A few weeks ago, I was at a party, and I got caught up in a conversation with a friend’s boyfriend about whether or not an ISO 9001:2008 certified quality management system would benefit the success of a small real estate investment and/or property management business. My answer was a resounding yes, although I wasn’t sure it was necessary to spend the money on an actual certification — only a consultant to ensure it was implemented effectively — with convincing reasons to back it up. As the conversation progressed more towards management, multi-tasking and corporate communication and marketing ideas, the guy said to me, “Wow. I didn’t realize you were actually smart. I thought you were into clothes and shoes and girly shit. But you’re really smart.”
I’ve been finding it somewhat difficult to update my other blog since then because I’m a little worried that I’m projecting the wrong idea of what I’m all about to the world. Sure, I love clothes and shoes and “girly shit,” but that blog is just one of my seventeen trillion interests and hobbies.
You know what my favorite magazine is? If you guessed People Style Watch or InStyle, you’re close — those are numbers two and three. But my favorite magazine is actually Fortune. I just rarely buy it because it costs $4.99 an issue and no one ever gave me a subscription to that one as a gift. (Number four is Coastal Living, for sure.) Also, anything financial tends to get me all riled up about the train wreck investment I made in my condo five years ago. I mainly steer clear of those topics these days because I can’t make any moves in any direction at all until I get out of the underwater mortgage situation, you know?
I’ve also found it difficult to update this blog because I’ve had some other real life crap to deal with over the last two weeks, and it’s all I’ve wanted to write or talk about. And sometimes I wonder if I over-share when it comes to my condo and my mortgage. Granted, I’ve gotten tons of feedback and e-mails, and I’m glad to have been able to communicate and chat with some of you who have been in similar tricky real estate situations over the last year or so. The fact that any of the information I’ve shared has helped even one person makes it seem a little more worthwhile.
Anyway, this morning, for the first time in two weeks, I woke up feeling a little less stressed out, so I took myself out to breakfast, where I indulged in an issue of Fortune (40 percent off at Borders’ going-out-of-business sale) and a cinnamon raisin bagel at Panera. And I read this article, which (if you read it online) links to this article, which is one I read six times the day I wrote this post in 2008.
In hindsight, I don’t think I was wrong three years ago, but today, I’d argue against a lot of my points in that old post. For example, I was committed to owning my condo for thirty years, paying it off, and keeping it as an investment, but I was never committed to living here for as long as I have. It never occurred to me that my condo association wouldn’t have the money to repair the buildings or that there would be so many foreclosures in my complex that the values were destined to decline by more than a third of what they once were. My intention was always to rent it out and move on to bigger and better things. (And let me tell you how much I’d love to move on to anything right this minute — my building is literally being taken over by huge wasps’ nests on the patios of all the vacant units. It’s gross.) I didn’t understand that for some people, walking away three years ago was the best and quickest way out of a crappy situation that was destined to get worse.
On the other hand, I now agree that the bailout was probably the best option at the time. I’ve accepted that it was never meant to be a magic cure-all to boost the economy back to what it was. It was meant to stabilize the economy, and that’s what it did. I think things could be even worse than they are now, and even a few weeks after the initial idea of the bailout sunk in, I figured that it would generate some profit in the long run. That’s the way these things work, right?
It’s the end of this article that struck a chord with me:
We don’t expect any of what we’ve told you to make the bailout popular — we’re not wild about it ourselves for the same reasons many people dislike it. The government was picking winners and losers. Big Government bailed out Big Finance while letting average taxpayers lose their homes. Creditors of bank companies and AIG got far too good a deal at taxpayer expense. Wall Street is back to paying enormous bonuses (and whining about being demonized), while average Americans, whose tax dollars saved the Street, are still suffering. And, of course, the economy is down 7 million jobs from its peak in 2007.
But something needed to be done when the financial world was on the brink of the abyss, and the government did something. No matter what your views are, you should be happy that taxpayers, almost miraculously, are coming out ahead rather than hundreds of billions of dollars behind.
When our boss assigned us to find out how much the financial rescue cost, we expected to find a monumental loss, because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seemed like a bottomless pit. Instead, we discovered that bailout profit payments from the Fed — which we hadn’t previously thought of as a profit center — are virtually certain to exceed taxpayer losses on Fannie and Freddie. We were surprised — and pleased — to discover taxpayers showing a profit on the bailout. We hope that you are too.
That’s a sentiment I can tentatively agree with right now.
And so here’s the thing. Over the last two weeks, my co-borrower bailed for good, and I realized the condo association isn’t really financially capable of making the repairs necessary to improve the value of my condo any time soon. I’m faced with the prospect of either living here for another eight years, being eaten alive by a swarm of wasps, or making my escape while I can. And after all these months of trying to negotiate with the mortgage company, my main goal is to protect my assets, get out of this liability, recover from it, and try again in a few years.
In the end, I’ll be at peace with that for a few reasons. First, it’s the smartest thing to do. Second, it’s not my fault. Third, I don’t care what anyone thinks. And finally, as much as we’d all prefer to adamantly deny it, I suppose things could have been worse.
It wasn’t a mistake — it was merely misfortune. At least I learned a few things.
This crazy trip has got me feelin’: done
And I’m singin’ along to: King of Wishful Thinking – Go West