Our Short Sale

Last week we closed on a short sale here in Virginia. Our house sold for about 158,000 dollars less than we paid for it. It lost that much in 4.5 years. Some lessons learned:

* The sale took about six months to complete. The process restarted at least once and the closing date was extended a few times.

* The banks are government-sized bureaucracies. The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. You aren’t dealing with a person, but a system. One side was pushing along a foreclosure while the other was working with us on the short sale.

* We had to stop making our payment in order to play this game. Although our payment really was killing us, you can’t do anything until you fall behind. The bank only works with those who quit paying. For us, this was no huge loss as we wanted out of the house and had a good situation to get into on the other side. It made eminent sense for us to do this, but it’s not for everybody.

* We maintained our homeowners policy on the property and continued to pay utilities throughout the six months. The house was well-maintained and I think that helped us, although I’m not sure.

It is good to be free as Mr. Gallagher said!

Virginia is Rich

The latest data from the Census Bureau shows that Virginia has the three most wealthy counties in the nation. Maryland has another couple in the top tier. All of these counties are in the suburban DC area. Why is this? Because the seat of the Federal government is here. We suck up tax money from the rest of the nation and distribute it in the souk that is the DC area. And Federal workers make what seems like outrageous amounts of money because housing in close to DC costs a fortune. So those salaries aren’t what they seem, and the ever-rising federal wages contribute to the outrageous cost of living in the area – a vicious circle. Here is an example of single family homes from Falls Church plucked at random from the Washington Post.

My suggestion? Distribute all of the Federal agencies throughout the backwater cities of America like Topeka, Omaha, etc. and break the power of the Federal center.

I hate pollen

Pollen has been wrecking my life this Spring. It seems like it has been the worst ever since we moved to Virginia. The usual sheets of yellow are now gone, but the tree pollen remains elevated. I’ve tried walking in it twice and both times I came home with my throat burning and my eyes watering. It took days to recover. Maybe it’s related to the lack of acorns over the past two Falls?

Housing in Virginia 2010

It is now May of 2010 and there is no sign that housing is recovering here in Virginia. I live out in the exurbs, so in close to the city core things are probably a bit different. Out here, most of the homes that sat empty last summer still sit empty today. Most of them don’t have any signs on them at all and grass is now waist deep. I am no expert, but I imagine that a home sitting empty for a summer or two warps, cracks and falls into disrepair. Mold sets in. Bugs get in. Who wouldn’t want that? The few homes that do sell are at fire sale prices, 150K or more under where they were in 05-06.

Will these homes eventually need to be demolished? Will this neighborhood and those like it turn into exurban ghettos? After all, we are only another oil shock or inflation shock away from it being totally unthinkable to do the 1-3 hour commutes (each way) that we do here.

All things considered, housing isn’t picking up steam here. There are years of pain ahead.

The cellphone ends gridlock?

Tonight before heading for home I weighed two alternatives – the main roads, possibly clogged with Thanksgiving traffic, or the back roads, slower, but more empty. I fired up the maps app on the iPhone and saw flashing red for the main roads. The iPhone uses the active cell phones on the road to estimate traffic. I happily avoided the mess and took the back roads home.

Could apps like this in people’s hands cut out the heart of congestion? I doubt it in on the macro level, because there just aren’t enough roads in northern Virginia to avoid systemic failure every day. But they may help to begin changing how we navigate, and might be the beginning of a solution to the most dreaded problem in all of Virginia.

Election Day 10

It was a cool morning today as I voted down at the local fire station. Turnout was massively lower than last year. Last year people were coming out of the woodwork to vote for O or against him (in our district anyway). There were long lines and boisterous attitudes. Today there were two other voters.

The Democrats didn’t even bother to field a volunteer today handing out sample ballots! That surprised me, it was a first. The GOP was there with one guy, and he looked lonely. So all the enthusiasm is out of the season now that George Bush, the sacrificial victim has been driven out and we are back to the norm, which is dysfunction, debt and war with no one to blame. It isn’t yet the fault of the Chosen One, but it will be by 12. He’s looking more like LBJ and Carter by the minute.

I expect Deeds to lose in a blowout. Let’s hope this is a glimmer of good news for the unborn.

Fall?

The weather is consistently in the 70’s here, not really Fall-like, but not summer either. Very few acorns this year, following last year’s complete zero and the massive amount in 07. I saw one tree on another block with tons of acorns, but that’s it.

I saw a mouse crossing the road yesterday. I also saw a young doe maybe 20 feet from me that waited until I got closer to run.

