In a two-part series on housing mobility and how it relates to jobs and families, NPR asked its audience: Is your inability to sell your home affecting your life? Here are a few of the responses. Join the conversation and tell us your story.
'Throw My Dreams Away'?
I have recently relocated to Austin, Texas, from Cleveland, Ohio, in hopes of finding work. My journey began in November 2009 when I placed my home on the market, and as of today it is still on there. I'm trying to rent it as well as sell it, but the most common complaint is the price of the home. Compared to most condos, it is priced high. But that is because I'm competing with homes that are in foreclosure, or the owners walked away. I'm currently unemployed, working temp jobs here in Texas, but that house is holding me back from finding a home here.
Courtesy of Rebecca Lee Varady
Compared to most, my situation is not horrible, but I feel their pain. Buyers are demanding too much without putting into consideration ... the situation of the seller. I did not buy my home as an investment property. I wanted a home of my own and not to cover someone else's mortgage. But due to the greed of others, that is where I am. I put 20 percent down, I got pre-approved for a mortgage and did not buy outside my means, yet I'm being punished. If I drop the price any lower, any buyer will demand a lower price in hopes of flipping the property ...
Soon I will have to consider lowering the price of my condo, taking less rent and paying the balance [out] of pocket, or simply throw my dreams away, and return to Cleveland, and hope and pray I can get a job before my unemployment runs out ...
If there is anything NPR can do, help to let the buyers know that sellers are not super-rich people looking to make a profit. Selling a home is not cheap. With the cost of a realtor and closing fees, I could pay up to 10 percent of the value of my home just to sell it.
— Rebecca Lee Varady from Austin, Texas
'Hopeless And Afraid'
I moved to Florida five years ago after developing the lot my mother had owned for 25 years. The mortgage was $210,000 and I used the land as down payment. I had hoped to continue my employment as a psychiatric social worker for the government and plan for my retirement. I finally found a job eight months later that paid $25,000 less than I was used to making.
Last year, I refinanced at a lower percentage rate under the Home Affordability Program. On appraisal, I learned the value of my home had dropped to $110,000. I received my projected property tax levy yesterday, and my home is now valued at $85,000.
I am 70 years old and my health is failing. I have medical bills I cannot pay, and I travel to the only job I could find. I travel round-trip three hours per day at a cost of $400 per month.
My home was my only asset, my dream, and the only resource for my old age. Now I am not knowing what to do. I feel quite hopeless and afraid. When last year's refinance turns one year old, do you think I would be eligible to request a reduction of the principle? Thank you.
— Danell Lews from Palm Bay, Fla.
You don't have to be trying to find a new job to feel anchored by your home. I'm retired and have been trying to sell my home, with its lovely golf course view, for more than a year so I can move to Austin, Texas, to be closer to my grandchildren. I've lowered my price, and torn down one wall and closed in another to make my house more appealing to prospects who said my master bedroom was too small — all to no avail so far. I just hope I can stop being a fly-in grandma and become "grandma on the ground" before my 6- and 8-year-old grandchildren head off to college!
— Kathryn Cramer from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Waiting To 'Close This Chapter'
In October 2004, my then-husband Jeff (now ex-husband) and I bought a co-op. This community had been apartment rentals, and the management company began selling them as co-ops. These co-ops were the first in the state of Ohio, and while that made us slightly nervous, we knew that they were more common and accepted in big cities. We also were both financially literate and responsible. However, as time moved on, it became clear that neither local Realtors nor potential buyers understood co-ops, and the units became nearly impossible to resell.
Courtesy of Melissa Schilling
To further complicate matters, Jeff and I separated in October 2006, and our divorce was finalized in August 2007. In our divorce agreement, we agreed to share expenses on the unit until we could sell it. We first listed our co-op in the spring of 2007, and it is still for sale today. Until May 2009, I even paid for half of the mortgage payment, even though he lived there and I did not. While this seriously impacted me financially, I understood it was a shared responsibility until we could rid ourselves of it. In June 2009, he moved out and I moved into the unit and pay 100 percent of the mortgage until June 2011, as this scenario was better financially than paying half the mortgage and my own apartment rental. In July 2009, my ex-husband lost his job, so had he still been living there he would not have been able to make even half of the mortgage payments. Recently he left for China for 10 months to do missionary work.
While we have been divorced over three years and have moved on with our lives, the co-op forces us to stay in touch and keep a chapter open in our lives that we would both prefer to close. We are both cordial to each other, so communication remains civil.
Currently our community has engaged a company that specializes in converting co-ops into condos, for a fee, of course. This conversion is expected to close in October of this year. Converting means that we must refinance the loan, and to do this there is significant cash out of pocket required, as our loan is upside down. I have this cash available, but as Jeff has no formal income, this will require him to use his savings, which he would prefer to avoid. This conversion will then put us on par with the many other condos that are available for sale. It is not exactly a great scenario, but at least it goes from being an impossible task to a difficult task.
Jeff and I talked many times about walking away from the mortgage, but as we both have excellent credit scores, we really do not want to damage this. My life has moved forward, I have a new boyfriend and we talk about getting married, but the co-op remains a liability for me. I am hopeful that sometime in the next six months we are able to sell this, so that I can finally close this chapter in my life.
— Melissa Schilling from Fairlawn, Ohio
'Terrified About My Prospects'
In August of 2008, I received a full-tuition scholarship to attend graduate school for a master's degree in special education, something required in New York state to be a certified teacher. The scholarship had a 20-hour-a-week paid assistantship attached to it, so I left my full-time job and went back to school. I am a single mother who owns a small home; I had no intention of moving when I started grad school.
Courtesy of Christine Delany
Unfortunately, I did not foresee the economic meltdown that happened a few months after I left my full-time job.
Now, two years later, I have a master's degree and no teaching job. The employment market is awful in this area, as is the housing market ... I'm stuck in Binghamton, where there are no jobs, and where houses have been on the market at reduced prices for a year or more.
To say that I'm terrified about my prospects is an understatement. If I had known what was going to happen with the economy, I would not have gone back to school to further my career goals, regardless of receiving a scholarship and graduating with a GPA of 3.96. I'm unemployed, receive no unemployment insurance, cannot get out from a mortgage here, and have no job prospects at this time.
— Christine Delany from New York
My husband and I bought our house in Birmingham, Ala., after I graduated from grad school and landed my "dream job." My husband was unemployed, having just graduated from law school, and we figured he'd be able to land a job in the biggest city in the state. Instead, the only job he was able to find after several months was working on a political campaign in Mobile, four hours away. We spent several months living apart — newlywed torture!!
Later, my husband found a permanent job with a firm in Huntsville, Ala. We jumped at the chance, even knowing we would have to sell the house. I stayed in Birmingham to work and show the house. Within a month, my dream job's company went bankrupt, and we were let go without severance! Extremely thankfully, I found a new job within a week in Huntsville.
Now we are finally settled in a small apartment in Huntsville, but are still paying over $1,000 each month for a house we don't live in — money that could be used to pay off student loans, buy decent furniture, buy a house in the city which we'll actually be living in, and even start a family. Unfortunately all of that will have to be put on hold until we can sell our house in Birmingham.
Obviously, this house has NEVER been our "home" — we hardly got to live there together — just a big money pit!
— Lauren Dauro from Huntsville, Ala.