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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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Situation vacant

Crane operator required

Must be a high profile job


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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 03:54 PM
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Is that an opening for another settlement around Jenin or Beit Laham?
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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 04:46 PM
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What a bunch of friendly characters.
Situation vacant indeed but ultimately, it's just about money.
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http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10701409?nclick_check=1

By Julia Prodis Sulek
Mercury News
Article Launched: 10/11/2008 05:00:00 PM PDT

MANTECA — Dave Cantrell considered loading the U-Haul in the middle of the night and leaving while his neighbors were asleep. He couldn't bear to face them. He had become a community leader here, rallying his neighbors to stand up to the builder that was planning to auction off one-third of their new Paseo West subdivision at 40 percent discounts.

For one brief night in his living room on Cistus Street, with his neighbors raising their voices and pointing their fingers, they had united against the one they thought was responsible for their impending misfortune. Cantrell believed he made a difference, that maybe the auction prices wouldn't be as low as he feared, that they would all recover. He promised to have a block party when it was all over.

But in the next 12 months, the housing crisis swept across the country, titans of the banking world disappeared and daily stock market tumbles of 800 points became commonplace. And the one man who tried to save his neighborhood failed. In the end, he couldn't even save himself.

Like millions of Americans, Cantrell, 57, found himself powerless against the economic storm that has devastated his comfortable life in a tidy little subdivision in California's Central Valley — a place that was supposed to be the Promised Land for families who couldn't afford a house in the Bay Area. The mournful dirge of moving vans rumbling through Paseo West is a sound echoing across the country, where
the mortgage crisis has sent more than a million families into foreclosure and out of their homes, leaving neighborhoods choking on dark clouds of exhaust.

If help is coming from Washington to Main Street, it's too late for those in this Manteca subdivision who bought brand new "luxury" homes for $650,000 during the peak of the real estate market in 2006. Those homes are barely worth $350,000 now.

In September 2007, the Mercury News chronicled the conflict between Paseo West homeowners and Anderson Homes, one of the first builders in Northern California to try to sell its new, empty houses at auction. At the meeting in Cantrell's living room back then, an Anderson Homes executive sat awkwardly on a stool in front of Cantrell's big-screen TV and tried to explain to the Aguirres and Floreses, the Smiths and Alfaros, the Avilas and Berquists that the builder was a victim of the housing crisis, too. "You want us to feel sorry for you?'' asked Sherry Berquist, who worries she won't be able to refinance her adjustable-rate mortgage. "How sorry do you feel for us? Honestly."

They didn't realize then how bad it would get or who among them would still be there 12 months later.

When the Mercury News returned to Paseo West this month, the lawns were still green. But behind closed doors, there was rage, despair and talk of suicide. One home in foreclosure was left with what looked like buckets of motor oil splashed on the walls and carpets; the kitchen counter was smashed to pieces. Carroll Aguirre sold her Lincoln Town Car and her aunt's diamond ring, and still lost her house. Edgardo Reyes lost his job as a trucker and now sleeps on the couch with the TV on all night instead of joining his wife in bed. A renter's barking pit bull keeps neighbors awake. And in the middle of the block on Grafton Street, a property has become a care home for the disabled. Neighbors are just happy it isn't a halfway house for felons.

Paseo West was supposed to be a neighborhood of 92 luxury homes. But only 27 were sold before last year's auction. Of those original owners, four have gone into foreclosure, including the Aguirres, who had been living on credit and 401(k)s, and the Smiths, who had two mortgages and had put no money down. At least three others say they are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Even the 34 families and investors who bought Paseo West homes at auction a year ago have lost thousands of dollars in value. And Anderson Homes has stopped building, leaving nothing but dirt on about 10 lots.

As much as he worried about his neighbors, Cantrell never thought he would become a casualty of the housing crunch. He was a retired Navy man with a solid pension. He had a job in construction management and, with his impressive work ethic, was making $250,000 a year, plus a hefty bonus. His credit rating was in the 700s. So in 2006, he bought a $670,000 house, then spent $100,000 to add a pool and miniature golf course in the back. It seemed sensible enough at the time. He had made a tidy profit when he sold his last Anderson Home, a smaller one in the next neighborhood over. He had already raised five children and the big house and pool were for his wife and grandchildren to enjoy.

