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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Dream That Was

I have always wanted to own a house. I believe in real estate as a long term investment. My husband sees buying a house as an encumbrance, a ball and chain. When we came to California, from France, over two decades ago we were given a couple of opportunities by different landlords, who would have agreed to lease-option/rent to buy terms. For a $10,000 down payment we would have had our feet on the rungs of the property ladder and avoided a lot of disruptive moves that have happened when our rental homes have been sold out from under us. Not to mention truck loads of monthly rent money being flushed down the toilet.
My life/work world is with construction and remodeling. Many of my friends are designers, architects and builders. I love suggesting a practical solution to an on-site problem and seeing it worked out successfully. Add to that my passion for gardening, which had one home in which we lived photographed for a front page feature on curb-appeal, and I have no doubts that I can improve the value of just about any property.
My dream of home ownership was always on the back burner. I couldn't force my husband to do something he was so against and I had no independent means at hand. When it turned out that there was indeed something left over after my parents' demise, something I had not imagined would be the case, I thanked them mentally and started to rework the dream into a possibility.
My plan was to provide a substantial down payment so that Lovely Daughter and her husband could get a starter home. My investment was not a gift. We would calculate a percentage of ownership and re-evaluate in five years. They would pay the mortgage, which would be affordable, due to my down payment and they would get the tax deductions and be paying to own their own place, rather than rent.
My husband was against it. (No big surprise there!). This time it was not his call to make.
Lovely Daughter and her Man are young. In the early days of our plan they had a wish list of size, condition, amenities and location which put us in a price range that was beyond our reach. The intensity of the search has waxed and waned over the last year and a half; backing off after the initial enthusiasm, as the reality of their options set in. They have re-signed their lease a couple of times as they pay less that way. Each time it pushes back our timing.
The fact that home prices have dropped and that they have compromised on how far they are willing to commute to work, amongst other things, was keeping my hopes alive.
I'm not sure that there is a glimmer of hope left now, hence my recent melt down. I have been applying chunks of my inheritance to plug the gaps in our business, buy inventory, etc. The theory being that I will get it back one day. Anyone who has ever owned a small business knows how unlikely that is. The black holes in our solar system cannot swallow up what a small business can.
Up until now, the plummeting price of real estate has almost kept pace with my diminishing stockpile of funds. I have lowered my sights from being 1/3 owner to putting up 15%. It would have been achievable. The kids worked at having great credit ratings. They have the advantage of a low interest loan from Veterans' Affairs, due to son-in-law's service in The Marines.
The last week or two has been full of clients, happy with work we have completed but not planning on paying us until after the end of the year, WTF? I went to the bank to do what I must do to pay our bills and am now trying to face the fact that "What Might Have Been" may well be over, with no way to get it back.


  1. It's already hard enough to accept that a dream is not to be, but it's exponentially more difficult when that dream also involved the well-being/security of one's child. If there is still a way to pull this off, I do sincerely hope you find it.

    This is said with tongue in cheek (mostly, but sort of not), but in desperate times, go to the top of the nearest hill and ask the universe for help. You've got nothing to lose.

  2. This is a truly heartbreaking post for me because I understand. After wanting my own home foe so long my mother helped us to achieve my goal (not my husband's) prior to her death by refinancing her own home to free the necessary deal we made to a lender to whom we owed a $20,000 balloon payment in five years. I inherited my mother's home, along with her credit card debt, and was able to sell the house before prices dropped so that we cleared just enough to pay off her debt and our balloon payment a few years early. We've had our home for 11 years now and we love the sweet little place. I've gone into this detail to share that my dream came to be via a rocky road that was worth the angst, juggling act, and living on a wing and a prayer. I, like Deborah, hope that you find a way to give birth to your dream.

  3. I would guess that this post would resonate strongly with millions and millions of your faithful readers here. It sure did with me, as I read through it while a lump kept getting bigger in my throat. The economics of financial dismay have taken a powerful toll over the past year for many, dreams have gone up in smoke, as people retreat to the trenches of survival. A friend from high school wrote not long ago and told me he was working two jobs to survive, one at day, one at night, and taking naps in between. We stretched ourselves to the limits when we took the plunge of home ownership 9 years ago, and have been on the edge ever since, with little in the way of savings, what really worries me is whether we will be able to afford higher education for our daughters... I keep telling them to work hard, hard, hard, so they hopefully may be able to qualify for some sort of scholarship somewhere. Money... as Pink Floyd said, is the root of all evil today. I sincerely hope you will prosper with the business to the point of being able to reach the goals you've mentioned here. And your writing, your writing is poignant and powerful, goes straight to the heart, especially here when speaking of things we can all relate to... someone should be paying you for your writing skills...

  4. The dream that is.

    The dream that has been deferred, not, in my humble opinion surrendered (just to be annoyingly positive). It lives vividly, brightly shining, in this heartfelt and exceedingly honest post.

    And, if you think for one minute that I am not rowing in a similarly crafted boat, with only minorly different decorative details, you got another think comin', ma chère English Rider.

    And if you think I'm in the Yucatán just to wear flowered dresses; speak Spanish; eat great, affordable food; get hypnotized out of my pain; and wonder/wander against the backdrop of a popsicle-blue sky stuffed to overflowing with jumbo cumulonimbus clouds you must check my hidden agenda.

    I'd learn a new language and culture for a house of my own...

  5. Things happen and dreams are usually the first to suffer.
    I used to have the "normal" life. I worked hard, went to school full time to up my degrees..I had it all. To include one of the best pieces of property in the entire county. A huge fairly new house on 21 acres up in the mountains...I made those 1,000.00 a month house payments for nine years.....

    It all came crashing down one night with a phone call from a trama center.

    I have owned my own house, 125 years old, on two acres in the city, for several years now.

    I did it on about 500.00 a month and in that I was feeding the three children that were still in need of food. I have always refused Govt handouts or charity of any kind.

    I don't care what people may think of me. My children never put a bite of welfare food in their mouths. The horror stories I could tell of the things done to my family because I refused the govt.

    Rancho was missing part of its roof... I paid 20,000. for the land and repaired the house myself.

    Re-work that dream. When those outstanding bills get paid... ALWAYS pay yourself back FIRST!

  6. Good luck with your dream,I have a similar one.

  7. I think we should solve the problem by pooling our resources and all living together once we're on our own since, for one reason or another, we're probably not all that certain of having mates in later life. But where? The south of France is pretty nice, but Mexico is probably cheaper, although there are the mosquitos to consider. Canada's winter is not for the unititiated and the US doesn't have French health care. The Falkland Islands?

  8. All, your comments are kind and too moving for me to respond individually. Thank you for sharing your own stories.

  9. I have been through a similar situation myself, ER. Now, at the age of 48, I am back on the ladder but on the very bottom rung. I regret a lot of things from my past - especially as I expected to be sitting pretty at my current age. It isin't to be and unfortunately no one is going to help me or you. We have to make the most of it.
    Which brings me neatly back to the starching of the man's underwear as I mentioned in the two previous posts. Holy Moley, ER? Are you listening to me?

  10. Dave, Great idea. I'll let you know how it turns out. My Mum always advocated spitting in the soup.