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HIGH DESERT HOPES

A steep fall for a suburban idyll

As disillusioned homeowners leave, others look for a stepping stone to stability.

June 28, 2010|By Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times

The Solises talk about moving to Arizona, but for now they're staying. One evening in April, their son Mike was taking a walk when he saw a weathered sheaf of papers being blown by the wind. The next day, he described it in an e-mail.

"I thought you would want to know what happened to me yesterday," he wrote. "In my neighborhood I found foreclosure papers blowin' in the wind like a tumbleweed. I said to my wife, is this what it has come to?"

A new start

The Aguilars have been up for hours. It's not quite 8 on a Sunday morning, and outside, their friend's pickup is half full with furniture and boxes. Today is moving day. Friends from church are helping, and soon their space in the boardinghouse will be empty.

A month ago, they found a four-bedroom home a few blocks away that they could rent for $1,500 a month, not much more than they had been paying, and everyone would have his own room, including Seth, who had just turned four months old.

Rentals are common in the community, they learned, but you have to be careful. They found one house that they liked, but the lease was for only six months, a sure sign that the owner was facing a foreclosure. It's not uncommon for tenants to pay rent to a landlord who has stopped paying the bank.

When Julian and Lupi toured the four-bedroom, there was a couple ahead of them. Lupi worried that they were too late. Julian filled out the application, and later that day, the family met the property manager, who remarked on Seth's name.

"As in the Bible?" he asked.

"Yes," Lupi said.

"Well," he said, "Lupi, your prayers have been answered."

As the Aguilars unpack, Lupi hopes that they might be able to buy this home one day. But for now, her goals are more simple: lunch for anyone who wants it.

Upstairs, Miranda watches Chris the cat. She's looking forward to stenciling Mickey and Minnie Mouse on a wall in her bedroom, and she's staked out the right sink in the bathroom. Alex can have the one on the left.

Miranda remembers classmates who talked about living in the same house all their lives, and though she knows she won't have that experience, she hopes that she and her family just might be able to make a new start.

She won't be alone in that wish. In recent months, new developers have bought the empty lots in Mission Crest. When the next boom hits the High Desert, they will be ready.

thomas.curwen@latimes.com

On the Web: A photo gallery and video can be found at latimes.com/missioncrest

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