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How I Manage It: Housing

There are a lot of ways in which I manage to afford things which I can't really offer advice on since it's not something most people can do. Housing is one of them. We would not normally be able to afford housing, but have always been lucky and made it work.

Our current home is large and beautiful and we pay nothing for it. We used to live in a tiny efficiency that was rented to us by our friend's mother. They had family moving out to Hawaii and kindly asked if we wouldn't mind giving up the space on their farm so that their sister could live with them. They had always been wonderful to us the four years that we lived there and we were more than happy to move out and give them their space back.

The one problem was that we didn't have anywhere else to go. We were having a very difficult time finding a new place that we could afford. Rent in our area was very low compared to the rest of Hawaii, but prices were still high for us on the income we had at the time. It was during our search that a very wonderful friend asked me if we would like to move in to her old house.

She and her husband had owned a home in our area but due to job loss and disability, they lost the ability to pay their mortgage. They waited it out, hoping something would come along and they would be able to afford payments again, but weeks stretched into months and soon it was clear that with no money, they would have to move. Sadly, the sold what they could, packed their belongings and moved 2000 miles to move in with her mother. They left the house standing, waiting for the mortgage company to file foreclosure papers so they could move on with their lives.

But the bank never filed foreclosure. In fact, for the last several years, they have wanted nothing to do with the house. For reasons unknown, the mortgage lender simply boarded up the house and left it there and refused to issue anything in the way of foreclosure. The house still technically belongs to my friend. Or to nobody if you want to look at it as the abandoned property that it is.

She told me that it had been sitting for a couple of years, but that we were welcome to go by and see if it was still in good shape. If we wanted it, she said, we could just have it for as long as we could live there. We drove out to the property and went inside through a back sliding door which had not been tightly secured. No one was inside, but someone had been there before us. The inside of the house was completely destroyed. Rats had been living in it as well as dogs and chickens which had come in through the dog door on the lanai. Everything that had been left in the home was strewn about and so thick you couldn't walk on a spot of bare floor. It was terrible!

But it was cleanable. Without being asked, my sweet, wonderful mother took a month vacation and flew out to stay with us and help us clean up the house. It was beyond disgusting. I still have nightmares. But we did it! With a lot of bleach and elbow grease, we got the home looking beautiful again in just a couple of weeks. (Thank goodness for no carpet!) A few repairs were needed and we had to get a refrigerator and a bed, but the home already had a dishwasher and working oven and range. We had the power turned on. The house has catchment water which is collected rainwater from the roof which funnels into a huge cistern at the back of the house and is then pumped through  a series of filters and into the house for use. We paid to have the catchment cleaned out so we would have water and we put in a new on-demand gas water heater which cost about $180.

Just cleaned and moved in (that's washable crayon on the windows)

I am so grateful for the luck that we experienced. We expected to stay in the house for maybe a year but now it has been nearly three years and no sign at all that we will have to move. Maybe ever. The bank still lacks any interest in the property but they do send someone by a couple of times a year just to look at the outside of the house to make sure it is being taken care of. They are very, very happy that we are here. We are protecting their investment by caring for the house as if it were our own. We keep the one acre property tended well and we keep up with repairs. We even had the house tented for a drywood termite infestation in August.

We have a giant screened room called a lanai which looks out onto the yard

All in all, it has been a wonderful experience and I am so grateful that we have this lovely three bedroom house absolutely free. We only need to pay for the electric bill which is very low since we have a propane range and oven, propane on-demand water heater and no need of heating or cooling the house. Never underestimate the safety net that a good social circle can give you. It makes me so happy that people can take care of each other and if there is anything I could ever do for my friend or for my mother, I would do it in a heartbeat!

Over the years, we have managed to furnish the house bit by bit with used furniture. Our coffee table and rocking chair came with the house. A television was provided by in-laws who were a little put-out at having nothing to watch while visiting. The Christmas tree was free, being thrown out by a local retail outlet that wanted to purchase smaller ones. We also have a dining table now and two desks as well as a bed in our guest room for family who come to stay from the mainland. My in-laws made us a gift of cash to use to buy a table since we didn't have one for them to eat on when they came to visit. I managed to stretch the money to cover the dining set as well as a desk and two bookshelves. A local realtor was getting rid of a lot of the furniture she used to show empty houses. Craigslist for the win!


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(Deleted comment)
Oct. 26th, 2013 05:11 pm (UTC)
We may even be able to stay forever. We suspect that the bank continuously files for extensions on foreclosure because the mortgage was done as a quick sale and the bank does not have any legal paperwork to file for the home. (It was popular about a decade ago.) If that is so, the law says that we must live here for 20 years and can then file for the deed through adverse possession.

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