It's not about the house.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The House That Jack(een) Built

I picked up a copy of The Economist this afternoon. I don’t read The Economist. The only other time I ever bought The Economist was when I was in Istanbul for two weeks and it was the only English-language thing that I could find. Which itself is something to be wondered at, now that I think about it. No Spectator, no New Yorker, no Cosmopolitan – well, okay, the Cosmo I can understand. They’d have to drape the entire newsstand in a somber black hijab. But still, The Economist? Anyway, what I learned from that little Turkish delight is that I don’t read The Economist, even when it’s the only English reading material in the entire country. Snoo-ooze…

But I picked it up today because it had a cover story called “The Trouble With the Housing Market” and I thought: why didn’t anybody think to contact me? I’m the freakin’ trouble with the housing market! Well, me and people like me…

They start out saying that “June is National Homeownership Month in America” – which I didn’t know and which, oh boy, I can’t wait for June. Then they go on to make all these puns about dry rot in the mortgage industry and crumbling foundations. Hey, stupid puns about housing debacles are my job, people! Can’t you just stick to desiccated prose and leave the jokes to those of us with bats in our belfries?

Anyway, The Economist – like everybody else these days – is blaming “The Trouble With the Housing Market” on sub-prime mortgages. Which, check, that’s me. They say (and I’m mixing direct quotes in with paraphrasing here) that those of us with sub-prime loans are poorer (check), that we’re “less likely to be white” (I don’t know how likely I am to be white, but I am, so I guess I beat the odds on that one), that we joined the party at the point when everybody else was looking at their watches and jiggling their keys (yup), and we got bullied into loans we couldn’t afford by brokers we couldn’t trust (who are you people, and why are you spying on me?!).

Ooh, but here’s something I didn’t know: in the biz, apparently, the shorthand term for “undocumented loans” – which is what I have (and which means just what it says) – is “liars.” Ha! Not that I would, you know. That would be stupid. I would never. Ever, ever. Again.

It gets better. The Economist, being a British magazine, is looking at the repercussions on the global – well, specifically, European – scale. The two countries, they say, who have fared the best from all of this, now stand to fare the worst. Those countries? Spain and Ireland. Oh, maybe I haven’t mentioned yet that we own a house in Dublin…

To make a long (long, long) story short, the house was Johnny’s mother’s. He was born in it and grew up to pay off the mortgage on his mum’s behalf. Mum, in remuneration, left the house to Johnny in her will. He has no intention of selling – a brother lives there now and always will, until he can’t or doesn’t want to – and the place is a pit anyway (apparently: I’ve never seen it). But it’s out there. And worth, the last we checked, about a half a million dollars. Like I say, we’re never going to sell, but it was nice to know that it was out there. Nice to think that we were, theoretically at least, worth a half a million dollars (plus a buck or two, if you count this shithole here).

But apparently no. The Economist is predicting a 60% drop in Irish housing prices, if – oh, wait, actually, no again. Now that I re-read it I see they’re not predicting a 60% drop but calling for one – “to return the ratio of housing-prices-to-rents to where it was around [the year] 2000.” Hey, you British bastards, back the fuck down!

Ooh, now the Limey twits are picking on my country! “Americans and others may be tempted to take heart…That would be a mistake." Plus: "Inevitably, Americans will ask what policymakers can do…It is too late.” And then the kicker: “[To] foster [homeownership] with tax breaks, as they do in America, is daft.”


Okay, so I cut those quotations up a little bit. I left some key parts out. But still, daft? I so want to get all cliché on them now – so want to point out things like the fact that we, in America, actually own the land under our houses, instead of leasing it in thousand-year increments from some doddering old peerage. But I won’t...

There are four more pages in this housing-market exposé, but I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say the news is grim – and that’s just the facts, ma’am, not the Anglo-angled interpretation. Ah, well. When the whole thing collapses and we lose our daft little too-late American house, we can always go and live in our low-rent Dublin pit.

By the way, I paid $5.99 for my copy of the magazine. Not very economical, what? But now that I’ve written about it, I can write it off – just like The Economist did me.

Daft that tax break, you British buggers!

No comments: