Tuesday, August 5, 2008

YIKES! I Never Thought of That!

I found a fantastic article via my absolute favorite source for post-bubble news/housing crash news: http://patrick.net/housing/crash.html. The article that I followed from Patrick's website is: The Housing Market's Double Bubble: The Big One Still Has Yet To Pop.

It's a very informative article that explains the housing mess clearly. It brings up something I hadn't considered before though and the thought of it was frightening! All those folks who had moved out to the boonies in order to find an affordable home, can no longer afford the gas to commute back and forth from work to home and vice verse. They can't even afford the homes that they are living in and the loss of equity and the terrible location makes it impossible for them to sell their homes. So what are these folks going to do? They're going to try to move closer to their jobs, to places like Burbank! Yikes!

What does that mean for us? I've been thinking about this a lot, after the horror of it settled in my mind. Clearly this means that there will be more competition for rentals, as most are going to walk away from their homes, so they will be unable to buy another home, they'll be renters, just like me. And what does competition for rentals mean for me? Higher rental prices caused by competition and the lack of rentals! Sure there are all those foreclosed houses that we could rent, but have you seen the prices they want for a house rental? You'll be lucky to touch one at $2000 a month, but most are about $2500 to $2900, representing the mortgage payment for an overpriced home, that the prior owner couldn't afford in the first place. So the problem is that housing rentals won't be an option for many of us. Instead we'll be stuck in apartments and duplexes, etc.

I wonder if an influx of outside folks has been driving the cost of renting in Burbank up in the first place? I mean I understood that present Burbank residents have been stuck in their current rentals, because they couldn't afford the new rental prices in the neighborhood, but I hadn't considered all the people who were walking away from their homes and moving into my neighborhood because of it. I HAD thought about people being forced into rentals because they lost their homes, but I HADN'T thought about people coming from outskirt areas like Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Palmdale to live in my neighborhood because they couldn't afford the gas.

When does this nightmare end?

And what about the stagnant price of homes. Sure they are dropping, but not as much as you would think considering the buyer pool has pretty much dryed up. Even given this, people still think that if they hold on to their homes, eventually us folks will be able to afford them at bubble prices, but we're talking years here, right? Many of us won't want to wait that long. We'll have moved out of the area long before that. Still, people aren't dropping their prices. I've seen decreases in my neighborhood, but nothing substantial. Some homes in Burbank increased over 150% in only 3-4 years! That's crazy! The prices need to come down. Anyway, I can't understand what banks and sellers are thinking.

If they know we don't have the incomes or the crazy loans to afford to purchase their homes, then who do they think is going to buy them?

It seems so simple to me. 1+1 doesn't equal 2.

The whole housing mess scenario seems almost surreal, completely unbelievable. It's like a crazy nightmare and the things you think would never happen are happening, like the screaming high gas prices, that serve only to add salt to our wounds, further bringing our nation down. It's almost like there's a crazy puppeteer looming above us, laughing hysterically with fiendish delight, as he lays one whopper after another on us. It's crazy and denial is rampant. No, I'm not getting paranoid, I'm just baffled by all of this and I'm trying to make sense of it all with some level of humor.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why Don't I Just Move From This "Bad-Ass" Place?

Thank you for your comments! I have enjoyed each and every one of them, and have learned a ton, and that's the point of this blog, right? For us to educate and support one another. I've gotten some great responses, and I ask you to be sure to read through all the comments to my first post, even the ridiculous, ignorant and pretty much crazy responses too!

Having said that, I'd like to respond to a common question that I am getting, which is:

"Why don't you move if it's so bad?"

That's a great point and one that I have considered over and over again. The main reason why I don't move is economical. You have to have a job to move, right? Our jobs are here in Burbank, and we're unable to transfer. My husband is the manager of his department. He landed this great position the beginning of the year, working his way up over the last 10 plus years. I just went back to work this year. I LOVE my job, and although I've got great job skills, I need to re-establish myself in the employment market, as I have been off of work for over 8 years taking care of my kids. I would like to give it at least two years to show some sort of job stability. Also, as I said before, I'm going to school part-time. I've thought of stopping that and going back to work full-time, but I really think I should continue taking classes no matter what. I'm not looking forward to juggling home, family, school and work again starting next month, but it's all for the better, right?

The second factor that keeps me staying here is my kids. The schools are great in Burbank, and I don't want to uproot them until I know that I am going to stay put in the area that I move them to. I was moved around quite a bit as a kid, and I know how difficult that is on a child. This is a personal choice, that's important to me.

