[MIAMI] A decade ago, as the financial crisis raged in the United States, Jesus Rodriguez told his kids a fib: he was selling the family furniture because they were moving to Disney World.
The truth was Mr Rodriguez was desperate for money, having lost his home as did hundreds of thousands of people in the Great Recession that began in 2008.
Mr Rodriguez’s voice chokes as he remembers the painful episode.
“My kids were very little and we started selling everything. They said, ‘hey daddy, where are we going?'” Mr Rodriguez recalled.
“‘We are going to Disney World,'” he remembered telling them. “And they said ‘daddy, is it that expensive that we have to sell the fridge and the beds?'”
“No, no don’t worry, we’ll buy new ones when we come back,” Mr Rodriguez said he told his children at the time.
Today Rodriguez, 57, lives with his family in a rented apartment in Coral Springs, north of Miami.
During the real estate boom that preceded the financial meltdown, it was dead easy to get a mortgage.
Banks threw loans at anything that moved. And intermediaries made a fortune selling investment products fashioned from debt obligations that, it turned out, would never be repaid.
Soon after immigrating from Venezuela with his family in 2005, Rodriguez landed a loan to buy an apartment he thought would be a slice of the American dream – even though he earned just US$15,000 a year working in a print shop.
“My neighbour was a pizza delivery man and he got the same loan,” Mr Rodriguez said.
‘RISKIER MORTGAGE PRODUCTS’
One of the meltdown factors, said mortgage foreclosure lawyer Shari Olefson, was that in a rush for profits, banks “created a lot of unique types of products” for home buying.