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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Deep Thoughts - Inspired by The TeeVee

I admit it - I love real-ish shows like "Flip This House," "While You Were Out" and "Trading Spaces." I would just adore having the money and time to be able to take a run-down house, or a boring room, and make it into something gorgeous and special.

In a somewhat related vein, I've watched the new show "My First Home" a few times. Of course, I routinely want to kill myself afterwards, since all of the prospective homeowners are paying prices that wouldn't get you a hamster cage in New York...but it's still interesting and somewhat inspiring to see people find a great place to live for their families.

I knew this from my own search for a new home, but it's somewhat comforting to discover that it's never easy. Take the case of the woman who starred in the last episode I watched. A single mom with two kids living in Atlanta, she was a renter with bad credit who felt it was time to have her own home.

For six months, she scrimped and saved to pay down her credit card bills and improve her credit score. She cut out all but basic cable, started driving less, and bought fewer toys and clothes for the kids. She even moved into a friend's house so she wouldn't have to pay rent. After all of these commendable efforts, she was ready to begin her search.

And search she did. She saw 30 homes in her price range. Meanwhile, months and months had gone by, and her kids had to start school again in their old district - for their sake, she had hoped to find a home during the summer so they could begin the year in a new school - and she began to despair that she would never find a home that met her criteria.

Finally, her Realtor showed her the 31st home. It was perfect! She made an offer to the Seller, was accepted, and after many Closing Date changes, finally purchased her new home in Atlanta, Georgia. Wanna cry, Northeasterners and Californians? She got a new construction, three-bedrom, two-bathroom, 1600-square foot home with a huge fenced yard for $128,000. (This is the point at which I always desperately remind myself that I heart New York.)

The last piece of the show was the woman saying she was very proud of herself because, as a single mom, she had bought her first home "all on her own."

Well, I felt like someone had just told me I shoulda had a V-8. All on her own, was it? Not so fast, honey!

This lucky lady's friend was kind enough to let her and her kids live rent-free for more than six months. Her Realtor was patient enough to show her 31 houses, and when her Closing Date was rescheduled for the umpteenth time, took the time to persuade the Seller to allow his client to occupy the house pre-Closing. The Seller also agreed to pay her closing costs and down payment. (I've never heard of that happening.) Finally, she was able to get an FHA loan from the government, which allows 97% financing for first-time home buyers.

I'm not saying this woman shouldn't have been proud of her accomplishment, but I really think her attitude is too symptomatic of Americans' in general. We have this myth in America of the loner, the cowboy, the man who needs nothing from others and does everything himself. In some ways, it's a malignant myth, because it keeps us from realizing that no one gets anywhere without the help of others, seen or unseen.

In the case of the heroine of "My First Home," without her Realtor, her friend and the federal government, she never would have owned that wonderful house. In the 21st century, I hope that Americans will finally understand that no person is an island, and that without joining together with ourselves and the rest of the world, we will never own that wonderful future we all need and deserve.

The survival of our planet depends upon it.


Southern Beale said...

Oh, Madamab, remember that e-mail that was going around about this a couple years back? Something like, "A Day In The Life Of Joe 6-Pack" or something. Hit on the same topic.

madamab said...

Yes! I thought of that too. We Murkins have got to get a freaking clue!