My husband and I bought our first home almost ten years ago. We were all of 25, and truthfully, had no business becoming homeowners.
Especially not the owners of this house.
It was 60 years old. It was all of 650 square feet. It had plastic paneling in every single room. The ugliest brown and gold shag carpet you can imagine on the walls in the basement. A smoke stained shrine to the Virgin Mary in the living room. In short, it was a wreck.
But it didn’t matter. Because this house? Was lakefront—or at least close enough.
This was the view that greeted us when we clacked open the tacky plastic vertical blinds in our bedroom every morning:
Once I stepped out on to the deck and saw that lake shining back at me, the house was sold. All that was left was pushing the mortgage through. Luckily, we had (emphasis on the past tense) good credit. Make that fantastic credit. So we got ourselves an FHA loan, cashed in our IRA for the down payment (I told you, we were young and stupid), and signed our lives away.
Over the next four and a half years, that little beach shack caused us a world of pain. The roof leaked. The electrical wiring had to be redone. The shag carpet began to shed. It was one problem after another after another.
But it didn’t matter. Because through it all? I loved that house.
I loved listening to the ducks quack as I drifted off to sleep at night.
I loved the tight feel of my tired muscles after a long, satisfying day of ripping off some god awful paneling or tearing up some wretched carpet.
I loved every minute I spent bringing the neglected gardens back to life.
Above all, I loved the time I spent floating on my back in the middle of the lake, listening to the boats drone past as I watched the clouds drift by on a lazy summer afternoon.
It was my home. My very first home. And when we finally sold it? I was a little bit devastated.
Still, the family who bought it from us seemed nice. They had big plans. They were going to finish what we started—rip up the rest of the ugly carpet, install french doors and get the rest of the paneling off the walls. They were even going to pay off their truck.
Yes, you heard me right. I said pay off their truck.
Because all those improvements? Were being financed by a ridiculous mortgage. They took out $30,000 over and above the purchase price of our house. Thirty. Thousand. Dollars.
But this was 2005. The housing crisis hadn’t even been thought of yet.
And for a while, everything seemed to be okay. We’d drive by on our trips home and peer out the car windows at “our” house. Nothing ever seemed to be that different (although there was a spiffy truck in the driveway), but nothing looked that bad, either.
Until this weekend.
This weekend when we drove by, this is what we saw.
The gardens were all overgrown. The paint on the deck was worn through and flaking off. The roof? Well, you can see the tarp. The inside was even worse. Our beloved little beach shack was abandoned, unloved and in foreclosure.
And you know what? My heart broke again.
Because that house will always have a special place in my heart. It (and the family who lived in it) deserves better than this.
The people who sold all those awful mortgages? Should be ashamed of themselves.