`$1 down' was an ominous sign

06/04/2009 12:03 PM

02/03/2015 11:36 AM

Jason Verrier and his then-wife had a plan for buying their first house.

They bought a mobile home. They would live there for a few years and save money for a down payment.

Then, driving past the entrance to Southern Chase, she saw a sign: "$1 down gets you in."

In February 2002, the Verriers bought a one-story home there for $106,000. They paid $1 of their own money. Beazer provided the down payment and paid the closing costs.

The "dollar down" sign appeared in late 2001 or early 2002, residents recall. No one is exactly sure. Beazer declined to comment.

Studies show a lack of savings is the main reason lower-income families can't buy homes. Beazer removed that final obstacle. Buyers made a $500 deposit and got a check for $499 at closing.

"It was like an impulse purchase," said Lisa Hernandez, another buyer in Southern Chase. "You come down here and they're like, `You need to pay $1.' I said, `Great, we'll take it.' "

But homes bought easy were sometimes hard to keep. Loan payments rose. Property values fell.

"A lot of people could afford $1," Jason Verrier said, "but they couldn't afford the home."

Verrier was luckier than most. He makes good money as an electrician. While 84 percent of buyers got their loans through Beazer Mortgage in the later years of sales, he borrowed from Bank of America.

He rues the state of the neighborhood. He is angry that his home is falling apart. He wants to move but can't sell for enough to make the down payment on a better home.

"I can't complain too much," he said. "I was stupid enough to buy here."

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