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FIRST-TIME BUYER FRUSTRATIONS

Sure the hunt is a pain but look at what you gain

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POSTED October 23, 2009 1:43 a.m.
Four years ago this month only one home sold for less than $300,000 in Manteca.

It was a two bedroom, one bathroom house with about 800 square feet on a narrow lot with less than 3,000 square feet in Central Manteca near Lindbergh School. It sold for $295,000

As of Monday this October, 44 homes have closed escrow in Manteca with all but seven being less than $300,000.

Among them is a home that sold for $295,000. It is four times bigger than the house that sold for $295,000 four years earlier. The home at 1930 Sparrowhark St. in a newer neighborhood in Southwest Manteca has five bedrooms and four bathrooms in 3,413 square feet. It also has a garage, something the home four years earlier lacked.

From an affordability perspective, the Manteca housing market gets high marks. Exactly how high can be found going back a full 10 years when brand new homes the size of the one on Sparowhawk sold in the high $200,000s.

Add wages – which have either declined or been stagnant for the past year plus – against that and the affordability soars even higher against the median household income.

The new economic reality isn’t lost on one reader – who doesn’t want his name used – who said he has had a 15 percent reduction in income during the past year due to fewer hours. He’s worried about the future but he said he’s making the mortgage payments – he’s in the 12th year of a 30-year fixed rate loan although things are tight.

He said he resisted taking money out of his house and noted he did miss an opportunity a few years after buying his home to reduce the loan rate.  But all in all he says he’s doing OK. His credit card debt is minimal and he’s cutback on what he said he now calls luxuries such as full cable TV service, eating out three times a week, and other such things.

He noted that barring a loss of his job or some other personal catastrophe, he should be fine.

What he was concerned with were potential first-time buyers who said they were so frustrated with looking and losing out to full cash offers that they were going to just keep renting.

“That’s a big mistake,” he said.

The reason is obvious. Housing – whether you rent or own – is more often than not your biggest monthly expense. First-time buyers today are essentially using 2009 money to buy houses at 1999 prices. If you can secure an affordable home and don’t encumber it with lines of credit and such, you are setting the stage for having more discretionary money as the years go by, a safeguard against down turns as your house payment is based on 1999 values, plus lay a solid foundation for retirement as you have stable monthly housing costs or may end up owning it outright by the time you stop working by choice.

 It isn’t easy being a first-time home buyer today. There’s little doubt about that given the market, the banks, the appraisers, and the full cash buyers.

Yes, it is a royal pain. But look at it this way – the benefits you ultimately will reap will massively overshadow the time, anxiety, and frustrations you’re experiencing hunting for a home.

Many financial planners use home ownership as a building block argument for people. It makes sense once you stabilize your most monthly cost – and hopefully by being conservative in what you want in a home — you have more financial flexibility.

These are not normal times. That is good, because if times were normal many people who work and live in Manteca wouldn’t be able to afford to get into a house using loans that won’t cripple them financially.
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