Valley residents who lost their houses in the housing bust are buying homes again -- and more are expected to join them.
Despite fears that they couldn't buy a house again for seven years after a foreclosure or short sale, some families are back in the market after just three years.
For those residents, it was a matter of living frugally to repair their credit and save for a down payment in a market where houses cost half of what they went for six years ago.
"What seemed impossible for us and what we thought was going to be a seven-year wait was really three years," said Clovis homeowner Alexsandra Aceves, who lost her Valencia house to foreclosure in 2009.
"It was a blessing that we find ourselves homeowners today," she said.
Aceves is among the first of what housing experts say will be a steady stream of people re-entering the home-buying market this year after experiencing a foreclosure or short sale through 2009, when foreclosures hit their peak.
While no one appears to collect data on how many people are buying after foreclosure, lenders and real estate agents say they are seeing more such people coming through their doors.
Their desire to become homeowners again is aided by cheap home prices and low mortgage interest rates, experts say.
Homeowners can qualify for a mortgage loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration in as little as three years after a foreclosure, said Lisa Sasaki, sales manager for Academy Mortgage in Fresno.
All a homeowner has to do is pay down their debt and keep up with the payments on credit cards and car loans, she said.
A foreclosure is not, " 'Oh my gosh, it's the end of the world,' " Sasaki said. "If they maintain their credit, everything will be fine so when that three-year period is up they can buy a home. It's not impossible."
A new start in Clovis
The Aceves family heard horror stories about life after foreclosure, including a long wait before they could buy another home. Other fears also got the best of them, such as whether it was a good idea to start over with a 30-year mortgage at their ages, their late 40s and 50s.
But the road back to homeownership was easier than they thought.
In 2004, Aceves and her husband, Salvador, bought a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Valencia for $450,000. Five years later, Salvador Aceves -- the family's breadwinner -- lost his job as a pressroom foreman at a local newspaper and the family no longer could make the monthly mortgage payments.
After months of unsuccessfully trying to get help from their lender, the Aceves family walked away from their home and rented an apartment nearby. They returned to the house regularly for six months to cut the lawn and to make sure the house was in a good condition for the bank when it finally took over, Alexsandra said.
When money got really tight, the couple moved their family to Clovis, where Alexsandra Aceves has family and where the cost of living was less. Alexsandra Aceves got a job in human resources and Salvador Aceves found a job in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
For three years, the couple and their four children lived in a two-bedroom apartment. They drove their smaller, economical car more often than their gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle and cut back on entertainment and restaurant outings.
Last year, the Aceves contacted a Realtor to look at what the housing market had to offer. They found out they had to wait only six more months before they could qualify to buy again -- three years to the date of their foreclosure.
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