Monday, March 30, 2009

Foreclosures : a great oppotunity, or ambulance chasing?

I've got a moral dilemma of a dialog going on in my head lately. It goes something like this:

Me: "There sure are a lot of folks being victims of foreclosure these days..."
Angel Me: "Yes, it's true. We sure should have these folks in our prayers."
Devil Me: "True... We should wish the best for them. Say, how's that real-estate hunt going?"
Me: "Wow... funny you should mention that. Not too bad. Could always be better."
AM: "That hard work will certainly pay off. I know you trust that everything will work out for the best."
DM: "I'm sure. So what happens to these homes that are foreclosed?"
Me: "Well, the owners can't afford them anymore so they lose them."
DM: "I hear they sell for way under market-value. You should snag one."
AM: "And profit off of the misfortune of others? Do you think he has no conscience?"
Me: "No, you're absolutely right. I couldn't do that."
AM: [proudly] "See?"
Me: "How much under value?"
DM: "I have a website so you can find out."
AM: "Wow -- A 2 bedroom? For that price? Well, if this isn't a sign of God's providence, I don't know what is."
Me: "Isn't this kinda... um, morally grey?"
DM: "Well, the bank is the bad guy here putting mom and little baby joey out on the street. The damage is already done."
AM: "It's true... You'd actually be helping out the economy."
DM: "If you don't, someone else will get it."
AM: "Do you really want Pumpkin to have to grow up in a 6'x5' bedroom, always wishing her daddy loved her enough to not store root vegetables under her makeshift bed?"
Me: "What on earth are you talking about?"
DM: "Yeah, I'm kinda lost on that one too..."

...I'd go on, but it just gets weird from there. You get the point. Morally grey or just pricing based on circumstance?

[link] Free Forclosure Searching

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Home of Our Own, not just a home: how we've been doing and our future plans.

Columbia and I were talking last night and decided we needed to set a reasonable goal for ourselves. 1 post a week. It's not much, but it's SO MUCH more than we've been doing lately. Before we share our plans with you, here's how we've been doing:

Living on One Income in NYC
  • Even though Columbia completed 30 credits above his masters degree (the top salary in the doe) this past summer, it took a couple of months for the transcripts to come through... then processing time... FINALLY at the end of December we got the raise, and the retro-active pay (for the day he completed the last credit). We had been just learning to break even (and not dip into our savings anymore) when this happened, so we were overjoyed for the new monthly cushion and to be able to pay back some of our savings.
  • We've cut out spending even more. It's funny how frugalness really leads to more frugalness. And we don't feel like we're depriving ourselves or Pumpkin. Our families also gave us quite a few gift cards for Christmas and birthdays (Columbia's is November, Mine is in January) so we've been able to use them for special treats as well as necessities like clothing.
  • Columbia found an awesome produce stand near his job in Elmhurst. He is at that school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, so twice a week he stops there. He spends about $10 each time and gets their best deals on the best looking fruit and veggies. This week one of his hot finds was 2 quarts of beautiful strawberries for $2. His purchases there have become what we base our menus around.
  • We have actually started paying into our savings again each month. Yep. We're working with an excess. I'm feel as if I should maybe erase that - just incase typing the words jinxes us or something (so the bold and italics was probably really overdoing it =). I was looking through our bank statements in February and realized that we are at the same place we were last year at this time when we had 2 salaries. We feel so blessed that I am able to stay home with Pumpkin without putting us into debt.
  • Cha-Ching! Tax refund! We realize we will not get this windfall next year, but it is nice to have such a big addition to our savings. We even got a good amount back from the state, which is unheard of for us.

Our Plans
  • At this point, all signs point to my staying home another year. I am thankful that the NYCDOE lets me decide on a year-by-year basis. I'm still a commitment-phob at heart, so this makes it easier on me mentally.
  • We are looking to buy an apartment. Yep. Really. A 2 bedroom at that. No, I'm not kidding! The housing market has hit NYC and we are in a place where we can take advantage of it. Columbia even went to TWO open houses last Sunday and we plan on going to at least 2 more this week. Last year at this time I was telling friends that 1 bedrooms were finally coming into our price range. Now, we are seeing twice as many 2 bedrooms for that same number! Our union has worked out a relationship with Acorn Housing (they are NOT Acorn) so that we get extra perks (lower interest rates, etc). We'd went to an informational seminar several years ago and thought they were a great resource. Columbia went to another in January to start the ball rolling this time. We are nearly ready to send in our paperwork and see what our loan pre-approval number is. This will decide a lot for us. Including if we continue to look in Manhattan or start searching the outer-boroughs (Columbia, stop crying, it will be okay =). A good reminder for me has been that the apartment we buy does not need to be our home forever, just the next 5-6 years at least. This realization takes a considerable amount of weight off of my shoulders.
  • One post a week. It will probably revolve around apartment hunting, where we are in the process, or how our 2 cats are not only the bane of my existence, but are crippling our chances at getting approved by a coop or condo board. Just kidding about the cats... sort of. :/

On another note, Pumpkin turned 1 March 9th! She is such a joy.
Our Birthday Girl!

(Note: this is not our apt, but a family member's home in LI)