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Home buying possible even in this market
That certainly has proved to be the case for first-time home buyers. The turmoil in real estate markets during the past 18 months that has seen a record number of foreclosures and declining home prices has provided unprecedented opportunities for responsible home buyers.
Patience, good credit, stable income and a helpful real estate agent can put people into the symbol of the American dream - a home of their own.
Those seeking to move out of rental units also have the benefit of the Obama administration's tax credit program for first-time buyers.
It provides anyone who has not owned a home for the past three years with a 2008 or 2009 tax credit of $8,000 - or 10 percent of the home's value, whichever is less.
The buyer must live in the house for at least three years or pay back the credit. Buyers must make less than $75,000 for singles or $150,000 for couples. (Higher-income buyers may receive a partial credit.)
Joe and Andrea Boucher moved into their new home on Liljedahl Road in the Freshwater Bay area on Memorial Day from their rental house on Prawn Road.
It is one story and 1,392 square feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms plus a 280-square-foot outbuilding with one bedroom and one bathroom, all on one acre.
Joe is 27 and works for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Andrea, 30, is studying forestry management at Peninsula College and has served in the Coast Guard Reserve for two years.
"It was an opportunity to take advantage of reduced prices and phenomenally low interest rates. We wanted to start out our lives together with our own investment and own equity," Joe said.
"We had an awesome Realtor, James Alcaraz from JACE The Real Estate Company. He did a fantastic job," Andrea said.
Alcaraz anticipated problems and even paid some fees to ensure the deal closed, she said.
They didn't have a lot of money for a down payment but their mortgage payments are not much more than they were paying for rent, Joe said.
Since Andrea served 10 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, they qualified for a 30-year loan where the Veterans Administration backs 25 percent of it, which makes for a lower interest rate and closing costs.
"So I think we just lucked out," Joe said.
They are researching whether the Obama administration's firsttime home buyer tax credit is available to them since they used a VA loan, he said.
The prospect of buying a first home can be more intimidating than perhaps anything except having children but the Bouchers were ready for it.
"We were intimidated but our parents always told us, as soon as you can, buy a house. It's nice to have something of our own," Andrea said.
All the rent they've paid over the years wouldn't have bought their current house but would have paid for a lot of it, she said.
Patty and Leonard Anderson moved into their new home on America Boulevard off West Sequim Bay Road on May 1 from their rental house between Port Angeles and Sequim.
It is one story and 1,496 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
They are in their early 40s. Patty works at Sequim Health and Rehabilitation and Leonard works at Olympic Medical Center's Cardiac Services.
"We were really lucky. We had the opportunity to take our time," Patty said.
They didn't buy a house when they were in South Carolina because of the "crazy" prices there, she said.
She and her husband had talked about buying a home for a long time, Patty said.
Given the lower cost of living here versus South Carolina and their 31/2-month-old baby Lilly, it just seemed like a good time to do it, she said.
They got a conventional loan but with their good credit, it was better than a Federal Housing Administration loan, Patty said.
"I'm glad we kind of waited a while. The loan part was easy. The federal tax credit was wonderful," Patty said.
"A friend told us about John L. Scott. We worked with Barb Butcher. We took a year. We were looking at everything. We wanted to take our time," Patty said.
"The paperwork was a little bit intimidating. We said, 'Wow, look at everything,' but our Realtor was great.
"She was absolutely wonderful, fabulous at calling us with new listings," Patty said.
Buying a house was "kind of scary" but they did as much research as they could on what expenses they would pay beside the mortgage, such as property taxes and levies, she said.
Bob and Audrey Reynolds moved into their new home on Findley Road in the Sequim area on March 7 from their rental house in downtown Port Angeles.
It is a 1,970-square-foot split-level with four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The couple are both 28. Bob works at Washington Marine and Audrey stays home with their three sons, 8-year-old Thomas, 4-year-old Nathaniel and 3-month-old Benjamin.
In their rental, they kept fixing things and realized, "Hey, we're doing this for somebody else," Audrey said.
They decided they needed more space and wanted to stop putting money in other peoples' pockets, she said.
They knew what they wanted and how much they wanted to spend, Audrey said.
They looked for quite a while because they wanted four bedrooms, more than one bathroom, a family room and room for the dogs to run, she said.
"For a year nothing felt right but we were outgrowing our house," Audrey said.
She said they became discouraged but then she went online and happened to find a house in foreclosure that was just what they wanted and also in their price range, she said.
"We thought, 'There's got to be a catch.'"
The "catch" turned out to be that a Canadian woman was set to buy the house but when the value of the Canadian dollar fell, she couldn't afford it and the deal fell through, Audrey said.
So they made an offer below the asking price and two days later it was accepted, she said.
They used the Obama administration's first-time home buyer tax credit and the interest rate also had declined to 5.3 percent from 6.83 percent in November, Audrey said.
Their Realtor, Danni Breen with John L. Scott, was wonderful, she said.
They ran into a small problem when their original bank ran out of its federal mortgage funds but Breen made a call to an Everett bank that hadn't exhausted its funds and secured them a 30-year mortgage with no money down.
"She was really awesome," Audrey said.
When they entered into the loan process, they figured out all the taxes, insurance and fees and budgeted accordingly, she said.
"We asked, 'What can we afford?'"
Reach Brian Gawley at firstname.lastname@example.org