Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sold. Finally. For a (Huge) Loss. Baruch Hashem.

After serving for four years as an absentee landlord from across the world, I am happy to announce that we have sold our home in Oak Park, MI. Mazal Tov to us, and Mazal Tov to the Adlerstein family on their purchase! May you have many happy years in the home until you join us here!
Of course, it's wonderful to have the burden of the house behind us. The straw that finally broke the camel's back was when my tenant called to tell me that when the hot water heater broke, she had it repaired for the small sum of $1,500. (What did she care - it's not her money.) What was I supposed to do...say no? Make her pay for it? Then and there we decided to sell the house, leading to seven months of anguish and heartburn all the way up to yesterday, when the sale finally went through. Some thanks are in order to the people in Michigan who helped a tremendous amount in getting the sale done. (I don't want to name you in case you didn't want to be named...but you know who you are, and thanks!)
And yet, there I still have a lingering sense of melancholy about that house.
First of all, we lost a TON of money on that house. (I won't say how much for fear of upsetting my wife, but think of a number, and then double it.)
I don't really blame any individual person, as much as the entire United States economy for going down the crapper at the exact time that I was ready to sell my house. I do have a sense of bitterness about the fact that I did the foolish thing: I paid down my mortgage, faithfully. In fact, I used to add extra money to the balance of my mortgage, like all the people on the radio recommend that you do. (Yes, I used to listen to those shows at night.) What happened? All the people who took as much money as they possibly could out of their homes - to fix the roof, take vacations, redo the kitchen, you name it - they either let their homes foreclose or they got their banks to agree to a short sale. I, on the other hand, had paid down my debt so much that the bank wouldn't even consider a short sale. It wasn't worth it to them. So, am I bitter about my house losing value? A little. But am I bitter about the fact that people who abused the system lost their credit, while I lost literally tens of thousands of dollars? I cannot say that I am not.
Truth be told, I was ready to just let the house go back to the bank had it not sold this summer. Then I would have lost both the money, and my credit. But I guess it's better this way. At least I kept my word, and paid back the money I owed. (Although apparently in the United States that's not worth that much anymore.)
But there's also an emotional aspect to selling a home, especially the first home you own. We lived in that house for seven years, and brought two children into the world in (a hospital near) that house. I learned (to whatever degree that I did learn) how to build stuff in that house, and built a closet (in the basement), a neat deck in the front, a great basketball hoop over the garage and some cubbies for the kids next to the kitchen. The things that you did with your own hands really have more meaning to you. Pieces from people we knew and loved are in that house: Eddie Katz found the chandelier on a street somewhere, and fixed it up. A little polish and some new glass, and it was good as new. I put in the crown molding together with Avraham Elchonen (actually, he pretty much did that while I watched, but who's counting?). Aaron Siegel did much of the carpeting and the wood floor in the Dining Room. At a certain point, people become part of a house as well. And, in selling the place, you sever yourself from it forever.
But, as these things go, life goes on. I really do believe and feel that every aspect of our aliyah was guided by God's hand. The money stings, but we can't complain. Hakadosh Baruch Hu finds ways to give us what we need. And, as the Gemara tells us, the Land of Israel is acquired with yissurin - tribulations. I'll take the financial kind of yissurin over any other type any day of the week.
It is, after all, just a house. And we've got a new house to work on now. I need to put up the ceiling fans, install shelves, figure out a garden, put in a "lockers" for the kids - plenty to do.
And we plan (and hope and pray) to stay in this new home, in the Holy Land, for a very long time.