Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tales from the Three I States

Kathleen and I are in the process of moving at least some of our stuff from our house in Elkhart, Indiana to our two-bedroom apartment in Bloomington, Illinois. On Tuesday, we rented a cargo van from Enterprise, loaded it up, and drove to Bloomingon. After unloading it, we stayed the night, drove to Davenport, Iowa, where we loaded up an antique bed (1920s) along with a lot of books, papers, and VHS tapes. The next day we drove to Bloomington, nearly exhausted ourselves moving the extremely heavy mattress and box spring, and then drove back to Elkhart.

We're still in the process of getting the Elkhart house ready to sell. Right now, it's a moot point. We paid $68,000 for it in 1989, and owe about $60,000 now. Given the fact that there's a house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a swimming pool listed for $59,000 in this town, we'll likely be stuck with mortgage plus rent for some time. Who knows, maybe a ticket clerk position will open up in South Bend in the meantime.

Elkhart, as Ground Zero of the Recession, is getting nationwide recognition. An Elkhartan was recently called by a charity asking for money. She said, "I'm from Elkhart." That was enough for the fundraiser to cease and desist. Our daughter Sarah, who is an instructor at the University of Maryland, asked a a prospective student where she was from.

"I'm from Portland, Maine," said the student. "Where are you from?"

"I'm from Elkhart, Indiana."

"THE Elkhart?" asked the student.

Iowa has been in the news lately because the state Supreme Court declared the state's marriage law unconstitutional, opening Iowa to same-sex marriage. In Iowa, a constitutional amendment has to be passed by two consecutive legislatures and then submitted to a popular vote. That means the Court ruling will probably stand until at least 2013. And it seems likely that the people of Iowa won't amend the constitution.

Once upon a time, Iowa was one of the most conservative states in the nation. But starting in the 1960s, it's become more and more liberal. My theory is that those right-wing Iowegians who used to vote for the likes of H.R. Gross moved off to places like Orange County, California. Yes, Gross's successor in the House, Charles Grassely, beat incumbent Senator John Culver in the 1980 campaign and has won re-election ever since then. But Grassley faces strong oppostion from Bob Krause next year.

Since the Iowa Hawkeyes didn't even make it into the NCAA this year, I'm happy to see that there will be a Big Ten team in the NCAA championship. I won't be watching the game on Monday, which is a good thing for the Spartans. Whenever I watch a game, the team I'm rooting for almost always loses.


Charles Gramlich said...

You've just described an example of being literally robbed. You said you paid 68,000 in 1989 and still owe about 60,000 20 years later. That is fing ridiculous.

Lisa said...

I'm terribly sorry to hear that you have to sell at such a bad time. Is selling now the only option you feel you have? I know you probably can't stand to even think about it, but I'm going to guess that sometime between 1989 and 2007 -- before things began to fall apart -- your home was probably valued at nearly twice what you paid for it. How far off am I?

steve on the slow train said...

Charles--Actually, like a lot of people, I took out a line of credit to pay for improvements and educational expenses. So we weren't really robbed.

Lisa--Elkhart housing prices never increased that much, even during the boom. The realtor thought it could bring $80,000 a few months ago, back when Elkhart's unemployment rate was around 5 percent. I'm the kind of person who never should have bought a house in the first place--poor handyman skills end even worse business sense. Right now, the house is an overpriced storage unit. We could do a "deed in lieu of foreclosure, but right now, we can afford the rent and mortgage.

Olivia said...

Having lived around world capitals and major metro areas for most of my life, an entire free-standing house for under $100,000 is blowing my mind somewhat...

John Iliff said...

Hi Steve,

Just caught up with your recent activities. Hope your move isn't too miserable.

John in B-N

gnosticserenity said...

Hi Steve,
Sounds like you had an exhausting few days "off." Hopefully you can take a "weekend" off now and then and relax around town... even though selling is obviously a priority for you. It would be nice for the South Bend job to come through, but it's nice that you can live together again.

As for Iowa, what is to come there will be interesting. Grassley is definitely not helpful, but then the Republicans seem determined to say no to everything Obama tries... and then blames Obama for being overly partisan. Makes me sigh.


steve on the slow train said...

Olivia--It's pretty rare for housing to be thid cheap. I was just reading in the New Yorker about foreclosed properties in Los Angeles--places that have been trashed--selling for $200,000. There's a foreclosed house down the alley from us, in good condition, that would go for half a million in Oak Park, Illinois, and probably more in your neighborhood. But it stands empty, and probably will continue to do so. There used to be a law that allowed people to defer taxes on profits made from selling a house, so long as they bought a new house for more than the selling price of the old one. So people moving to Elkhart from the east or west coast would have houses custom-built with gold-plated faucets, Jacuzzis, swimming pools, etc. I suspect they're going for more than $100,000 now. But not drastically more.

John--We got through it with just a few scrapes and bruises, but a lot of muscle aches. I had hoped for us to go to Easter Mass at St. Matthew's, but Kathleen felt she needed to stay in Elkhart for a couple of weeks an keep working on the house.

Elaine--Thank you. Jim will be back in Elkhart on April 19-25. Maybe after thar, Kathleen will actually start living here in Bloomington.

Anonymous said...

Sounds exhausting.

I assumed you had taken out some lending when you mentioned what you still owed.

Why is Elkhart so benighted?

steve on the slow train said...

Gerry--Glad you figured it out. Elkhart is the victim of relying too much on manufacturing, especially the recreational vehicle industry. A lot of the problems were related to Bayer's pulling out, but the people of Elkhart did elect a Christian-right mayor for two four-year terms, who cared more about "values" than jobs. Now the current Democratic mayor has to clean up after him.

Anonymous said...

Ah, "values" will kill a town quicker than bubonic plague.