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Affordable housing index soars in SJ County

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POSTED March 3, 2009 4:28 a.m.
Thirty-five months ago only 4.8 percent of the people working and living in San Joaquin County could afford to buy a home here.
Today, 66.4 of county residents can now afford to buy a median priced home taking it from one of the least affordable counties in California for housing in 2006 to the third most affordable today.
That is being made possible by a significant drop in median housing prices going from $435,000 in the first quarter of 2006 to $175,000 at the end of 2008 while median household income at the same time went from $57,100 per household to $61,300.
The information is gleaned from the Wells Fargo Bank Housing Opportunity Index that has been monitoring the affordability of housing nationwide.
“I think more and more people are getting the message that this is a good time to buy,” said Jennifer Harnden of Coldwell Banker Crossroads Real Estate.
She noted that a sign of that is the fact she is writing between five and 15 offers for each buyer she represents until they are able to secure a home.
The buying activity is reflected in pending sales that continue to stay at near high levels with 212 deals in escrow. There have been 151 homes in Manteca close escrow as of Wednesday so far this year with another 335 available through the Multiple Listing Service.
Harden noted that some banks that have voluntarily put a moratorium on mortgages while trying to sort through the proposed housing bailout plan will have the effect of slowing down the supply.
“We’re already seeing less homes become available each week,” Harden said.
That could translate into good news and bad news for buyers. If another glut of foreclosures hit the market in a few months propped up by banks holding back, it could drive down prices a bit more. Experts are saying that only 5 to 6 percent of those who have homes facing foreclosure could be helped by the Obama plan.
At the same time, though lenders have been noticed that FHA is getting ready to increase minimum credit scores required for mortgages significantly to tighten up lending standards. That could create problems for people who can now afford homes but may not after the qualifying guidelines are changed. Virtually every home being bought by first-time buyers to live in on the resale market in the Manteca are going FHA. That is due to more lenient income and debt ratio standards, the affordability of the mortgage insurance, and the fact only a 3.5 percent down payment is required as opposed to 10 to 20 percent with conventional loans.
Realtor Tom Wilson said the $8,000 tax credit for buying a home is serving as a big carrot.
He noted one client – single man with a well paying, stable job who was comfortably living in his apartment – finally gave in to his mother’s constant insistence that he buy a home while the affordability is so good because of the $8,000 tax credit.
That means on a $109,900 home going FHA with a required 3.5 percent down payment, it will end up costing you less than $2,050 once you file taxes for next year as the $8,000 would cover the $5,300 in closing costs and $1,700 of the $3,742 down payment requirement.
As of Wednesday, there were four homes in Manteca or Lathrop listed for $109,900:
• three bedrooms, two bathrooms with 1,146 square feet at 796 Cherry Hills Court in Lathrop.
• three bedrooms, two bathrooms with 1,076 square feet at 430 Eva Drive in Manteca.
• three bedrooms, two bathrooms with 1,077 square feet at 405 Locust Ave. in Manteca.
• three bedrooms, one bathroom with 1,094 square feet at 339 Edward Ave. in Manteca.
Wilson noted you don’t get the money until you file your taxes for the year the home was purchased it. He has had several clients who are borrowing the amount from relatives and paying them back when they get the tax credit/refund check.
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