What Do You Do When The Menu Is "Elephant"?

Yesterday, I passed a young woman and five very young children walking on the roadside. The place they were walking led me to think they were not exercising, but going somewhere. I don’t know the story, if there is one, and it wasn’t appropriate for me to find out. The feeling I had was that this lady’s circumstance was not unrelated to the real estate issue I’ve been talking about for months.

There was a time when I could tell readers that real, average, middle class people are having trouble with housing. They were struggling, but they were coping. Because of the heavy military influence in Northwest Florida, there is still a difference between real estate audiences here, and those to whom speak with in Central and South Florida. But even here the ones who were coping but having difficulty three years ago are beginning to lose their homes. The foreclosure mill law firms from South Florida have been slow, but they have not quit.

If you really care about the community and about people, you’ve got to want to do something about the economy and about the housing market. I am convinced personally that there is no one cause for our housing misery, and there is no one answer. I would love to have a class in which we discuss solutions for over-mortgaged property. But every conversation in the room should probably be private and personal, and few answers apply to everyone.

But remember the adage represented by the question, “how do you eat an elephant”? The answer: “one bite at a time”.

My first response to those caught in the housing crisis is, “don’t give up”. Americans have a history of finding answers, and this is one more challenge we will endure. There is not one answer, but there are many little ones. While it’s hard to be optimistic, within the general advice that you simply never give up, I offer the following baby steps that may help:

  1. We may all find that we must get by with less income. Get serious about budgeting within the income you have.
  2. Work to modify mortgages. Don’t assume that this problem will go away by itself. Sticking your head in the sand will only leave the rest of you exposed. No one wants that sight.
  3. Sell properties that are a drain. Their values are not likely to improve significantly quickly enough to help.
  4. Look for advice. Consider all of the advice you find, but follow only some of it. This is a time when you can’t afford to make mistakes. When choices get most difficult, most people’s ability to discern and make measured decisions slows down, or disappears, even though often they don’t realize it. Talking through the issues with an account, Realtor, or your lawyer, may help. But make sure those you rely on are worthy of your trust, that they are competent at what they do, and that they have your best interest at heart.
  5. Don’t listen to advertisements from anyone who offers a quick, easy, or free solution.
  6. Don’t lose confidence in yourself or your love for each other. Your friends are important. It is more critical now than ever that people be understanding and helpful to others.
  7. Don’t let your subdivisions or your homes fall apart. Particularly in other parts of Florida and the country, subdivision pride has been the first sacrifice. When the appearance of your neighborhood signals that its residents don’t care, the value of the houses within, the confidence of the people who live in the houses, and the psychology and behavior of everyone involved, are likely affected.

Each one of you is important. Your Homeowner’s Association, subdivision, and community are also important. Bluewater Bay, for instance, started an MSBU that costs very little for each homeowner and maintains an essential minimum appearance for the area. Rocky Bayou in Niceville lacks an MSBU, and it needs one, but that is the subject of another article. The subject of this article is to say that those affected by over-mortgaged property can’t give up. Work every day in little ways to solve the problem, and never lose sight of the fact that after your family and food on the table, the place where you live is important.