Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Portrait: Bradenton, Florida

My husband and I married while still in our teens and had our first and only child just four months later. We are worker-bees, both of us. Always have been, always will be. We worked long hours at our pizza restaurant jobs for those first few married years. We scrimped and saved but still lived paycheck to paycheck. We only bought what we could pay cash for except for our house and our cars. We purchased a modest two bedroom fixer upper when we were barely considered legal. It needed work but it was ours.

Over the years we remodeled everything in the house from new drywall to new flooring. New bathrooms. New kitchen. Everything brand new. The paying cash for everything had gone out the window by this point but we both had steady jobs and we didn’t live extravagantly. We decided that it was time to sell while the housing market was hot and we could make a hefty profit.

We begin looking for a new home. We found what we thought would be our dream. An empty lot for sale in a very nice, non-deed restricted neighborhood. My sister worked for a construction company and our friend did mortgages. We couldn’t have planned it better. We put a bid in on the lot without even thinking twice. We paid full price for it, we had no choice if it was what we wanted. And boy did we want it!

Due to various mishaps, the financing took a lot longer to go through than anticipated so construction was delayed. The delay caused additional unforeseen costs and budget overages. The delay meant selling the first home for a hefty profit had to wait.

Ground was broken in June 2006 for the beginning of the dream house. The housing market in Florida fell off the face of the earth in December 2006. We moved into the dream house in January 2007. We decided to rent the house that wouldn’t sell. No hefty profit. No extra money to pay off the bills that had accumulated due to the cost overages and construction delays. No extra money to partially pay down the new mortgage. Nothing.

We were lucky, the house rented right away. We thought we had a good tenant that may buy the house before his lease was up. Hope springs eternal.

Then came the economic downturn that crushed the auto market. My husband was a manager of an auto parts wholesale warehouse. He made decent money and the job was what we thought was stable. In June 2008 they closed his store. No notice, no severance, no paying out vacation & sick time due to employees. Nothing.

We were lucky that he found a new job after only two months and with great benefits. We were unlucky that it was at a large pay cut. We were also unlucky that just after settling into the new job and beginning to adjust to the reduced pay, our tenant moved out without notice. Two mortgage payments, a job making significantly less and a ton of bills that should have been paid off with the sale of our first home.

Still, we are making it somehow. We are worker bees, neither one of us shy away from long hours, hard work and tedious tasks. I am lucky to have a good job with good benefits. He is lucky to have found a job with good benefits and a fairly stable future. We take on extra tasks and work for a little extra money here and there. We will find a new tenant to at least cover the mortgage on our other home and we are surrounded by good family that will help wherever they can. We will never be destitute. We may struggle and live paycheck to paycheck but we still have each other. Isn’t that what really counts?

Hope springs eternal again!

Bradenton, FL