Modern Real Estate: Too Alluring to Fail? - Page 6

Values of modern homes fell with the housing crash—but their appeal still stands strong

The association recently won court approval to enforce CC&R restrictions that limit the percentage of non-resident owners to 25 percent of the neighborhood's total. The percentage recently hit an all-time high of 35 percent. "We have not found investors to be particularly diligent in keeping up their properties, even before the current financial market," association president Pat Sandlin says.

"That's our goal," Sandlin says, "to keep up our property values. I think we're doing as well as we can.

Newcomers boosting value in neighborhoods

Bad as times have been for sellers, they have offered great opportunities to buyers. Throughout the state, people who have been priced out of the market for modern homes are taking the opportunity to buy their dream houses.

camila blum and matthew

Among them were Camila and Matthew Baum, avid buyers of all things modern, including space-age lighting, a houseful of period furnishings, a 1959 Aristocrat trailer, and, now, their own Eichler home in Concord as the centerpiece of their collection.

Also taking advantage of the market were Billie Parish and Nancy Nickle, who just bought a Streng home in River City Commons in Sacramento.

Camila Baum, a social worker, and Matthew, who works in online employment marketing, couldn't have afforded an Eichler in the Bay Area before the crash, Camila says, and it wasn't easy snagging one after.

They focused on Concord, figuring the Eichlers there for the most affordable in the Bay Area. But selling in the mid-$500,000s, they weren't affordable enough. As prices slid, the Baums pounced. In June 2008 they bid over the asking price for a foreclosed home that had been abandoned for a year.

"But we wanted it because we thought, 'When are we ever going to find another Eichler that's been foreclosed on at that price?'" Camila says. "But that was just the tip." The house attracted six or seven other bids. "Needless to say, we didn't get it," she says.

They moved from San Francisco to an Eichler rental in Concord to see if they really like living in one—they did—while they watched as ten to 15 bank-owned properties popped onto the market, many disappearing in a day. Eichlers that once would have fetched in the $500,000s were priced in the low- to mid-$300,000s through foreclosure or short sales.

"Most of them needed work," Camila says. "Some had kitchens that had been torn out. People were in the middle of remodels, and for some reason the rug had been pulled out from under them."

As it turns out, the Baums didn't need to buy a foreclosure because the home they were renting became available.

The three-bedroom, atrium home had been beautifully restored, with new kitchen cabinets and doors, tasteful landscape complete with rows of bamboo trees, and what Matthew cared most about, a pool. "The price we paid for this home is incredible given the amount of work the couple put into the home," Camila says.

Besides bringing to the neighborhood their modern furnishings and their Aristocrat, the Baums are contributing something else. Camila is already delving into the history of their small tract. She's also getting to know her neighbors, and they are getting to know the Baums.

Chances are they like what they see. What, after all, can be better for a neighborhood, or for home values, than enthusiastic newcomers who know they're not just buying a home? They're building a community.

Parish and Nickle, who were living in what Parish calls a "monster home," and one that was paid for, chose to move into a much smaller Streng because they love the style of the houses, wanted to downsize, and were familiar with the neighborliness of River City. "We gave away a lot of furniture," Parish says.

They bought the home through a short sale—which proved to be a long process. "Buying a short sale is anything but short," she says.

"This is the only neighborhood where we looked," Parish says. "We chose this community special."