What’s happening to America?

I arrived in this country almost 17 years ago from Africa. Images that one conjures up would be that of jungles, wild animals and mud huts, however, I was very much part of the corporate scene in a large city, much the same as Los Angeles. For years I had dreamed of one day living in the greatest country in the world – the land of opportunity…. the United States, and on the morning that I arrived, I kissed the ground in gratitude!

In order to be accepted by the US, I had to have substantial qualifications, a letter of tax clearance, AIDS clearance and Police clearance. Clearly, the US did not tolerate felons and in order to ‘fit’, I had to meet the high standard required by the greatest country in the world!

I noticed it immediately! The deterioration in the roads, the neighborhoods and it seemed as though many people were out of work – a huge contrast to my first visit, 10 years earlier, however the nation pulled itself out of that recession, so what makes this recession so different? One can lay blame at the feet of the mortgage industry and certainly I questioned it when a friend said ‘My son is a police officer by night and sells mortgage during the day’. This young man was not qualified in the mortgage industry, but I was assured that all he had to do was to sell the concept – someone else signed the client up!

What I was seeing was the start of greed. The land of opportunity had morphed into ‘the land of con artists’ and people who bent the rules to get what they wanted – money!!

With 2.9 million foreclosures in the last year, one has to ask oneself if all those foreclosures were necessary? Isn’t a roof over ones head, a necessity? As an active REALTOR(R), I tried to get inside the head of a foreclosed owner, to fathom the motivation – after all, I had worked hard and saved for years to afford our first home, and strived everyday to ensure that I kept it. Paying my bills was paramount in my life, to preserve the good name I had fought for, for over 50 years, so why were some people giving up? It just didn’t make sense, until…….

One of the reasons I am where I am today, is because I never stopped learning. To me education is vital, in order to remain competitive in my market. One of those training classes made me a Foreclosure Prevention Specialist and I was thrilled to be able to legally, consult with families, to help them keep their homes. Sadly, the more consultations I held, the clearer the picture became: since the last recession, America had become dependent on plastic – a society of people who could keep up with the Jones’s without having to afford it!

Wherever I looked, there were ads offering credit cards at zero interest, student loans and people soliciting credit availability from cars to clothing! Consumers found it easier to use plastic for their purchases, which were now so easy to come by. Gamblers purchased casino chips on-line… pornography became easy to obtain with a credit card and late night TV offered the latest in fashion and jewelry at the click of a button – all on credit card! We had entered an era where bad habits were easily hidden by the use of plastic!

Pretty soon, boats and cars entered the mix and one seminar I attended, encouraged the purchase of investment property, using credit card for the down payment! As a REALTOR(R) I can tell you that from the examination to the marketing, NOTHING happens without a credit card! Apparently, suppliers no longer use cash or check and plastic is ‘king’!

As I consulted with each family, I generated an income and expenditure account, to determine if they were eligible for a loan modification and more and more I noticed the trend – good living is what had led them to this point!

I asked one single lady what her car payment was: $950/month …. and she assured me that she couldn’t survive without her Mercedes or her entertainment budget of $500/month! That’s a mortgage payment right there, and yet when we were done, she said that she’d rather walk away from the property than change her lifestyle! I hated telling them that in order to get a loan modification, one has to prove hardship and having two luxury vehicles in the garage (both on lease) did not constitute hardship to the lender!

Another client had been on a ten year spending spree: a brand new Mustang convertible, a new career (and the training that he needed). With his HELOC (Home Equity Line Of Credit), he borrowed money to invest into a business, went on luxurious vacations and employed the services of a friend who constructed unpermitted modifications to enlarge his home! As a loving son, he set his mother up in a condo and maintained her – all on borrowed money and without a thought for either the future or of repaying the loan. When the HELOC was exhausted, he maxed his credit cards and when all else failed, he called me!

OH MY GOSH! What had happened to this great country, where status symbols and grandiose lifestyles had become more of a priority than a roof over their heads?

