News that their family was moving came as a shock to Michael White, 18, and his sister, Christianna, 16, of Indianapolis.
“We just have family meetings where we talk about things, and that came up in one of them,” Michael said. “We just got told that we were moving one day.”
Nevertheless, both siblings agree that the move to the Eastside, which took place in 2008, has been a change for the better. Their family now has a larger backyard and a bigger kitchen and dining room.
While the White family’s move was a success, many families aren’t so lucky. According to RealtyTrac Inc., an online listings service, 61,141 Indiana residents faced foreclosure last year, and many didn’t find themselves in a better place.
Since a global recession began in late 2007, the real estate market has become bleak for homeowners, home sellers and real estate agents. Jan Bullers, an agent with Carpenter Realtors, certainly thinks so. She says she started to see the change in the housing market about three years.
“There were a lot of homes being built,” she said. “Mortgages were too easy ... people didn’t have any stake in their homes.”
Because these “easy” mortgages had adjustable interest rates, payments became impossible for many homeowners when the low initial rates became market rates, according to Philip Powell, professor of business economics at Indiana University.
“In 2005, the interest rates started to go up,” said Powell, “Payments went up each month and (homeowners) didn’t have enough money to pay the bank.”
Even families with affordable mortgages have suffered. The U.S. economy has shed 7 million jobs since December 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unable to make their house payments, many of these Americans have been forced to leave their homes.
As adults shoulder the burden of job and home loss, children are foreclosure’s “silent sufferers,” according to First Focus, an organization dedicated to supporting families and children. The group reports that by 2010, an estimated 1.95 million children will have lost their homes since early 2008. Furthermore, a study funded by the group found that children who have an unstable home life are prone to violence and are likelier to repeat grades and drop out of school.
“You depend on your parents to create an environment of stability for you. When they can’t do that and you have a lot of anxiety about where you’re going to live, that causes a lot of stress,” Powell said. “When foreclosures occur, kids almost suddenly have to become adults, and that creates a lot of pressure.”
Michael and Christianna know how moving can bring disorder, as the White family has moved at least five times. Neighborhood friends are left behind and, in this last move, they had to leave their three cats.
“Moving is always a little bit tough,” said Michael. “You’ve got to pack up and then unpack once you move.”
One of the difficulties the Whites faced with each move was switching schools. During the transitions, Michael continued to attend the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, but Christianna often had to transfer.
“I didn’t really like it,” she said, “but once I got to know more people, it got better.” She was grateful for the most recent move; the family was staying in the same school district.
The Whites say they’re “used to” moving, but many other families dread it. Cynthia Pratt, a counselor with Momentive Consumer Credit Counseling Services, guides homeowners through the difficulties of foreclosure. She said some people will go to any length to keep their homes.
“We do see people that are willing to work two or three jobs. They’re willing to sell their car. They’re willing to sell their furniture. They’re just about willing to do anything to keep the home,” she said.
Pratt says this strategy is rarely enough to forestall foreclosure. She says the best thing for families to do is to first accept the fact that the home will be lost and then work to find the best path to escape with as little credit damage as possible.
But the pain of foreclosure goes far beyond the financial damage incurred. As Christianna remarked, “A home is something that’s yours, and a house is something that’s not.”
Assistant Editor: Beverly Jenkins, 17
Reporters: Abe Lahr, 12, and Ben Lahr, 12
Copyright 2009 Y-Press