The Negative Equity Groove

Feb 18, 09 The Negative Equity Groove
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As a little girl, I can recall the sounds of Frankie Beverly, Keith Sweat or “The Elements” wafting through the hall as my momma grooved around the house with a mop, a vacuum cleaner, Windex, and Pledge.  The music soothed her as she tidied the living room and then dared me to “live in it”.  It seems that I have adopted that same personality as I stare in awe of my freshly-laid vacuum tracks, the streak-less shine in my glass table, and take in as many scents as Febreze can produce…all the while, giving my son that maternal glare that lets him know that he better tread lightly in our newly-spotless house.  However, my “cleaning music” is the non-melodious voice of a random HGTV personality, imparting wisdom on some ill-advised homeowner.

I have learned a lot from HGTV during many of my frenzies.  The channel showed me what to anticipate on the path to homeownership.  And once that was achieved, the design shows inspired me to choose particular furnishings, paint a wall or 2… ok, more like all, and to install my own cabinets.  The landscape and gardening shows even propelled my front yard overhaul project but the channel; however, did not prepare me for this little fun term called negative equity.  It would be more than unfair to expect it to, but this certainly removed the glimmer from my eye.

I remember chatting with a neighbor, a while back, and his complimenting me on the improvements that he could see from the street.  I was happy to have progressed but I had a laundry list of things that I wanted to accomplish and this was only the beginning…so I thought.  He chuckled and said, “You’ll soon run out of money before you run out of ideas.”  Truer words have never been spoken.  What we hadn’t calculated that day was my home’s value running away from me and my having to table some improvement projects indefinitely.  I finished the minor landscaping project that I started but it didn’t make sense for me to keep pouring money into something that could potentially cost me more to sell if my job went south.

I have watched as several neighbors hammered down those “For Sale” signs.  I have also watched those same neighbors remove those signs and replace them with “For Rent.”  Before I never cared, but now I wonder about their circumstances…and pray that those circumstances (unless for a profit) do not befall me.  I do wonder how all of this affects my bottom line, but I have to put some things into perspective.

Albeit an investment, when I purchased my home, it was because I could see my son and me building a life here.  I got the school district that I wanted and he got to shoot silly string at my backyard trees.  I got more room for an office and he got more rooms to follow me in.  Thanks to HGTV, I was able to be more inventive and design spaces that stifle the stresses begat from 8 to 5 and create my own retreat.  So, it wasn’t my goal to make a quick buck or to come away with my retirement savings in a year or two.

I will admit; however, that when my company experienced a round of layoffs, the first 2 words that emerged from my lips were “kid” and “mortgage”.  And to expand on the latter, how much money would I have to bring to the table for a sale?  But during this economic climate, it’s hard to keep worrying about every “what if” imaginable.  The recession just MAY be over by the time you look up or take a breath.  What I CAN do and what I urge anyone who is in a similar situation to do is to put your calculators down and back away slowly.  Now, put on YOUR “cleaning music” and look around at the beautiful home that you’ve created…I dare you to just “live in it”.


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1 Comment

  1. In ten years you will be following him into rooms and he’ll be looking at you with that son’s glare that dares you to ask him about his new girlfriend, so make sure you live in that too.


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