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:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Gilbert Mercier
Donald Trump: Caligula of the Lowest Common Denominator Empire?
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Andrew Moss
Bridge to Wellbeing?
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail