Underwater: How Our American Dream of Homeownership Became a Nightmare

Ryan Dezember. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-24180-1
Wall Street Journal reporter Dezember debuts with a unique and incisive portrait of the fallout from the 2008 housing crash that combines investigative journalism with his experiences as an “underwater” homeowner. In 2005, Dezember and his wife bought a “sunny cottage” in Foley, Ala., for $137,500. Twelve years later, after divorcing, leaving the Mobile Register to take a job with the Journal, and moving to New York City, Dezember owed more on the home than it was worth and was forced to rent it out. “Looking back,” he writes, “I found it bemusing that I was ensnared despite being a newspaper reporter who had made a career writing about the frenzied and doomed real estate market along Alabama’s beaches.” Dezember faults the “mortgage meltdown” partly on Wall Street greed and government deregulation, but also blames buyers with good credit scores who took out multiple mortgages in order to speculate on real estate. Fingers are also pointed at an Alabama beach town realtor who sold “$28 million worth of nonexistent vacation properties in the time it takes to do a load of laundry,” and rental companies that “gobbl[ed] up houses” at foreclosure auctions. By and large, though, Dezember remains focused on the effects of the crash on common, middle-class homeowners like himself. This well-informed and wryly humorous account humanizes the story of the financial meltdown without sacrificing big-picture analysis. (July)
Reviewed on : 06/04/2020
Release date: 07/14/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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