There are other points that keep me here, but those are the main ones. I agree, moving out of the area would be a great idea, but it's not happening at this point. It's something I contemplate regularly. I've studied cities all over the nation, but I always get stumped on how to go about finding a job when I'm 100s of miles away. And how would I pay for the transportation to that area to interview? And what job skills or education do I have that would land me said job? Lots to think about, and believe me, I'm thinking. I've often said humorously that I'll probably get my retirement home before I get my home here. That still may be the case the way the housing market is going.


I stated this in one of my comments on the first article I wrote, but I think it's important I say it here:

Burbank was not as expensive when I moved here 17 years ago.

This is a very important point. You could rent a two bedroom apartment for as low as $850 and a house for $1100, as early as 2001. The price of rent jumped hundreds of dollars by 2005, and here we are. Lots of families with median incomes of $51K live here. These families were priced out of the market quickly. I'm not sure what's happened to some of them. A lot of families on my block are simply stuck in their apartments, or living with several other families to make ends meet.

I received a comment that because all of the tenants didn't move from their apartments when the prices were raised signified that the rents raised anywhere from $200-$300 more a month were accurate and true market value, so what was I complaining about, right? TENANTS CANNOT MOVE BECAUSE THE PRICE OF RENTS ARE HIGHER IN THE AREA. The point this guy missed is that the rents only recently have gotten as high as $1500-$1650 a month for a two bedroom over the last couple of years. AND that it's only because of the lack of rentals and the housing mess that these landlords are able to take advantage of the tenants and charge exorbitant prices for their rentals. Do you understand what I mean? I can see increases of maybe 10 to 15%, but my landlord increased my neighbors rents between 25 to 34% more a month. Could you imagine what it would be like to receive a notice that your cost of housing would increase 34% as of the very next month? How would you afford it? They can barely afford the increases let alone move to another place that's even more ridiculously priced.

Let's think of it another way, okay?

My name is Mary and I am a single parent of one child. I make $30K a year working as an Administrative Assistant. Okay, so by the time Uncle Sam takes his approximate 25% of my income in taxes, I have a whopping $22,500 a year to live off of. Okay, so now lets think monthly, alright? I have approximately $1875 a month for living expenses, correct? Well not if you're my husband, 'cause he forks out about $300 a month in insurance costs, (more and more businesses are requiring their employees to acquire some of the cost of health insurance). But we'll forget about the out-of-pocket insurance costs at this point, 'cause I'd have to recalculate taxes and everything to deduct them.

Anyway, she's got $1875 for all expenses, right? So her two bedroom apartment has been raised to $1500 a month. Yikes! That only leaves her with $375 a month, right? Okay, well maybe she can move to a smaller, one-bedroom in Burbank, right? That would only be about $1200, right? She'll have $675 for all of her other costs, right? We're talking car insurance, food, utilities, etc. If she's lucky, she'll break even each month. Do you get my point? More than 50% of her income goes to housing. What's worse is that most people don't even make that much money. You see job listings for $10 an hour regularly in the L.A. area. How the heck do people do it?

Now I realize that a few economic geniuses who think they are so much smarter than the rest us of L.A. ignorants will rip this scenario to pieces, but this is a true reality for most people. You need us to live in these neighborhoods to do these jobs. We have to live somewhere, and there's no way that we can commute from miles away, 'cause we can't afford the gas.

Whose going to do those jobs for you? My point in saying this is that a few folks have questioned why myself and others stay in Los Angeles if we can't afford it, suggesting that we choose to live beyond our means in this luxurious, "bad-ass" place even though we can't afford it. You should be addressing this question to millions of us Los Angelians, and not just myself, and here would be the most common, general response:

We live here because there are jobs here, and at one point we could afford it, that and a myriad of different reasons personal to each of us, and too vast to cover here.

We live here, because you need us to live here, so we can do those medial jobs you don't want to do.

But it's not just people in medial jobs that suffer...

Pretty soon, none of us will be able to live here, including teachers, firemen, policemen, etc., because we can't afford it, that or we'll all need Section 8 assistance to afford the cost of living, which you will pay for. Do you get my point?

I think it's important that we dig deeper and see how bad this situation really is in order to get out of this mess.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What Will Happen to Us Renters?

I'm so stinkin' frustrated, it's not even funny! I have been stuck in my apartment for the last 10 years! I didn't even unpack my boxes for the first two of those years; only those things necessary to live day-to-day, as I was certain I'd get out of here well before now, and back into a house as an owner, not a renter. As the years passed, more and more boxes were opened and as of now, I'm reluctantly painting the inside of my apartment, as I don't think I'll be moving out anytime soon. My landlord refuses to change the old carpet, amongst many other things. So here I am...stuck.

