Rain Fails to Dampen Spirits of Home Buyers

Weather was enough to dampen the driest wits, but the lowest interest rates in years whet the appetites of serious home buyers who camped out in Newhall last weekend.

They had camped--in cars, pickups and other vehicles--all week in the rain, and when the time arrived at 8 a.m. on Saturday for the developer, Watt Industries, to release 21 homes for sale, the buyers saturated the market.

Watt gave in and released 26 more homes on Sunday. Subsequent phases may not be for sale until 1987, although efforts are being made to open Phase 3 this fall. Two phases, 47 homes, were sold: Not bad for a weekend of work.

Reasonably Priced

A Southern California phenomenon? Beginning of a national trend?

With interest rates dropping below 10% (they were 9 7/8% for the Newhall buyers), home-buyer interest is up, but the homes sold were also reasonably priced, for Southern California, at least. Phase 1 prices ranged from $112,950 to $145,950; Phase 2, from $113,950 to $146,950, with the high end being the most popular.

(A few homes were sold at an even higher price due to an extra cost tacked on for better lots. The highest price paid last weekend was $158,950.)

Lots of Open Space

Besides price and interest rates as incentives to buy, location was a consideration. Known as the Claibourne Series, the project is in a family-oriented environment, with lots of open space, on Circle J Ranch Road, half a mile east of San Fernando Road.

Buyers' comments reflected why they camped out in the rain to get the homes, which will be ready for occupancy in July and August.

Bonnie and Dave Baca of Bellflower, who waited at the site for eight days to buy a four-bedroom, three-bath home, cited the "country location" as a good place to raise their two children.

Patty and Don Sanders, who have been renters in the area for four years and have been house shopping for months, took the cue from the first three campers, picked out their lot and also camped. "We're first-time home buyers," she said, "and now that interest rates are down, we didn't want to miss our chance to buy."

'Can Tell Good Goods'

Stephen Harris: "I'm a plumber and can tell good goods and, sure, the prices are darned good."

Mike Sarkis, who bought with his wife Betty: "We're buying the smallest model as it's just perfect for us, and we'll be near our grandchildren." (Betty Murphy, their daughter, is also buying there with her husband, Mike.)

Rick Madrid: "I slept in the back of my Datsun for three nights for the chance to buy a new four-bedroom house here. We live in Newhall now.

"We'll be moving into a better neighborhood here, and we'll have more room. Besides, it just takes me 25 minutes to get from here to my job in Burbank."

Camped With Two Kids

John Pettis, who bought one of the homes with his wife, Kathy, extolled the beauty of the homes and said, "We've been here since last Saturday, camping out with our two kids in the back seat of our car."

Ray Watt, chairman of Watt Industries, observed:

"We went back to the fundamentals and did a research job to develop an affordable product that the consumer wants."

It was certainly something that the 47 families seemed to want. Bonnie Baca, dubbed "Colonel Bonnie" by other buyers because of her efforts to control the line and conduct spot checks to be sure each vehicle was manned, admitted that the week-long wait was "grueling" but added: "It gave us a chance to meet a lot of our future neighbors."

At that Betty Murphy laughed, saying, "We wouldn't let folks get in line if we didn't like them." Of course, she was only kidding.

To get acquainted, the campers held an informal barbecue one night, and Watt Industries treated the families to a catered hot dinner on another. So, as Baca put it, the wait had "its good points."

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