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Buying home for less than monthly rent
Ben and Sandee Myers with their daughter Mallory in front of their Joaquin Street home in Central Manteca. - photo by DENNIS WYATT
Ben and Sandee Myers don’t have cable TV, a flashy car, or the latest high-tech toy.

The 20-Something couple, though, has something that they believe is a whole lot more evaluable – a home they can call their own where they can raise their daughter Mallory who turns 2 in May as well as grow old together.

The Myers would not have been able to buy a home three years ago when homes in the neighborhood where they now live were selling for as much as $325,000. That was due to price inflation triggered by the flow of easy money for zero down loans that often had three years of substantially reduced interest before ballooning upward to a higher rate. Thanks to the foreclosure mess that pushed prices down to the early 1990 levels in many parts of Manteca, the Myers were able to buy their three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in November for $95,000. Their monthly housing cost is under $600 or $150 less than the rent for a typical two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Manteca.

“It was important for us to have our own home where we could raise Mallory,” Sandee said of the couple’s daughter who turns 2 in May

The couple credits a financial planning class they took through their church – Freedom Christian Center – with helping them to sharpen their focus and take the steps necessary to stabilize housing costs.

Ben pointed out that as a homeowner they don’t have to worry about rent increases.

“I like the fact we’re buying our own home and not (helping someone else) buy a home by renting,” Ben said.

The couple spent the better part of a year looking for a home. Although they qualified for a much higher loan, they wanted a monthly payment that would allow them to make it without relying on Sandee’s two part-time jobs. Ben has a full-time job in Lodi.

The flexibility also means Sandee can work around caring for Mallory even if she lost her part-time employment.

The couple – after looking after prices and offerings of various homes and neighborhoods – compiled a list of needs and wants.

“This house meets all of our needs and some of our wants,” Ben said.

Their goal is to pay off home in 22 years
Sandee said she fell in love instantly with both the home and the neighborhood. There is a classic old porch complete with wooden swing along the front of the 1940s-era home. The home has wooden floors, a large back yard, and personality that Sandee said was lacking in many homes they looked at. A large window looks out to the quiet street that ends just a few feet away from their yard which means no through traffic and quiet.

Sandee recalls going for one of the first walks and being stopped by an elderly lady who took the time to say “hi” and talk.

They credit their Realtor – Jim Hinson of the Roland Team – to helping them stay focused as they worked through making over a dozen offers before they were able to get a home they wanted.

Ben and Sandee, like many young buyers today, aren’t viewing buying their first house as a stepping stone to another house down the road.

“I’m looking forward to paying our home off and owning it,” Ben said.

They are hoping to pursue a strategy of extra payments where they can pay off their 30-year mortgage in 22 years.

The Myers said they didn’t let fear paralyze them thanks in a large part to teachings of the financial class they took though their church.

“This (the current economy) is a great opportunity for (people like us) to be able to buy our own home,” Ben said.

The income to median housing costs in mid-2008 reached a point where an average Manteca household could buy a home. According to economists at the University of the Pacific, the median price of homes in much of San Joaquin County is now 2.5 times or less more than the median household income which qualifies it as being affordable. Just over three years ago, homes were selling for 7.5 times the median income making it next to impossible for most San Joaquin County residents who work here to buy a home here.

The Myers refused to let the fear of the unknown – the future of the economy – scare them away from making what they believe was a solid decision that they can build a family and a life on.

“The worst that could happen is we’d be back renting,” Ben said.

Both said they have no regrets even if prices drop a little more as they are content with their decision.

“We got the best deal in Manteca,” Sandee said of their home.