As a REALTOR(R), my business quickly slid from helping people to increase their investments, to helping them get out from under debt and day after day, I was dealing with those who had allowed debt and good living to place a stranglehold on them. These were desperate people who no longer answered the phone or paid their bills, allowing them to overflow from duffel bags in the corner of the room – unnoticed and ignored and when I (and REALTORS(R) like me) arrived, the demand was to ‘help’ them.

It never ceases to amaze me how we are not part of the problem, but we have to be part of the solution and the demand is almost always the same: “It’s YOUR JOB to get us FULL FORGIVENESS of debt!” and yet many of these home owners resent the commission that we earn whilst doing just that! Understand that a desperate person is very often a hostile person, so our job is never easy, and yet, we try to remain non-judgmental, positive and pleasant. (Interestingly enough, this same client did receive FULL forgiveness of his debt and still demanded $1,500 from us (REALTORS(R) towards his moving expenses!)

I was dealing with people who had stopped paying their mortgage, yet were still eating in restaurants, buying new clothing and going on vacation! What was I missing? Then the penny dropped! When the HELOC ran out, they lived on their credit cards and when those were maxed, the unpaid mortgage payments became their lifeline! These were people who CHOSE to not pay their mortgage!

Now, I hasten to add that MANY people suffered true hardship, loss of jobs, divorce, illness – those things that genuinely prevented them from making mortgage payments, however, not all 2.9 million foreclosures were due to hardship! Many were due to greed, convenience and the government stimulus programs that made it easy for them to walk away with full forgiveness, affording them a fresh start and a clean slate! These were people who made a broken system WORK for them! There are families who have lived in their homes for 18 months, without a mortgage payment and without eviction, exacerbating the problem suffered by most of the lending companies – the lack of staff to process the ever-growing piles of foreclosures, which is taking longer and longer to process due to the increasing number of defaults!

And what is so amazing is that they don’t feel the least bit guilty! Their argument is that their loans are insured, they paid interest and that the bank gets the house at the end of the day. True, true and true! Not only is the home-owners system broken – the mortgage industry’s system is also broken!

Watch this video: (not for the feint-hearted!)

Unfortunately, this blasé attitude doesn’t stop there!

In 2008, a friend and colleague of mine sat in her office, crying. When I asked, she said that her husband had spent their rent money on car repairs – it was just before Christmas and her kids would have no gifts. I took her to my bank, had her open her own bank account and she signed a promissory note for the $2,000 that I deposited for her from my account. Three months later, because she had helped me sell my home (probably 6 or 8 hours work), I reduced her loan to me by $1,000! When the promised six months passed and her loan (now only $1,000) became due, she avoided me and did not return my calls. After another year of dutifully sending her monthly invoices, I received an e-mail stating that she had no intention of EVER repaying the loan – ‘You can garnish my wages, if you like’ was her response!

In June of last year a fellow REALTOR(R) who had fallen on hard times, joined our brokerage, but she didn’t have the $295 for the franchise dues. I offered to help her by lending her the money. She left after two months to join another brokerage and now, a year later, has told me that I will have to wait until she closes a ‘deal’ before repaying me!

Another REALTOR(R) asked me to build a website for her – the cost quoted was $790 (considerably less than most web developers), to be paid in two payments, the second payment a month after the first. The deposit was paid and the site went up. Three months later, she, too has told me that I have to wait for her next ‘close’, before she can settle her debt.

Am I the only one who fails to understand the new rules of engagement? What has happened to our great country and why has honor fallen by the wayside? Why do people not care about their reputations, any longer and more importantly, what can we do to fix it?

Althea Garner
Exit Beach Cities Realty
Exit Realty All Professional
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009


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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow, what a rant! lol

    Okay, let’s look at two things you’ve touched upon. One, many people really have lost their way in what’s important in their lives. I’m down to two credit cards, both American Express, which means I have to pay off what I spend each month. I did that because back in the early 90’s and around the time I purchased my house I ran into high credit card debt, and both times it ended up coming back to get me when income dropped drastically. It wasn’t that I was living beyond my means, just that I couldn’t afford to keep up. I called every creditor and worked out deals, though; to me, it was the most responsible thing to do.

