“You could own your own house for what you’re paying in rent,” said everyone I know who was buying a house in 2005.
The lease on the crappy apartment I rented after the break up with my fiance was coming to an end. We had been together for three years and after a tumultuous engagement, we cancelled the wedding and I moved out of our apartment into my new bachelor pad. I had very little money in a 401K retirement account and even less in my meager checking account. My savings account balance was $5 because that was the minimum amount you needed to maintain to keep a savings account open at my credit union. The one bedroom apartment in the dilapidated building on Ponce de Leon Avenue was sparsley furnished with a green couch (covered in white cat hair) and coffee table I purchased 3 years before from Rooms-To-Go; a second-hand queen size bed that sank into a depression in the center and my cat’s litter box. My TV sat on a folding chair up against a wall in the living room. A DVD player rested on the floor underneath it. It was the poor man’s entertainment cabinet. This tableau told any visitor that I was a man who had nowhere to go but up in life. My bedroom window faced the busy street and there was usually police, fire engine or ambulance sirens at 2 hour intervals throughout the day and night. The month before, my bicycle had been stolen from inside the hallway outside of my front door in broad daylight while I ate ramen noodles on my couch watching the SyFy Channel.
Every 3rd commercial was for a No Money Down mortgage with some random bank or sub-prime mortgage company. It all looked so easy. Two months before my lease expired, I contacted a real estate agent to take a look at some properties. Without proof of income or a down payment, I was pre-approved for a $300,000 mortgage. I knew that was absolutely insane. But every financial institution acted like I was crazy if I didn’t go out and buy a house for a family of four even though it was just me and my cat. I did some calculations and determined that what I currently paid in rent at my crappy apartment would equate to the mortgage payment on a $175,000 loan. In less than 30 days I found and closed on a small townhouse in my price range. I had made an investment in my future. What would that future be? Anything was better than the present. I began to imagine that in 5 short years, the townhouse would appreciate enough that I could sell it and walk away with enough money to have a real savings account and not live paycheck to paycheck. Everyone else seemed to be doing it. Why not me?
The following year, everything went to shit. The market crashed. The value of my townhouse dropped almost $75,000!!! I was what they called “underwater.” Which is financial lingo for “you’re drowning, running out of air quickly and soon you’ll be dead.” Even in the years that followed, sales people still tried shilling how real estate was a great investment. “Buy now! The rates are going to go up soon!” And I imagine it was, for everyone now buying properties at REALLY low prices in short sales, foreclosures and bankruptcies. I hung on with the hope of someday just getting out of the property. Just breaking even. Gone were my dreams and hopes of actually making a profit.
Life carried on. My life got better. I met a nice girl. I got married. I found my calling in life in comedy, writing and storytelling. I traveled. I performed. I made new friends. The economy improved. Ten years later, I put my townhouse on the market and it sold in less than a month. I FINALLY made a profit!! Behold the riches that were bestowed upon me!