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I suggested we show up at Community Housing Works and make Tony talk to us. M thought that Tony might be stalling us because M hadn’t yet completed a full year at his new job. He said might as well wait.

“The guy should’ve said so if that was the case,” I groused.

Meanwhile, we kept our eyes on a handful of Chula Vista properties. One foreclosure that had been listed at $312,000 at the beginning of June was down to $279,900 by late July. Two others had sold, and one was pending. Watching the action online made me panic that the good houses were slipping away; whenever I heard talk of falling prices, I became anxious that they’d go back up before we had a chance to buy.

In August, when M’s first year at work was up, M emailed Tony, promising me that if he didn’t hear back before the end of the week, he’d let me march down to the Community Housing Works office and insist that someone else look over our file.

Two days later, Tony responded by email. Again, he asked that we resubmit the entire packet, including the application that listed our work and residence histories for the past ten years. He needed W2s and tax returns for the past two years, and a list of bank accounts, credit cards, and assets.

We sent everything in.

On August 30, Tony wrote: “Our underwriter has been swamped. We hired a new processor to help with load. You should have your approval this week.”

Then, twice a week for the next month, Tony called and emailed with requests for additional signatures and paperwork — some of which we swore we’d given him twice before.

Finally, in mid-September, Tony informed us we’d been preapproved for a mortgage of up to $315,000.

∗ ∗ ∗

The last weekend of September, our agent of choice, Joe Gover (whom we’d met at that first, dreamy, 3500-square-foot open house 11 months prior) took us house shopping in Chula Vista. Out of the eight properties viewed, we found three we liked, including one foreclosure we’d been watching for months, down now from $312,000 to $259,000. The following weekend, we brought along a family friend and seasoned real-estate investor to look over our choices.

On Tuesday, October 4, we put in an offer of $245,000 on a four-bedroom, four-bath foreclosed townhome in Eastlake, which had been on the market for 127 days. We asked for a 60-day escrow, 17 days for the inspection, 17 days for the appraisal. We asked to keep our loan contingency open as long as possible, because of the type of loan we were applying for. We also asked that the sellers pay 3.5 percent of the purchase price toward closing costs. The sellers countered at $256,00, agreed to pay the 3.5 percent for closing costs, and gave us 10 and 15 days for the inspection and appraisal, respectively, until November 21 for the loan, and a closing date of December 2. Joe thought we could get them to go a bit lower than $256,000 but we chose to play it safe and accepted.

Wednesday, October 5, we met in Joe’s office to sign the contract. Hours later, he called to inform us that we had an appointment with the inspector at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

As per our family friend’s informal assessment, the inspector (a man named Dragan) found nothing terribly wrong with the place. Repair of the nonfunctioning garbage disposal and garage-door motor were the only requests we made of the seller.

Friday night at 10:00 p.m., the inspector emailed his report. The following day, we signed, scanned, and emailed the request for repairs back to Joe, who forwarded them to the listing agent.

On Monday, I sent Joe a text. “Ok. What next?”

He responded, “We need to follow up with Tony and make sure he gets that appraisal ordered.”

“On it,” I wrote back.

After leaving two or three messages on Tony’s phone over the next couple of days, I called the receptionist, told her I’d been trying to reach him, and hadn’t heard back. Any chance she knew when he’d be in?

A second or two after she put me on hold, Tony picked up.

I apologized for bothering him, then confessed to being slightly panicked about the appraisal. Tony said not to worry about it, that his lender often didn’t order it until 30–45 days into the process.

“But our contract says we have to have it done within 17 days,” I said.

“Yeah, it shouldn’t be a problem to get an extension,” he said.

Having never been through this process before, I knew only what Joe or Tony told me. And the thing about Tony was that, while he seemed nice enough, he was hard to read. Was he spacey and disorganized? Busy but competent? Was our application at the bottom of his list of concerns?