What really ticks me off is that we, (my husband and I), decided that I should stay home with the kids shortly after the birth of my second child), and believe me, we took quite a lumping from the lack of my income, but it was that or fork out $1000 a month for our two little ones to be cared for by a stranger. We made the right choice, right? I wonder...anyway, let me get to what really ticks me off. What makes me really mad is that now I am back to work part-time, as a Curriculum Aide, AND my husband landed a new position, a promotion that increased our monthly income substantially, and we still CANNOT AFFORD TO MOVE! Why is this? Because of the flippin' housing market. That's why. Here we are, hard working individuals, who literally missed the boat to buying a home while it was somewhat affordable, and now we are unable to move, because landlords are taking advantage of us here in Burbank, California.

Let me give you an example of my landlord's greediness. She strolls around the building like a Queen Bee. Her husband passed away about two years ago, and after that she made some changes; changes that cost us all a heap of cash. Sure we thought she was wonderful when she added the beautiful flower pots around the pool, but that was about it. And it cost us renters plenty. She's got 15 of us in this building, and last year she increased our rent at unbelievable amounts. I lucked out. I only pay $100 a month more for this little gem of an apartment, but my neighbors across the way saw anything from $200 to $300 more a month. I freaked when I learned of this! How could she do this and show her face around the building? How could she do this knowing how bad the economy is for so many of us? The point is she didn't care, and probably was offsetting her own financial struggles by tapping into her tenants pocket books. One of the renters asked her why she did this and her response was that the City of Burbank had gotten on her about having such "low" rents and needing to raise them to keep up with the rest of the rents in the area. Is she for real?

Here's our struggle...no one is moving. None of us can afford to move. The average cost to rent an apartment in Burbank is about $1500 to $1650 a month. And believe me, these places for rent are nothing special. Many are quite old with a couple of "updates" to try and justify the high price they are asking for rents.

So what does this mean to me? I can't move. I get sick every day when I think about it. My landlord knows this. She raised it to just under the price to rent somewhere else. Unlike some people, there is no family to help us to get into a home. We're doing it all on our own. I pay $1300 a month to our landlord and she's living the good life as a result of it. She's brilliant and I'm the dummy, right?

So what do I do about it? Not only do I go back to work part-time, but I go back to school. It's never too late, right? It's never too late to get a college education? How the heck else am I going to get out of here without getting decent dollars coming in? I struggle and work hard while raising a family, going to school and working, and all the while I'm pulling off "A"s, but I can't help but feel sometimes like what's the point? Especially since learning of the bailout this weekend. I sent my letters opposing the bailout, but the government isn't looking out for folks like us people who didn't jump into unaffordable mortgages because we were logical enough to realize that we couldn't afford the price of homes. Here's where I get really angry.


That's what I want to know. It's a bunch of crap that you got talked into it. You were greedy. You wanted a home like everyone else. Maybe you became afraid that you may never be able to get home, like myself, so you took a chance, hoping against hope that some day down the road you would be able to afford more than an interest only payment, but come on! You knew you couldn't afford the home you were buying. Now you are making me and others who have never ever owned a home suffer as a result of it. I'm angry at you for this as much as I am the lenders and the stupid speculators that did this to us!

What is my government doing for me and all the other renters and first time buyers who can't afford to buy?


So here I am...the logical one, the idiot who didn't take on more than she could afford. The one who stayed home and struggled for years in order to care for her kids, but cannot afford to move anywhere. We are hard workers, what about us government?

Instead, you are helping the rich, the speculators, the dummies, who bought homes that they couldn't afford. It's called greed, and you are funding it, and families like mine are suffering because of it. A $7500 credit is not going to help me buy a home. And your bailout is going to slow the lowering of homes values, which will only hurt families like us even more. Here's the point Uncle Sam. Please hear me:

We cannot afford the homes that are for sale, therefore there aren't enough buyers. The homes were never affordable in the first place, that's why we got into this mess. If the prices are too high for us to pay the monthly mortgage, the price of the homes has to come down!

It's simple. We can't afford the homes, and the "Mickey-Mouse" loans are gone, so the buyer pool has been virtually eliminated. Hello? Are you listening?

Please explain how the bailout plan is going to help us renters and want-to-be home buyers? Please explain this to me and give us some hope.