Friday, March 27, 2015

Dear HOA...An Open Letter. And Why We Should Always Help One Another.

Today's post isn't a Happy one. It isn't about the joys of mommyhood, or the cute thing my beautiful, healthy boys did today.

But it is about something happening in my life that is adversely effecting my family, for which I'm so thankful for. The family, not the situation.

This is an open letter that I wrote last week after a sleepless night of worry and seemingly endless anxiety. I addressed it to our homeowners association of of first home that we still currently own and pay a mortgage on in addition to the home our family currently resides in, but I've left off the name for the purposes of this post.

"To be honest, I don't know why I'm writing the letter. I'm pretty certain i won't send it, knowing that it will do no good, trying to appeal to any of you as fellow homeowners, parents, and people living their lives the best we can.

When my husband and I first decided we were going to buy a home rather than rent an apartment, we began looking in (name withheld) and (name withheld)because my future father-in-law owned a (developer's name withheld) home, and we loved the neighborhoods, homes, and the way the land was preserved with mature trees and hills. We used to drive through (name withheld) on date nights, dreaming that one day, we could afford to live in this gorgeous neighborhood.

When we began looking, we found an open house on (name withheld) Lane, one of the streets we drove down on those nights. The power was out, we viewed the house by candlelight. I fell in love, and knew this was home. We scheduled a second showing, and again toured with that candle. I still have that candle.

We moved into our new home, full of hope and excited to make this house our own. We painted, updated, and moved our meager belongings in. We thought we would never have enough possessions to possibly fill in the rooms we now owned.

As the years went by, we enjoyed every moment in our home. Fires in the stone wall fireplace on chilly nights, Christmas with my parents the year before my mom passed, family gatherings and Thanksgiving dinners. Friends over to celebrate and make memories.

Home was a special place for us.  But, after a few years, we knew we were starting to outgrow our first home. When the opportunity to purchase a home literally two streets away, my heart felt this was right. We would still be in our beautiful neighborhood that we had first fallen in love with! And though our new home would need a tremendous amount of work, we just knew our family that now included our golden retriever would fill it with our dreams and make it our own.

When we talked to our loan officer, we all knew we would not have a problem selling our first home, or possibly leasing it. But we had things working against us out of our control.

The real estate market crashed, and suddenly our home wasn't selling with the slow down of buyers. Plus, it had electric heat which had suddenly become a negative because of rising costs.

So, with two mortgages pushing down on our finances, we rented out to someone we knew would love the house like we did, and raise his family there. This helped our situation somewhat.

Regardless of any situation that may or may not have occurred" (note: there was a situation in which our renters felt uncomfortable), "we were told that the as the board was considering not allowing rentals. We were stunned. We had hoped to keep the home as an investment in the neighborhood we so loved and still lived in. In fact, if we moved again, we hope to stay in these tree filled streets.

But, our renters could stay until their lease was up. However, they felt uncomfortable and decided to leave.

We would have two mortgages, hoa fees, and two (name withheld) hoa fees upon the other expenses home ownership comes with. We tried to put the home on the market once again, but we couldn't afford to sell it at the one verbal offer we received. It was actually cheaper to pay two mortgages, and strain our finances.

But, life goes on. We decided to start our family, praying that the house would eventually sell and not putting our plans on hold. Our son was born, and still we were in the same situation. Things began to happen...our air conditioner broke down, tires weren't able to hold air in my Saturn, the furnace no longer working properly, just to name a few.
But, we still have our other home and all the expenses that go along with it. Those thing would have to wait. Then, we had our second son. I thank God every single day that they are healthy, happy boys.

My husband and I have always prided ourselves with keeping up with our responsibilities. We were advised, at one point, just to let the house go into foreclosure. We were appalled, not only because we still lived in the neighborhood and this would drastically affect home values, but because it just wasn't what you were supposed to do. It was a responsibility we had accepted and would somehow fulfill.

For years.

When my mother-in-law lost her husband and her health took a serious turn, we decided to let her stay in our empty home (that, because it has stood empty, had repairs that needed to be made because things had fallen into disrepair being vacant) while we began to prepare to place it once again on the market, and make it easier to take her to her medical treatments.

But, the home has to be owner occupied according to the new by-laws.

