News

February 12, 2016

Homeownership: Like Starting a New Life

Pedro Chavez had a dream. His dream was to buy a home that would become a legacy for his wife, children and grandchildren.

Chavez said that he began working part-time as a young father as a way of bringing in more income. But then with two children, he felt he couldn’t afford it.

“I was thinking back in the 1980s, dreaming about having a house for my kids,” said Chavez, account manager for a landscaping company.  “It was impossible. The hourly wage was too low plus I was raising my kids. I decided, one day, I’m going to make it happen.”

His dream began to take shape again about two years ago. By this time, the family had grown to four children – all adults.

“In 2014, I decided to set up my goal, to have my own place in two years,” he said. “I thought I should be saving more for a down payment.”

He decided to seek out assistance for first-time homebuyers.

An Internet search took him to NeighborWorks Orange County. He attended a home-buying class in September 2014. The next year, his wife Teresa and daughter Alicia, also took a class.

“I found the right website with the right people,” said Chavez, a trim man who speaks with confidence about his experience. He said the greatest benefit he got was information.

“Myself, I had a lot of questions, but they explained everything,” he said. “How the process works. How the escrow works.  How to find the right Realtor. How to find the right house.  That helped me a lot, all the information that I got.”

He and his family began working with NeighborWorks to create the right financial package and to find the right house. 

They looked at 10 to 15 houses, and made offers on about a half dozen in Buena Park and Anaheim.  In a competitive market and improving economy, they sometimes would find themselves outbid or among a pack of potential buyers interested in the same house. The “Friendly Experts” at NeighborWorks assured the family that with Chavez’s work history and excellent credit, he would never lack for options.

Finally they came across a house in Anaheim. 

The Chavezes thought it was perfect. It had three bedrooms, two baths, wooden floors and a fireplace. The back patio was enclosed, providing an added area to entertain the couple’s children and grandchildren on their visits. A city park lies nearby.

“This gives us much more space,” said Teresa.

They offered $430,000. The owner asked if they would come up with a higher offer. 

Chavez offered $432,000, his maximum, yet remained worried that he wouldn’t have enough money to trim two large pine trees in front of the house that he feared would topple over. He also wanted to remove a ficus tree that was damaging the driveway and to grind down an unsightly stump in the back yard. He estimated the job would cost $2,500 at least. 

In the end, everything worked out.

The owner accepted the offer of $432,000. And a friend who ran a tree-trimming business said that he would perform the work on the trees that Chavez wanted for $700.

Chavez had concerns about signing a loan with variable interest rates. NeighborWorks Orange County helped the family put together a loan package that they felt comfortable with that included a $417,000 conventional, 30-year mortgage. The Chavezes put down the balance on the purchase. The house, built in 1955, has 1,461 square feet, built-in cabinet spaces and tiled bathrooms and kitchen counters.

After three decades as renters, the Chavezes made their dream come true when escrow closed Oct. 28, 2015.

Pedro and Teresa, both 56, met at a dance club in Santa Ana as young adults. He had immigrated from Guanajuato state, Mexico, while she had come from Jalisco.  After he arrived from Mexico, Chavez took a job pushing lawnmowers and cutting hedges for a landscaping business. The couple got married in June 16. 1983.

Chavez wanted more for himself and his family, and he rose through the ranks of the landscaping business to foreman, field representative and account manager. Along the way he learned the ins and outs of irrigation systems, pesticides, and plant identification and disease. He also studied computers through a regional occupational program and became a part-time cook, learning under trained chefs at such venues as Knott’s Berry Farm.

That work created the foundation for the family to be able to pursue its goal of homeownership.

Life is better now, the Chavezes say.

The house has become a gathering place for Chavez’s four adult children, two of whom – Adriana Becerra, 32, and Melissa Rocha, 29, are married, and two of whom – Alicia, 25, and Pedro, 23, - live at the Chavez family home. Three small dogs – Sam, Ninja and Casper – also call the house their home. Dozens of family photos capture key moments in the family’s life.

“Before, it didn’t feel like we had anywhere to go,” said Adriana, whose son is 13.  “Now it feels like we have somewhere to go, a home, somewhere to come to.”

Teresa, a stay-at-home mom, said the area is an improvement over the neighborhood they had been renting in West Anaheim.

“It’s more peaceful here,” she said. “Where we lived before there were businesses and night clubs. There was a lot of noise.  I like everything here. The rooms are bigger. The other house was much smaller, and I used to have to hang the clothes outside to dry. Here I wash and dry in the house.”

Then she added with a laugh, “It’s bigger, so I have to work more to keep it clean.”

Chavez said he has already told friends about NeighborWorks. He smiled as he talked about having achieved his dream. 

“This process is life changing,” Chavez said. “From now on, it’s like starting a new life, and having new memories.”