Friday, October 3, 2008

Screwed By the Bush Bailout?

Anyone who's read this blog will know my wife Beth and I have been trying to buy a home since May. First, I had to sell my townhome, and my buyer defaulted then finally closed nearly two full months past the contracted closing date--costing us at least two homes--one of which we'd had an offer accepted on, and another we couldn't even make an offer on due to the townhome delay. Next, we found the perfect house, but like so many on the market, it was unfortunately a short sale--and the only "short" thing is the mortgage payoff for the seller's bank; time-wise, short sales can drag on for months on end.

The recent financial crisis in the United States and the subsequent bailout plan proposed by the Bush administration--where the US Treasury Department would buy up troubled, often "toxic," mortgage-based assets from banks and investors to help ease the logjam in the credit markets--was something I initially viewed as disastrous for our chances of buying the home we wanted. Banks were rubbing their palms together in anticipation of Uncle Sam buying up their distressed assets and securities at far above market prices (which had fallen so severely to as nearly be inestimable), meaning, I suspected, the banks would suspend their short sale deals in the hopes of getting more from the taxpayer's teat than from any other buyers.

However, as the public and then Congress balked at simply plunking down a trillion taxpayer dollars on a blank check, I personally thought the banks would rush to make the deals they could and deal with losses they could put to paper, and not the vague possibilities of a better (or now likely worse) deal from the government.

Indeed, the listing agent felt so confident in making the deal work for our home purchase that he guaranteed our agent a steak dinner should he fail to deliver by this past Wednesday. (Note that was not exactly his first promise; neither I nor Beth felt particularly confident in the agent's bravado, as he'd previously promised a deal "by the end of the week" and then at the end of that very week complained our agent was harassing him.)

Of course, Wednesday came and went with no deal, and when our agent got hold of the listing agent on Thursday, the listing agent expressed the belief that now the bank was hesitant to sign on anything while uncertain about the bailout plan.

That brings us full-circle; two weeks ago when the Bush administration first came forward with their plan, I despaired that the Treasury Department had sunk our chances of buying, yet over the next weeks grew more confident the terms would be so poor for the financial institutions that we'd end up with a deal soon. Now, the listing agent himself has stated those same fears.

At this point, even if a deal passes today in the US House of Representatives, the impact will be unclear, and if the bank is truly waiting on the bailout, it could be several weeks before the terms of the bailout are known. And if (this is a big "if") the government purchases the security backed by our seller's mortgage, it's a whole new ballgame; no one knows how long it will take the government to establish any notions of how to handle the sales of individual homes, if at all.

So... we may be screwed, on a very personal level, by George W. Bush and his administration, the last in a long line of disastrous mismanagements by our "first MBA President."

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