Dateline   |  August 30, 2013

On The Edge, Part 1

A family of four living the American Dream in Southern California is hit hard by the Great Recession. It’s the beginning of their four year fight to save their house and their marriage.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> "dateline's" cameras rule on the sadowskis for the first time. tim 's other son is noah, here at 9 years old.

>> this is my wife krichelle.

>> they have lived in this four-bedroom house for more than 11 years. it's nestled in a beautiful cul-de-sac in beautiful orange, california. it's the only home the boys have ever known. now they're in danger of losing it to the bank.

>> we don't want to lose our home, we love it, our kids have lived here their whole life.

>> their story might sound familiar, even though the great recession ended back in 2009 , millions of americans are still fighting to safe their homes. but what's gotten almost no attention is the financial crisis foreclosures have had on american families. for four years, our cameras have been with the sadowskis as they fight to save their home.

>> back in 1998 , their marriage was strong, and so were their finances. tim owned his own business. they had no problem coming one the 20% down payment, almost $65,000. was it fair to call this the dream house ?

>> yeah.

>> everything was awesome, the neighbors were great, they were excited, they had young families, we had young families. it was everything i envisioned of a true neighborhood.

>> that was a good day. having big birthday parties . we would have pool parties and get a bounce house , and all the neighbors would come over and it was a good time.

>> how did things change when the boys came along?

>> the responsibility gfamily got bigger, the responsibility got larger. it made me feel good that my wife was at home taking care of our two boys.

>> and what was your business? what did you do?

>> construction, framing, drywall, painting.

>> this was around a time that southern california was booming.

>> i was running anywhere from 15 to 17 projects at the same time and i would have anywhere from 40 to 60 guys spread out on these 15 to 17 projects.

>> tim was a self-made man, both he and krichelle had grown up with very little money.

>> i started working at age 15 because if i wanted anything i had to pay for it myself.

>> krichelle worked as a flight attendant and later as a real estate agent . in 2001 , they were living the american dream . tim was making about $160,000 a year, and the sadowskis started spending. they refinanced their home more than a few times, taking out more than $100,000.

>> that's a gas fire pit right there.

>> they used the money to make investments in home improvements adding an outdoor kitchen and a pool.

>> i had boulders craned in because the builder wanted the artificial rock and i wanted the real thing.

>> their home almost tripled in value, worth almost $800,000. they had expensive vehicles, motorcycles and classic cars that tim would restore.

>> i had a '78 transam. i bought motorcycles for the boys, quads for the boys. and we would go out to the desert a lot with me and the family. that was my enjoyment.

>> if someone were to look at your finances then, would they have said this couple is responsible?

>> at the time a financial advisor would have said that we were being irresponsible, but our neighbors said we were part of the crowd. i had enough money to last us for a year to pay all our bills.

>> little did they know, they were living in the calm before an unpredicted superstorm. the great recession was headed their way and their area, southern california would take a direct hit. for the sadowskis, the shock would be both financial and personal.

>> i feel like a failure, and it hurts me deep down inside.

>> and just miles away , krichelle's mom was about to find herself caught up in the deepening crisis.

>> i want to keep my home, i have been here