I met some guys to learn book binding yesterday and that was fun. All I did was fold paper, make a tool, punch holes in the paper and wax string. I didn’t have time to get to sewing and binding. I’d like to learn how to do it and start doing it at home, but I think that’s a long way off right now.

Here’s a super cheap seminary that I might go to. Or not.

Great to see Notre Dame win yesterday, but I wish they would dominate a game once or twice.

Acorn

Two years ago, (2007) there were more acorns then I have ever seen on the ground. It was a bombardment from the oaks around us. Last year, no acorns, or next to no acorns, fell. This was a strange juxtaposition. The forest seemed to be preparing for the lean year by the overabundant year. This was not simply a local phenomenon either; I read that it was across the east coast in the New York Times.

I’ve started to see the early acorns falling already this year. I guess I should expect a moderate year after the past two, but who can say? I wonder what’s going on and if it is tied at all to the other weird things going on in the world, such as the honeybee die-off and the bat virus on the east coast? I’ve seen a few bees this summer, but not many. All I seem to see are hornets, wasps and bumblebees. The small honeybees just aren’t around much.

My Commute

A lot of folks have the idea that the entire East Coast is a concrete jungle. When I say that I commute for an hour, people envision cars backed up for miles and hot tempers. But mostly I drive by longhorn steer and horses. Here are some examples:

Vint HillThis is near work, where I turn onto the back roads.

IMG_0015A farm near work, the angle of the cell phone makes the fence look weird.

IMG_0016Trees.

IMG_0018The railroad stop in Catlett, a small down.

IMG_0019A house with a hedge in Catlett.

IMG_0020Fields near Catlett.

IMG_0028Farm living is the life for me.

IMG_0034A hilly road.

IMG_0035A farm near the Rappahanock.

IMG_0041The Kelly’s Ford Equestrian Center.

IMG_0044The Inn at Kelly’s Ford. Kelly’s Ford is the site of a cavalry skirmish during the War Between the States.

IMG_0048A one-lane bridge that I have to cross.

A Drive to Kilmarnock

This past weekend we drove to a town called Kilmarnock which sits in a region of Virginia called the Northern Neck, on the Chesapeake Bay. It is something that I’ve wanted to do for three years but have been prevented from doing for one reason or another.

The drive over was beautiful and very typical of Virginia. By that I mean rolling hills, trees, farms, small towns and lots and lots of old churches with their attendant graveyards. Why is it that our modern churches never have graveyards? I understand that property is at a premium for most churches and perhaps a graveyard would be “wasted” when it could be a parking lot, but I think we would do well to re-establish the practice of Christian burial in a church graveyard.

Most of these old, rural towns have a United Methodist parish, a Baptist church or two, and sometimes an Episcopal parish. It is truly heartbreaking to see these gorgeous old buildings most of which are in the hands of heretics. Just imagine working and praying to build a parish, teach, preach and serve. You go down to your grave when your alloted span is done only to have the entire thing fall into the hands of the enemy within a century or so.

The churches that we saw were mainly built of brick. I imagined what life would be like if they were inhabited by preachers with evangelical fervor and sound doctrine. What would it be like to have our rural areas dotted with churches that were sacramental and reformed? Instead we have these sad monuments to a bygone age inhabited by the opponents of the truth.

Kilmarnock itself is not much to shout about, but if you drive down the roads that lead to the Bay, you find mansions of breathtaking size, all of them new. Apparently there is a lot of old money in Kilmarnock, or else folks in D.C. and Richmond who weekend down there. These homes are unbelievable, sitting right on the Bay with no neighbors to speak of. Trust me, these folks aren’t working in town. It never ceases to amaze me how no matter where you go in this country there are loads of rich people (or massively indebted people).

We ate lunch in the parking lot of the local Episcopal parish which is gorgeous. It looked like a small version of Truro in Fairfax. I looked it up on the web and of course it is in the revisionist camp and will probably vanish within a generation.

The entire drive led me to think about the AMiA and ACNA in general with regard to church planting. For obvious reasons the AMiA has focused most of its church planting activities on cities and urban centers. I favor this and think AMiA should have a 50-state strategy of hitting key urban areas. My question is how do the rural areas get served in any new evangelization? In some sense it is much easier to plant churches in urban areas because you have so many more people to potentially draw from, whereas in a small town there are only a limited number of people.

So do entire swaths of the country stay unserved by a Medieval Protestant alternative to unbelief? Can we reach small towns as well as urban areas? How many guys would we need in the pipeline of ministerial training in order to reach these places? What kind of resources would it require? I imagine that in the old days most of these churches rose from within the ethnic communities that were pioneering these new towns, but that pattern is gone now. What is the new method of reaching the rural parts of America with a liturgical, Bible-centered church?