Housing Bus Tours Make Finding a Bargain Easy

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Climbing onto this bus will get you some million-dollar views.
And a lot at about $200,000, as well.
When Steve Jeffers and his fiancee, Angie Guerra, boarded a charter bus early Saturday morning, they were looking for a great bargain on a good home in Boise or its suburbs.
The couple, who plan to marry in November, joined about 20 residents and real estate agents

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Climbing onto this bus will get you some million-dollar views.

And a lot at about $200,000, as well.

When Steve Jeffers and his fiancee, Angie Guerra, boarded a charter bus early Saturday morning, they were looking for a great bargain on a good home in Boise or its suburbs.

The couple, who plan to marry in November, joined about 20 residents and real estate agents on the inaugural Treasure Valley Repo Bus Tour organized by agents hoping for new clients in the sluggish real estate market.

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The 11 homes on the daylong tour are already in foreclosure or facing so-called "short sells" by banks, the Idaho Statesman reported Sunday.

The bus stopped at a wide range of properties, including a newer, unoccupied 2,910-square-foot home in Meridian's Paramount subdivision for $300,000 and a stately 6,542-square-foot Eagle mansion worth more than $1 million.

Potential buyers had to reserve a spot on the tour and had to provide proof they could qualify for a loan.

The bus tour marked a turnaround from the area's frenzied home offerings of previous years.

"The foreclosures are the natural outcome of what has happened in the last five years," said Jeffers, a project manager for a local locomotive manufacturing company. "We are reaping the benefits for the mess (outside investors) created, in my opinion."

In 2005, national publications such as Forbes, Newsweek and The New York Times highlighted the Boise area's quality of life and ranked the real estate as "underpriced." Investors from other states toured the area by the busload, searching for affordable investment properties around $200,000.

The buying boom meant higher home values for sellers, but also priced many locals out of the market, created a glut of rental homes, and fueled higher property taxes. During the first nine months of 2005, Boise ranked fourth in the nation for home loans taken out by investors.

Along with the rest of the nation, the area saw foreclosures rise last year as homeowners couldn't keep up with rising interest rates and hefty mortgage payments.

Foreclosure filings in Idaho jumped from 382 in January 2007 to 735 in January 2008, or 92 percent, according to RealtyTrac.com. The rate from December to January was a smaller increase of just 6 percent, raising hopes that the number of Idaho foreclosures may begin to ebb.

Although the housing market appears to be improving, properties in the Boise area may still be overvalued, according to a study by Global Insight and National City Corp.

The February report shows that in the fourth quarter of 2007, the Boise area's median home price of $203,600 was moderately overvalued at 26.1 percent. The report also found that house prices declined for the second consecutive quarter.

Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

"Some areas still seem a little high. I don't think we've hit the low of the market," said Kathy Huntley, who recently moved back to the Valley from Virginia. "But I'm comfortable, especially on a short sale."

Huntley, who works for Hewlett-Packard, took the tour with her sister. Huntley said the tour was useful to see what properties are available in different areas.

Real estate agent Nate Wilson and his partners said they don't believe the number of foreclosures will decrease any time soon, so they created the repossession tours to help prospective buyers through the formidable process of picking up bargain properties.

"You have to buy when the time is right for you," Wilson said.

Kathy Martin said she had been looking into foreclosures for a while, but the prospect of finding then buying one seemed too complicated.

"This is kind of an education for us. We have money to invest," Martin said. "I'm interested in foreclosures, I just didn't want to do the work."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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