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Three Boys and a Dream

Abi and Ryan Quisenberry


Buyers: Abi and Ryan Quisenberry
Bought: 2-bed, 1-bath in Oakland
Asking: $525K
Final: $535K
Realtor: Gretchen Roethle, Zip Code East Bay

“We were never the type of people who wanted to buy,” says Abi Quisenberry, who with her husband, Ryan, and three young sons, ages seven, four, and three, had been longtime renters in Oakland. “The apartment we were in was rent-controlled, but when we had our third son, we started looking for houses to rent.” They figured they would find a roomy place at a reasonable price and stay there for the next 20 years. “But we didn’t really research it and didn’t realize that single-family homes don’t qualify for rent control.”

They found out 18 months later, when they received a notice that the rent on their charming Redwood Heights house was going up by $600. “We looked around, and other places were renting for even more than that, so maybe it was time to think about buying,” Quisenberry says. “We loved Oakland and never wanted to leave, but we were going to end up getting pushed out.”

They had a couple of budget constraints: They wanted their mortgage payments to be around the same amount that they had been paying in rent ($3,500), and they had only about $50,000 available in savings and retirement for a down payment. So they went to a mortgage broker, Alicia Venegas, who was able to find them a Federal Housing Authority loan (FHA), which offers down payments starting at 3.5 percent and doesn’t require proof of reserves. “She was able to push it through and get us approved in a day,” Quisenberry recalls. While the FHA solved their immediate financial quandary, it didn’t make them competitive buyers. “When we were going against 18 other offers, the sellers would never look at us when we were using an FHA,” Quisenberry says. In the hierarchy of the house wars, cash is king, while a government-backed loan that takes at least 30 days to fund and requires little cash from the buyers is the jester.

So Quisenberry started courting the houses that were getting left at the altar. “I was looking at houses that were pending and stalking them, because houses fall out of contract all the time,” she says. And when they do, most of the previously interested buyers have moved on. “I saw a house that looked perfect for us— it was bright yellow with awnings, and it had a big backyard, which was my number-one thing with three boys.” Its status on Redfin was “Pending,” but she kept checking back, and when it fell out of contract, she called her realtor immediately. They offered the list price of $525,000 and, being the only buyer in the running, went in proudly waving their FHA. The buyers countered with an additional $10,000, and the place was theirs. The three boys have been making joyful messes in their new backyard since July.

The Family Business
Broker, Lawyer, Designer, Mom
To the Locals Go the Spoils
Tell a Story, and Make It Good
The Lottery Winners
Riding Out the Recession
The Soul (and House) Mates
Three Boys and a Dream
Not in Texas Anymore
A Reward for the Faithful
A Gift from Grandma
The Grateful Educators
Chasing the Dream
The Renter No Longer
The Data Optimizers
An Accidental Homeowner
The “Oh-S**t” Moment
All Aboard in the Marina


Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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