Thursday, February 7, 2013
Subway Certified Reads: Gimme Shelter
When Williams and her husband are in their late 30s the itch to own a place of their own in the city they love starts to gnaw away at them (mostly just Mary, but her husband gets on board). As their family outgrows their Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn) rental they start the long search (3 years!) for a suitable home. At first clinging to their Brooklyn neighborhood they view dump after dump, cursing themselves for not buying before the marked exploded. Weekend after weekend people from all over pour into their neighborhood to snatch up million dollar "deals" at a rate that no middle-income family can keep up with. There is little to nothing Williams and her husband can find under half-a-million dollars that doesn't require six-figure sum repairs. Even as they broaden their search they are met with shady real estate agents, crazy sellers, and very few co-ops/condos within their $400,000 max budget.
If you've ever been curious about the NYC housing market, or ever wanted to buy a home anywhere in the country, this is a great book to pick-up. Williams compares her own life experiences with stories of friends from all over the country - from Miami to San Francisco. The stark difference in what you can get for the same price in various places is always shocking to me. As a New Yorker I'm often amazed that you can put as low as 2% down on a home in many places. This is something almost unheard of in NYC where it's common to be expected -even required at times- to put down 20% (and bless your heart if you can find anything under 300K that isn't the size of a postage stamp in the middle of the ghetto). It's full of interesting facts about the housing market right before it burst, and there's a great follow-up chapter after it did just that. She breaks down mortgages and home loans in a way that makes a ton of sense and applies to real life scenarios. It's no wonder so many people got so screwed when the housing market collapsed.
Williams paints an incredible picture of what's happening New York City - especially Brooklyn. It's beyond gentrification, organic produce, and coffee houses. The middle class is clawing on to whatever they can in this city- we will not be chased away by hedge fund bank accounts no matter how hard it gets. As I read her book on the subway, I actually wanted to point out passages and shout, "see guys, SEE!! THIS IS the problem RIGHT HERE!" I loved her story, her humor, and this book. Her path to finding her family's forever home is messy, tearful, full of laughs, stressful, and oddly exciting. A lot like life.
This book is a: If you See Something, Say Something
*My fool-proof rating system for books
If you See Something, Say Something: Must-Read
Delayed Due to Train Traffic: Decent-Read
We are Being Held by the Train Dispatcher: Skip it!
*possibly not fool-proof