Tuesday, May 29, 2007

to foreclose, or not to foreclose

Sherri Caughman's story isn't atypical:

Sherri Caughman prides herself on being the kind of conscientious New Yorker who does her homework before making any major purchases. So when Ms. Caughman, 44, a supervisor in the city’s food-stamp program, decided last November to buy a two-family house in Jamaica, Queens, she took a class on buying real estate, researched the property through city records and vetted the terms of her mortgage with her former sister-in-law, a real estate broker.

Ms. Caughman was also counting on help from her elderly parents, who would move into the downstairs apartment and help out with the mortgage on the $515,000 house. But three days after she closed on the house, her parents decided to move back to South Carolina. Suddenly, Ms. Caughman, who makes $40,000 a year, was left to pay a $3,699 monthly mortgage.

“I don’t want to lose my home,” she said, fighting back tears as she picked at a spinach salad in a Long Island City cafe during her lunch hour. But she fears that she will have to sell her house and find a less expensive place to live. “I’m just starting over. That’s the hard part.”

One thing Ms. Caughman could have used more of is perhaps a little common sense. Making only $40,000 a year, how could she realistically think she could afford such a home? Was there nothing else available that cost a little less? I realize that the real estate market is pretty high in New York City, but surely she could have found something in a more realistic range. One thing is sure: her parents' move to South Carolina greatly affected their relationship.

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