Thursday, April 26, 2007

Screw the Kids, I Want a Mortgage and I Want it Now!

Continuing on with the theme of how greed and the housing bubble in Marin has torn apart families, I give you the following story emailed to me the other day (and reproduced with permission):
Thanks for starting your blog back up, it was my favorite of all the RE blogs (by wide margin), but when it went quiet, I stopped dropping by.

Anyway, here is my situation, yes it is personal, but here are some of the real life victims of the housing bubble here in marin. It seems like there would be something here for your blog.

Essentially, my spouse of ten years divorced me, and moved with my 6 and 4 year old children, into a cohabitation situation in a house that was "owned" by her "friend". But that was only after her friend divorced his wife of 13 years and evicted the other spouse from the house (while keeping 50% custody of their child).

Apparently, my biggest fault was being a renter. And a saver/investor. No matter that I rented first a small house in San Rafael, then a larger house in southern marin as our little family grew, both chosen by my non-working, stay at home, professionally educated spouse. Renting for about 1/2 the monthly cost versus owning doesn't matter.

Now I continue to rent, but this time a small studio, while I work to provide "family support" to a former marin resident (now sonoma resident) who finally is able to reside in a house that isn't rented.

The three innocent victims of this bizarre marin situation are the three children that had the misfortune to have real estate obsessed parents who would literally do anything to "own" a home.

This bizarre behavior is symptomatic of the social structure in marin. At a certain point, people will do whatever they think they have to in order to pursue the lifestyle in god's country. It is pretty sad.

(for what it is worth, both the adulterous spouses are european imports that don't seem to have the need to work to provide a roof over their heads...Ironically, neither of them are trust funders. They just appear to like to live off other peoples work and equity.)

If you can use any parts of this for inspiration on you blog, be my guest. There is a serious human toll being extracted from the residents of this area due to RE.
Oh, the vanity! The self-absorption! The inflated sense of self-worth! Welcome to Marin.

Do you have Marin RE horror stories of your own that you would like to share? Send 'em in.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an awful story. My heart goes out to that guy. The bad thing is that I'm not at all surprised that this happens.
While I'm not at all interested in having kids myself, I can say that it seems that people here do talk about houses more than kids. The children come later as convenient accessories to the house.In fact, it seems that most people in the BA that have kids are either 50-somethings or the idle rich.

There are lots of victims to the housing bubble: first time home buyers, the working and middle classes, young families, and industries that can no longer pay their employees enough to stay.

As mentioned on this blog, the bubble has made the area sick. It cannot function as it is now for an extended time without serious long term repercussions as it already has to an extent. Most of my family who live outside this state think people here have a few screws loose mainly due to the expense. I think they might be about right.

Apr 27, 2007, 8:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Marinite, here is my long-winded story:

Met now-estranged wife in SoCal in the early 90’s. We moved to NoCal (South Bay) and married in the early 90’s. After losing my job in ’95, we moved to Portland, OR and had our first child. Loved the job, loved Portland, loved the fact that it didn’t cost an arm and leg for a home. Portland was going through an RE mini-frenzy at the time, and we put in one or two 95% offers but lost out. One night I received a call from an ex-employer offering a position back in SFO. I was initially disinterested, wife convinced me it was a wise “career move”, agreeing we would move back to the PacNW in 2-3 years.

Now 1996, we landed in Marin, i.e. “God’s Country”. The job turned out to be a dud, offering me 2-1/2 hour commutes and loads of stress. In the meantime my college degreed wife intimated that she had no intention of going back to the PacNW (or back to work) again. Her frequent excursions to Macy’s and Nordstroms also gave me a glimmer that she had zero intention of sticking to any kind of family budget, even though she worked less than a year of the twelve we were married.

Having bought and lost in a previous bubble (LA in 1990) I was always wary about buying at NoCal’s super-inflated prices, and since we still disagreed as to where we should be, we remained renters. In the meantime wife befriended and hung out with a group of southern Marin trust-fund transplants, consisting largely of stay-at-home moms. Wife constantly belittled me for not taking the risk and buying (primarily after the big run-ups). I steered us into therapy, hoping to improve things between us. The 90’s passed, then 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, another child….things did not improve, no southern Marin house was on the horizon, and finally she filed for divorce.

One of her statements was, “I would have stayed with you if we had just bought a home.” Hmm…I somehow doubt that saddling myself, the lone wage earner, with a $900K mortgage would have made me any more attractive as a marriage partner. But it might have made be an absentee home debtor, eh?

