A Tale of Two Houses

writer x

I have these two neighbors who I’ll call Crazy Ann and Bert.

Crazy Ann has lived in my neighborhood as long as I have which is to say that we’ve lived in the same houses since the savings and loan crisis of the late 80’s/early 90’s, the last economic crisis that was supposed to cripple our country forever. I think an apocalypse and severe global cooling were projected back then too, but I digress.

Crazy Ann is crazy, but not in a mentally incompetent way where you’d feel sorry for her and want to help her. Crazy Ann is crazy like a fox. She hasn’t held a steady job in years and her home regularly goes into foreclosure. It’s become a kind of game with her. Just when the bank is about to swoop in and put her house on the auction block, she magically comes up with back mortgage payments and makes her loan current. The laws are definitely on her side. And she knows how to work the system better than anybody I know.

Food stamps, disability, Medicaid, legal aid, unemployment—you name it. Crazy Ann knows it all. If she put as much effort into understanding how to find free handouts as she did into her day job (whatever that might be), she’d rival Bill Gates for billionaire status. Meanwhile, she’s let her home slide into disrepair and barely lives in it anymore. The only upside to having her as a neighbor is that she’s quiet and mercifully doesn’t have rabid dogs. She divides her time between her house in my neighborhood which everyone on the block lovingly refers to as “the crack house” and some other property in Phoenix which I’m sure looks equally as lovely. And forget about getting any help from our useless HOA or the City of Phoenix for Crazy Ann’s overgrown weeds and broken windows. I might as well talk to my reflection in a mirror.

Crazy Ann is thrilled about the Stimulus Bill. She doesn’t plan on paying her mortgage for at least six months, maybe even a year, as the banks struggle to understand the new rules on who gets help and who doesn’t. Crazy Ann believes with all her heart that President Obama will be sending her personal checks to pay for her mortgage and utility bills and whatever incidental things she desires. Like a flat screen television. Frankly, after seeing the size of the billion dollar Stimulus Bill, Crazy Ann might be right.

My other neighbor Bert has lived in our neighborhood for only a few years. He and his wife bought their home when the market sizzled and they paid top dollar for it. It was a house they could afford. Still is. To pay for it, they got one of those adjustable mortgages. Both Bert and his wife work hard and keep their house looking nice. They’ve never missed a mortgage payment. And they’re good neighbors too, the kind who are always arranging block parties and don’t mind watching your house when you’re on vacation. Bert called his bank last week, one of the gargantuan ones, and asked if they could switch their loan from an adjustable to a fixed, even though they owed more than their home was currently worth. The bank laughed at them. Why should they give Bert a better deal when he was already locked into a deal that made the bank more money? Besides, Bert and his wife have always been good credit risks and they felt fairly certain Bert wouldn’t do anything foolish.

“But what about the Stimulus Bill?” Bert said to them.

“What about it?” the Bank replied.

“Won’t I qualify under the Stimulus Bill?”

More laughter.

Bert is seriously considering not paying his mortgage for the next couple of months so that he can fall into that “responsible homeowner” category like Crazy Ann who will most assuredly get quicker action from her bank and, consequently, aid from the Stimulus Bill, even if it means damaging his credit rating. I’m not sure I could blame him.

And then there’s me. I’ve lived in my modest house for years when most of my friends were trading up every two years for homes with bigger garages, more bathrooms, and media centers. I keep my house looking nice and I attend the occasional block party to at least give the appearance that I’m social. I could have moved up to a bigger house lots of times over the years but I decided to stay in a house that I knew I could always afford when times were good and bad. I’m not real happy that my hard work and sacrifice will pay for Crazy Ann’s mortgage. Or for all of the other Crazy Anns out there who figure out a way to manipulate a loophole.

::Writer X also writes at The 100 Most Annoying Things::

March 12, 2009 10:32 am

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