    On the second, though, I tend to believe that the housing industry had a major hand in what’s happened to many former homeowners, and even some current homeowners. I remember our first realtor giving us a figure for how much house we could afford based on our income and thinking he was nuts; it was 2 2/1 times more than what we earned. Not everyone thinks ahead like that; takes some mathematical background sometimes to figure those things out (I would say “common sense”, but what’s that these days?). Then some of the complex mortgage loans and deals that come up in the 80’s and 90’s haven’t helped. That’s why it took down banks as well, and why Countrywide is about to pay out a big amount of money.

    True, there is personal responsibility. But others will prey on those who have dreams and are trying to find ways to overcome their reality. That’s why people get taken in so many ways by scammers. It’s a shame, but it’s nothing new.

    • “True, there is personal responsibility. But others will prey on those who have dreams and are trying to find ways to overcome their reality. ” Mitch you hit the nail right on the head, here! One of my biggest issues is with those who prey on others – especially those who prey on others ignorance!

      Home buyers go to experts because they don’t have the knowledge themselves and they place their trust in those experts. It breaks my heart to see innocent people losing everything because they trusted someone who preyed upon them! Greed!

      I admit that there are agents who don’t hold the clients best interest at heart and believe me there are also many inexperienced agents out there who don’t know the difference!

      REALTORS(R) are also preyed upon. I called to sign up for a real estate service that would advertise my clients listings on the Internet.

      I was told that it would cost me $110/month (on a one-year contract) and that there would be a $250 set up fee! When I questioned the set up fee, the sales person told me that there was ‘a lot of work’ involved. I told him “Nonsense! It’s a database! You are going to type in my contact information and my billing information ONCE and that does not constitute $250 worth of work!” He put me on hold while he spoke to his manager and the next thing I knew, the manager had waived the set up fee!

      The reason that they were prepared to waive the set up fee was because I knew more about databses than the average bear and guess what? …. they made millions of dollars from those who didn’t!

      You see, Mitch, you have been responsible about your credit and you put a stop to the bleeding. Others don’t – they take the easy way out!

      There are still mortgage lenders who will tell you that you can afford more house than you believe you do but it really is up to each individual to do due diligence. I mean, we all know what we earn and what we can afford and when someone tells us that we can afford twice what we have left over at the end of the month, surely, flags go up?

      One of the biggest problems were the balloon payments! The buyers who were told that their mortgage was $2000/month and who neglected to take notice of the fact that they were not paying interest. Those are the people who woke up to a whopping $8,000/month payment after 5 years!

      The other problem was the credit spending. Buyers suddenly realized their dreams of owning their own homes, but the funiture wasn’t good enough. Then the car in the garage didn’t suit the house and then there was a boat and oops! here comes a baby and we’re down to only one income!

      It’s quite frightening how many people are unable to budget – they have no plan. Some of them get into a well paying job and think that they will be there forever. Well this economy has dashed many of those dreams!

      BTW. It wasn’t a rant at all. Our system is broken and it needs to be fixed.

      Thanks for the response! 🙂


  2. Despite when a certain famous movie told us, greed is not good. Neither is ignorance. In hindsight, I facilitated my own demise by placing trust in the words of my own employer. ALL I did was ask permission to write a memo to help mprove the businee. All my boss requested was that I personally hand him the memo. I did as instructed.

    The foolowing day I come to work and am wisked into a back room – not my boss’s office. My boss does not like my memo as it reveals his chef has violated CA law. This he already knew, but now I have placed it in writing. I am confronted by my manager, his chef and the head of the HR Dept. Not only does my boss fire me at the end of a long tirade, the HR manager manages to convince the State of CA to deny me unemployment compensation, thus making me homeless in CA. Were it not for a caring sister in Florida, I might not be alive today.

    This matter is likely something of a joke to my former
    employer. But, I truly expect to be vindicated. Why? Because premeditated fraud is still a crime in CA. And, here there is not only a scam against me, but the State of
    CA. The State of CA actually told me I was denied unemployment for violating a “reasonable employee rulr.”
    And, what does that mean? They said that means I promoted
    Wi-Fi at the office. Problem is that NEVER happened. But, the HR Dept. said it happened to help assure their rate of
    payment into the state’s unemployment fund would not

    Lamar Morgan

    • Lamar,

      You are talking about corporate corruption and I have been abreast of your case since it happened. Middletown strikes me as being a one-horse town where the biggest rancher is the owner of the feed store, the hotel and is also the sheriff!

