His assignment was to write about a real-estate frenzy lighting up the Redneck Riviera. So Ryan Dezember settled in and bought a home nearby himself. Then the market crashed, and he became one of the millions of Americans who suddenly owed more on their homes than they were worth. A flood of foreclosures made it impossible to sell. It didn't help that his quaint neighborhood fell into disrepair and drug-induced despair. He had no choice but to become a reluctant and wildly unprofitable landlord to move on. Meanwhile, his reporting showed how the speculative mania that caused the crash opened the U.S. housing market to a much larger breed of investors.
In this deeply personal story, Dezember shows how decisions on Wall Street and in Washington played out on his street in a corner of the Sunbelt that was convulsed by the foreclosure crisis. Readers will witness the housing market collapse from Dezember’s perch as a newspaper reporter. First he’s in the boom-to-bust South where a hot-air balloonist named Bob Shallow becomes one of the world’s top selling real-estate agents arranging condo flips, developers flop in spectacular fashion and the law catches up with a beach-town mayor on the take. Later he’s in New York, among financiers like Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman who are building rental empires out of foreclosures, staking claim to the bastion of middle-class wealth: the single-family home. Through it all, Dezember is an underwater homeowner caught up in the mess.
A cautionary tale of Wall Street's push to turn homes into assets, Underwater is a powerful, incisive story that chronicles the crash and its aftermath from a fresh perspective—the forgotten, middle-class homeowner.