It all depends on which chicken you prefer.
This does not refer to KFC, Chick-Fil-A, El Pollo Loco, Raising Cane’s or Popeye’s.
It’s a choice between Chicken Little and The Little Red Hen.
At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, there’s no point in continuing to run around like a chicken with its head cut off or to be “woe to me” in perpetuity.
Nowhere is this truer than how people deal with the dilemma that is the valley housing market – and to a greater or lesser extent depending on which direction you are heading from the city family – of that in neighboring communities.
Most of us shake our heads in disbelief or react like the housing gods have gone mad when we see a 3,200 square foot home south of 120 Bypass that sold new seven years ago for $595,000 to over a million dollars today.
That’s because many of us are relatively safe in our homes after taking on escalating housing prices years ago. We experienced stalls and occasional situations where the steps went down. But when the dust settles, housing prices continue to rise.
There are those of us who are caught up in serious pressure due to life events and are for all intents and purposes at the mercy of renting.
But there are those who act as if they are the only generation to suffer from crushing house prices. If we’re going to be honest, anyone living in California today who’s in the age group that puts “golden” in our state’s nickname – as well as those a decade or so younger – thought the same thing at some point in their lives.
Yet here we are. There are homeowners in valley communities — or at least those in partnership with a mortgage lender — who aren’t driving household incomes down near six figures.
And to be honest, there are more than a few who have never come close to – or come close to – the median household income, either in the past or where it now hovers around 70 $000, but they still own houses.
How did it happen? Did they win the lottery? Maybe they had a stock market killing? Maybe they worked at a tech startup with stock compensation that made them 70-times multi-millionaires? Or could someone have left them a lot of money?
While there are instances where one or two of these reasons might be true as to why people own land in the valley, the real answer can be found in a concept described in two words – “delayed gratification”.
Yes, other things come into play – hard work, perseverance, resilience, etc. But at the root of it all is delayed gratification.
It’s true that you can make all the right choices and come to life empty-handed, but most of the time, if you pick a goal, exercise discipline, and settle for the long haul, you’ll get a lot of what you need and even want in life.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to two different couples, both with kids approaching their thirties.
The two couples want to buy a house, but they live from salary to salary with no real savings.
They have several things in common. They all work. The couples each have combined incomes of over $100,000.
From there, they differ somewhat. A couple has a household that could rival Best Buy for the latest tech, games, entertainment devices, and more. The other rarely goes a day without eating or eating with the help of DoorDash, GrubHub and similar operations.
There is crossing. The tech couple use their devices such as Apple Watches, i-Phones and i-Pads to often summon dinner, lunch or both. The couple giving hope to UberEats shareholders dabble in tech stuff.
They’re clearly getting what they want now, which is why unless they somehow arrive in a boatload of cash, they’ll always rent when that house that sold new in 2016 near Woodward Park for $595,000 will sell for $1.8 million in 2033.
Twenty-five years ago, when Manteca house prices were going wild, real estate agent Linda Aksland stood in front of a 900 square foot house built in the 1950s on Fir Street between the town center and the hospital Doctors which had just sold for $92,000.
When asked if she thought homes in the neighborhood would ever sell for $100,000, her answer was “not in our lifetime.” A similar house down the street sold last year for $328,000.
In 1997 when this conversation took place, the median value of a home closing receiver in Manteca was $145,000. Today it surpassed $500,000.
Although $145,000 seems cheap today, it was considered outrageous to most people living and working in Manteca who were in the housing market.
There are two stories that appeared in the Bulletin that were shared by local homebuyers at the time and bear repeating.
The first was that of a 22-year-old couple. The woman had become pregnant in high school by her boyfriend whom she ended up marrying. They were determined not to “live” the scenario of early pregnancy and its consequences.
Both have finished school. Both worked. Sometimes one or both had several jobs. They sat down with a mortgage agent – a no-cost consultation – to see what they needed to become homeowners. They were told they would qualify for an FHA loan requiring a 3.5% down payment. They then began to find ways to save money.
By working in minimum-wage jobs, they saved $3,400 over three years, which enabled them to buy an $80,000 house. It was essentially the equivalent of buying a $320,000 house today in Manteca. There are houses in this price range. You can’t get a lot of desires in this price range though, but you can certainly cover needs.
The other story is about a Lathrop family. The husband worked year-round on a local farm. He did better than minimum wage but not much more. The wife was a seasonal cannery worker who worked enough to transition when not working on unemployment benefits.
They had three children. And they were determined to buy their own house. The woman found every possible way to save, such as outfitting her family with second-hand clothes as well as buying beans, rice and whatever she could by the 40-50 pound bag.
They qualified for an FHA loan and ended up being able to save enough to buy a house. When they did the interview, it was in 1997. They had bought their first home six years earlier in Lathrop for $45,000. They had just sold that house and bought a nicer, bigger one for $98,000.
If there was ever anyone who could have flocked to the Chicken Little crowd when it came to “insurmountable” housing prices, it was these two couples.
But instead, they followed the example of the little red hen.