Over the weekend I came across this story that I would like to share with you from the DailyBeast published August 2, 2020
After looking at several houses along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, my new wife and I decided the sunny cottage on Audubon Drive in Foley was the one—so long as the seller came down a little on the $145,000 asking price.
There were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an attached garage, a tidy shed that was painted picnic-table red, and a pair of towering longleaf pines. It sat in an oval subdivision of cookie-cutter homes on a lot roughly the size of a basketball court. There was just enough room for the dog to run in the backyard without trampling the vegetable garden. It was convenient to my newspaper office in Foley’s antique downtown and to the elementary school in Gulf Shores where my wife taught kindergarten in a trailer parked outside of the overcrowded elementary school.
The beaches along the Gulf of Mexico were a short drive from the house. Just built and bland as an egg inside and out, it offered a blank canvas with years to go before we could expect major repairs. I replaced the tacky ceiling fans and planted bushes in my head as we looked around. The real estate agent walked us over to see the neighborhood playground.
A week before Thanksgiving in 2005, we signed papers to buy the house for $137,500. We painted the walls and hung blinds in time to have friends over for the holiday.
Twelve years later, little about my life remained the same. I’d left the Mobile newspaper to take a job at The Wall Street Journal. I was no longer married. Pierre, the dog, had died of old age. But I was still sending mortgage payments each month to a bank in Alabama.
I would have sold the house, and in fact I tried. But when the U.S. housing market collapsed in 2007, the property’s value fell far below the amount I had borrowed to buy it. Walking away was never an option. I’d signed papers promising to pay the money back and I intended to do so one way or another. In case my moral compass ever needed a shake, laws in Alabama, as in many states, allow lenders to pursue the difference between the mortgage debt on a property and what it fetches in a foreclosure sale. For much of the next decade, that number kept growing. At one point, it would have been more than $70,000.
Read the full article here
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