Last weekend, one of the local news stations wrote about a state grant program that helps the monetarily challenged buy homes. So, of course, I went and got my hopes up.
I was overjoyed at the thought of being able to adopt a puppy. Have a dishwasher. And grow some food in the back yard.
I went and mentally redecorated the perfect little 1960s ranch on Pinterest for god’s sake. I have new light fixtures picked out for it. I even pinned the kind of toilets I want for the bathrooms. Look, I know it’s risky to make those kind of plans in your head, but I wanted to feel happy for a minute. I don’t think I could survive without a little daydreaming now and again. It has always been a part of how I cope.
Today, Dan and I met with a lender to see if they would give us a ton of money. The answer wasn’t an outright “no.” Like everything else in my life, it has to be infinitely more complicated than that. After looking over the novel of paperwork I printed off, the lending officer said to us, “This isn’t a straightforward case, and I’ll need some time to crunch the numbers before I can get back to you.”
But before that she said, “It’s going to be very close.”
When I was younger, that kind of sentiment might have left me hopeful. But not now. Things don’t seem to fall in place for me like they used to. And it’s like I can trace all my financial woes back to one horribly wrong decision — marrying my first husband way back in 2004.
When he and I were first looking for a house, he would have nothing to do with reasonable homes that seemed like a good investment. We spent a couple of months searching, and finally I said to him. “Just pick something. We have to live somewhere.” And he did.
And then a few years later, fully engrossed in obtaining my degree, I trusted that he was making a good decision by refinancing so we could reduce some credit card debt.
Mother of God was I wrong. By the time the paperwork was signed, we had cashed out a couple grand and paid down one credit card (his, if memory serves) in exchange for a new mortgage with an unholy 7% interest rate. The folks at Wells Fargo sure saw him coming. Too bad I hadn’t.
A year or so later, he was cheating. He promised to pay for the divorce and leave, so I filed the paperwork myself at the courthouse for about $150. But guess what? Lying liars lie. The motherfucker didn’t leave. Turns out I had to hire a lawyer to amend the divorce and kick his ass the hell out. To the tune of about $5,000. I also had to assume the 7% mortgage. He moved into a friend’s place or his brother’s place or something, responsible for not even one of his terrible financial decisions.
He didn’t have a lawyer for the divorce and never paid a dime in that regard. In fact, he repeatedly emailed my lawyer. And every time she had to respond to him, I got billed at the rate of $250 an hour. My parents helped me tremendously, but after a while I didn’t have the heart to keep asking them for money. And I put the remaining legal fees on my credit card.
The ex finally moved out one weekend, and I finally got my hard-fought freedom…and undeserved legal debt…and a mortgage on a shitty condo — which we were only able to buy in the first place because of the down payment I brought to the closing from the sale of my very first home, which of course I sold to be with him.
I hated him for a very long time. It was a full and healthy and productive hate. It got me through.
Now I’m ambivalent about him. Sometimes it’s difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that I lived that part of my life. My recollection of his face and voice, for example, are dim and fuzzy, like the plot of a mediocre book I once read. But the way I felt about myself is still pretty fresh. For example, I could still just kick myself for being young and stupid. For unwittingly hitching my wagon to a compulsive liar. For not accepting soon enough that I was always the one making sacrifices, and he was always the one reaping the benefits.
But, you know, a couple of lessons were learned and all that.
Thanks to a supportive family, I got away with ne’er a ding on my credit report. But I haven’t been unable to get ahead or save much of anything. That’s because the condo is still technically mine, even though I’ve moved to Illinois. I still have the same ridiculous 7% interest rate despite inquiring many times about legitimate refinancing. (Its value dropped when the real estate bubble burst, so there’s not enough equity. And it just so happens that I had a condo and a weird kind of loan — neither of which qualified me for federal relief when all those other people were refinancing to get out from under predatory loans that had sunk them.)
All of those circumstances meant I didn’t really have a choice but to accept a rent-to-own style sales agreement last November after my home had been on the market for over a year. Because an outright sale just isn’t complicated enough for my luck. And now the buyers living in my condo are more than a week late with this month’s payment. Every month they get later and later. I emailed my agent to see what happens if they default.
I’m bracing myself for the worst now. Because positive thinking can crush a person. But you know, if 1,200 of you want to send $3 to firstname.lastname@example.org on PayPal, I promise to move into my little dream home in Urbana and never pay a cent of it back to any of you.