This was supposed to be “Ten on Tuesday,” but…

I delayed this week’s Ten on Tuesday posting because of a commitment to a MotherTalk blog tour post date (I’m really trying not to post more than once a day), but since the prompt, “Ten Things You’d Fix in Your Home (if you had the time and money),” isn’t particularly applicable for me, I didn’t think my less-than-timely participation would really be an issue. As a renter/apartment dweller, I don’t have a lot of latitude on that subject; besides, one of the dubious advantages of my situation is that you’re not the one who has to fix anything – you just make a call.

However, the topic is a nice lead-in to my Rant/Editorial/Worthless Opinion of the Day.

My non-homeowner status means that I’m a bystander in the whole burst-housing-bubble/subprime-meltdown/mortgage-crisis mess. Both my husband and I came into our marriage without the means to buy a house (due to factors relating to our respective prior marriages). However, my understanding is that “lack of means” hasn’t been considered a big obstacle in the last few years, and it’s resulted in a large number of “homeowners” who don’t actually own their homes. There is no single factor at fault for this, like it or not, but I’m still wondering why the crash has apparently caught so many by surprise. I understand that some individuals probably didn’t truly understand what they were getting into when they “bought into the American Dream,” but I question whether they’re the majority of those affected; I tend to think many others played the system and are now getting burned.

It seems to me that some fundamentals of finance, economics, and physics may have been forgotten or ignored in the last few years, particularly “What goes up must come down (sooner or later),” “If you come to dance, you have to pay the piper (eventually),” and “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” At the same time, the laws of supply and demand seemed to be working pretty well. People wanted to buy houses, and money became available. The people who made the money available made more money, and they wanted more customers to lend it to, so they could keep making more and more money. They made it easier and easier to borrow the money, which made more people want the money so they could buy the houses they wanted. Meanwhile, people whose houses had gone up in value wanted to get some money from that gain without actually selling and having to buy another house, and money became available for them too, since there was also money to be made from that. There were risks involved in all this, but some people didn’t understand them, some chose to ignore them, and some probably didn’t care because they assumed they wouldn’t get hurt. Of course, all of the preceding is a gross oversimplification of a very screwed-up situation, but you get the idea…

We would have loved to be able to buy a house of our own with a cheap mortgage, but we have a somewhat old-fashioned and conservative belief in down payments, and that’s why we’ve been on the outside. It was our choice not to take the 100%-financing route to home ownership. I don’t mean to imply that this decision makes us better or smarter than anyone else – in fact, I know some people who really believe that renting is a stupid choice, no matter what – but we do understand the risks of having next to nothing truly “invested” in a house, and we decided that they were too big for us. Perhaps in another couple of years, we’ll have built up our savings and house prices will be lower, and we’ll be in a place where we can look at his again and perhaps jump in – but on terms that we like and are comfortable with.

Anyway…to return to the “official” topic at hand, I do have a few things that I would like fixed or changed in our apartment, but it’s definitely less than ten, and obviously can’t be anything structural.

  • Replace the light fixture over the stove.
  • Change the kitchen faucet; the sinks are kind of shallow, so it would be nice to have one of those taller, arching taps. (I wonder if we actually could do this, as long as we returned the original hardware when we moved out? We did change out the shower heads…)
  • Put a light fixture in the entryway.
  • Replace the mini-binds in the kitchen.

That’s really about it, since I’m not counting changes in furniture or decor for this question. I actually like our apartment quite a lot, and it’s fairly new and spacious. Check out this week’s Ten on Tuesday post for players who took a much more orthodox approach to the topic.

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  1. I know one of the problems in our area was people buying more house than they could afford with little or no money down and an adjustable rate assuming they would get a better paying job, or sell it for a profit. For some, neither happened. I’m sure there are plenty of people that were taken advantage of by bad mortgage brokers looking to sell a dream and make some cash.
    In my opinion, there are many valid reasons to rent. Some of the people that find themselves in trouble now should have played it smart like you guys did.

  2. Mike – I’d like to think we played it smart :-).

    A lot of people here did the same thing – buying more house than they could afford, taking a gamble on future conditions. You know the old saying about not assuming anything…

    I agree some people have been taken advantage of in all this, but there are some that should have known better, I think.

  3. My biggest regret is that we go impatient and bought a house when we probably should have waited. It wasn’t that we bought outside our means or anything like that. Our mortgage payments are reasonable and we bought a house we could afford. If I could do it over again, I’d have waited until I could’ve afforded better. Haha

  4. Sounds like you are actually in a very good position to pick up a good deal when you’re ready. We sold high and bought high two and half years ago so really the whole thing is neither making or breaking us. But what is entirely a disaster is that now that the economy is pinched, the cost of living continues to rise while my husband’s company cannot provide raises. That’s the rub for us.

  5. I think you made the smart move, woman. Overextending yourself financially isn’t a smart move; we have some friends who used ARMs and now they are not happy about what lies ahead for them.

    Bide your time; there are going to be some real steals soon.

  6. Literary Feline – If you’d waited till you could “afford better,” you’d probably still be waiting 🙂 – but your timing would be getting much better, since prices here in SoCal are finally starting to drop! But you did a very reasonable and sensible thing in not playing the system and getting in over your head.

    CCE – I hope we might be OK in a couple of years; we’re focusing on stabilizing other areas of our finances and watching the market. But as you say, the income considerations are big too, and no one really can count on stability (let alone decent raises) on the job front these days.

    And BTW, thanks for stopping by – I read your blog regularly, so it’s nice to see you over here!

    Susan – I hope you’re right, although our market has been one of the craziest this whole time. But sometimes being forced to bide your time can work out pretty well. 🙂