We were informed we would have to either move her out, or put her on the title. But, by putting her on the title, the home would be vulnerable to any debts or MEDICAL expenses. So, in the middle of this freezing winter, we have begun to look for a new place for her to move to. The repairs are taking longer due to scheduling issues, and finding a reliable contractor.

At our home, our air conditioner and furnace still are working. Thank goodness we have a furnace for our living area. We have been using space heaters for our bedroom and our son's room, blankets and Styrofoam insulation on the windows to keep the heat in. Fans in the summer help somewhat. Our checking account has been overdrawn multiple times while filling up our gas tanks. Vacations, air shows, even simple date nights have been forsaken to save money. We can't afford a babysitter, even while I was in the hospital having our second soon. Our furniture (as is much of our baby furniture and son's clothing) is almost all second hand, given by friends and family. The strain has been hard to bear.

All because of our once well loved home on (name withheld) Lane, that we have been unable to sell or rent out to help with expenses.

We still love the neighborhood, and care about the value of our homes. We hope to have things settled by this Summer. Of course, this hope has been strung out over a few years.

I write this not to blame you. Yes, I feel an immense amount of resentment. I would be lying if I said I didn't. But, that resentment stems more from the fact that I no longer love that home as I once did. It is tied to far too many things that have broken pieces of my heart.

I honest cannot understand why, as human beings, we can't help one another. How an empty home falling into disrepair and crippling a young family financially and emotionally outweighs perceived loss in property value because of renting out a home, especially considering we own another home a walk away. Obviously, property value is important to us. Any real estate agent would tell you the longer a home stands empty, the lower the property value goes. I only hope that we will be able to get through this this year.

My wish to you is that if you ever go through hardship, your friends and neighbors give you the support and assistance you need. That in your time of need, hearts are open to you and that you are given the hope of a better time that my family wasn't.

I will teach my boys to not lump everyone into one group, and that people deserve respect and hope. That is what you have gifted my family with. To teach them what not to do. For those of you that have not been directly involved in the decision making or coming up with this new by-law after years, I apologize and wish you, along with everyone who owns a home on (name withheld) nothing but happiness.

When all is said and done, as I take my beautiful, healthy, happy boys on a walk in my neighborhood, I will smile when I walk past our street. Because it is the right thing to do."

Just yesterday, my husband and I received a letter stating we were in violation of our bylaws, and that we hadn't told the board our plans to rectify the situation. Which we had. We had informed our board members, by letter, that my mother-in-law would be moving once we had found a place to move her to.

But we were now facing an assessment of $1800 in addition to any further legal fees the board incurred.

I posted a short statement on my Facebook page, to which many expressed their disbelief.

But, a somewhat disturbing thing happened.

A friend contacted me, and told me the exact same situation had happened to her and her family just a few years ago. Exactly.

They had purchased their new home, and we're carrying two mortgages. Unable to sell their home, they rented it out. For less than what they were paying on the mortgage, plus hoa fees. Their association decided to disallow rentals.

They were facing the exact same situation we are in. After three years of barely squeezing by with their young family, filled with financial and emotional stress, and sleepless nights, they made a difficult decision.

They walked away.

It was a decision they came to not easily, and in fact, it was incredibly difficult. This decision would adversely effect their way of life, but they had no other choice. They couldn't afford to sell the house due to the market, and couldn't have renters to help with the cost.

It made me wonder how many other people were in this situation of financial hardship, good people who were responsible, but pushed into a decision they never thought they would have to make. And denied any help or assistance from a board they paid hoa fees to, all in the name of protect the "value" of their homes. Because nothing says value than a vacant house, sitting empty, and foreclosures.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Thing I Never Thought I'd Say...The Day of Corn Starch

Things you never imagine saying:

"Don't pee on your brother!"

"Did you pee on your brother again?"

"Don't play your baby bongos by the front window while you're naked! Your names not Matthew McCaughna-hey!" (I'm spelling it that way because that's the way it was lil guy once again peed on hia big brother.)

All of this occurred right after I spilled corn starch EVERYWHERE while lil man climbed up onto the chair I had been standing on while searching in an upper cabinet. Sigh. And lil guy had a bit of a rash, so I was letting him "dry out" and not be irritated.

What a day...

posted from Bloggeroid