Do Over

By back to renting, birthdays, condo, hazards to my well-being, milestones, mortgage, music 2 Comments

This time last year, I was freaking out a little about turning 30. Luckily, I kicked off my fourth decade with two fabulous birthday parties, friends, family, and lots of fun. As my 30th birthday weekend drew to a close, I was sure that it going to be a great year. We kicked off the summer with a Jimmy Buffett concert and a Memorial Day weekend full of so many Orange Crushes, I don’t really remember much of it. June came in with Hurricanes and went out with Pina Coladas on the patio at Mahi Mah’s. It was all fun and games until July teased me with a few perfect beach days, then bowled me over with a tidal wave of stress, legal research, and difficult decisions to be made. Between a condo association in a financial mess, a leaky roof, a broken air conditioner, a bunch of foreclosures in my building, a bankrupt co-borrower, a ridiculously high interest rate, and a completely inflexible mortgage company, I really just wanted to get out of there for good. It was a lengthy, expensive trek into August, and then September came with long, hectic work days and hot, un-air-conditioned nights packing and getting ready to move.

October was supposed to be my month to relax, but RFP after RFP bombarded me work, meaning more long hours, lots of proposals, lots of meetings, lots of stress. I tried to plan a vacation in November, but the due dates for my proposals got extended and screwed it up. I tried to plan a vacation in December, but the due dates for my proposals got extended and screwed it up. I tried to take a whole week off at Christmas to spend time with my family, but the due dates for my proposals got extended and screwed it up.

January was a blur. I couldn’t even remember the last time I hung out with any of my friends because I was so stressed out, I didn’t even want to talk to anyone.  I think we finally turned in the last big proposal in the middle of the month. Then came the day I didn’t own my condo anymore. If I could have popped open a bottle of champagne that morning at work to celebrate, I would have. Instead, I purposely started my business that very same day. I laid low for awhile after that.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that all that stress is over. I caught myself smiling one morning when I woke up for no reason, and I finally gave myself some credit for making it through seven straight months of craziness without having some kind of nervous breakdown. =) Of course, it’s taken me a cool two months to really decompress — I’ve caught up on my sleep, started running again, gotten my little business off the ground, and taken some time out to relax.

So now that chapter’s ended, and here we are again. A few days before my birthday, and I’m ready for a do-over. Bring it on, 31. This is going to be fun. =)

Where Was I?

By back to renting, condo, milestones, mortgage No Comments


Well, it’s taken me seven years, four moves, and evasive legal action, but I finally live close enough to walk to the beach. I haven’t actually walked there yet, but I can, and that’s what really matters, right?

But before that. What happened before that? There were a few things, but nothing that I found quite humorous enough to post here, I can tell you that.

Maybe someday I’ll overcome my inner controversy and tell the story here, but for now, all I can say is this — I’m giving the condo back to the mortgage company. Not to be flippant about it or anything, but seriously? I tried a hundred times to rectify the situation and things there had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer worth staying. With a co-borrower who bailed and a mortgage that was twice as expensive as I could have paid to rent the (nicer) condo next door, it was time to go. Judge me if you want to, but my roommate and I are now living in a lovely place, almost twice the size, for much less money with functioning heat and air conditioning, a washer that actually cleans clothes, a dishwasher that actually cleans dishes, no mortgage, no drug dealer neighbors, and NO CONDO ASSOCIATION.

And what did I lose? Not much. My 802 credit score, probably. And maybe the respect of a handful of people who have no clue what they’re talking about. But other than that…I can’t think of anything else except for maybe the lovely Asparagus color of my old bedroom walls.

Anyway, the only reason I’m posting this is because every time I try to write in this blog, my first instinct is to close one chapter before I begin another. So, the war with the mortgage company chapter ends like this:

Just like I said, they’ll end up with 1,010 square feet of carpet that needs to be replaced. And due to the fact that the complex is riddled with bank-owned properties, they’ll be lucky if they can sell it for half what I owe on it. They already made their money back in interest though, so I don’t feel too bad. And me? I’ll live here in this beachy townhouse for a little while, and I’ll love every second of it. =)

Moving On

By back to renting, breaking news, condo, home improvement, milestones, packing 3 Comments

Guess what! I’m moving! =)

My roommate and I signed a lease this weekend on a two-story condo about a half mile from the beach. We move in October 1, and I seriously cannot wait.

It’s been about five years since I last moved, and since then, I think I’ve really improved my packing skills, so I’m expecting this move to be pretty easy. Over the last year, I’ve really paired down my closet and gotten rid of a lot of things I don’t wear. I’m also not very big on clutter, so I don’t have much miscellaneous crap to pack up either.

The new place is simply gorgeous inside — the owner has updated everything, and she has impeccable taste. I love the paint colors, the carpet, and especially the patio and balcony outside. It’s the perfect little beach house. There’s an L-shaped balcony on the second floor accessible from both bedrooms upstairs, and it overlooks a spacious, fenced-in, rectangular patio below. The first floor features a living room, dining room, kitchen, and half bath, and the second floor has a master bedroom/bathroom, plus another bedroom and bathroom in the hallway. Once I get there, I’ll definitely share some photos. In the meantime, I’m on the lookout for some new artwork for the lovely walls, as well as some furniture — a dining room table and chairs, new barstools, some patio furniture, plus a new coffee table and end tables. Oh, and maybe a TV stand.

It seems like I always move in October, so it feels like everything is falling into place perfectly. My first lease in Virginia Beach began in October, and so did my second. Even though I closed on the condo in August 2006, I took a few weeks to fix it up before I officially moved in, so that move was end of September/October-ish, too. Ironically, the air conditioning in my condo died shortly after we signed the lease this weekend — just one more sign that getting out of there is the best possible option. I feel like I’m saving myself close to another $5,000 since I don’t have to fix it.

A little less than six weeks until I move! It’s going to be an excellent year near the beach. =)

I’m Not Stupid

By condo, financial wisdom, hazards to my well-being, mortgage, political views One Comment

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.”

Wow, thanks.

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