If you have read or watched the news over the past year and a half or so, you know all about "this economy". I remember when the commercials started in with it...when Target started talking about "Recessionistas" it was almost cool. Now every other ad mentions "this economy" and tries to make a moving, encouraging statement by showing a doctor and a construction worker sharing the same park bench for lunch. Whatever.
One of the more focused-on aspects of "this economy" is foreclosure. It's always happened, but never before has it been happening to so many people. I became one of those people this year.
My name is Jenny, and I lost my house. Nice to meet you.
Truth be told, I didn't lose it, I gave it back. I never sought out to become one of the statistics, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I did. I am not proud of it, nor am I ashamed. It does not define who I am, and it also doesn't define my worth as a person. I decided to speak out about it even before it happened in order to give this mysterious, scary experience a human face. I want to show people that it's not just lazy, irresponsible homeowners who end up in this situation. It could very well be your neighbor.
So, to paraphrase one of my favorite bands in the universe, "Well, how did I get here??". Let me tell ya about it.
If you've read thus far you know that Big Daddy and I bought our little house from my dad. It was the house that Dad and Mom bought in 1969, when they were fresh transplants from an Army base in Virginia. A tiny, 4 bedroom house with a nice big yard in the heart of suburban utopia. I was 3 at the time. We lived there up until my dad and mom went their separate ways, after which my dad kept the house and rented it out right up until that little 3 year old came back with her own hubby and baby.
Big Daddy, as I've mentioned, refinanced twice, and took out one huge Home Equity line of credit. Yes, how awful of the mortgage company to borrow money to people like that, but boo freaking hoo. It happened. I have vague memories of him doing this, we had a very Ozzie and Harriet-type lifestyle which kept me pregnant and in the kitchen and him being The Man. He paid the bills (most of the time) and I took care of the hearth and home. Which is all well and good, unless The Man is spending a lot of time preparing to split, and then things get icky.
So, the last big loan was taken out after Big Daddy had left me for the first time, and had set up a "bachelor pad" in a nearby apartment. We were still married, but things were awful and well on their way to becoming irreparable. After the wheels of divorce started turning, I had a chance to see exactly what kind of hole I had been dug into. That's when I got my first real stab of fear.
Our house was valued at around $200,000.00. The three loans that were taken out on the house equaled approximately $300,000.00. This is what's now called an "upside down" situation, or in my words, a "totally fucked" situation.
I now know that the number one mistake that women make when getting divorced is demanding to keep the family home. I even remember barking out at Big Daddy, "Fine, you get the bills, I get the kids and the house!!". Even in the best situations, taking over a home is too much for most women. At the time we split, Big Daddy was making a nice income. I received a pretty decent alimony and child support amount (one friend referred to it as "movie star" alimony, lol). That said, I also received full custody of 3 house payments, one car payment, one furnace/central air loan payment, and a plethora of other nickel and dime debts. Whenever I figure out how to travel back in time, my second stop will be back to that moment, where I will whisper in my ear, "Give up the house."
Things were actually going pretty smoothly for about a year after we were finalized. I discovered that I was fairly adept at running the finances for a family. This was a pleasant surprise...prior to this, I didn't even know our checking account number. I had a budget, stuck to it, and was on track to be debt-free in less than five years. Things were just peachy.
And then, the peach went bad. And like a box of strawberries from Costco, once it started going bad it went FAST.