Friday, May 21, 2010

Starting Again

It has been well over a year since I moved to my current apartment, and I am still living out of boxes. The only room I have really unpacked is my bedroom, and half my kitchen. My cat freaked out when I moved, but she has calmed down at this point, and she has found a new sleeping place on my ironing board.
I don't really feel like this is home. It is similar to the feelings I had after I spent 3 months traveling in India and came back, or the time I spent 6 months in Southeast Asia and came back. I am tenuous and without roots. I have no desire to lay down roots either.
I do not love my new home. It is just the place I go to to sleep and cook. My credit is still ruined, and it will remain so for five more years, but I'm fine with that. It is amazing how much you can do without a credit card. I have slowly repaid my debts, with only a couple remaining. I will someday soon repay my friend who lent me $5000 in a vain attempt to keep my house. She told me it was a gift, and not to think about repaying her, but I will.
So there is life after foreclosure. You could not have told me that when I was going through it all, and my vision had become so narrow. There are always friends both old and new, and those that love you still love you without a house. I pushed them all away when I was so panicked about the house.
It has changed me, but I have moved on.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How It Works

When I finally lost my house I walked up to the door, and a Real Estate agent left a card saying that my house had been taken by the bank, and to call him as soon as possible. For a situation as awful as this, the agent was actually very kind. He explained the process to me, and treated me like a person, which was a relief.
The first step is a negotiation about leaving the property which the bank now owns. This is called "Cash for Keys"
It is in the bank's best interest for the former owner to leave the house with as little drama as possible. They will give you a little money, around $1500, though this is negotiable, and some time. I asked for 45 days. I used the money to help with the security deposit and first and last months rent on my new living arrangement.Once you agree on a sum and the timetable, you sign an agreement.
What is a little startling is that running parallel to this is the legal action the Bank must take to evict the former owner of the house. This is so if the "Cash for Keys" negotiation does not work, the legal remedy is already in place.
For me it was a bit alarming, because after I and the agent agreed to a the "Cash for Keys" agreement, I came home after work to find a 3 day notice to vacate taped to my door. I was really paniced at this point, and I called the agent. He assured me that our agreement was in place, and to ignore the notice taped to my door. Again, I was really thankful that the agent responded to my alarm with kindness and patience.

45 days later I moved out, and I started the process of rebuilding myself and my career.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's Over

There was more help for me out there, if I had just been willing to reach out for it. I thought I was hiding it all so well when one day a friend of mine took me aside and gave me his shrinks phone number. Not just a therapist mind you. A full fledged psychiatrist. I thought no one could see how freaked out I was, but I must have been leaking out all over the place.
In the end, you cannot work part time as a baker, do only 3 real estate deals a year, and keep your house.
When that day came, and another Realtor put their card on my door telling me I had lost my house, and to contact him, it was like this 100 pound rock that I had been carrying around for 2 years was lifted off my shoulders. I could actually breath again. Instead of wondering what was going to happen next, and how was I going to get through the next set of barriers, my course was simple and clear.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's Not Working

It's true what they say. You will do almost anything to not miss a mortgage payment. You will ask family for money. You will destroy your credit. You will try to do anything to not lose your house.
I was doing so few real estate deals that I had to take a second job. I am trained as a baker, so that is what I turned to. I woke at 3am to do my baking baking duties. At 12:30pm I would go out to my car to catch a quick 30 minute nap, go to my gym to shower and put on a suit, and then try to do real estate. To say that I was not at the top of my game would be a gross understatement.
My life became a tunnel, and I could no longer see into the far future. I could only see from month to month, to the day when my mortgage bill came along with all those delinquent bills. At this time gas was rising to above $4 a gallon. What should have been easy choices in normal times, becme dilemmas over paying my phone bill, getting some gas or buying some food.
Over hanging all of this was the deep feeling of shame and embarrassment.Taking a financial fall brought me back to all the wrong choices I has made, and I was weighed down by self dought, and thoughts of self destruction. At a time when I should have been reaching out for help, I was hiding in my bedroom, sleeping 12 hours a day, afraid to answer the phone or even look in the mail box.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Happened?

It is a rear thing to be invited to join something that you feel in your bones is going to be an amazing success. An invitation to board a rocket ship before it takes off, that is how I felt about joining my manager when she left to start her own company. It was also a chance for me to start again, fresh and new, but with the wisdom of a few years as a Realtor under my belt. I could really correct all those mistakes I made when I was a novice, and build a solid foundation for my career at a new company.
Our timing could not have been worse. I went from 12 to 15 sales a year to 3 or 4, and I was doing all those things I had not done before. I was staying in touch with my sphere of influence. I was working my farm for new prospects. I has started a dining out group, and I had joined a cooking group. I sat in on a business to business networking group.
In the beginning I thought I was not getting business because I was still ramping up. Joining a new company is like starting your career over again, and it takes time before the new deals start up. Gradually it became clear that it was not just the new company, the entire market was changing. No one was looking to buy. Everyone seemed to be retreating, waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Paying my mortgage on just 3 deals a year was not possible, and I started to cannibalize my resources to survive, and I was going to experience some very dark places. Places that are still a part of me today, because once that door is opened, it never truly closes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I didn't really want to admit that things were changing, though in truth it was really hard to tell. I had just moved to a new Real Estate company. We were in a small temporary office, so many of my work mates were choosing to work at home. I didn't have good contact with other agents, so I couldn't tell if anyone else was feeling what I was feeling. Was my anxiety because of my new situation, or was it because of a change in the market.
It became clear in just a few months. That anxiety grew into dread as I started to do less and less business. Now we look back and say the market changed because of the state of the lending and sub primes, but I honestly feel, in Berkeley, it was also fed by the anger of buyers. For 8 years they had been beat up by the Real Estate market. Sellers who were asking for more and more for their properties. Multiple offer situations where you could see over 20 offers on a house. Properties going for $150k over asking. No inspection contingencies, no protection. Buyers were just being smashed and disrespected.
I think the environment had become toxic, and finally, seemingly en mass, they all said enough.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Change in the Market

Looking back now it is amazing we didn't really see what was coming. Yes there were voices saying that this cannot last. Our manager at the time, Liz Stevens, while sharing in all our success was also starting to warn us that Real Estatre runs in cycles, and we should prepare ourselves for the change. Afterall, it was just a few years ago that most of us lost money when the tech bubble burst, but we were all flying high on Real Estate. I has a new career. I had just bought my first house. I was one of the top producers in the office. Maybe not one of the top ten, but a solid producer, and growing every year. I was making more money than I ever had as a baker, my previous occupation.

Our manager, Liz Stevens, the visionary left to form her own company, and I followed her, wanting to be part of something that would grow to be great, sure that I was on an upward trajectory. This turned out to be just awful timing.

Earlier than others, in the third quarter of 2005, I began to feel the change. At a time when new clients were everywhere, it started to dry up. That constant stream of new buyers that fed into my pipeline, and led to sales 3 months down the line began to vanish. Soon no one was coming to me, interested in buying a new home. You could almost feel the grinding of the gears as the engine began to shutter and stop.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm Back for a New Beginning

It's been a long time since my last post. I'm sure all 2 of you who were reading me missed my writing.
Real Estate and I have been through many things over the last t 3 years. I left a new company that I once thought was on a sky rocket that then fizzled, and I returned to my old company that is itself, going through some strange times.
My own life in the last 3 years has taken my to depths I had never known before, but I am on my way up again.
Some of these experiences I will share with you, because I think there is help in knowing that others have made it through what can seem like a hopeless situation.

So here's to new beginnings, a more personal blog, and a rebirth of Real Estate.