Saturday, March 04, 2006

Well the shoe dropped.....

You see the title of this blog don't you?

Well the shoe dropped yesterday and big time.

I had taken yet another Friday off to work on my research paper and do a little housecleaning in between. Everything was going well until I received a phone call about 11 am from our landlord (LL) & neighbor. He owns the ten wooded acres we live on and his house is next door just through the trees. He asked how I was doing and then proceeded to tell me he's selling the house. Not his house, but this house, the little stone cottage in the woods that we have come to love for nearly five years. I was devastated. I mean DH and I had dreams of paying off three credit cards and our new car all in less than two years so we could be debt free and buy some land and build the home of our dreams, at least we'd be in the position to do that.

LL tells me that he really needs to sell this half of the property because he wants to pay off the second mortgage on his own home and debt he has incurred. He is divorced with a child he shares custody of and I know that things have been tight for him. He's talked of selling this property before but we figured it would be a while. He asked us if we wanted to buy it, and as pretty as it is here, we refused to pay him $140,000 for five acres of woods and a 500 SF cottage.

Anyway when LL dropped the bombshell yesterday I just started bawling. What else could I do? Five months till our lease is up and it just isn't enough time to find something. It's going to be difficult too because the students come back and many have already secured their housing for fall. We've come to know this cottage in the woods as home not to mention it's so expensive to live in this area, housing prices and rent are just so ridiculously high and it is very hard to find a decent place to live. We were lucky we found this cottage when we did, it took us two months after we got married to find it.

Back to yesterday, when I was finished bawling and LL told me he was sorry (and I believe he truly was), LL proceeded to tell me about his friend wanting to buy the place and then it turns out it's his girlfriend who is divorced and wants to sell her house and buy something else. I don't know the particulars but I asked him "what if you guys get married eventually?" and he said "well I guess I'll have my place back". Now it just doesn't make sense for her to buy this place and live next door to him. What happens if they break up?

LL and his GF are coming over today so she can see the place. My mom said maybe we should leave it messy so it would turn her off but no, I'm going to have it clean like I always do. I'm not going out of my way but the place is never a mess and it won't be when she sees it. But it's small, very small. It's fine for one person but an older woman in her fifties probably would not want to live in such cramped quarters. The closet is small, the bathroom is small, there is no tub, the place requires a lot of upkeep as far as vaccuuming cobwebs and such. It requires spraying every two months to keep the palmetto bugs, spiders and other woodsy florida pests away. LL did say that there's a chance she might not want it and if she doesn't, DH and I want to talk to him about us staying here for two years. We want a two year lease. That allows us the time we need to pay things off. Then he can do whatever he wants. I know he doesn't want to sell this half of the property, trust me, he loves it here. But the way land prices are skyrocketing, he could get a nice chunk for this. So I can't blame him for wanting to sell.

The thing is that dropping this bombshell FIVE months before our lease is up, gives us no time at all. We can't live in an apartment. Ok we can, but we don't want to because DH has a workshop here with tools and saws and such and he likes to work outside and in his shop. Where would we put all those things in the shop? In storage? Second, I've lived in apartments, they are noisy, especially with all the college students around, and people key your car and do mean things and it's just not how we want to live. We need the quiet. As to rental homes, you can't find a decent rental home near $500 or $600 per month (we pay $420 for the cottage now, actually we paid $400 up till this past November he raised the rent to help cover insurance costs on his own house). Rental homes in this area average about $1200 per month.

Sadly, we're not in the position to buy a house either, I checked how much house we can afford and if we didn't have this debt, we could afford double the amount that the calculator indicated we can afford now. And what we can currently afford now isn't enough to buy a decent house, not in this area. Housing prices are so ridiculous, upwards of $250,000. It's just LUDICROUS. And land in this area is up to $30,000 an acre or more. Hell DH and I have seen where land is $75,000 for ONE acre.

LL felt bad but what can he do? He is nearly sixty and wants to pay off his house and have some $$ for retirement later on. Who are DH and me to stand in the way of that? In the meantime, I am really upset, I'm supposed to work on my paper today while DH is working on his genealogy research at the library up in Jacksonville. He wanted to give me some time to work but really I just dont feel like it. I feel like it would be time better spent hunting for a place to live. Last night I didn't sleep well beecause I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a solution to our problem. I even went so far as to think that maybe we should buy a second car, put everything in storage and DH should move up to Pennsylvania and live at his mom's house and work making good money in Philly (he says he'd make a lot more than he does here) and I would live at my grandmother's here and I'd commute to my job and we'd work to pay this stuff off in one year and then he'd move back down here and we could find a place and be in a better position. It would be a tough 12 months but we could do it. I guess I was just looking at every option ya know?

