It was a typical warm summer morning; the air conditioner was on keeping us cool throughout the night. That morning I woke up at around 5 o'clock, fired up the computer and turned on my pot of coffee. My goal was to see if any new homes had hit the market. I had been doing this for several weeks.
It was 2009 and properties were priced near the bottom. My wife and I were in the market for a home, our first. So were many other people. Competition was high. It seemed like every house we looked at had multiple offers. However, we weren't discouraged. We had our goal in mind and were going to reach it.
That morning was special because it was when the American Dream came true for us. We were two children of immigrant parents who came to the United States searching for a new and better life for their families. Homeownership was important because we knew that regardless of price fluctuations, it was still one way up the financial stability ladder. Even with the collapse of the housing market, we knew that it was only a matter of time for a rebound. History had proven so.
As my search online began, a property showed up on Brown Avenue in Central Unified School District. West of Highway 99 and south of Shaw Avenue, it would have been a big "no no" for some. For me it was home. Let me tell you why. I graduated from Central High School and Herndon-Barstow Elementary. Years later, I still remember my time at those schools and the people I met. For instance, in Mr. Judd's class he had us do an assignment called the "map" game. The class would break down into small groups and he would name a city on a large world map placed on the front board. Our role was to find the city. It may be for that reason I am a fan of world geography and enjoy looking at maps today.
After submitting our offer and closing escrow, the house on Brown Avenue was ours. It was perfect for us because it was affordable. We didn't want to overextend ourselves. We had our budget and wanted to stick to it.
Since moving to Brown Avenue, we have taken part in regular neighborhood potlucks, especially during the holidays or major sporting events. There will be one today. It is at these potlucks we share and eat authentic food. Jorge and Doreen cook authentic menudo overnight that tastes like no other I've ever had. Doriscelle and Diane bring authentic Puerto Rican dishes, including a drink called coquito. My wife and I learned how to make Chinese green beans and chicken from Melinda, another neighbor.
Brown Avenue was such a great fit for us that a few years later my parents purchased the house next door and moved in. They, too, joined the neighborhood and our bond, bringing to these gatherings authentic Armenian dishes with a Middle Eastern twist (after the genocide of 1915, my ancestors had to march from their historic homeland to the Middle East).
Like many young couples, my wife and I began to talk about having a family. We knew that ultimately a bigger house was needed but we were emotionally torn. We didn't want to move. Our payment was affordable, we were comfortable and we felt safe in our neighborhood. Months later, a house down the street was put up for sale. Because we didn't overextend ourselves with the first purchase, we jumped at the house and were able to buy it. It is where we live now. Only in a city with affordable housing would this be possible for a young couple in our circumstances.
Although prices for homes have gone up recently, Fresno properties are still affordable. If home shoppers are not super picky, they can find a home that fits their budget. Based on the California Association of Realtors affordability index for traditional purchases, a mortgage, tax and insurance for a median-priced home is approximately $950 per month. Taking it one step further, the minimum qualifying income is approximately $37,920. Based on these numbers, 56% of households in Fresno can purchase a median-priced home. However, there are plenty of homes below the median price that are more affordable and in good neighborhoods.
Our houses on Brown Avenue are perfect examples.
Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of San Joaquin Spotlight on KFSR 90.7 FM and CMAC.