Wednesday Jul 28 2010
Door slams shut on dream home
By: Christy Corp-Minamiji
Blueprint for a foreclosed home
Editor’s note: This is the first in a six-part series on the housing crisis. The headlines were never mine. Educated, middle-class, suburban: I was privileged and boring. I followed the plan — until it broke. The plan never included foreclosure. The list was clear: high-school, university, veterinary school, marriage, career, home and children. Check off each box and move to the next. I never even got drunk as a teen. I’m laying this out, not as a model for a fairytale life, but to show that, like so many others, my husband and I succumbed to the belief that the American life was pre-fab; follow the blueprints, abide by the rules and success is yours. My blueprint was flawed. Steps were left out, errors in translation, missing parts: it’s still difficult to tell. But, in Step 1, a dozen years ago, we bought our dream home. Now, in the final step, we are packing boxes, surrendering to the bank the only home our three children have known. Scanning the blueprint, I can see the steps and analyze the flaws. Each action, each choice that made sense in the context of the moment helped to push us here. Then, there were the extra pieces, the unexpected conditions that fate threw into the box. The plan had made no allowance for external circumstances. Step 1: Insert old house into new life The century-old Craftsman hooked us. I fell for the dining room: inlaid hardwood floor, gorgeous wainscoating, leaded-glass doors on the china hutch. My husband had a thing for the five-car garage. The old barn needed work before the horse could move in, but it wasn’t even listed in the value of the property. We’d both seen the movie “Money Pit.” We knew the cliché of a young couple buying an old house in the middle of nowhere. But, we were young, strong, childless, and armed with DIY manuals. With the arrogance of the science-educated, we believed that as long as we had the data, we could complete the task. The dishwasher turned against us first. This appliance-led rebellion was joined over the years by the refrigerator, the washing machine, the dryer, the water heater, and, to cap off the economic disaster, the HVAC unit. Our mortgage, while conventional, had been about $20,000 over the upper end of our budget. For two professionals at the beginning of their careers, this seemed to be a gap we could close, but it didn’t leave much cushion for repairs. Then, we had children. Christy Corp-Minamiji is a large-animal veterinarian in the region and resides in Northern California.