You probably think that we have a lot of debt right? It's not nearly what other people have but for us it's a lot. It bugs us to pieces too. We have a new car, a Corolla, which we owe till August 2008 and the interest is only 3.69%, we have three credit cards, one which is mine that I carried into our marriage, the interest ranges on parts of the balance, from 6.7 to 10.9% and I owe about $19,000, and DH has two credit cards (he only had one when we got married and he had NO debt!), and his cards are 3.7 and 8.9% interest and he owes a total of about $8,000. Between these and our car, we consider it a lot of debt for us.

All we know about finances we learned from reading books, listening to Clark Howard and the Motley Fools. We know what to do, we just didnt' do it fast enough and now look where we are. So realy this is our own fault. Even though our FICO score is rated "excellent" and we are the perfect people to give a loan to, the interest rates are climbing, so if we don't buy now, later on it could be higher. But we can't afford to buy now. So...we may have to wait. Dad says that if we wait till to buy a home till we're ready (kinda like we're doing with children), we'll never buy one. He's probably right. The perfect time will never reveal itself. But the thing is that we just do not feel comfortable buying right now. Everyone else thinks we should but hell we just can't.

But is that what it takes to get through this? I don't know. All I know is that I am extremely depressed about having to uproot our lives and start over. I'm angry too. I'm angry at LL for doing this to us, for giving us FIVE friggin' months notice when he knows it's so hard to find a place to live in this town, I'm angry at myself for not having finished college when I was in my twenties, instead of dragging it out to my thirties and beyond, I'm angry that I didn't pay my debt off long before I got married and angry that we've been married nearly five years and didn't really do a good enough job getting it paid off, because it could have been paid off two years ago. I'm angry because I feel stuck in my job--I've been working at the same place for twelve years and even though I make pretty decent money now, I can't leave htis job and get another job anywhere else in this town because it would pay much less--that's what happens when you work at a place like this--raises and such lock you into making more at that place than on the outside and you wind up stuck there, I'm angry because we can't just pick up and move to a better location where there's more money, more jobs, and more of a fluctuation in housing prices, I'm angry that I'm going to be 37 this year and feel like I am so behind everyone else,. And finally, I am angry because during crisis, DH and I seem to fight more which makes coming together and finding a solution that much more difficult. Last night he said "I wish I had the money to buy this place". But you know as much as we love this place we'd never give LL what he wants for it, no way. We need a place of our own and that will happen in time, but it's just not the time.

In the meantime, if we have to leave, I'll really miss this place I cursed at first because it was so damn small and required a lot of maintenance and upkeep, I'll miss the blue jays, robins, cardinals, and assortment of wild birds that are in our yard daily, I'll miss the quiet, the woods, and the foxes, squirrels, turkeys,bobcats, coyotes and other wildlife. Is anyone going to feed the birds? I am guessing LL's girlfriend probably would. And then there's little stray Kitty. What are we going to do with little stray kitty who loves living outside? Who is going to take care of her? I don't think she'd want to be uprooted and we hadn't counted on adopting her. DH says we should but I just don't know. She might not like it elsewhere. These woods are her home too.

I'm the first one to say "everything happens for a reason" so I suppose it's time to find the silver lining in this cloud eh? I hope that either it emerges on its own or somehow I find it, but right now it doesn't feel like either is going to happen anytime soon.


  1. Well, I can certainly understand your predicament. And I completely sympathize with you.

    I know all about the ridiculous cost of living in this dinky little place, we had to go into deep debt just to move into a house that my family fits comfortably in (and our house isn't that big at all). When I drive around town and see all of the HUGE house, and even the not so huge ones that still cost $300,000, I wonder 'what do all these people do for a living that they can afford to buy these homes?' We did spring for a bit of land, which I am glad about.

    Anyway, I hope you are able to come to a resolution over this. If you need to talk or whatever, email me. Maybe I can help you think of places to look.

