By Jeff Girod
You’re trapped! That’s according to the National Association of Realtors, who reported that sales of single-family homes, town homes and condominiums have plunged to levels not seen since 1999—or possibly even longer. (I wasn’t really paying attention in 1999).
“There’s no sign of any underlying recovery despite rock-bottom interest rates,” said a leading chief U.S. economist. Then the leading chief U.S. economist threw up in his mouth a little and began quietly sobbing into his hand.
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s bad out there. How bad? Well, more than one in 10 of us are reading this in his underpants while watching Judge Judy and sucking cheese out of an aerosol can, because the unemployment rate in the Inland Empire is 15 percent.
But more importantly, with the real estate market in the crapper, it means nobody will be moving any time soon. We’re stuck! And I don’t know how much longer my neighborhood trick-or-treaters are going to believe I’m a Jehovah’s Witness who doesn’t celebrate Halloween.
As much as I hate moving, I’m beginning to hate some of my neighbors even more. You the know the neighbors I’m talking about because you probably have them, too: The neighbor with the yappy little dog leaving Tootsie Roll turds on your front lawn; the neighbor always parking his Herbie the Love Bug in front of your house; the neighbor who every Saturday morning piles moth-eaten half-shirts a crack ho wouldn’t wear on her driveway and calls it a “garage sale;” or how about that one creepy neighbor in the mesh tank top who sits in his garage and blasts Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat while wailing away on his Bowflex, intermittently shouting the “F” word between bicep supersets. (Oh wait, that’s me.)
The point is, after awhile we all get annoyed with each other and our natural tendency is to move to some place else. It’s in our DNA. We’re drifters, baby. If we weren’t, we’d all still be naked and living in the Garden of Eden. But after a few thousand years, we decided it was time to stop eating pears, put on pants and spread out. Some of us went to Asia and Europe. Some of us became Vikings. And the really strong swimmers started dog paddling toward Australia, Guam and Hawaii. (I may be a little off on the chronology/geography/pretty much everything.)
But the point is this housing slump is going to have long-lasting, scarring, psychological effects. You know that claustrophobic feeling you get whenever you’re stuck in a traffic jam and none of the other cars are moving? And there’s nowhere to go and you just have to sit there in your cramped, tiny car and take it like a Shawshank prison rape? Now imagine that traffic jam is your house and it’s going to be that way for the next 5-20 years.
I have recently come to grips with a few very sobering realities, among them: Nobody wants to buy my house and I’m too lazy/stupid to fix it up. That leaves me with only one other option: Turn state’s evidence and testify against a mafia kingpin, then join the Witness Protection Program and force the FBI to move me into another house.
It’s genius. The only problem I foresee is a guy like me doesn’t meet a lot of mafia kingpins. Plus I don’t really have any “top secret” information the FBI might consider “protection” worthy: “Psst. Listen, you didn’t hear it from me, but I heard Mrs. Simmons, the lady who lives on the corner in the blue house? That’s not her real hair color. Oh, and the guy who lives behind her may be stealing cable. Wait a minute . . . I live behind Mrs. Simmons. Forget I said anything.”
I realize I should just be thankful I even have a house, that there are lots of people out there living in cramped apartments or who are even forced to live on the streets and would kill to be in my predicament living somewhere decent they can afford. And to all those people I have just one thing to say: If you actually do kill somebody, please tell me so I can report you to the FBI.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.