How To Take Advantage of the Housing Bust via Near Catastrophe


Three years ago the missus and I — married for a year or so — bought what we thought was our dream home in a hip Chciago neighborhood. It was a rather large duplex and it was all new with nice fixtures and top-end appliances. We decked the place out with brand new furniture, built-in closets and a home theater system. Less than a year into ownership I woke up one night to the sound of water dripping. I rooted around in the dark to find it coming from an electric outlet in the bedroom.

“That’s weird” I thought, figuring the night’s rain was causing it or there was a leak on the roof.

After the walls were literally ripped down it was discovered that our building’s flashing was never installed properly and water would just soak through the brick, block and insulation whenever it rained. Oops. Later on we’ve read countless stories of similar problems from other new construction buyers in the city.

Now, before we even moved in we had to spend months living with my in-laws between the time we sold our first condo and the construction — which certainly didn’t seem rushed to us — was finished. We spent thousands on furniture, upgrades, moving and closing costs. Add some legal fees to get out of the deal and we lost a lot of money.

Oh, and did I mention that we discovered this mold inducing problem just a month or two after Courtney became pregnant with Carter?

As a young couple it was by far the worst hardship we experienced together and certainly wasn’t fun. We spent the next two years renting and searching for another place in the city just like the one we lost as the market collapsed. We thought we’d be able to get a great deal in the city or in Oak Park, a hip nearby suburb. But during that whole time, nothing materialized.

And then we found out about little Evie arriving, a bit sooner than we expected to have kid number two.

That sealed the deal. We took the leap and moved to the real suburbs last month. Mount Prospect is over an hour commute in the morning by car and 45 minutes at night. But we love the new house. Sure it’s a bit of a money pit requiring unforeseen electrical work on top of updating we had done before we moved in, but we have a giant yard and a large two-car garage. Things we wouldn’t have found in the city or Oak Park for what we wanted to spend.

We also got a lot of house for the money because of the down economy and weaker market in the suburbs.

Our nearly three years in home-owner limbo was a trying time. We had to move back in with the in-laws with Courtney pregnant much of the time getting into a city rental just in time for Carter to be born. Courtney and I always asked what we did to deserve it. Now, as Carter runs around his new yard with glee, chasing our dog Roxy I’m pretty sure things worked out better than we could have hoped.

If there had never been water damage we would likely be trying to sell the duplex we loved so much for more space and a more family-friendly neighborhood because of having a second child so soon. And guess what, the market is still not back yet.

Those are the positives you have to think about when you’re on your long commute cursing at traffic.