Twenty-eight-year-old Dan Boyd of Berwick, Maine still hadn’t left the nest. He lived at home with his mother Janet, and she was ready to take serious action to help him get out of the house. She wanted to help him buy a home, but there was just one little problem: Dan could only prequalify for a $40,000 mortgage.
Most people would end the story there, lamenting that they “can’t afford” a house. Not Dan and Janet. They began scouring foreclosure listings, eventually finding a house in Sanford, Maine that had previously sold for $165,000. The foreclosure price? $36,000. They closed on the house in 2010.
The house had some minor drawbacks, of course. It contained no insulation, despite the brutal Maine winters. Sagging floors. Stinky carpet. Broken water heater. But another $5,000 took care of those issues, enabling Dan to own a home for a total of $41,000, including repairs.
Two years earlier, Janet had done the same thing for her other son, Dennis, who paid $72,000 for a house previously valued at $140,000. That house also had a few minor drawbacks.
“The upstairs and downstairs looked like an episode of Hoarders,” Janet said. The piles of clutter included — not joking — caged rats that the previous owner abandoned.
But why let a few rats stop you from snagging a $70,000 discount? Janet has helped her two sons score rock-bottom prices on their homes, and she’s now eyeing a third for her daughter.
I can almost hear the objections already: “Those were 2010 prices! Housing has skyrocketed since then!”
Yes, it’s true that home prices have risen. But remember: There are always great deals. Back in 2010, a blindfolded monkey could throw a dart at a real estate listing and find a great deal. These days, horror of horrors, you have to work harder. But the deals are still there. Deals are always there.
Do you think Janet’s complaining? Or do you think she’s searching for her next foreclosure?
Janet’s story, and many others like it, are written in Clark Howard’s new book, Living Large for the Long Haul. The book is divided into 50 short chapters, each one featuring true stories of financial struggles and successes. The stories are batched together based on broad themes like “credit,” “entrepreneurship,” “family,” “health care” and “living below your means.” (My favorites were “real estate” and “travel” — no surprise there.) You’ll meet people like:
– Rick from California only invests in precious metals. He’s amassed $1.8 million in gold, and several hundred thousand more in silver. He refuses to diversify and he hasn’t liquidated any of his assets. Controversial? Yes. Interesting? Definitely.
– Raye and Jay, 50-somethings from Virginia, power their diesel Mercedes with veggie oil. Each week, they haul away 20-25 gallons of grease from a barbeque joint, filter the oil, and pour it into their fuel tanks.
– Steve Buzalko from Pennsylvania, who installed enough photovoltaic solar energy onto his roof that the electricity company sends him monthly checks (not bills) for producing more energy than he consumes.
– Michael from Germany crossed the Atlantic Ocean into North America, traveled west to the Grand Canyon, then south to Argentina and Antarctica — entirely for free. He didn’t spend a dime. He dumpster-dove for food, couchsurfed in people’s homes, and bartered work in exchange for services. He rode container ships, hitchhiked, and cleaned local stores in exchange for a place to crash. He experienced crazy adventures along the way: he fled a burning building, slept in an Amish barn, and started a pillow fight on the streets of San Francisco.
(In case you hadn’t guessed, Michael’s story is one of my favorites. I’ve hitchhiked across the western U.S., couchsurfed on several continents, slept in Spanish barns, volunteered on organic farms in exchange for food and shelter, and offered to clean a Laundromat in exchange for a night in someone’s mobile home. When people tell me that they can’t afford to travel, I just shake my head in awe.)
My friend (and proud new daddy) Joel Larsgaard, a producer on the Clark Howard show and the author of the Save Outside the Box blog, has a chapter dedicated to him within this book. Clark describes Joel as a “real estate mogul in the making” and an “urban pioneer,” and in a particularly heartfelt passage, Clark writes: “I admire greatly the way he and his wife, Emily, have chosen to handle money in their life.” Wow and double-wow. Go Joel! (Check out Joel’s blog for awesome tips about money, real estate and more).
I’m not getting paid a dime for this. All opinions are my own — as they always are. I did get a free book, though.
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