…despite the politicians’ rhetoric, it is not hard to understand why America is in trouble.
First, there has been too much madcap real estate speculation. In recent years, housing prices were driven sky-high on the expectation that almost anyone, often with little security, could profit by borrowing easy money to buy and sell property.
Too many investors lost the old pedestrian notion that the purpose of a house was to be a home in which to live, to raise a family and to take pride in ownership. Its acquisition used to be a multi-year, if not once-in-a-lifetime, investment — not quite comparable to the easy buying or selling of volatile paper stocks and bonds. Others did not have the means to afford the type of home they purchased, once risky variable interest rates climbed.
Back when I lived in Convent Station, Morris County, NJ, I used to sell houses.
I advised every single one of my two-salaried customers to buy the house they could afford with only one salary.
I always had the customer speak to a mortage rep and discuss not only the no-documentation, low-downpayment adjustable rate mortagages but also the fifteen-year 25% down mortages. Once the customers could make the numbers and see the difference, a surprising number opted for the 15-yr mortagage.
Each one of those customers is free of mortgage debt right now.
A lot of real estate agents (who rely on a commission to make a living, and the commission is paid by the seller most of the time) would insist that their buyers overstretch with the wildest possible financing. Obviously I have a different mindset from theirs.
The reason was simple: I started a carreer in real estate when my husband got laid off from his job at Allied Corporation, and I knew there were more layoffs coming. He was not in a unique situation: within two years, the major employers in the Morris County area, Allied, AT&T, Henkel and Exxon had major layoffs. I mean ALL of these employers, at the same time. I wasn’t psychic, I just had enough contacts that worked in managerial/supervisory jobs in those companies to know there was reason to be cautious.
People who had purchased the most expensive house they could – most frequently having only enough money left to buy a kitchen table and chairs, furnish the bedroom(s) they slept in, and purchasing a sofa and a TV for the family room – were left in desperate straits when one of the salaries disappeared.
There was a glut of ten-room houses on the market. Imagine hundreds of ten room houses with most of their rooms empty signalling to the buyers that the owners are hurting and have to sell. The ones that overstretched ended up owing money to the bank when the houses finally sold at a much lower price than they bought them.
Economies are cyclical. As a homeowner, it is your personal responsibility to you and your family to not gamble on your family’s basic need for shelter.
In the larger issue of the economy, VDH continues,
First, at this late date, Republicans shouldn’t vote for any candidate who promises another tax cut without first offering a matching slash in expenditures. And Democrats should reject any candidate who promises another multi-billion dollar entitlement without detailing how the additional revenue is to be raised.
Second, instead of demanding new billion-dollar programs for health care and education, we should take more responsibility for our own welfare.
Americans need to readjust their budget priorities. One might be able to believe that a $200 dollar a month private catastrophic health plan is out of the reach of most Americans — if we were also to hear that sales of video games, cell phones and plasma televisions have crashed.
Third, we need to ignore the alarmist hysteria, calm down and appreciate that life is better than at any time in the last 5,000 years of civilization. People are living longer; we’re healthier; and millions of Americans have the opportunities to travel, communicate and avoid physical drudgery that were once reserved only for a tiny aristocracy. There is plenty of excess in modern American life that can be shed without real hardship.
Finally, we must view our present economic challenges in a larger philosophical and ethical framework — and redefine success as being able to pay off what we owe, and spend only what we earn.