A Lighthearted Look at the Housing Market

Our comedic translators of current events, Angela V. Shelton and Frances Callier — also known as Frangela — take on the downturn in the housing market, the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market, and why it's still impossible to buy a house in Los Angeles.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. And I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

We've been hearing about troubles in the housing market for months now. Subprime mortgage lenders failing, housing prices sinking in places, home foreclosures up. And just this week, the country's largest builder of luxury homes, Toll Brothers, said that profits for its most recent quarter fell nearly 85 percent.

BRAND: Wow. What is going on? Is the housing market tanking? Have we all just spent beyond our means, lured in by all those crazy low interest rates? Well, here with some answers and a lot more is Frangela, our comic translators of current events. They are Frances Callier and Angela Shelton.

Welcome, ladies, to the show.

Ms. ANGELA SHELTON (Comedienne): Hello.

Ms. FRANCES CALLIER (Comedienne): Thank you.

BRAND: Okay. Well, let's start with your personal stories. Do you rent or own?

Ms. SHELTON: Oh, we rent.

Ms. CALLIER: We rent. We rent like sad sharecroppers.

Ms. SHELTON: Really. Really. Owning a home is a dream deferred. The American dream is dead for us.

Ms. CALLIER: And we're just trying to avert our eyes when we drive by housing.

BRAND: Did you ever want to get into the market, to buy a house?

Ms. SHELTON: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, we have dreams every night, you know, we have dreams about having home and I call Angela the next morning and I say, girl, guess what I dreamt about? My house.

Ms. CALLIER: Oh, yes. I was in the backyard, yelling at the kids next door for throwing their toys over and...

Ms. SHELTON: We're cooking burgers and franks on the grill.

BRAND: White picket fence?

Ms. CALLIER: Oh yeah.

Ms. SHELTON: Oh, yeah. English garden in the front, Japanese meditation garden in the back.

BRAND: So did you ever consider a subprime mortgage?

Ms. CALLIER: No, and I will tell you why.

Ms. SHELTON: My mama always told me if you want to buy something you need to have the money. Either you're going to cry now or cry later. And crying later is always worse.

Ms. CALLIER: And I was, you know, I don't know if you remember a few years ago, like, every other commercial...

Ms. SHELTON: Yes.

Ms. CALLIER: ...was one of these, you know, subprime lending mortgage companies. And now you feel like one every couple of days.

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah.

Ms. CALLIER: But there was a period of time when that was on 24/7.

Ms. SHELTON: 24/7.

BRAND: Right. And now you have commercials from attorneys or others saying they'll help you with your foreclosure.

Ms. SHELTON: Exactly.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah. Or buy a foreclosed house. I mean that's just so sad.

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah.

BRAND: Well, you're from - Angela, you're from Detroit.

Ms. SHELTON: Mm-hmm.

BRAND: So tell us what's going on there?

Ms. SHELTON: Detroit's problem is that it's an empty city, so you can get a house there - a huge house for some ridiculous low amount of money...

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah.

Ms. SHELTON: ...like 20 grand. The problem is there are no city services and you can't ever sell it for the amount of money that you put into it. So I know tons of people, including my own family members, who are stuck with property that real estate agents will laugh at them. And so one of the phenomenons that I've seen in the city is that people on both sides - you have the bad kind of street ghetto loan to get the house that takes advantage of people's naiveté and not understanding how those rates can change.

BRAND: Yes.

Ms. SHELTON: And then you have the people who take advantage of it. Like...

BRAND: Like?

Ms. SHELTON: A friend of mine's neighbor who one day came over and was like, this is our plan. What we're going to do is we refinance the house, we're going to buy two new cars with it, go on a vacation, and then we're just going to move in with our mom and let the house get foreclosed on.

BRAND: And just forget it and never pay back...

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah, because their credit is already bad; that's why they got a subprime loan. So they don't care if they have a foreclosure; they shouldn't have gotten the loan in the first place.

Ms. CALLIER: Well, this is the thing. They just made it worst for all rest of us.

Ms. SHELTON: Right.

BRAND: Well, okay. Here's the question then, because, you know, a lot of people are blaming these predatory lenders, who are saying that they preyed on people and offered them something that they didn't know that they were getting themselves into. Or do you blame people who said, you know what? I want to kind of get what I really can't afford?

Ms. CALLIER: Well, you know, I think it's 50-50. You know, I think that it's just like those credit cards that you get offered when you're in college, right? And you have that friend who then - you may have gotten one credit card but you have that friend who signed up for all 18 that came in the mail.

Ms. SHELTON: No job.

Ms. CALLIER: And with no job. And then all of a sudden they're like I owe $60,000, right?

Ms. SHELTON: Well, you know, when I had the creditors, when I did that, one of my creditors said, you know, it's really irresponsible of you not to pay this debt. I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, hold up, who's the irresponsible, the person who gave an 18-year-old who was in school with no job a $5,000 limit credit card or the person who spent the money, you know?

What I don't understand about the subprime situation is why it's so unregulated. I mean you don't go to banks anymore...

Ms. CALLIER: Right.

Ms. SHELTON: ...because they can't qualify for them.

Ms. CALLIER: Right. Well, you know, there was a time when, you know, you had you had to put on your Sunday best...

Ms. SHELTON: That's right.

Ms. CALLIER: You...

Ms. SHELTON: Get the family and the kids all dressed up.

Ms. CALLIER: Every shined up - is looking good and you walked into the bank and you said, you know, we have a dream. We've save our money, we have a down payment; but you know, now it's quick fast and easy.

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah, online.

Ms. CALLIER: Yeah.

Ms. SHELTON: It takes you two minutes to get, you know, a mortgage that you really shouldn't get.

BRAND: And they don't ask you how much money you make?

Ms. SHELTON: No.

Ms. CALLIER: (Unintelligible) They'll get your name. (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHELTON: Just tell us the area - the general area you live in.

Ms. CALLIER: (Unintelligible) drops the money, you pick it up, get your house.

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah.

BRAND: So maybe we should all just stop fixating on houses. Why are we so obsessed with them - about buying them, fixing them up, renovating, reselling, refine - duh duh duh. Why don't we just think about something else?

Ms. CALLIER: It is our American lore. It is our dream. And we were told - we've been taught that since we we're itty-bitty people.

Ms. SHELTON: Since you're a baby.

Ms. CALLIER: Yes, since you were a baby.

BRAND: Since we watched "Little House on the Prairie."

Ms. CALLIER: Exactly.

Ms. SHELTON: Oh, yeah.

Ms. CALLIER: Everybody gets a little house; even Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Ms. SHELTON: Yeah.

Ms. CALLIER: Everybody.

BRAND: Except for you.

Ms. SHELTON: Except for us.

Ms. CALLIER: Except for us.

Ms. SHELTON: Avert your eyes.

Ms. CALLIER: Don't even look at it.

Ms. SHELTON: You will never have it.

Ms. CALLIER: Don't even dream it.

BRAND: Thank you both. That's Frances Callier and Angela Shelton. They are the comic duo Frangela.

Ms. CALLIER: Thank you.

Ms. SHELTON: Thanks.

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