Blueberry Vomit or Radioactive Fruit or Mauve.

Welcome to The Great House Hunt of Aught-Nine, which might drag into next year, thus necessitating a name change and prescription muscle relaxers.


No, it's not going so well. Prices are depressed (maybe we should get THEM some drugs) compared to the ridiculous run-up of a few years ago, but still not exactly cheap. The media is proclaiming a) the recession is over and b) it's a buyer's market. It is not. And it is not. The first step in buying a house is finding a house to buy. Therein lies the problem. There aren't any.

Oh sure, nearly every neighborhood in my desert hamlet is flecked with empty homes, brown-grassed foreclosures (or, in some cases, I kid you not, front yards PAINTED green). Except you can't buy them, because they are not on the market thanks to artificial moratoriums and a back-logged foreclosure process (now taking two years) and banks not wanting to flood the market with the homes they now own, lest prices drop further. In the meantime, these homes go unmaintained.

Even more common is the dreaded Short Sale. These houses are not actually for sale. This is a stalling tactic, given excellent cover by the Obama Administration's "Making Home Affordable Program," which purports to help save homes for people who've fallen behind in their payments. Of course, more than two-thirds of people who would qualify for such assistance are beyond help. Others are likely to become delinquent again. It's a fine idea, but it ain't working. And, honestly, for a number of homeowners, it shouldn't. They over-extended themselves to absurd degrees, took second and third mortgages to buy toys. We've seen houses where the "owners" have loans for $300K more than what the house's purchase price was. Why exactly should these people get our tax money?

The banks got some, though. And now, thanks to their feet-dragging and accounting tricks (listing a non-foreclosed home on the balance sheet at its previous market value, so No Losses Here! on paper), they've become hoarders of properties, a concerted effort to take their losses as slowly as possible. These short sales are everywhere and it's in the bank's interest to let them just fester, allow the current "owners" to hang out free of charge while making a public display of "compassion" for these troubled underwater souls, eventually beginning the trudging foreclosure process while the property goes to seed. Some folks even willfully destroy the place. We saw one where the evicted and bankrupt former owners took the cabinets, every single one, from the walls.

Which leaves us with that rarest of beasts, the standard sale. Believe it or not, some people have managed to maintain equity, presumably by adhering to such old-fashioned notions as "Buying What You Can Afford" and "Not Taking Out Second and Third Mortgages To Buy Jet Skis" and "Fixed-Rate Loans."

A standard sale came on the market last week. The realtor began showing it on Saturday. We saw it at 1 p.m. Loved it. Beautiful home. We made an offer. Above list price. By Sunday evening, the realtor had 18 offers. In two days.


I know what you're thinking. Kent, this isn't funny. Where are the poop jokes? I thought this was a parenting blog! Well, this is about responsibility. We, as parents need to make good decisions and hope our children emulate them. We need to show them how to make their way in life, when to zig and when to zag. Above all, they need to know that life isn't fair.

They need to know that you can make sound financial decisions, have impeccable credit, have a 20% down payment burning a hole in your bank account and you remain at the mercy of corporate institutions and government, both of whom, right now, are more concerned with their own bottom lines, feckless populist policies that rescue gross mismanagement (not in all cases, of course) and, most importantly, public appearance.

The last is as effective as painting a lawn green.

Views: 7

Tags: banking industry, foreclosures, housing, prices, real estate

Comment by TommysMommy on September 17, 2009 at 1:15pm
Welcome to my life. We put our townhouse on the market last spring, finally sold it at the end of June for $100K under the assessed value. Not that we were expecting the assessed value since property values where we live are HIGHLY inflated. We still made $200K from when we bought the place 6 years ago. We gave the new people a possession date of Sept 1st because hey, two months is TOTALLY enough time to find a new place. Right?

Fast forward to now. Currently, everything we own, except for our basic necessities and some of the kid's stuff so he feels at home, is in storage and we are living at my mother's. NOTHING of the type we were looking for came on the market for the entire summer. And we're not looking for anything special. 4 bedrooms, hopefully at least a bath and a half. Enough storage and a place for my husband to keep all his computer crap. And did I mention we have a baby due at the beginning of October? To give him credit, our realtor was SO much more stressed than we were. He kept muttering that he had NEVER had a client who didn't have a place once they were moving out of their old one. There may have been a few weeks of transition, but we were the first to be completely "homeless."

