COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Jim Jordan created a heart-warming Christmas display of Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" characters more than 40 years ago at his Southern California home, and it became a holiday tradition as tens of thousands of people showed up each year to see the sparkling extravaganza.
Families trekked to the Orange County city of Costa Mesa to sip hot apple cider and share the wonder as seen through their children's eyes amid twinkling Christmas lights, artificial snow and a Santa Claus that whisked through the air and down a chimney for spectators. It became so popular that busloads of visitors and school groups visited Jordan's childhood home each year.
When he lost the house to foreclosure, it looked like the death of a tradition -- until the city stepped in to save Christmas.
A week ago, Costa Mesa officials offered to host the display on the lawn outside City Hall. The lights will be turned on at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Santa will make nightly appearances starting Sunday.
The move saved a Christmas display that Jordan says draws 80,000 people each year to see Santa and the nearly 200-foot stretch of characters, colorful cottages and other creations.
"I feel I am in the middle of a Frank Capra movie -- the Christmas miracle movie -- I really do," Jordan said, recalling the classic 1946 drama "It's a Wonderful Life."
Generations of Viewers
In some Orange County homes, the tradition has been passed on through generations as those who grew up visiting the so-called "Snoopy House" now take their own children there.
Jordan, 59, said that he started the project as a teenager in the yellow, single-story house where he was raised. Little by little, he expanded the display until it reached mammoth proportions, featuring an ice staking Charlie Brown and dancing Snoopy.
"My wife says I am a frustrated Walt Disney," he said, chuckling.
Several years ago, Jordan's business as a remodeling contractor slumped along with the economy. He sought a loan modification but said that he was denied because he was still keeping up with his payments.
Following what he now knows is poor legal advice, Jordan said he stopped paying the mortgage, hoping to qualify for relief.
Instead he lost his family's home, which was foreclosed in November 2010. A tenant who rented from Jordan was allowed to stay until her lease ran out, but the house will soon be sold, said Jason Menke, a spokesman for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
"We worked with Mr. Jordan for some time to try to find an alternative to foreclosure but we were unable to do so," Menke said.
Though he no longer lived in the house, Jordan was crushed to think about the families that counted on him at Christmas. When neighbors learned the display was in jeopardy, they called news reporters, posted signs and collected donations to try to help Jordan fight to recover the house, Jordan said.
'It's So Special to Us'
The city of 110,000 has received more than $1,000 in donations, which will help defray the cost of the spectacle's $1,800 electric bill, said Bill Lobdell, a city spokesman.
While Jordan said he has filed legal papers to try to get his house back, Costa Mesa hopes to bring the display back year after year to the site temporarily dubbed "Snoopy Hall."
Tara Talbott heaved a sigh of relief when she learned that the Christmas tradition would carry on, albeit at a new location.
The Costa Mesa resident remembers taking her now-grown children to the house. Her son helped out as an elf, taking children's requests as they waited in line to see Santa and relaying them via a headset so St. Nick knew what they wanted when their turn came to meet him.
"It's so special to us," Talbott said. "It's so special to the whole neighborhood."
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Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +32%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,273
% home value down from peak: -12.42%
Columbus hit its median home value peak in the first quarter of 2006. Since that time, home values have declined a relatively modest 12.4%, including a 3.4% drop last year. By the second quarter of 2012, Fiserv projects that homes in the area will lose another 2.3% of their value. Median family income in Columbus is above the national average, and unemployment is just 8%, a full percentage point less than the national average. Despite the fact that things don’t look so bad for the Columbus housing market compared to other regions, the city foreclosure rate still increased by 32% last quarter. A total of 2,273 homes were foreclosed upon during that time.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +35%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,743
% home value down from peak: -59.3%
There is arguably no single housing market with a worse long-term outlook than southwest Florida, and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers region is the worst of these. Housing prices in the have already dropped 59.3% from their peak, and Fiserv project them to decline another 12.2% by the second quarter of next year. According to Corelogic, 47% of the homes in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area are worth less than their mortgages because of declining values. Foreclosures have increased 35% in the last quarter, and with no sign of recovery in the immediate future that trend may worsen in the coming months.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +36%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,348
% home value down from peak: -59.1%
As of last month, Vallejo-Fairfield had the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one out of every 51 homes being foreclosed upon in the third quarter of this year. This was a 36% increase in foreclosures from the second quarter. Home values have dropped 7.5% in the past year and are projected by Fiserv to drop an additional 4.9% by the second quarter of 2012. A remarkable 53% of homes in the region are worth less than their mortgages. This is the seventh highest rate of homes with underwater mortgages in the country.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +41%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,174
% home value down from peak: -54%
Fresno’s economy has continued to suffer since housing prices began to drop in 2006. It currently has an unemployment rate of 14.9%, which is one of the highest in the country. Home prices peaked in the first quarter of 2006 and have been decreasing since. The metropolitan area also has one of the highest underwater mortgage rates in the country, with a negative equity share of nearly 46%. In the last year alone home prices have dropped 11%.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +44%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,039
% home value down from peak: -53.4%
More than 1,000 homes were foreclosed upon in the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville region last quarter, a 44% increase from the previous three-month period. Nearly half of the region’s homes are worth less than their mortgages. With Fiserv projecting home values would drop 7.1% by next year and another 4.9% the year after that, things may just get even worse.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +49%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,559
% home value down from peak: -39.3%
Jacksonville has experienced a quarterly increase in foreclosures of nearly 50%. Home prices have dropped 39.1% since their peak in the second quarter of 2006. The metropolitan area’s negative equity share also exceeds 46%, making it among the worst in the country for underwater mortgages. Home prices are expected to decrease another 10.7% by the second quarter of 2012.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +55%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,956
% home value down from peak: -15.9%
Nearly 2,000 homes were foreclosed upon during the last quarter, a 55% increase from the previous three months. Unlike many of the regions on this list with accelerating home foreclures, Cincinnati’s local economy is doing fairly well. Home prices are only down 15.9% from their peak in the first quarter of 2006. Unemployment and median family income are both better than average. One possible explanation for this recent increase may be that nearly a third of the total decline in home value since the peak has occurred in the past 12 months.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +57%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,673
% home value down from peak: -51.4%
The Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice metropolitan area has seen the third largest increase in the country in foreclosures in the third quarter. However, only 1,673 homes out of the 311,475 on the market were foreclosed upon. The housing market has suffered a great deal since housing prices peaked in the first quarter of 2006. Since then, overall home prices have dropped 51.4%.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +67%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 2,003
% home value down from peak: -15.8%
The Boston metropolitan area is considered to have a particularly resilient housing market. In the most recent quarter, however, foreclosures have increased 67%. Home prices have only dropped 15.8% since they peaked in the third quarter of 2005. The national average is -32.3%. From the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2011, home prices dropped a mere 1.7%.
Quarterly increase in foreclosures: +151%
# of Foreclosures Q3 2011: 1,358
% home value down from peak: -14.9%
Albuquerque’s housing market, like Boston’s, is relatively healthy. While home prices decreased 32.3% nationally after their peak, home prices in Albuquerque only decreased 14.9% since they peaked. Regardless, foreclosures have recently skyrocketed. In the third quarter of 2011, the number of foreclosures in Albuquerque increased 151%. According to New Mexico Business Weekly, the lack of job creation in the area has been a major contributor to this problem.