      Even I could see the slant when I was there for just a tad over 24 hours!

      My advice to you is now that you have relocated to Florida, let them hang themselves. You need to move on to better things. Dwelling on their negativity is not getting you anywhere and believe me, justice WILL be done, but does it have to be done by you?


  3. Miss. Althea,

    Life is difficult enough in dealing with things like this. . . .
    But now you are confusing us with the facts, and compounding the problems further with sound reasoning and logic???

    Sorry but the people of the USA aren’t used to doing things like that.

    At least that is the very legacy that this present generation will be leaving if they don’t wake up!!!
    (Now won’t that be something to be proud of?)

    At the present rate, words like: Honor, Respect, Trust, Faith, Sacrifice, Selflessness, will only appear. . . or really have any meaning in the history books and in the armed forces, and public services (Police & Fire) oaths.

    The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choices words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech.
    Edwin H. Friedman:

    Truth has a funny way of coming to the surface. . . . no matter how much cover-up or propaganda or lipstick has been layered on even for centuries.

    Whether it on a personal level. . . or a governmental level, the rules are the same.

    What have we learned in over 2000 years?

    “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”… CICERO 55BC

    The trick?
    Is recognizing the truth, before we try to kill each other off, just because we don’t think like each other.

    Don’t think that that can happen here?
    Miss. Althea can explain Apartheid better than most, and you only need to turn on the news for Gaza and Israel updates.

    Ya that’s right they said that could never happen to them too.

    We have become so efficient in killing, that life has diminished in value.
    We have become so deficient in communication that truth, has become unnecessary.
    We have become so complacent, that true leadership has become tainted and corrupted.
    We have become so egotistical and self centered that we have replaced deities with ourselves.

    When we finally get a dose of reality, and truth?
    We are confused, and fearful as to the possible consequences.

    Simply because those consequences involve sacrifice.
    Sacrifice of change.

    Most half to take a self inventory if they are up to the sacrifice that is necessary for the change.
    Most will ignore that change as for the previous generations and go on as our predecessors.

    The one fulcrum in changing our position?
    Our ability to kill increases, and next thing you know, it is getting closer to home.

    When will we all wake up and make the change necessary to coexist on this life boat we call earth?

    The common threads to economic calamity, is out-of-control spending, an entitlement mindset and high taxes. It is interesting, but states with no income tax are doing quite well—Texas, Tennessee and Florida come to mind.

    Dependency-based welfare states are heading to bankruptcy, and they should. There is something cleansing about this and the fact that states (like Texas) and countries (like Germany) do well because they did not spend like drunken sailors. At least drunken sailors can’t drink forever; eventually the bartender cuts them off when they run out of money.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

    God Help US all if things don’t get straightened out.

    Mike F.

    • But, Mike, my question to you is: What is the difference between America now and the America of say the mid fifties? Something has changed – what is it that has brought us so far into left field that we are likely never to return? How can we get back our sense of honor?


      • Actually Althea, the mid 50’s were a corrupt period as well. The difference is that we have better news outlets telling us everything that’s going on, which wasn’t prevalent in the past. There have always been scams, always people who have taken advantage of other people. Sense of honor; that went away with the War of 1812.

  4. Miss Althea,

    Like all parents we tried to give the best that we could to our children.

    We tried to have the best of time, food, housing, possessions, etc. You know like we had it. . . . even better if at all possible.


    How much did your grandfather make?
    Your Father?
    And you?
    And now your children?

    See an emanating pattern?

    The generations before us did so much with very little.

    Our generation tried to do the same, and then even more. Technology and advancements have played a great part in this as well.

    Our youth have moved on; desiring more and more, to better themselves as we have directed, as we have hoped for them.

    By doing this? Have we handicapped them (Our Children) from the start?

    The struggles have changed. . . .
    The teachings have changed as well. . . .

