Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our American Nightmare.

I remember where we were.  We were in London on vacation and it was the week before Christmas 2005.  I was two months pregnant with Clayton.  My husband received a call that he was being considered for a promotion back in the States. Wow.  I was torn, though. My husband had assured me that it would take months, maybe years for him to obtain promotion in a desirable location. He got the first job for which he applied. I guess that's the problem with being good at what you do.

I was robbed. I didn't feel like I had gotten my fill of our overseas experience.  We had scarcely been stationed in Copenhagen a year and half.  By the time we left Copenhagen, our tour was just shy of two years. We left very dear friends there, but I suppose there was something comforting about moving home.

We had an expedited transfer because of my impending delivery.  If they were going to move us, it was going to have to be before Easter 2006 because the policy of most airlines is to refuse to fly a pregnant person after 32 weeks.  I had had complications with Barrett's delivery and I wasn't taking any chances.  I was happy to be moving back to the States to deliver my child, back to the land of Target.

After landing in the Bay Area in April of 2006, it became evident pretty quickly that the cost of real estate was going to put us out in the burbs.  Way out in the burbs.  I wasn't thrilled about it. My husband hadn't had more than a 10 or 15 minute commute since we had gotten married in 1994. We found a nice community outside of the city. It had an isolated, small town feel.  And while his commute would be well over an hour, each way, it was barely affordable (which was better than not affordable) and had excellent schools.  This would be a good place to settle our growing family.

We found a house which we could barely afford if we budgeted well (which we'd never had to do before), and it had a very similar floor plan to our first house.  I suppose that it was a bit nostalgic for us both.  And by similar, I mean the rooms were situated in a similar way.  I do not mean that the house was the same size (approximately 400 sq. feet smaller) or the same price (approximately 4 times as much) or the same quality or amenities.  We never considered that we wouldn't make money on this venture.  After all, we made $40 K on our South Florida house and $60 K on our Atlanta house. We sure as hell never considered that we would lose money on this house.

Our realtor assured us that this was a fantastic area and the house was "priced to sell."  And of course, there was currently another competing offer on the house.  "It's the only one in your price range," he said.  "It's a buyer's market." People had made a mint on their real estate in this community over the past few years because of the community and the excellent schools.  We couldn't lose.

We spent the next 6 weeks renovating a 20 year old house that was virtually in shambles.  We painted, replaced, updated and renovated anything that was in our budget.  We had made a few dollars on our house in Atlanta, so why not replace 20 year old appliances and light fixtures? We calculate that we spent at least $30,000. on upgrades and renovations for our house.  I wouldn't be surprised if it were a good deal more. Our goal was to finish the renovations and move in before our third child arrived.  We missed that deadline by four days.  Clayton wouldn't wait.

Fast forward three years. In April of 2009, our house appraised $235,000 below what we paid. How could this happen? We knew we would be transferred in the next 2 years and because we felt certain that the market wouldn't be able to recover that much before we transferred, we made the difficult decision to short sell our house. That decision was not reached lightly.

We didn't have a sub-prime mortgage.
We didn't buy more house than we could afford.
We didn't speculate that the market would increase X percent and we would make a windfall.
We simply wanted affordable housing in a nice community within which to raise our family. Certainly there was nothing wrong with that?

We have chosen a strategic short sale so that we could end our nightmare, cut our losses and move on with our lives.  We were tired of the constant stress and worried about our largest investment which was performing so poorly.  My husband is carrying the burden as sole-bread winner and his stress level was sky high. In the end, a strategic short sale made the most sense for us.  In the end, we have both sacrificed our credit rating (we started out in the low-to-mid 800's) and credit accounts that we've worked all of our adult life to build.

I can't speak for my husband, but in some way I feel like we failed.  I feel like we failed our kids, that our job was to keep a roof over their head and in this fundamental thing we failed.  I know we're not the only ones struggling. I know that many people are going through things which are far worse. But this feels pretty crappy to me.

It is time for us to move on.  The short sale has been dragging on for months.  The bank has given us delay after delay.  We decided it was time to close the chapter on this American Nightmare and move on. Next week we're moving into a rental house two streets over. The house is much nicer and much bigger.  The rent is two-thirds of our mortgage payment.  We've tried to shield the children from the stress as much as possible, but I know they've picked up on the tension. If this is the one great test of my marriage, I will be relieved to have it behind me and look forward to smooth sailing for the rest of our lifetimes.

The experts say we'll be eligible to buy another house in two years.
I don't know if my heart will be ready to buy another house again, ever.
I do know that I'm ready for this nightmare to be over. Tomorrow.


forever folding laundry said...

I know it sucks, and I know you guys are making the best of a crappy situation. You haven't failed your kids. You have succeeded in giving them the *important* things.

And I'm not afraid to admit that I am more than a little happy that you'll be one of the MGD crew! :)


Mainly a midwife said...

I'm so sorry... And I agree with K. You are SO not failing your children. And you are definitely keeping your positive perspective. And I for one am jealous that I'm not on MGD :)

kjgohogs said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this - You haven't failed your kids though - From what I can tell about your blog is that you love them and take care of them - And they KNOW you love them and take care of them. This too shall pass - Hope you enjoy your new home....
Kelly Moore