"You're a smart man, Dave," the sales agent told him when he bought the house. "This house is grossly underpriced."

Cantrell told that story twice to his neighbors gathered in his living room that night last year.

He was concerned about the auction, but deep down believed that the bidding frenzy would keep prices up to within 90 percent of current values. Representing his neighborhood with a promise to report back, he attended the auction in a Pleasanton hotel ballroom last October. Bids barely hit 70 percent. While Cantrell had paid a base price of $658,500 for his house, a nearly identical one sold for $391,000.

"I've lost a quarter-million dollars in value today," Cantrell said as he left the ballroom.

Cantrell threw no party when he returned to his neighbors. And that fleeting moment of neighborhood bonding in his living room quickly disappeared. Resentments, whispers and shocking discoveries ended all that.

Some of the original owners welcomed the newcomers, relieved to have neighbors instead of empty houses next to them. But Edgardo Reyes doesn't even want to say hello.

"It's a choking type of feeling. You look at your neighbor every day, and you have that resentment that they paid less,'' said Reyes,
who lives two doors down from Cantrell and whose wife is supporting the family as a nurse. "We've been here two years, and if we can't get it refinanced, we'll have to let it go. We'll just have to walk out."

The first foreclosure came in March on Catmint Street. No one saw the couple leave. All they noticed was a hole in the front door where the knob belonged. Neighbors peeked inside and saw what looked like black grease poured on the carpet and splashed on the walls. It looked like someone had taken a sledgehammer to the kitchen counter.

The Byrds were the second to go. Rafael and Carroll Aguirre from Paola Place were the third. They had sold their house in San Jose's east foothills to move to Manteca to be closer to family. They put more than 25 percent down on a $547,000 house. They depleted their 401(k)s to spend $120,000 improving their backyard. Aguirre lost his job and, with no income for 11 months, the bill collectors started calling and he no longer could pay the mortgage. Selling the Town Car and the diamond ring barely made a dent. In July, they received a notice from the bank that they had 72 hours to leave. Their $270,000 investment was gone, and they were filing for bankruptcy.

On that hot summer morning, Rafael said, bank representatives "waited like vultures" outside. A neighbor asked to dig up some of their trees and plants for her own yard.

"They might as well have hung me up and whipped me,'' Carroll Aguirre, 62, said. "That's how I felt."

They moved into a rental in nearby Lathrop, a neighborhood where the lawns are brown and foreclosure signs line the sidewalk. The stress has been so great, Carroll said, that she's daydreamed of driving herself off a cliff.

"I don't know why we're still married," she said, wearing a house dress at the kitchen table of the rental. "It comes to the point that it kills the love."

With every crisis — even the worst since the Great Depression — comes opportunity. And so it is at Paseo West. An investor bought the Aguirres' old house from the bank for $255,000; the couple still owed $420,000 when the bank foreclosed their loan. The investor, John Smith, says he should nearly break even on rent. And once the real estate market turns around, he will surely make a profit.

Others are trying to ride out the storm. Jackie and Joe Flores thought they were smart when they shunned adjustable-rate mortgages and chose a 30-year fixed to buy their home across from the Aguirres for $640,000 in 2006. In their cul-de-sac, they are one of the last original owners left. They try to joke with their new neighbors, who bought a nicer house than theirs for $200,000 less.

"For every winner, there's a loser," said Michael Reiter, a retired law enforcement officer from Tracy who paid $335,900 in June for a house on Grafton Street — a good deal compared to his neighbor who paid $350,000 at auction for a smaller house.

Anderson Homes, based in Lodi, is just relieved it is still in business, unlike some other builders that have filed for bankruptcy. A year after the auction, Anderson Homes still has a handful of empty houses for sale in Paseo West. Dirt lots on the fringe of the subdivision where construction was halted last year kick up dust.