    We have omitted in many areas one thing.

    Due to our time capsule that we are in we have forgotten to instill / pass on our own history pf sacrifice in our own families.

    We were raised in a Dixie cup world. Everything happens in real time today. Everyone before had it. . . . so why cant we have it too?

    And after we get it? Why not this . . . . and that. . . as well?

    Many families have never sat their siblings down to explain how to balance a check book together. Banking? Finances?

    We have become complacent enough to let the education processes over ride our parenting skills.
    Comforting thought isn’t it. . . ?

    The things we got, the things that we gave, the things that our children want have to come from somewhere. . . . some how.

    In each years of living we came to our senses / realities as to how these things appeared. Child, youth, young adult, adult, senior, all have a unique perception of their own.

    Greed can fog if not totally blank out most rational thinking.

    No matter what level of greed, rationalism to reach the desired goal can overrule reality.

    This little word Greed has been the downfall of many throughout the millennia’s.

    The generations before. . . Present. . and after. . . will all struggle to control self.


    One evening an old Cherokee Chief told his Grandson
    about a battle that goes on inside people. He said,
    “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

    One is Evil.
    It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity,guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

    The other is Good.
    It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence,empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

    The grandson thought about if for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
    “Which wolf wins??

    The old Cherokee simply replied,

    “The one you feed”.

    Mike F.

  5. Most realtors just don’t get it when it comes to the web and blogs. But it looks like you are an execption to the rule.

    If you would like some help with your blog, feel free to let me know. I’m really good at SEO and such I can get top position in Google for very effective and highly targeted three word phrases like ‘poway real estate search’ and the like.

    Take care.

  6. I had heard something about this but hadn’t seen it graphically explained.
    All we can do is try to be part of the solution and not become part of the problem.
    Let me know if you come up with any ideas !

  7. Thank you for sending this to me.

  8. I don’t bookmark sites but i will bookmark this!

  9. Althea, hope you are well.
    You and I have had this conversation before and it amounts to one thing, we are becomming that godless nation those people who hate us keep talking about.
    Our national product is what now? Where has truth in lending gone, confidence in manufactured product, pride in work done?

    Your readers talk of the breakdown of government, the decline of our social system, and corrupt politicians, overspending and collusion between drug cartels and weapons manufactuers.

    Althea, everyone is forgetting one thing and all do not want to realize it… this was once a God centric society – our collective mindset was that a Diety ruled and we knew by His provided instrustions, how to act and behave with our fellow man/woman.

    Now science has taken us to the brink of creating life ourselves and the planet thinks it is too smart for a God.

    The Collective WE would reather spend time figuring out how to one up each other instead of lifting one another up.

    We have made what is wrong acceptable and laugh at things a mere twenty years ago that would have been abhorent to imagine in any moral public light.

    Unless human beings realize that whether or not they want to believe in a supernatural God or not, that book needs to be read to understand who we are and what purpose man has on this planet.

    Without that or some kind of direction, parents will continue to let their children be raised by the media fads enveloping their minds, love will have the same meaning as the latest demon romance on television, and education will sink further down the list of priorities when logic and reason replaces religeon and human rational.

    I pray we wake up. the world is still a beautiful place and if we do something more to assist in keeping it that way, we may change the predicted loss of major resources in as little as ten years.

    Physicist, Scientist Futurist are now becoming aware that intelligent design is the only rational explanation to why everything is and in the order it is/was “created.”

    I’m always amazed how people can believe in Ghost on TV, the paranormal, dynamics of dimensions, annd that energy has no end, but the simple idea that somebody made all this, eludes the ones that need it most.

    The past is set, the future is not – we CAN make it what we want, and how you see it, it what it will be.

    Bobby Flleeks
    Write Professionals, Creating Words That Sell
    Host of Springfield City Beat 1080 Internet Radio

  10. Great site, though I would love to see some more media! – Great post anyway, Cheers!

  11. About time! Someone with some information on this. You’d think considering how popular Comic Book Adaptations are nowadays, some information would actually be pretty easy to find. Apparently not. Anyway, thanks for this! I appreciate it!

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