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The Great Recession Knocked Them Down. Only Some Got Up Again.

Category: Business,Finance

“It’s not a brand, brand-spanking new house, but it’s very comfortable,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “It’s a good house.”

Mr. Gonzalez’s recession story is a typical one: In 2004, he and his wife bought a house outside Miami with little money down, counting on the ability to refinance to help them make their payments. They borrowed money to fund a lifestyle that, while never lavish, was more than they could afford on his salary working in sales for a liquor distributor.

But when Florida’s housing market collapsed, the Gonzalezes couldn’t refinance. The cooling economy ate into liquor sales, cutting Mr. Gonzalez’s commissions and leaving him unable to make his monthly payments.

When The Times caught up with him in June 2008, Mr. Gonzalez had just received his $1,033 tax rebate, part of President George W. Bush’s effort to stimulate the slumping economy. For Mr. Gonzalez, as for the economy, it was not enough. By the end of the year, his house was in foreclosure and he was filing for bankruptcy.

Mr. Gonzalez bristled at being a renter, paying $1,800 a month to live in a complex “where you couldn’t barbecue, where you couldn’t wash your car, where you couldn’t do nothing.” His sister, who had lost her job selling real estate, moved in for a while.

But gradually, things began to improve. Mr. Gonzalez got a job selling auto parts. He worked to rebuild his credit. By last year, he and his wife were ready to buy again — this time in the Tampa area, where homes are cheaper and they can be closer to their children.

They are being cautious. Once, he said, he would have paid someone to rip out the run-down front lawn. This time, he did the work himself.


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