The struggles that Kern County first-time home buyers face

January 13, 2022 /

It’s been a couple years since Jasmin Arriola and Francisco Bolanos have been hoping to have a home of their own for their small family. They find it is difficult trying to save up for a house when their rent is already so expensive with all the prices going up. 

Also, being so young, they are still trying to find a job which they love but due to the requirements to be able to qualify for a house, they are forced to stay at a job for a certain amount of time. 

“Our little family was expanding and we did not have enough space in our apartment, so it was easier to look for a house for rent rather than go through the process of buying one. Also, due to the pandemic our credit was not in the best state,” said Jasmin Arriola. 

They explain that higher pricing and trying to find an ‘okay’ neighborhood (low crime rate, low homelessness, and away from drug influence) for their kids to grow up in has been difficult. They believe that the current housing market is expanding so it should benefit them.

Bakersfield is one of the fastest growing cities in California. It has a population of about 400,000, and it is continuing to grow with newcomers. First-time home buyers are starting to see a change in the housing market as the pandemic slowly starts to turn things back to normal with the end of stimulus checks and children going back to school. It is a small change in the housing market, but it is also a slight of hope for first-time home buyers.

Yesenia Tucker, REALTOR®, explains that it is difficult for first-time home buyers to buy a home in a sense that there are more buyers right now since it is a sellers market. When it is a sellers market, houses are high in demand and low inventory and all these buyers are just ready to buy. It is so competitive so it’s a little bit hard for first-time home buyers to buy a house.  

First-time home buyers have a bigger struggle to buy a home because they may not have all the funds that they would like to have. Since it is a sellers market, buyers are expected to pay for the closing cost, down payment, and more then likely the buyer will pay above the listing price.

“I’ve been seeing a drastic shift from the moment the kids went back to school and when the stimulus stopped, and everything started going back to normal,” said Tucker. “We started seeing a shift on how it started to slow down a little bit. It is still going up, but not as drastic. You’re starting to see reductions, you’re starting to see a little of seller credit, you’re starting to see not as many offers per house, so less competition. It is gradually going down, but in a sense to where it is slowly going down not too much because you are still seeing an increase in price.”

Mery de LaRosa, Loan Officer, explains how this competitive market started in Kern County. Once COVID-19 hit, everyone started getting a stimulus; therefore, the market started picking up a little more and people had the cash to close. Also, people from out of town started working from home and looking for a more affordable place to live, and they did have the money for a downpayment. They started paying cash and they started over-bidding on houses. 

“Money is the biggest struggle that people have when first buying a home,” said Mery De LaRosa. “People are putting money above the appraisal price. Most people do not have the money for a down payment and they use an assistance program that helps them buy a home. Even then, people must qualify based on their income and family size.”

Now that the pandemic is starting to slow down and slowly go back to normal. Mery De LaRosa believes that the Kern County housing market is not coming down. There are many jobs in Kern County and it is a prime location to live in. 

Kern County is a prime location to live in with a reachable destination to many places such as Fresno, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, and Sequoia National Park. The Bullet Train is set to make traveling faster, making Kern County the center of travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Kern County has a future that is currently growing and it will continue to grow.

There are a lot of secure jobs in Kern County and more jobs coming soon. Amazon has opened a lot of jobs for many Kern County residents. The Casino in Tejon is still projected to take place, opening more jobs for residents.

Adriana Avina, Bakersfield resident, explains that one of the biggest reasons that is preventing her from purchasing a home is the fact that new/old homes have increased in value, making them unaffordable for middle-class families.

The current housing market is very busy and has been for the past year and a half. It may be the start for a better economy given that the change in the housing market and low interest rates has allowed many to become homeowners, even though others still seem to struggle in finding a home.

“I believe one big struggle that first-time home buyers are facing is they are competing with other individuals from other states or cities, who sell their homes for double or triple the price and come to Bakersfield to outbid offers,” said Adriana Avina.

She is hoping for the housing market to go down this year. She believes it can but people continue to purchase homes, so there is a possibility that it stays the same or it continues to increase.

Interest rates is another struggle that people face when buying their first home. When the pandemic started, interest rates were at a historically low and that is why everyone started buying, and now that it started to slow down the interest rates are starting to increase and sometimes it makes a person not qualify for a home when 6 months ago they did qualify. 

Crystal Arellano, Bakersfield resident, explains reasons why first-time buyers struggle to buy a home. She says that other huge struggles people do not realize come with buying a new home besides expense is their personal bills they already have. Therefore, one must plan their funds accordingly as it is difficult for some folks to save up for the future.

“The market is beyond expensive ranging from houses to even apartments being overpriced for what I am getting or even looking for in my dream home,” said Crystal Arellano.

Mery De LaRosa explains that home affordability is really starting to get to that point where for example a house that was 250 is now at 325. They would have had a 1,600 payment and now that same house would be closer to a 2,100 payment. Home affordability and interest going up would be the biggest struggle. 

“Getting to a local professional is the key, and getting qualified is the first step. While one waits for the process, one can get prepared for the next step,” said Mery De LaRosa.

Yesenia Tucker suggests for first-time home buyers to financially save as much money as much as one can and to apply to down payment assistance programs if they qualify. She explains that having access to funds is what people struggle with the most when it comes to buying a first home. 

Yesenia Tucker is part of Werx Realty Group Inc. (DRE#02073197), and she is available to help home buyers and sellers. She can be reached at realtoryeseniatucker@gmail.com  or 661-348-5052. 

Mery De LaRosa can be reached at mery@signaturehomelending.com or 661-201-9049.

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Erica Murillo

Erica Murillo is a project coordinator and reporter at South Kern Sol. She was born in Bakersfield, California, and her origin is from Guanajuato, Mexico. She is a first-generation graduate from California State University, Bakersfield where she earned a degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in English. Murillo's first job was working in the fields picking grapes. She has been able to evolve and continue to grow within her career. She can be reached at erica@southkernsol.org.