It’s been a little over 3 years since Venus Jackson-Kennedy and Bank of America took our house and sold it at auction inside of 30 days after the foreclosure. It was amazing to see just how quickly things moved. Worse part, the house was sold at maybe 50% of what we purchased it at back in 2004. The lack of communication, the shady, underhand and behind closed door deals didn’t provide of much chance in keeping our home. It got to the point losing it would actually be a winning proposition, but now how it played out. If it were under our conditions, things would have been more beneficial, but looking back I chalk this up as a learning experience.
Many things have changed since that fateful day in November I found out we were losing our home. Needless to say, my wife was livid, as was I. All the communication with B of A and filling out of paperwork was for not, as I was continually told I “made too much money” in regards to refinancing or restructuring our loans. It didn’t help that was was underwater with two car payments and three credits, all of which carried balances at their limits. To say I have learned something is an understatement as I continue to work towards improving my credit score. It will still be another 4 years before the foreclosure is completely off my record.
Just this year I finally reapplied for two lines of credit; Victoria’s Secret and this past November for Amazon. Until this point, I decided to hold off on any credit cards, as if I didn’t have the money to buy something, I didn’t need it. I was surprised with VS approved me for a $500 limit. This was the first step to reestablish my credit. I also paid off my 2007 Ford Ranger, which put more money in our bank. In February my MIL was kind enough to co-sign so we could get out of our Hyundai Genesis Coupe and into a more family friendly Kia Optima. By her co-siging, the monthly payments dropped approximately $200 in monthly payments! Early in 2015 I applied for an Amazon card and was denied, this past November, I opened a small line of credit. Both of these will help me build a strong credit history moving forward.
With the help of my wife’s friend, we got in contact with a local lender and filed paperwork to see what we could pre-approve at for a new home loan. Until now, my wife and I had just talked about moving and hadn’t really moved on anything. We would look at Redfin and Realtor, but didn’t really consider anything a reality. I renewed our 2 year rental contract with Waypoint Homes in 2014 knowing it would cost me a month’s rent to get our of it.
I was excited to hear our pre-approval came through, higher than what I anticipated it would be at and this began the house hunting. Knowing now, what we didn’t know in 2004 we made of list of items we wanted our new home to have:
- 2000 sq. feet
- .25 acres or more
- 3-4 bedrooms
- 2+ bathrooms
- big kitchen
- built within the last 5-7 years
- 3-car garage
- ranch style (no second floor)
With some basic information gathered we started looking in Oakley for potential sites. Unfortunately, as my wife can attest to, we ran into MANY homes that looked to be a good fit, but they were ‘pending’ leaving up to continue to look. I expanded our search to Brentwood, but I found out their prices were usually about $100,000 higher than Oakley. So while I didn’t rule this area out, I was hoping something would be found.
Early in December I contacted a real estate agent, who is local to the area and surprisingly enough gives a portion of his commission to a school of our choice. Thought was awesome, he would donate some money to Vintage Parkway. I had also spoke to him a few years earlier, as he was walking the neighborhood handing flyers out, we spoke about about 30 minutes and explained my situation, the loss of our first house and being in a rental until we were ready to buy again. So we took him on as our agent….to date.
During our search and somewhat on a whim, I added Valley Springs to our search area. If you don’t know where Valley Springs is about 40 miles northeast of Stockton, as you near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This would have resulted in a commute of about 2:15 for me. ONE WAY! But I would have been more than willing to drive it. The best part of searching out here was to see just how far our money would go. I found one property that had a 2000 sq. foot home with 40 acres! Amazing! I could run, camp and fish in my backyard! After discussing our options, my wife and I decided we wanted to stay local in Oakley, but living in Valley Springs after Zachary is out of school would be possible.
With the realtor we went and toured about 6 or so homes. I can’t say I was too impressed with what Oakley had to offer. There was one that had distinct possibility, it was built as a split level with a crawlspace, something you don’t see in California often. The property had a nice large backyard, unfortunately it needed a new roof. Not an investment I wanted to get involved with in a new home. Just days after looking at this home it went pending. The other two homes we saw required A LOT of work, neither were “move in ready” and with what little time I had, I knew none of these homes would work for us.
On a recommendation by the realtor, we visited a new housing developments in Oakley called Emerson Ranch. Located about 2 miles away from our current home, this is a all new development that currently has two builders, but not many moving in. I can’t compare looking at a new, staged home and a previously lived in home. The model looked amazing, but that is the point in order to drive prospective buyers. I do believe my wife and I were both sucked in to the possibilities of owning a new home!
Unfortunately this new home was pricier than any other home we had looked at to date. The other drawback, the lot size, 52’x100′, pretty much you typical “postage stamp” lot, neighbors within spitting distance. I never have been fond of these sort of developments, but the house did offer some of the aspects we were looking for in a house. Can we overlook the areas in which the house is lacking, while spending a bit more than we anticipated? We will see.
The home, built be DeNova Homes, who’s reputation as “one of the Bay Area’s most respected builders traces back to the company’s commitment to quality and integrity.”Surely they must have a better reputation than KB Homes, who I refuse to buy from after all sorts of plumbing issues in the first house we purchased. We were both impressed by the styling of home, obviously taken to the next level by the interior design and staging, as well as countless “upgrades” in the models we visited.
Along with the realtor, we were able to visit two other similar floorplans that were in different stages of construction. The second home lacked some of the upgrades, most notably, the California Room (read covered patio) and the fireplace with built in cabinetry. So it would stand to reason this home was about $20,000 cheaper than the final home we looked at, which included the aforementioned upgrades.
We decided NOT to rush into the purchase of any home, new or otherwise but felt time wasn’t on our side as the developer was looking to “make a deal” with an incentive based purchase. After discussing between ourselves and realtor, we decided to put a deposit, to confirm a “soft hold” on the final model we walked through. We meet on Sunday and decide if we will move forward to pull our deposit and continue looking. Chances are if we pass this new home up, these new homes will only be priced higher, possibly out of what we are willing to pay to get our of rental and into “our” home.
There have been a few new home show up on my search list in Oakley, shared them with my wife, but after seeing a new home, it’s very hard to take two steps back and make the decision to purchase a pre-owned home. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I can only surmise that, if we had not visited Emerson Ranch, we will be a bit more excited about seeing these new listing pop up.