When I asked about the appraisal, his nonchalant demeanor gave me the impression that I was getting worked up over nothing. So I calmed down, thanked him, hung up, and reported back to Joe, who exclaimed: “Thirty to 45 days before they even order it!”

That was day nine.

Meanwhile, I was hearing talk about the potentially imminent death of redevelopment. On October 19, the California Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments in the case of California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos in November. According to Dee Sodano at Community Housing Works, the City Heights program was on hold due to this litigation. Rumors had also been swirling around the potential dismantling of the Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation. There was no telling how long any of this down-payment assistance would remain available.

Then Joe informed me that of the four or five times he’d worked with people trying to buy a home through first-time-homebuyer programs, he had yet to see one successfully close.

I feared that if we didn’t get this appraisal done now, we might miss our chance to buy a house forever. M and Joe seemed anxious as well. They supported the idea of me going in for a face-to-face with Tony, so I could push the appraisal issue one more time and get a reading on the reason for the holdup.

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ImJustABill March 22, 2012 @ 9:36 a.m.

The current recession is largely due to the bursting of the housing and mortgage bubble. Yet, amazingly, the key root causes of the mortgage and housing bubble 1) Lax regulations on Wall Street 2) Excessively low Fed interest rates 3) Numerous gov't programs pushing banks to make loans to less qualified borrowers than the banks originally wanted to - continue full steam ahead.


historymatters March 22, 2012 @ 11:19 p.m.

this feels like a PR piece for Community Housing Works. Those guys have built some of the worst buildings in the whole city. They are as corrupt as can be. I dont like how this piece keeps insisting its not a nahd-out, its a loan.....That is not true. If the loan is being subsidized by tax dollars which it is then it is a handout! We should be asking in a city and a state that is bankrupt why are we choosing to spend what little money we have bribing people to buy real estate?


historymatters March 22, 2012 @ 11:23 p.m.

the truth of the matter is San Diego is just finding more creative ways to subsidize the building industry that runs this town so they are using our tax dollars that should be fixing our streets to bribe people to buy the glut. I really hate it when this corporate building industry maffia tries to hide under the umbrella of helping the poor. There is absolutely no help for renters. There is an 8 yr waiting list to get assistance to pay your rent but if you will buy a house we will give you $70k interest free.


historymatters March 22, 2012 @ 11:33 p.m.

Its high time to round these criminals up. politicians like Toni Atkins who declared the Federal Housing Emergency and helped create the glut have been profiting from low income housing projects for years. Community Housing Works and other "non-profits" will create projects as Delaware LLcs which allows them to make politicians investors in projects they vote on. In other words these groups propogate legal bribary and money laundering all under the umbrella of "helping the poor". thats why there is this sudden motivation to help the homeless especially since LeSar, Atkins partner was paid 1/2 a million dollars to count homeless people and come up w/ a "plan". No doubt a plan that will help her private clients and her wife become millionaires w/ your tax dollars.


Javajoe25 March 23, 2012 @ 11:55 p.m.


What in God's name are you talking about? These programs are designed to help people who might never get into a house, get into one. That is exactly what your (and my) tax dollars should be doing. Don't forget, once these folks get into a house, they will become tax payers like never before. I think all your ranting about these tax program giveaways, is just a load of crap because you are another one of those cheapskates who do not want to pay any taxes for anything, anytime! And it is morons like you who have lead this city and this country down the tubes to the point we are second rate to countries we once rescued. All this baloney about paying high taxes is nothing but greed complaining about what needs to be paid in order to make this society better than it is.

I am so tired of hearing from people like you, whining about where your tax money is going when the fact is, you and others like you do not hesitate one second when it comes to taking advantage of government programs that add money in your pocket, or fudging on your tax returns to cheat the country in any way you can.

Why don't you just move to someplace else; someplace where no one cares about the infrastructure of the country crumbling; someplace that could care less about who is starving on the street, or dying from lack of medical care. Maybe some nice third-world country where nothing is done; no improvements made; and conditions are worse now than they were 20 years ago. That seems to be the kind of country you want. That is not what many of us want here. Not the good people who provide these programs, and not the people who administer them, and not the people who thankfully, are able to take advantage of them and make this place a better place for all of us.


