Sucks to be you, Condo Owner

May 19, 2008

That overly saracastic post title is an attempt to distance myself from a horrible reality that could have been my own (if I had been just a little more rich and a little less skeptical), the reality of owning a condo in the current completely frakked housing market (BSG is taking over my brain, but that’s another story…). The NYT covered it last week:

Four years ago, [Barbara Sanz] bought her first condo in a glassy new Miami tower when the building was filling up. Now nearly one in six residents in the 43-story building is battling foreclosure and their contributions to the building association are shrinking. Each of the remaining owners has had to chip in an extra $1,000 assessment and $50 more a month for cable and Internet. That is on top of Ms. Sanz’s $450 monthly maintenance fee.

So, in short, she’s 1) stuck losing value in a home she can’t sell, the kind of home that will be last to bounce back after everything is said and done, 2) forced to pay more for it than she originally agreed to, putting yet more pressure on her budget, 3) losing the services that she originally thought she was going to pay for and 4) quite possibly watching the value of her investment physically vanish before her eyes, bad in the long run and bad in the short run as living conditions get worse:

Even though she pays more, her building has broken washers and dryers and unusable exercise equipment, and her hallway is spotted with mold.

Mold is a word that strikes terror into my heart. Her building is less than five years old. To top off this suck sandwich, prospective buyers now are at least in a strong position to negotiate to avoid all of this pain, forcing more pain upon the first set of people:

His willingness to spend stopped short of $200,000 for the condo units, which once sold as high as $700,000, according to the broker, Peter Zalewski. Mr. Comoglio also wants a written guarantee that he would not have to pay more fees.

An investor like this is paying less than a third of what those first people did, and he won’t even do that unless he can get a promise that he will be exempt from the laws of physics, basically. Could this get less fair? It would certainly suck to be renting from a landlord who goes into foreclosure, but watching the home that you’ve paid for and continue to pay for, fair and square, be destroyed by others’ irreponsible behavior at the same time as hope dims for any kind of recovery for the kind of home you’re going to have to sell one day… I’m just really glad we didn’t listen to anyone who said that young people like us ought to be buying a studio somewhere as starter home, and I’m glad we didn’t have the money to listen even if we wanted to. That was bad advice, but not many people knew it yet.

Of course, people in these situations are just one group of the front line casualties, and the longer we ignore their suffering the more certainly we will suffer, no matter where we are living. I better go pet a cat, b/c this shit just makes me crazy.


4 Responses to “Sucks to be you, Condo Owner”

  1. Incertus Says:

    When Amy and I moved to Florida, we were told by all her family that we had to buy and right now because we’d be priced out of the market otherwise. Well, it didn’t matter because we were already priced out. But now we’re glad, because if we get jobs in another part of the country (as we are attempting to do) we don’t have an overpriced home to try to get out of.

  2. Amy Says:

    The smart thing for this woman to do would be to just flip ’em all off. Stop paying the mortgage, stop paying the maintenance, rent it out to someone month to month for super cheap ($500/month is $500 in your pocket), and wait for the inevitable to come. I don’t know why people fail to act in their own best interests, even when they’re over a barrel and being frakked (I’ve totally given up on BSG — they’ve forgotten how to write a plot) discourteously and without lubrication. Actually, I do know why: out of feelings of honor. But there is no honor in the American financial markets. And those who screw themselves so that they can feel like “good people” are among the 1440 suckers PT Barnum helpfully pointed out are born every day.

  3. SJ Says:

    Brian: yup, it’s funny how the wheel keeps turning, and those who looked less fortunate once now look more fortunate. Three years ago, we were the liberal arts grads w/o the dough to buy a home, now we are the flexible, mobile people with long resumes and tons of different types of professional experience. We were already priced out too, lucky for us it seems.

    Amy: I honestly would probably never think of doing that, esp. if the condo in question was my primary residence, but you’re right, there are options here if people have the balls to take them.

    I am sad to think that I will have to give up on BSG’s plotting ability! We’re in the middle of season 2, and I do have to admit there have been a couple of awfully convenient plot twists of late…

  4. Amy Says:

    Oh, wait til you see season 3 — that’s when it really stumbles. But I didn’t totally lose hope until season 4. I feel like they’re not even trying anymore. 😦

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