    Take care.

  2. Thanks Robin, I feel like I know you already. At least you know what I'm talking about in regards to this town so it really helps more than you know.

    DH and I believed we were the only ones who thought "where's all this money coming from" and "why the hell are these older 1960's block homes costing upwards of $250,000!!"

    I don't know what is driving the prices up but it's ridiculous and somewhat pathetic. There is a lack of affordable housing in this town and by that I mean housing for regular old middle class folks like us. Salaries across the board are generally low--DH and I do pretty good because of where we work but I've been there twelve years so with raises and promotions I'm making more there than I could ever make in any other part of town. We are for the most part--stuck in these jobs and stuck renting. I simply do not understand how all these $350,000 and up homes are being built. WHO is moving here? Where are the jobs? Because the average wages in this town could not possibly afford one of those homes.

    We're in Jonesville so I am sure you know right away the development going on here.

    It sucks.

  3. Anonymous3/04/2006

    Hey Jess! Sorry to hear about your problems. We totally know what you are talking about. The price of land and homes has sky rocketed all across the area. Have you seen what things are going for out here. We have 10 acres and a 1728 square foot house. If we had not gotten it when we did, we could have never afforded a place. Robert's parents gave us some land and Robert built the house himself. If it hadn't been for that I don't know where we would be right now. Places like ours are selling for $250,000 to $300,000 right now. The answer to who is buying is all the people moving down from up north and up from down south. The people in South Florida are so over crowded that they are selling for enormous amounts of money, moving up here and buying homes for $300,000 and still putting money in the bank. I think they are mostly retirees, so they are not in the job market. We have two retired neighbors that just bought property and moved in. Did you know that there is talk of 4 subdivisions being built in our little hometown? Things are really changing around here and I am not happy with the situation.

    On the upside, sometimes we get so comfortable and complacent where we are that we won't reach out and take a chance. God has to force us to make a change that will benefit our life. Embrace the adventure and change, because you don't really have any other alternative. There is no point in stressing out over situations you can't change. Perhaps you could rent an apartment for just a little while until you can make other arrangements. It's a shame property is so expensive. Still the best alternative may be to buy some acerage and have a house built. Good luck. Our prayers are with you.--st

  4. My wife and I ended up having to buy our first house in same situation: landlord wanted to sell, we weren't ready to move, the house we were in wasn't worth buying.

    I don't know how we did it - desparation does strange things to you - but we talked to a realtor that I had known thru some volunteer work and she put us in touch with a lender who could help.

    We didn't have as much dollar value debt as you, but we had poor payment history so we were considered sub-prime, yet we were able to find something.

    Something to consider: If they only want $140K for the house and 5 ac., would it make sense to try to buy and then build the house you *want* later?

    Talk to realtors and mortgage companies about the potential of a seller paying all closing costs. We sold that first home last year because I got transferred. Took a killing on the price, but had one offer to pay more than I was asking, but for me to cover all closing costs. One way, if you don't have up front cash, to finance it long term and maybe get into something.

    Of course there are the potential tax savings from buying a house - though that's not guaranteed. You have to itemize to get the deduction. With real estate prices as high as they are there... it might be a lot easier to reach the minimum. I only was able to itemize because of cumulative effect of kids, mortgage interest, state & real estate taxes. But that's another potential benefit.

    Don't get too despondent. Figure out the absolute worst case scenario, like split living arrangemnts for a year, consider that better than being on the street, and then explore better options from there.

    We only had three months, so realize 5 months isn't impossible. It's not ideal by any stretch.

    Our home prices are much, much lower in Texas, but I still can't figure out where all these people work who live in these homes, and even more than that, drive these expensive cars around.

    I make pretty good money, but I still drive a friggin Saturn.

  5. I'm having to face all my inadequacies and incompetencies and procrastinations this week, as we shovel out all our years' of accumulation to cram our family into a750SF apartment. There are good things coming out of the process - the kids don't really need every single toy they've ever had since they were babies, and we'll be better than before when we get simplified. But going through it is agonizing hell.

    You will get through it, and you will survive, and things will be better than they were, one way or another. This pain is temporary, and when you're done with it, you'll wonder why you were so scared...

  6. Bum news. I'm so sorry for you all. I do know, though that everything will work out for the best...It always does. It's good that you're investigating all of your options.