FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Mechanic’s Tale

by BILL HATCH

In the late 1990s, an entrepreneurial mechanic with a wife and one child bought a house for $65,000 with a down payment of $1,500?and took a fixed-rate FHA mortgage. His wife, a beautician, got a job as a clerk at a discount store. In the midst of the speculative real estate boom in Merced six years later, now with three children and a warehouse job, he took out an equity loan for $126,000, did some remodeling on the exterior (new stucco, paint, new lawn turf, foam sculpture), bought furniture, a big-screen TV and a nearly new Escalade. It is estimated that about $35,000 went for the home improvements and goods. Where did the other $91,000 go? It didn’t go into the property. Why wasn’t the equity loan monitored for home improvements?

A year later, with four children and two big SUVs, the speculative real estate boom in full force, he took out a conventional variable equity loan on his house for $246,500. The paperwork doesn’t reveal if this was a wraparound loan, including the mortgage and the first equity loan. He bought a five-bedroom, two-story house for more than $300,000. He put about $160,000 down on the new house, bought $60,000 worth of new furniture and another used Escalade, and hoped to put a pool into the yard of the new house.

It can only be speculated if or when he got an equity loan on his new house.

He rented the old house to relatives, with an option to buy. The rent was based on the variable equity loan. It began in 2006, at about $500 a month. The relatives have two children. The husband built trailer homes; the wife had a good job in food service. In the next two years, they had another child and the husband lost his job and she quit her job to go to school –?while expecting to?buy this house.

In April 2008, payments on the variable loan of $246,500 increased to more than $2,500, and the owner informed the relatives with the option to buy that the rent had increased fivefold. The relatives had no clue that the loan was variable. It’s possible the owner didn’t quite grasp that either. In any event, the relatives went shopping for a loan, without success, as the boom was turning into a bust.

If the owner of the two houses, now with five children and a new custom Escalade including the latest in rims, had just stayed in his first house and not taken out two equity loans, he would have been paying between $400-$500 a month on his mortgage. Even if he had spent the entire $126,000 to expand his 900-square-foot house on a 10,000-square-foot lot and not borrowed another $246,500 – in part, to buy another house and more good-life toys he might have been able to survive.

Result: the relatives had to move out, the house is empty and in foreclosure, and the owner is months behind on his mortgage payments on his present house, and his variable on the new house will kick in next year.

Late last year someone seeking to buy the house contacted a realtor. The realtor, after examining the documents for a month or two, told the prospective buyer that it was extremely difficult to tell who actually owns this house, title being clouded by: 1) sloppy title company work to begin with; 2) the number and size of the various, variable loans; and 3) the mystery of who might possibly own those loans now.

So, here is an empty house worth between $50,000-$75,000 for cash, given that few if any will qualify for a loan on it in the present lending climate. Meanwhile, the grass has died in the front and back, junk was left behind, an old pickup stands in the driveway. It has joined that ever-growing number of residential properties in foreclosure, in decline and its title may be clouded by the different loans, all with different companies. Nor is it clear to realtors or prospective buyers whether there was a consolidation of loans or not. It will not be clear before the house goes through auction on the county courthouse steps.

What were the owner and his lenders thinking? At a broader level, what were all the Valley business and political leaders thinking, as they approved project after project, predicting the growth boom would go on forever and universal prosperity would come to the Valley without jobs to support the inflated prices of the real estate? The entrepreneurial warehouseman should not have been given the first equity loan on his first house. Politicians, from city councils to boards of supervisors to state legislators to members of Congress, and the media are blaming poor people for their irresponsibility.

Meanwhile, in Merced, the foreclosure section of the Merced Sun-Star announced in late October, 2008,  that Hank Vander Veen, the publisher of the Merced Sun-Star, presumed to be far better educated, more worldly and wealthier than the warehouseman, walked away from a $507,000 house in suburban McSwain.

BILL HATCH lives in the Central Valley in California. He can be reached at: wmmhatch@sbcglobal.net.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail