Andreea Stucker thought she made a good investment when she bought a Huntington Beach condo with her boyfriend in December 2005.
But then she and her boyfriend split up. He moved out just as the housing market crashed, leaving Stucker broken-hearted, and broke.
With her own income down at least 60 percent, the real estate agent was unable to make the $4,400-a-month mortgage payments on her own, even after taking in room-mates.
“I begged the bank for over seven months to grant me a loan modification to reduce my payments, because I was rapidly going through my savings,” Stucker, 34, recalled. “I ended up completing a short sale on my home, and my credit took a huge hit.”
Three years later, Stucker has mended both her heart and her credit score. She has a new husband and, “miraculously,” a new house.
Stucker is among the emerging ranks of boomerang buyers — people who bounce back from foreclosures or short sales to become homeowners again.
Generally, buyers must wait at least three years after a foreclosure or short sale to qualify for a government-backed Federal Housing Administration mortgage. It can take seven years to get a conventional loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
It’s been 4 1/2 years since the foreclosure crisis peaked, and real estate industry observers say they have seen boomerang buyers gradually returning to the Orange County market for at least a year.
After 3 ½ years, Stucker still cries at the memory of losing her Huntington Beach condo. She and her ex-boyfriend paid $613,000 with no money down for a two-level condo with cathedral ceilings and skylights, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious loft less than two miles from the beach.
They spent $40,000 more installing granite countertops, hardwood and travertine floors, new bathroom vanities recessed lighting and other upgrades.
But it turns out that the real estate game isn’t just about location, location, location. It’s also about timing.
By December 2005, Orange County home sales had just headed into a three-year nose dive. Home prices soon would follow.
Stucker’s income as a real estate agent dropped. Her boyfriend moved out after five months. Eventually, she depleted $29,000 in savings, then quit making house payments.
Unable to get a loan modification she could live with, Stucker sold the condo in May 2009 for $425,000 — $188,000 less than what she owed on two mortgages.
Her credit score went from 798 in December 2005 to the low 500s by May 2009.
“It was probably nine months that I fought for that home,” Stucker said. “I loved my house, and I wanted to stay.”
In hindsight, she says she should have cut her losses before dipping into her savings. But she kept thinking the market would turn around, and she’d be able to afford the home again.
“It’s like getting kicked when you’re down,” Stucker recalled. “You’re going through this awful breakup with this person you thought you had a future with, (and) your income is crap even though you’re working full time. … It was tough.”
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