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There Goes the New Neighborhood : Construction: Residents in older tracts protest the selling of new, larger homes for less than they paid. ‘This has devastated the value of our homes,’ one says.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For two weeks, Ray and Marie Rivera camped out in their motor home parked outside a cluster of model homes, patiently waiting for their chance to buy a piece of the American Dream.

For more than two years, the Cerritos couple had scanned real estate ads, waiting for the air to seep out of an inflated housing market and bring the price of a home within their reach.

The long wait paid off here, where the Riveras found the Vistas: two new tracts with houses selling for at least $50,000 less than comparable homes elsewhere in South County.

But on Saturday, when they stepped out of their motor home to put a deposit on a new house, they saw picket signs held by angry future neighbors.

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Across the street, a score of angry homeowners from a neighboring tract were protesting the prices of the Vistas homes--houses that are bigger than theirs but selling for tens of thousands of dollars less, demonstrators said.

Further, the protesters want rebates, saying that when they bought their homes, the developer misrepresented the plans for the yet-unbuilt Vistas tracts.

“This has devastated the value of our homes,” said Terry Perisho, a homeowner in Arroyo Vista, across the street from the Vistas. “With these located right next to us, there is no way we can sell our homes without taking a huge loss.”

The group is blaming the developer of both projects, the Irvine-based Fieldstone Co., for selling the new tract at below-market prices.

But representatives of the developer said the homeowners are just unfortunate victims of a housing boom that was bound to crash.

“There isn’t a builder out there that doesn’t wish the downturn didn’t happen,” said Paul Johnson, Fieldstone’s project manager in Orange County. “We’re not in control of the market.”

Homes in the Vistas start at $207,990 and top out at about $290,000, for homes with 1,730 to 2,712 square feet. Homes in the Arroyos sold for $226,990 to $311,000, in sizes from 1,550 to 2,381 square feet.

With housing sales slowing since mid-1989, some developers have dramatically cut prices for new homes. Homeowners who bought just before the slowdown are finding it tough to refinance or sell because the cut prices have lowered appraisal values in the area.

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“Our equity has vanished,” said Debbie Noonan, a saleswoman with Lakeview Real Estate Co. in Mission Viejo, who owns an Arroyo Vista home.

“We wish we could go over there and buy,” she added, pointing to the Mediterranean-style model homes where prospective buyers milled about.

Like most residents of Arroyo Vista and the Oaks tract, Candy and Terry Perisho bought their house about 18 months ago, just before the real estate crunch.

In July, Perisho was promoted to American Airlines captain, which meant transferring to Chicago. At first the father of two commuted home on weekends; the family recently decided to move.

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But with the opening of Estrella and Valle Vista--the first phases of a 1,840-home project by Fieldstone Co.--"we’re completely stuck,” he said. “There’s no resale value left in our house, and our equity is less than when we started in a Huntington Beach condo as a new couple, about seven years ago. . . . I don’t see this as the American Dream anymore.”

Vicki Kacerek, another Lakeview Realty agent who lives in the tract, said about the Arroyos: “I know of only three sales there in the past two years.”

So, Arroyos homeowners say they want rebates from Fieldstone. Many accuse sales people of misrepresenting the then-undeveloped Vistas tracts, saying the homes there would be bigger and more expensive than the Arroyos and start in the low-$300,000 range.

Fieldstone sales representatives denied making such claims.

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In September, Fieldstone reportedly began settling with San Diego homeowners in a 340-home development, paying several thousand dollars to each family. Some of the owners had accused the developer of selling homes in their tract at top prices, even though they planned to drastically cut prices for future homes.

Fieldstone project manager Johnson said he is not familiar with the San Diego situation, but “there has not been any misrepresentation” in the Arroyos.

“We’ve never had sales people say when the next phase is going up or how much it will be,” he said. “We have dealt fairly with those two communities.”

The protesters Saturday had little impact on about 30 people who showed up to apply for a home in the Vistas.

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