Thankfully, Tuesday he calls me, house just on the market, not even publicly posted. Wants to get us in there that night. 6 o'clock we are in, we LOVE the house. Wednesday we make an offer and success! $11K under asking. If we had waited, we probably would have gotten into a bidding war. Which we wanted to avoid at all costs. So pending inspection and all that, we will have a confirmed offer as of next Thursday with position in December to give me to time recover from baby before moving in. I am breathless at how fast this went, once it showed up.

Hang in there, it'll show up. And when it does, it'll happen fast. I agree with teaching kids all those lessons. They are very important to know. Sometimes crap happens no matter how much you are prepared.
Comment by Don't Forget to Flush on September 17, 2009 at 2:30pm
Congratulations TommysMommy. And thanks for the encouragement.

I'm not as aggravated as it appears based on the post (though I was aggravated when I wrote it). We're solid buyers, in no real rush, as I'm living in an apartments since selling 3+ years ago and the banks are going to reach a tipping point, where owning all that property is bad business, financially and public relations-wise.

I am surprised there hasn't been more in the media about this artificial tightening of inventory.
Comment by Bigkrygowski on September 18, 2009 at 2:53am
So I will let you in on a little secret. All bank owned properties ARE for sale. You just need to do a little leg (or finger) work. Once you find a foreclosed home you are interested in go to your county auditor's website, here you can find out who owns the home by just typing in the address. Now you can call that bank and get the contact information for the real estate division. Call them up and tell them you are interested in a home and want to make an offer. If they say no don't get totally discouraged just wait a week and call them again. Right now banks own thousands of homes and have to pay the taxes and upkeep bills on the properties. They are more then willing to get a house off the books. Now, there are a few ups and downs with this procedure. On the upside you can do this without a Realtor and the banks will sell the homes for a considerable lower price. The longer the house has been sitting the cheaper you can grab it. On the downside, this is not always a speedy process and can take a few months to actually close on the house. Secondly the homes are sold "as is" so if you are not knowledgeable in home structure and mechanics it is worth shelling out a couple hundred for an inspection to see exactly what you are getting into.
Comment by G to the G on September 18, 2009 at 5:10am
May the force be with you. Take your time and all that...
And hello Emet!
I just sold a home and am now renting. Ahhh renting.
Comment by Andromeda on September 18, 2009 at 4:59pm
try to be so hard on the short-salers! we are in the process of trying to short sale our home. our situation is not that unique either. we got priced out of the market in Sacramento 4 years ago and so we bought about 40 miles out in an area we could afford. paid 20% down, got a fixed rate mortgage, refinanced our second to landscape the backyard to the tune of maybe $10k. it's not our fault that the market took such a nosedive that we lost $200k in our house. i kid you not, the county we lived in was so inflated that it happens to be one of the WORST in the nation for falling home values. so we said "screw it we're out" and are trying to short sale. because of the rest of the problems with the economy (lost wages, higher prices, etc.) we just can't afford to live out there anymore.

the problem with short sales and foreclosures is that the banks are so back-logged that it takes months for them to get to the sale. we have an offer on our house. a very good and motivated CASH offer. the banks are dragging their feet. the good thing about short-sales are that the owners are usually more considerate of selling the place and they don't trash it like they often do when the house is foreclosed. my dad is a contractor and recently did some work on a house that had been foreclosed. the people took EVERYTHING - doors, toilets, stair railing, light fixtures, water heaters, cabinets, sinks, appliances, etc. EVERYTHING that could be removed was. it was unreal.
Comment by Bigkrygowski on September 19, 2009 at 5:16am
Our latest acquisition the former owners also took everything. If they could figure out how to reuse plaster they probably would have taken that too. Though we did pay less than the cost of a new car for a 4 bedroom home in a decent neighborhood. Mind you this home isn't where we will be living this is a project for my "spare time".


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