Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Morning, All.  Well the snow was light, the wind high, and the temperatures cold.  How cold?  It was a 'three cat night.'  I had all three of my furry monsters in bed with me last night.  Anybody remember the Aussie band 'Three Dog Night?'  For those who do, I remember an article way, way back describing the origin of their name.  The author quoted one band member as saying that the Aborigines described how cold the nights were by the number of dogs they curled up with.  A 'three dog night' was very cold.  It may be an apocryphal story but it sounds good.  I don't have dogs and my cats do as they darned well please.  It was evidently cold enough that they decided to join their human for warmth.  We set our thermostat at 68 degrees but some areas can get a little colder.  We go for average comfort.

Morford has an interesting essay on his SFGate post today.  It touched a cord because his conclusions (and those of the unnamed economist he references) parallels my own experience. Most people, including me, have no business buying a home.  But home ownership is such a touchstone of the 'American Dream' as it is marketed to the masses.  I remember a Captain America story from the sometime in the eighties (I think) during one of the recurring phases when the Captain was going through a period of disillusionment with America as it had become.  Using  the computer Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) had given him, he did a search for the term 'American Dream.'  He grumbled that almost all of the hits were for real estate brokers and developments.  

Morford also touches a nerve in describing how unsatisfying home ownership can be.  My late ex-husband and I bought ours in Colorado back in the mid eighties.  We were lucky in some ways.  As veterans we went through the VA and the mortgage was standard 30 year with a low fixed interest rate.  Even so, we were house poor from the beginning.  L-ex-H  had a couple of expensive hobbies and he quickly found he couldn't pursue them.  I quickly found out (again) that his promises were just about worthless.  The projects he eagerly started he soon left half done and the chores he equally eagerly agreed to were also left for someone else, usually me.  Even necessary maintenance was neglected because we had so little cash left.  I could go on but it isn't necessary.  I think you get the picture.  What did I learn from the experience?  Unless I was in a good financial situation where I could afford to maintain the house properly and could save a contingency fund to cover emergencies, I would be far happier renting.  

I was also amazed by how much I did not know, and did not even know I did not know, about the financing and maintenance of a home before I got into it.  I feel sorry for all the first time home buyers lured by mortgages slightly lower than their rent payments.  No one mentions the insurance, taxes, or increased utilities.  The nearly eight years we were in that house also knocked some of the optimism out of my personality.  We had assumed that we would be better off (pay raises, better jobs, whatever) at the end.  We were not.  The only good thing about the experience was entirely beyond our control.  We were able to sell fairly quickly at a time when housing prices were rising rapidly.  As a result, homeownership fell off my list of what constitutes the good life for me.

Morford's  conclusion is right on target:

"But it's certainly worth reconsidering. It's worth pondering that, in this time of tremendous upheaval and mandatory change, maybe we've been thinking about our identity, about the required ingredients for the American Dream, all wrong. And maybe owning a home, right along with buying an American car, is one of the great myths that's overdue for a revolution."

I don't know about anyone else but I loved Nancy Pelosi's sound bite at the news conference concerning the non-deal for the automakers' bailout loan.  "If they can't show us the plan, we can't show them the money."  I can't believe these 'businessmen' could go into those hearings, which were essentially a loan application meeting with their 'bankers,' with no coherent business plan to present.  If that had been you or me, the banker would have shown us the door with his boot.  Unbelievable arrogance!!  It looks, to me, as though they thought all they had to do was threaten a couple million jobs and the legislators would cave in.  When it comes to bailing out the auto industry, I am of a very divided mind.  A year and a half ago, four of my relatives worked in jobs supplying the industry directly.  Today that is down to two, maybe three if the new job one relative landed involves production for autos.  One has had three jobs in the last eight months and another has had extensive periods of layoff.  The 'collateral damage' is going to be tremendous.

It is time for breakfast so I will close down for now. 

1 comment:

Kay Dennison said...

The snow came here again -- a couple inches this time. Could you possibly ask it to go to Michigan? Those Wolverines deserve it!!! LOL

I agree with you about ownership --it's a huge responsibility with all the maintenance expense and labor. I worked in the mortgage industry for 5 years and saw lots of people buried by predatory lenders.

I've been offered the opportunity to buy a home but I don't think I will -- I just think it would be too huge a burden for me.