This was one of those mornings, when I just couldn’t seem to wake up, although Mother Nature tried to help. For the last two days, we have received some much needed rain and it has been accompanied by lots of thunder. I’d forgotten how loud thunder can sound, when it reverberates off surrounding mountains. In lower lying areas, that level of noise would indicate a lightning strike close by and the continuous roll of thunder might indicate an approaching tornado. Here, it is just an echo and I complacently drifted back to sleep. If the house were struck down some day, we’d probably be kicking ourselves for ignoring the warning signs. We wouldn’t be alone. People do that all the time.
For a year before we purchased our first home, we lived on my husband’s paycheck and banked mine. A substantial down payment yielded a lower interest rate and provided us with the security of immediate home equity. When my husband lost his job shortly afterwards, we were able to make ends meet. We were used to living on one paycheck. Our situation wasn’t unusual. People accepted the need to save for a home. Foreclosures? Not anyone that I knew.
When I purchased a second home, almost thirty years later, things had changed. Television, radio and billboards urged families to “have your dream now”. Signs, proclaiming “Move In For $500”, sprouted in front of new homes. One’s maximum mortgage qualification was considered the price of the home that one should buy. As quickly as home values rose, owners were urged to refinance. Every day, the mail brought offers showing how much my home could be refinanced for. I never did it, but I had plenty of neighbors and co-workers who did. Some refinanced multiple times, keeping their home at zero or negative equity. It’s not amazing that so many homes foreclosed, when times got tough. You didn’t need a substantial mortgage education to predict what would happen.
Some foreclosures were undoubtedly unpreventable. For many more, the warning signs were flashing as home owners indulged in a no-work dream.