Buyers facing high housing costs



Hundreds of hopeful people are ready to buy houses in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, but there are a couple of obstacles: few houses and high prices.

"The American dream doesn't happen too much around here anymore," said real estate agent Mitch Fahlenkamp of Angels Realty in Angels Camp.

Fahlenkamp said he has more than 300 potential buyers but no inventory. His clients are looking for affordable homes in the $150,00 to $200,000 range, but statistics show that of the 455 homes on the market in Calaveras County right now, only 59 are selling for $200,000 or less. And only 17 are going for $150,000 or less.

"There's not many at all that are in a decent price range," Fahlenkamp said. "A lot of the Realtors have discussed that there's a real problem getting affordable housing for the locals."

At $137,000, the least expensive house in Angels Camp has two bedrooms, one bathroom and a non-insulated aluminum roof, he said.

"It's ridiculous."

Tuolumne County is no better.

"The demand is extremely high," said real estate agent Greg Humphrey of Coldwell Banker Twain Harte Realty. "We have people waiting to buy houses."

About 220 homes are listed in Tuolumne County, excluding the Groveland area, and they're selling for a median price of $319,000, Humphrey said.

Both Humphrey and Fahlenkamp agree that dot-commers from the Bay Area drove local prices up by moving in.

"In 2001, I personally sold 60 homes here, and I would say that 70 percent of people that bought them were from the Bay Area," Humphrey said.

He said many new residents are baby boomers. Fahlenkamp said parents with young children are also attracted to the area because it's a good place to raise a family.

"I've got clients who are willing to commute daily to the Bay Area from here," Fahlenkamp said. "They've got young kids, and they love our school systems."

Residents who live and work in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties are finding it almost impossible to purchase homes because the median income is below $50,000, and the median home price is rising.

Only 30 percent of the families in California can afford a median-priced home $327,600, according to the California Association of Realtors.

To afford such a home, a household would need to earn a minimum of $77,450, the association said.

At the same time last year, the median priced home was $294,860 and required a minimum income of $75,390.

The median income in California is $60,800, according to the Tuolumne County Community Development Department.

Statewide, fewer homes are being sold, although March's tight housing market caused the median price to reach a record high of $290,000, according to a study released this week by DataQuick Information Systems.

The median at the same time last year was $258,000.

"I guess the best thing I can tell you is, it's definitely a seller's market," Humphrey said.

Contact Erin Mayes at .

The Union Democrat
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