Just Walk Away
My son and I were in Los Angeles for Passover over the weekend. We ate great food, saw friends and family, and had an all around great time. We drove, and though there was some traffic heading down I-5, and then back up, with my cousin in the car with us for the ride it went very quickly. It was a good trip.
My best friend and his family let us stay at their house, as usual, and that's always nice because we have been friends since we were 3 years old (we're pushing 50 now) and we live far apart. Getting together only happens a couple times a year.
We always talk and talk and talk. His wife, who I have known since high school is the most awesome woman I know, and incredibly smart and sensitive. My best friend is a lucky fucker. We were talking politics and education and all that. We got on to the issue of the economy and the housing bubble and the fact that my mortgage is so far underwater it will never come back up to a level where I won't lose money. Ever.
So, I have decided to be one of those folks who simply walks away from the house I bought. I put a very big down-payment on the house. That was stupid, in retrospect. I will never see a return on my investment, in fact I am going to lose it. I have been paying my mortgage, but it has been going down a hole, not really back into the house. So, I must walk away for my sanity.
It is a devastating realization. It calls into question one's ability to navigate this life, or that's how it feels for me. It is emasculating, frightening, and depressing. It is hard too because the equity was supposed to send the kid to college, and there is no equity, and there won't be. Ever. Fuck.
The discussion with my friends, and the subsequent decision to walk away, was both painful and cathartic (as is writing this post) at a time when catharsis seems to be the only good thing around. I am slowly realizing that money, something we teachers struggle to make, is just money. How else can I think about it, now that I have chosen to walk away from all that I invested in? But it's true, it's just money. I have friends, family, love and support, so how bad could it really be?
The best part about it is my son. He now knows that at some point we are going to have to leave the house, forever, and never have the money we paid for it back, and what that means. I explained the financial workings of the underwater mortgage, and how I can never sell the house and break even, much less make a profit, and he looked at me and said, "That makes good sense. When you're in a hole, stop digging, as you used to tell me. You're such a smart dad!" I love that kid. [When he was little and he got caught in a lie (and I could always tell) I would tell him that I know he's not being truthful, so he is in a hole and must get out via the ladder of truth. He remembered, and clearly understood, and was able to use that knowledge to comfort his old man.]
I did try to get a mortgage modification, 5 times, but no luck. I will still try to get the house for free by showing, hopefully, that Chase doesn't know where the actual note is, like some lucky folks. I have no hopes of this happening, but I must at least try.
The walking away does weigh heavy on my mind. But no longer worrying about "losing the house" and instead just giving it away, does ease my mind a bit, and perhaps the graying of my hair will slow.
I figure I have about 4 months of not paying before they boot us. I guess during that time I should begin to sell all those appliances I had to buy. Fuck, again.