M. E. March 24, 2012 @ 1:14 a.m.


Your point would have been better made if you had thrown in a few semicolons at the end for no reason.


Javajoe25 March 24, 2012 @ 11:08 a.m.

I have found a direct correlation between the number of semicolons I use and the number of shots of tequila I've had. Now, with vodka, I go more with the dashes; gin yields run-on sentences; and the demon rum just results in lots of profanity. I think scotch produces my finest writing. Weed: a lot of what I call "circular thinking."


ImJustABill March 24, 2012 @ 6:33 p.m.


I don't know if it was the tequila talking or if you really are so intolerant that you truly want anyone with opinions different from yours to leave the country.

But clearly History has some vaild points - many of these programs have had a certain amount of graft. This doesn't help anyone except certain well-connected insiders and crooks.

Sorry, I'm with history. I don't want my tax dollars going to programs that result in complex bureaucracies which resdistribute those dollars by a complex set of rules that ends up enriching a few well-connected crooks.


Javajoe25 March 24, 2012 @ 7:13 p.m.


I don't want people with opinions different from mine to leave the country; just those who complain about paying taxes for programs designed to help others. Yes, some money gets eaten up by the bureaucracy, but much more ends up doing exactly what it was intended to do. I just don't like people who promote a dog eat dog society. I believe we can be so much more than that, and can easily afford it. We just need to get our priorities straight and reign in the waste on such things as Iraq and Afghanistan; eliminate the mortgage interest deduction; and have the rich pay their fair share of taxes.


nan shartel March 25, 2012 @ 11:56 a.m.

so wait a minute now

are you saying that after nearly 2 years of jumping thru unbelievable hoop you got a house 4 $105,000 4 now???


NatePoole March 27, 2012 @ 2:37 a.m.

Some of you are so intent on projecting your particular brands of partisan preconceptions and rancor onto Ms. Salaam's experience that I think you may have missed entireIy the point of this story. This couple is not just living the American dream; they ARE the American dream.

Is our system perfect? Of course not, and it never will be. But despite the absurd bureaucratic hoops through which this couple had to jump, they succeeded. And they succeeded through individual responsibility, perseverance, and a remarkable amount of patience.

Greed? Please. We're all greedy, every one of us. And too many Americans from every point on the economic spectrum are guilty of economic irresponsibility that rises to the level of immorality. This couple saved a $30,000 down payment on what sounds like a pretty tight budget. Who does that anymore? How many of us bought houses with 110% financing during the boom? And now we're surprised to be upside-down? No, worse, we see ourselves as victims because we're upside-down.

This article is inspiring and should not be fodder for political bickering. If every one of us were as responsible as Ms. Salaam and M, there would be no mortgage crisis. More importantly, there would be no need for politicians and bureaucrats to protect us from ourselves.


dthatcher March 28, 2012 @ 9:51 a.m.

I do agree that this sounds a bit like a PR piece for Community Housing Works. Just know that CHW is not the only way to go for these types of loans. The type of loan being discussed in this article is a CRA mortgage. I spoke with a loan officer at my bank who is putting me in touch with the person at my bank who handles CRA mortgages. I would venture to say that many major lenders will help you with a CRA loan if you ask. Otherwise, they may default to steering you into an FHA loan which doesn't offer as many perks. No matter who you get a CRA loan through, you have to take the class. CHW charges $60 for the class, which can be reduced to $40 if you qualify for the reduction. I would venture to guess that no matter who you go through for a CRA loan, you will have to pay some nominal fee for the class, but I don't know yet. Also be aware that one of the worst things you can do is go through the same person for everything: loan, agent, inspection, etc. Most real estate agents are willing to help handle everything from pre-qualification to closing if you let them, but it's not a good choice. Find the best people for each job.


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