Climb Aboard the Bus!

With all of the joy at getting a new home, sometimes it's easy to forget about the poor previous owner who lost the home. "It hadn't crossed my mind," Daniel Noel said of the previous owner's loss. "I look at it as more or less an opportunity."

The Hernandez's see it as an opportunity as well and refuse to apologize for buying a foreclosed home. "We get ourselves into positions and if we can't get ourselves out, it's our responsibility to do what we have to do," said Jon Hernandez.

Daniel Noel's wife could put herself in the place of the old homeowners. "If it was us and we were in whoever's shoes who had this house, yeah I feel for them."

Cesar Dias does feel for the old homeowners as well, but believes it is all part of the business. "In every business there's casualties and there's an influx of new buyers."

A Vicious Cycle?

The homes that families like the Hernandez's and the Noels are snatching up are empty, because their previous owners took on mortgages that were too big for them, or became too big when their adjustable interest rate ticked upward. The assumption has to be that this crop of buyers will not repeat those mistakes but there are no guarantees that the new owners won't fall into the same trap.

The Noels themselves took on a hefty mortgage. They paid with no money down and therefore borrowed the entire value of the house at 7 percent interest. While it's a lot, Daniel Noel believes they can handle it.

"It's a 30-year fixed, $1,600 a month, which is good at 100 percent financing," Daniel Noel said of the home.

The Hernandez's have not committed yet to buying, but it seems like they still have a few things to learn about mortgages. When asked if they were planning to get an adjustable or fixed mortgage, Jon Hernandez admitted that "I personally don't know the difference."

Even if you can handle and understand the mortgage, getting a foreclosed house is not necessarily getting a bargain. It doesn't really matter what the last guy paid for it. What matters is what the next guy will pay -- and no one really knows if prices are done dropping yet.

Buying now takes an optimist. People like John Escove, who was along on the ride, looking for investment properties.

"When you see a house like the one we saw with the swimming pool for $225,000, that's going to sell right away," said Escove. "And they'll have multiple offers on it. That's just a bargain."

And while the foreclosure tourists are certainly happy to be shopping for a bargain, one wonders what the neighbors think of the colorful road show home-buying circus. It doesn't bother Stockton resident Don Bailey.

"I don't care who sells it, you know, just sell it," said Bailey.

It's an answer that could have been scripted by Cesar Dias. No one likes an empty house. But in Stockton there are lots of them, and they're on the tour.

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