Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Housing slump hindering relocation

Steve Henn Dec 4, 2008
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Housing slump hindering relocation

Steve Henn Dec 4, 2008
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TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: The Labor Department releases unemployment numbers tomorrow. Most economists are expecting more bad news. In the past year, the number of Americans who are out of work shot past 10 million. And getting a job is even more difficult these days with this housing slump. Here’s Marketplace’s Steve Henn.


Steve Henn: When Becky Hansen listens to politicians talk about the mortgage mess, she often feels invisible.

Becky Hansen: They never really mention people like us.

Almost two years ago, Hansen’s husband, Alex, lost his job at MIT. Without much warning, they needed to sell their house and relocate. But the house didn’t sell, and they were stuck.

John Challenger: One of the keys to the U.S. economy has been the flexibility of our workforce.

John Challenger at the outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas says that’s changing.

Challenger: Because of this difficult housing market, people can’t go to where the jobs are because their house is underwater.

In a survey of more than 3,000 clients, he found only 13 percent were willing to relocate for work.

Challenger: And that’s down significantly.

And the time workers spend looking for a new jobs has shot up.

Dan Binstock: It is very brutal out there.

Dan Binstock helps lawyers find work at BCG attorney search. He says right now, the market’s flooded with them, but:

Binstock: Never before have we seen so many candidates get cold feet about moving to other cities due to fears about selling their own homes.

Employment advisors say you should find a job first and worry about selling the house later.

And after seven months of looking in Massachusetts, Alex Hansen, a physicist, took a job at the University of West Virginia. Becky, a pharmacist, took two jobs in Pittsburgh. They rented a small place in between.

Hansen: I commuted 35 miles north every day to go to work, and he commuted 50 miles south.

And they kept paying their mortgage back in Massachusetts.

Hansen: So we ended up living in this . . . um . . . rather seedy neighborhood.

Eventually, the dueling commutes, the multiple jobs, and the bills became too much. Becky moved to Northern Maine, where she landed a higher paying job. And Alex stayed in West Virginia.

Hansen: Believe it or not, we’re surviving OK — but we can’t move on with our lives or ever get to the same place if we don’t get rid of this house.

The Hansens are putting the house back on the market again — this time for about $90,000 less than they owe.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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