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Manteca housing: The opportunity of a lifetime
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It was a surreal scene.

Eighteen people were gathered around the kitchen island in the home at 1530 Garold Lane in the neighborhood just north of Woodward Park listening intently of a man with a slight Texas drawl.

The group gathered at the Atherton-built home on Feb. 14, 2008 looking for sweetheart deals. Three homes were going to go to the highest bidder – one in Modesto, one in Stockton, and the Garold Lane home.

The bank just two days earlier was willing to accept $284,000 for the 1,600-square-foot home built in 2003. In less than 40 seconds, the Garold Lane home sold for $230,000. Altogether, the three homes sold for a combined $495,000 or just $25,000 more than the Manteca home sold for by its first owner in 2004.

The buyers thought they got the deal of the century as the home penciled out for a positive cash flow out of the gate as a rental.

February 2008 was when the thaw started. Inventory due to a drop off in buyers and the looming foreclosure mess had ballooned Manteca’s existing for home sale inventory to 651 homes in September 2007. The available homes numbered 550 in February of 2008 with enough standing inventory to take care of buying demand for 14 months. Within three months, the demand was picking up even as foreclosures accelerated. Available homes were down to 469 homes or enough to meet the buying demand for 6.0 months.

By mid-2009 a similar home to the one at Garold Lane closed escrow for $160,000. That was almost a 64 percent drop from the market peak for that model on the resale market.

Gone are the days when people would get pre-qualified to get on a waiting list with 400 other people for the release of 15 more lots in a new subdivision.

Gone are the days of homes going on the market and securing a signed deal by the next day.

But then again, gone are the days where people working in Manteca or elsewhere in the Northern San Joaquin Valley couldn’t afford to buy in Manteca.

It’s been a wild, wild ride in Manteca and the rest of the country when it comes to housing.

So what have we learned?

•A fool and his home are soon parted if they use their house as an ATM.

•Never buy a house that’s bigger than you wallet.

•It is amazing what people will do to get copper wiring to recycle.

•You can judge a person’s character by how many toilets they smash when they move out of a home.

•Banks make horrible property managers.

•Swimming pools can also be used as garbage dumps by those who lose their homes to foreclosure.

•The grass is greener in the yard of a non-foreclosure.

•Weeds when left alone can grow real tall.

•It is amazing how creative those losing their home can get when it comes to inflicting damage ranging from pouring cement down drains to ripping down garage doors and taking them when they leave.

•Lying about your income can cost you your home down the road.

•If a mortgage deal sounds too good to be true, it is.

•What goes up must come down.

•A house is worth only what it sells for.

•Just like the tortoise and the hare, the real value of a home is a long haul thing.

•Flipping a house is not for the weak hearted or those without deep pockets.

•You can clearly see the bottom of the market six months after it has passed. The same is true of the top of the market.

We have also learned that there are more than a few people who have the means to still cover their bills who will shirk such commitments and take advantage of help extended to others to walk away from their obligations. There are literally dozens of examples in Manteca – if not more – of people with six digit income simply letting their houses go not because they couldn’t afford to make the payments but because the value had dropped. They were able to do so with minimum financial impact thanks to Congress suspending the tax penalty for walking away from debt a bank writes off.

At the same time, we learned that many people – included those in their 20s – have solid heads on their shoulders. They took advantage of the market but opted to go for modest homes that kept their mortgage payments as low as possible.

And perhaps the best words uttered about the foreclosure mess came from Pastor Mike Dillman of The Place of Refuge whose congregation bought a foreclosure home in the dark days of the market drop, invested sweat and money, and then sold it months later to a stable family for a tidy profit.

“This,” Dillman said of the housing market, “is the opportunity of a lifetime.”