By the end of the week I will no longer be a homeowner. We finally sold our townhouse and will be soon be moving into a house that we will be renting. The house is larger than the townhouse we are leaving. It has a yard, a two car garage and parking that we do not need a permit for. It is the first step toward a new chapter.

I bought the house in 2002 when money was easy, no down payments necessary. It was supposed to be a stepping stone to some thing bigger, a little nicer. In 2005 I refinanced, got a little better interest rate. Got rid of the second mortgage that served as the down payment. Put the house up for sale in 2007, looking to make that step to bigger and a little nicer. Two weeks later, the mortgage crisis began to break in earnest. In February 2008, we took the house off the market. That bigger, nicer place was not going to happen. Eventually, homeownership felt more like a stone tied round my neck than the American Dream. The perpetual equity machine turned out to be about as good as any other perpetual machine.

A neighbor in the complex put her house put for sale. I went to talk to the realtor who was handling sale, asked him if he thought my place might sell too. He asked the particulars. After a brief discussion it was determined that I could sell the house. I would break even if only just. As it turned out, I did a little better than that. I will remove the stone from round my neck, get moved into a house with a little more room, pay off some bills, and have a chance to start working on my making my next dream come true.

In the end, I did better than a lot of people who bought homes during the same period. Several of my neighbors faced foreclosures, short sales, or are still underwater on their mortgage. I managed to always make my payments until I could finally sell the house and be free of it. I have an excellent credit score. The experience reinforced the value of conventional fiscal practices. 20% down, keep the monthly payment to about one-third of you income, stick to fixed mortgages and understand the difference between buying a home to live in and real estate as an investment.

And so ends one chapter, another chapter begins.

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