Declining House Values in Los Banos

4/26/2008 Los Banos, CA Chris and Esther Ortiz's Los Banos home has been on the market for seven months. They bought the home for $420, 000 three years ago. Now, they're hoping to get $300,000, but even they acknowledge that may be wishful thinking. "We purchased it probably at its peak. We were on a waiting list. You had to wait for it to be available. It was pretty high," said Chris Ortiz.

Like many Los Banos Homeowners, Chris is a commuter. But he says because of the cost of gas, it no longer makes sense to drive to Salinas every day.

"For Sale" signs seem to be on every street in Los Banos. Most homes are vacant, and those that do sell are going for 45% less than they did last year according to the California Association of Realtors.

"It's sad. I don't plan on going anywhere for a while but I definitely would like to see my house go up in value again. We've done a lot of improvements and unfortunately for now, it doesn't show for it," said homeowner Erma Catalan.

Los Banos Realtor Cheryl Bertao said there is a bright side to the housing mess. "If you don't have to sell your home, this isn't the time to sell it. But as far as the price goes, since we can't do anything about it, at least it's an opportunity for some people." Bertao says the price is right for first time homebuyers and investors.

Danny Fialho is buying this 1900 square foot home. It's still in escrow, but he already has renters waiting. "This house is selling today for half of what it sold for three years ago. So that's why it's an opportune time to get into the market," said Fialho.

While the rental market may be flourishing, the Ortiz's are feeling the effects of bad timing. They're just ready to move on. "It's taken a toll on us financially. It's not going to make it any better to hang out for two to three years to see what's going to happen," said Ester Ortiz.

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