Monday, March 9, 2009

Portrait: Chatsworth, California

I live in the San Fernando Valley and have seen business close up around us in the past 6 months. Currently, we have lost the Linens ‘N Things, K-Mart, On the Border Mexican restaurant, Circuit City and Applebees restaurant. And those are only the big name chain stores. We have had many little places disappear. A friend of the family had to close their car dealership that had been family owned and operated for over 50 years. Things will never be the same because many business will not come back if/when the economy picks up.

My husband is currently unemployed having lost his job in the entertainment industry in Oct. His unemployment is up in April and we will file for an extension. The company where I work as an Office Manager is doing poorly and we already had a small wave of layoffs that I fear will be bigger next time.

Currently we are renters and two weeks ago decided to make an offer on a townhouse. This was something we thought long and hard about and the deciding factor was that the mortgage payment would be the same as what we are paying in rent. I realize that the economy is tenuous but both my husband and I are tired of renting and being at the whim and mercy of a landlord who can raise your rent when you go month to month. My husband is in his early 40’s and I’m in my late 30’s and we feel that we are ready to take the next step in our lives. Because of the FHA loan we are able to put only 3% down.

We are currently debt free, a fact that I’m proud of and realize how incredibly lucky I am able to say that. I know that will change with the purchase of the townhouse but we are ready for it and aren’t going into this situation blindly or getting in over our heads. The townhouse complex where we live was selling townhouses for $430 back in 2007 and the one we are buying (as a short sale) is listed at $285. We could have been those people who went for it in 2007 and got upside down before they knew it but we waited and though I feel bad for the people who are selling this unit for way less than they paid I don’t want to keep our lives on hold any longer. I know having my husband out of work isn’t the best time but we got a home loan no problem (our credit scores were both in the 800’s so that really helped).

I’m grateful for what I have because I know so many people don’t and are in horrible situations. God forbid I lose my job, we can still make the payments on my unemployment. It helps to have my sister in law living with us as a renter. Because we are debt free and don’t have kids we can do this and I really feel weird saying that we are trying to buy when so many people are losing their homes. I feel in a way that I’m benefiting somehow from all this misery but there is part of me that thinks what were people thinking when they bought a townhouse for $430? How much higher did they think it would go?

I hope all works out for us and everyone else struggling to make ends meet. People say things will get better and I pray that it happens sooner rather than later.

Chatsworth, CA