Friday, October 2, 2009

MUST READ BOOK: Our Lot by Alyssa Katz

There have been many books written about the causes and roots of the real estate bubble. Some focus on the financials, some on the movers-and-shakers in Washington and on Wall Street that made the inevitable crash happen.

But the new book OUR LOT by journalist Alyssa Katz tells the story from the perspective of ordinary people, the average Joes and Janes that listened to their friendly real estate sales agent and bought an overpriced home with too much leverage they couldn't afford.

Or those that attended a get-rich-quick real estate seminar at some dingy hotel ballroom and figured they could become instant real estate millionaires for just $497.

Or those that needed a home mortgage and really didn't know how to get one or what they needed to look for before signing on the bottom line.

OUR LOT is a comprehensive but very readable book that underscores that all those foreclosure statistics the media likes to banter about involve real people dealing with the largest catastrophe many will ever know. OUR LOT is the human face of the Commerce Department's statistics.

I cannot recommend Alyssa Katz's latest work more highly to you.

While reading OUR LOT I was reminded of the famous book by author Cornelius Ryan, A BRIDGE TOO FAR, the story of Operation Market Garden in World War II and the attempt by the Allies to end the war by Christmas 1944.

The term has taken on a significance of its own, to indicate a good idea implemented by well intentioned people but just taken one step beyond its---and their---own competence.

The Peter Principle in practice.

OUR LOT by Alyssa Katz makes it clear that the mortgage meltdown and real estate crisis was not created by monsters, evil Frankensteins toiling in a lab designing disaster for the world. It really was caused by people just reaching one step farther than their means or ideas could have ever carried them.

Businessmen and bankers reached one dollar too far for profits.

Home buyers reached one square foot too far when seeking the American dream.

Investors reached one house (and one mortgage loan) too far in the quest for wealth and riches.

And our politicians reached one constituency group too far in the quest for votes.

Few people in this mortgage drama were malicious or venal. Nearly all really wanted the best for themselves and everyone else. Virtually all just wanted to make some money, buy a decent home, and live the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

But it did not end up that way.

OUR LOT is a modern classic of storytelling about the devastation of the American middle class and the political consequences of overreaching that will linger with us for generations. I hope those that caused the last crisis read this book so they can avoid the next, which unfortunately is as inevitable as snow in winter.

Robert J. Abalos, Esq.