I’m taking out a home equity line of credit. I am at the point where I can no longer wait to finish up my last few home improvement projects. I also needed to combine some credit card accounts. So I had to decide whether it’s smarter to complete it now or wait.

Unfortunately, waiting has always been the method I used. But I hate my front room windows and with the energy costs increasing, I was losing a lot of heat out of them. So the only way to do what I needed to do was to look into the equity of my home and use it to accomplish my goals.

Now deciding to take a home equity line of credit was not an easy decision. All you have to do is drive around Austin and see the number of boarded-up houses that seem to be appearing daily. Or look in the back of this newspaper and see the legal notices where folks are losing their homes. I read those notices all the time. I also look at the amount of money the people owed at the point they lost them. And truthfully, it’s scary. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Job losses, medical emergencies, and, more often than not, financial mismanagement have led to the problems.

Well, I am good at managing money. So that’s not my worry. But no one can predict the other two, so when I made my decision to take out the home equity loan, I didn’t for a moment hesitate as to whom I would turn to in order to get the loan. The first place I turned to is the bank that holds my mortgage-Shorebank.

I have over the years put my home and my financial future regarding my home into their hands. And they have been good hands. They have treated me fairly, I have a fair interest rate, they are here locally (Harrison and Laramie), and they know me and I know them. Best of all, Shorebank has one of the lowest rates of foreclosure. As Shorebank Vice President Michelle Collins once said, “If we foreclose on you, that means we have done everything we could, and you just didn’t want our help.”

I remember a few years back Ms. Collins was on WVON-AM 1690 radio and a caller called in. He began to admonish her. He went to Shorebank for a loan on a two-flat. Shorebank didn’t want to lend him the money he wanted for the building. The caller was quick to point out that he ended up going to another mortgage company and getting his loan through them. Ms. Collins pointed out at the time that if Shorebank didn’t approve the amount of money he wanted, then he was probably overpaying for the building. The caller “pooh-poohed” her at the time, but when we see what’s going on today with mortgages, I bet he is one of those now paying the costs of all those “low doc/no doc loans, variable rate mortgages” and other risky loans that are going bad.

I’m going ahead with my loan. I recently had the appraiser out to my house to appraise it for the loan. It was the same young man they sent four years ago when they were thinking about selling my loan (they would still manage it). It was good to see someone who wasn’t just showing up to show up. This was someone who, just like the bank, is in it for the long term and not the short term.

My admiration for Shorebank and its work here in Austin doesn’t take away from my basic premise that we need our own bank. The number of foreclosures in the neighborhood says more people are being taken advantage of-not that we have a neighborhood full of folks who simply aren’t paying their bills. A foreclosed-on property hurts everyone else’s property value in the neighborhood, so we all have an interest in changing the situation.

Even with all the news coming out about mortgages and problems with those who made bad loans, it doesn’t change the fact that homeownership is the foundation of financial wealth. I still encourage those who want to own a home to call Shorebank and find out all the different programs that are available to you. Or visit them and see where or what you need to do to get yourself together to be able to purchase a home.

The abandoned and vacant properties in Austin are going to be purchased by someone. The value at the least is always in the land. Everyone needs a place to live.

CONTACT: westside2day@yahoo.com