Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A note about making the right decisions

The Occupy Wall Street movement is generating an awful lot of talk. Most of it, unfortunately, is reinforcing my opinion that people, by and large, are idiots. People who aren't idiots, furthermore, become idiots when trying to deal with certain subjects. I have elected, therefore, to just stay as far away from it all as possible, because you can't win when you're arguing with an idiot.

There's one point I want to make, though, and it's about making decisions.

I'm a computer guy. When people are looking to buy computers, or sell computers, or fix whatever damage they inadvertently caused to their poor defenseless computers, they ask me for advice or help. While I don't always want to help, I usually do. I know stuff about computers, and sometimes I can ask that person for assistance when I need their expertise.

When my wife and I bought this condo, we, not knowing a whole lot about mortgages, did what all of you do when your computers are broken. We relied on the advice of an in-law, who recommended a broker. We gave him pay stubs, and tax returns, and utility bills, and letters, and DNA samples, and he returned with a pre-approval from a firm called Countrywide.

We went touring around the Valley with an agent who showed us a whole big bunch of places. There was one we liked. Nice neighborhood, good schools, blah blah. It was, I was told, a pretty good deal. I wasn't really convinced about the good deal part, but compared to the prices of some of the other places we'd looked at, it seemed like we might, if the market really did go south, still be in a place people would want to live.

When the broker showed us the Truth In Lending statement, I got a bit upset and almost told him to leave. He was reassuring. He said, yeah, there's sticker shock, it looks high, but you guys can do it. Lots of people do it. And in a couple years, you can refinance, or maybe even sell up.

So we bought it. And it's a nice house. Even though the market did tank completely, we refinanced after two years, and avoided our mortgage going adjustable. Or loan went from Countrywide, to Greenpoint, to somebody else (I think), to Chase, and then to Bank of America.

As an aside: Every interaction I've had with every one of them over the last 7 years has been characterized by either a) frightening incompetence, b) malice and an overwhelming desire to make us pay for having been one of a multitude of toxic assets, or c) both.

I don't really regret buying this place. It's comfortable, and it's in just the right place to put our kids in a really good school. I'd do an awful lot to keep my kids in a good school. It's worth it to have them tell me about what they did in school today. They make me so happy that sometimes I have to stop myself from crying because The Girl told me about something new she learned in school.

Let's be honest, though: this place isn't worth what we paid for it. It might never be worth what we paid for it. It's an albatross, and I just hope I can keep from sinking until the kids can't realistically share a room any more.

We overbought. We did it on the advice of people who probably knew better, but wanted to make some money off of us before the whole shithouse when up in flames. We will probably, some day, have to walk away from this because we won't be able to sell it without taking a loss. I can live with all that.

But if I hear somebody say that I should have done more research on mortgages, or housing trends, or I should have been able to spot a bubble, or any of the rest of the things that imply that we acted imprudently, or that we're stupid, or we deserve to be underwater, I say to that somebody: you can fix your own fucking computer from now on.

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