Back when everything went to hell on closing day, I can’t impress the importance of this passage enough:
After some back and forth with my family, it became apparent we had made a grave error. I had many thousands of dollars less available than we thought. My careful plans and budgeting evaporated, buffers transformed into impossible shortfalls.
By “many thousands” I meant “tens of thousands”. It was an epic accounting error that I never truly overcame. One day, I’ll write down my own thoughts on how the middle class is locked out of Detroit. For now, the aforelinked article is great reading. The short version is: how the hell are you supposed to get affordable loans to fix a house when you can’t take out equity against it because it needs repairs? You don’t.
My parents contributed far more than they should have. My community of friends rallied behind me and contributed sums I had no right to even dream about. A friend offered to cosign a home equity loan, but I couldn’t even do it because I lack a certificate of occupancy. I took out two substantial unsecured loans, the first at 8% and the second at 12%, which I was only able to secure with a positively sterling credit history that is the result of as much luck as diligence. All that got me to where I am today: two outstanding loans, five months away from paying off my credit card, and at least another fifty thousand dollars short of a successful city inspection. All told, about a hundred grand in the hole. Some of the interest is just in the form of a decaying carriage house instead of percentage points.
It’s really hard to keep writing here, constantly give tours, and cheerily describe your progress to friends when you know, deep down, you are truly screwed. Despite tremendous generosity, all that help, all those nights and weekends, you are still breathtakingly short of where you need to be and all that generosity is tapped. There are no more rooms to sponsor, no more helpers showing up, no more “all hands” work weekends, and just maintaining the house and yard eats so much of the time previously spent on progress.
Maybe not “screwed”. After all, I’m in no danger of losing the house, defaulting on loans, or anything like that. Just, stuck. Utterly stuck. And the rain continues to eat away the carriage house day after day, and the neighbors stare at my paint-bare, rain-soaked house. And I keep paying my exorbitant insurance and interest rates because I can’t make it to the finish line, the certificate of occupancy. Stuck.
Then, a few weeks ago I learned about a different grave accounting error we’d made.
It turns out, the error was… thinking we’d made an error in the first place. The money was there all along, quietly waiting and oblivious to our inattention. And the stock market kept growing in the mean time, steadily increasing the funds. And by the time we finally realized the error, it exactly matched what I needed to get us to the certificate of occupancy.
And everything changed.