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Typical payment drops $2,500 a month
From $4,000 payments 4 years ago to $1,500 today
This three bedroom, two bathroom home at 1218 Lexington Avenue in Manteca is available for $165,000. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The first-time homebuyer story of four years ago in Manteca now seems like ancient history.

The most popular loans were interest only with the typical monthly payment coming in at $4,000.

Hardly any buyers were from Manteca let alone the Northern San Joaquin Valley. They were almost all exclusively Bay Area residents pushed eastward over the Altamont Pass. Manteca prices - $450,000 for a median price home of 1,900 square feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in the Vintage Estate neighborhood on Tahoe Street – was a steal by Bay Area standards. It effectively made Manteca the affordable housing solution for much of the East Bay.

To qualify for such a steep loan without lenders fudging on the loan application it typically required an income of around $150,000 a year. A lot of buyers at the time, though, qualified for such loans with a third or less of the needed income and were able to handle the loans only because the first two to three years were at artificially low rates.

Today, the typical first-time buyer in Manteca is putting at least 5 percent down on 30-year fixed rate mortgages. Most first-time buyers are Manteca or Northern San Joaquin Valley residents with household incomes significantly below $50,000 that are now buying a home.

And, according to Marge Imfeld of Ability Mortgage, they’re averaging a monthly payment of $1,500 for homes selling between $182,000 and $200,000.

  “The market today is nothing like it was,” Imfeld noted.

But, as she noted, “the market will change.”

“It won’t go up overnight but it will change,” she said.

It is a sentiment shared by Jennifer Harnden of Coldwell Banker Crossroads Real Estate and Tom Wilson of Wilson Group Realtors.

“The bottom part of the market has pretty much settled for now,” Harden said.”If you see more price drops they won’t be that big.”

In most cases, what slippage in prices are occurring are in the middle and upper ranges of housing stock value.

Imfeld noted the bottom started leveling off in April 2009. The median resale values of homes that have closed escrow in Manteca since that time have bounced between $175,000 and $179,000.

The owner of Ability Mortgage added that it is harder now to secure a loan than it was a year ago. FHA has raised their standards as well as the amount that must be put down to secure a mortgage.

Even so, Harnden noted she has had a client just recently who couldn’t secure a loan due to credit issues to sit down with the mortgage broker and be told what they needed to do to clear up the problem. They did and followed through. Three months later they qualified for a loan.

Imfeld said most credit issues can be fixed. All it takes is to finding out where you stand with a mortgage company and then – if you can’t qualify due a blemish on your record – asking what remedial action you can take and then follow through.

“Clearly this is a good time to buy a home,” Wilson said.