The story certainly brings up some stuff for me, mainly that places like Marin tends to attract a high proportion of those entranced with others’ projection of wealth, like mosquitoes to a flame. These folks possess the lack of healthy self-esteem that leaves most of us relatively unscathed by what others have or don’t have. They glom onto the real or perceived lifestyles of others while their own lives are permeated by dissatisfaction. Besides their new circles of “friends”, they also are encouraged to carry on their dysfunctionality by a plethora of distractions, including their own distorted interpretation of the new age thinking that permeates our county (which by itself there is nothing wrong with).

Admittedly, I was an enabler and could have ended things sooner by taking a walk of my own, but that’s not my way. BUT -- and here’s the message -- I am now MUCH happier than I have been in years, with a beautiful rental, quality time with my boys and no worries about tiptoeing around a spouse who was trying to “find herself” at my expense.

Not to say most here in Marin are like that. I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurial, creative and talented folks who are simply living their lives and either hit the jackpot or are long-time residents. But I do believe a disproportionate number with this personality type are drawn here. I’m also suggesting to other guys (and gals) that are enabling a significant other that fits this dysfunctional profile, my experience indicates that people don’t change. If the hope is gone, get it together and end it, you will likely be a happy renter if you do!

Apr 27, 2007, 6:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know one family purchased a house for $700k without any down payment in the South Bay. Recently both of the parents are out of jobs. They are facing heavy mortgage payments and could not sell their house without a loss. Now their son has to postpone going to college due to lack of money.

Sometimes people tend to forget the important thing in life. The house was purchased to provide a shelter for their kid. It turned out to be a hindrance for the kid to further advance his education.

What makes me even more surprised is to find out people are willing to pile up on debt just to show they are living up to "standards". I saw so many couples living in big empty houses with stress being built up on their shoulders. Both parents have to work and they don’t have time for educating their kids. They rely solely on schools but the education system is crumbling. This vicious cycle just goes on.

A so called house, or home, is supposed to be a place where people find comfort and shelter. How do we achieve that? It takes some wisdom. People these days are being brain washed heavily by the TV or movies. They try to copy the made believe worlds to their real lives by acquiring unnecessary things and maintaining superficial images. This is definitely not a path to happiness.

Did anyone calculate the ratio between Bill Gate's house values versus his total wealth? He probably did not pile up debt up to his nose like other people have been doing. The point is if we keep the same ratio like Bill Gate’s, we probably could not afford any of those houses in Marin.

Apr 27, 2007, 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous (now divorced) father and renter..

Thank you for sharing your story, especially how this experience has left you happier now that you are divorced and on your own. My story is oh, so similar it's down right scary.

We moved here at the start of the bubble, and despite, at the time, my moderate income, my stay-at-home spouse never saw it necessary to find employment outside the house even after my kids were in high school. Instead, she spent much of her time shopping and at the botox beautiques that I never felt we could make any progress on a down payment. Then the whole thing just got away from us.

My ex is a beautiful woman and drew lots of attention from both sexes all over Marin. She ate it all up, especially the attention from those who displayed lots of wealth. Soon, infidelity crept into our marriage; several times in fact, including once with a local RE magnate. Well, despite counseling and lots of pain and heartache, she finally filed for divorce.

Looking back at it all, I'm very thankful she did, as I probably would have tried to stick it out for our kid's sake and for financial reasons. As it was, I sacraficed about 4 years of my life to it.

Now, I'm back on my feet and moving ahead again and saving again despite having to pay a hefty alimony payment to her. Yes, those alimony payments hurt, especially given our background and time together, but that's just how the chips fall here in California.

I'm probably more jaded about the entire RE industry as a result of this experience, but I saw my ex-wife get caught up in all the wealth and material things that are everywhere around here. Even my daughter asked me, just a few weeks ago, why I don't get into RE to make "better bank".

Well, I work my tail off and make a decent living with a great job and career, but her comments were just another sad reminder to me that the acorn, especially that instant wealth acorn, does not fall too far from the tree.

Apr 28, 2007, 1:53:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Terms of Use: The purpose of the Marin Real Estate Bubble weblog (located at URL and henceforth referred to as “MREB” or “this site”) is to present and discuss information relating to real estate and the real estate industry in general (locally, state-wide, nationally, and internationally) as it pertains to the thesis that recent real estate related activity is properly characterized as a “speculative mania” or a “bubble”. MREB is a non-profit, community site that depends on community participation and feedback. While MREB administrators do strive to confirm all information presented here and qualify all doubtful items, the information presented at MREB is neither definitive nor should it be construed as professional advice. All information published on MREB is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind and the administrators of this site shall not be liable for any direct or indirect damages arising out of use of this site. This site is moderated by MREB administrators and the MREB administrators reserve the right to edit, remove, or refuse postings that are off-topic, defamatory, libelous, offensive, or otherwise deemed inappropriate by MREB administrators. You should consult a finance professional before making any decisions based on information found on this site.

The contributors to this site may, from time to time, hold short (or long) positions in mentioned and related companies.