"We're still here and fighting the fight and making plans for the future," said Craig Barton, who faced Cantrell and his unhappy neighbors last year. "We're just not certain when things will improve."

He hadn't heard about what happened to Cantrell. And most of his neighbors never really knew the truth.

"He didn't even say goodbye," said Berquist, the nurse who still lives down the street.

The truth about Cantrell was simple, but devastating. In March, just five months after the auction, he lost his construction job. He kept up his mortgage payments for a couple of months, but it became obvious that no matter how many résumés he sent out, he wasn't getting any offers. He stopped paying his mortgage and he and his wife, Darleada, moved north. Threatening letters from the bank have just begun.

"What do you tell your friends?'' asked Cantrell, whose wife leaves the room in tears whenever this conversation begins. "I lost everything? I feel like my self-worth is gone."

His grown daughter and son-in-law, who live in the tiny town of Seabeck, Wash., took them in. The Cantrells have been married for 34 years and now live in the one-bedroom, 985-square-foot apartment over a garage. He hasn't lived this way since he was a teenager.

"I was just a guy trying to live the American dream," he said. "I thought I was doing it right. I was making good money, putting a little away. I had the house to die for."

The math alone is humiliating. The house was worth $770,000 after the Cantrells bought it and upgraded the back yard. They spent $250,000 for the down payment and pool but still owe about $520,000. They've had four offers on the house — the highest was $355,000. At that price, they would lose all the cash they invested.

Cantrell knows he's luckier than many people who've lost their homes. He still has his Navy pension. But it doesn't make him feel any better.

He thinks about that day in July he left his house. He remembers sitting in the U-Haul and wanting to sit back and gaze upon the house one last time, to savor his life achievement for just a moment. But it was too emotional.

"I had to drive away," he said, "and not look back."

Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at jsulek@mercurynews.com or (408) 278-3409.
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 05:17 PM
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^ I wish I could feel sorry for them. I guess I'm some kind of asshole, but it's really tough to find sympathy for people whose $600,000 house is now only worth $300,000.
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 05:22 PM
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Are we allowed to settle in Israel if this shit blows? I mean we pay for those settlements and we wrap our foreign policies around them to support them so can't we have a piece of that Mediterranean heaven? If we have no homes here in the States I would assume that we should be eligible for shit we already paid for, no?
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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 05:45 PM
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^ I wish I could feel sorry for them. I guess I'm some kind of asshole, but it's really tough to find sympathy for people whose $600,000 house is now only worth $300,000.
Let's see, the guy is 57 yo and has basically lost everything he worked his entire life for. Yeah, I see what you mean. F**ker got what he deserved.

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 05:49 PM
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^ There's something to be said for living below your means. And if you couldn't figure out that housing prices in California were unsustainably high for the past 8 years, the ol' saw about "a fool and their money" soon parting ways certainly comes into effect.
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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 05:53 PM
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Let's see, they guy is 57 yo and has basically lost everything he worked his entire life for. Yeah. I see what you mean.
Would a 18 yr old in the same situation rightly deserve the scorn then ?
How about a 40 yr old ?
At any age, anyone can get in over their heads which in many cases is due to greed and temptation. Many of these poor saps sold their previous home in 2006 for hefty profits figuring they can upgrade to a more expensive place and repeat the process. It's a gambling addiction.
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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 05:58 PM
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^ To say nothing of the fact that there's no finish line and trophy girl for people as they get near retirement. You can "work all your life for something", in vain, if you're not smart about your goals and how you get there. Retirement in a big comfy house free from peril is not an entitlement in this country or any other. C'mon, Ron...
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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-12-2008, 05:59 PM
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^ There's something to be said for living below your means. And if you couldn't figure out that housing prices in California were unsustainably high for the past 8 years, the ol' saw about "a fool and their money" soon parting ways certainly comes into effect.
I didn't say the guy was a rocket scientist. But I certainly have no problem feeling sorry for him, especially given the fact that he's probably too old to have any real chance at recovering from this. And try to remember, when home prices have risen every single year of your entire life, it only seems natural to assume that the trend of forever will continue.

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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