Good Luck Gets Home Buyers on Tract : Real estate: Potential buyers enter a lottery for 16 ‘affordable’ houses in a La Palma development. Says one winner: ‘It is a very big deal.’


“This is how we used to sell real estate in the ‘80s,” said Mark Paolucci, the developer’s ad man. Back then, eager buyers far outnumbered the houses for sale, and when their names were drawn, “they reacted as if they won the house.”

The downsized, ‘90s version occurred here Saturday when 16 “affordable” houses, part of the six-acre Montecito development, were raffled off to a pool of 30 families, some of whom had applied nearly a year ago.

On what will soon be Kathy Drive, a clown dispensed balloon animals for the children, a cart dispensed free hot dogs, carpenters hammered inside the unfinished structures and prospective buyers sat under an awning waiting for the lottery to begin.

And when their name was drawn first from the basket, Mark and Lorinda Plechot reacted with a whoop. Their two children, parents, cousins, brothers and sisters broke into applause.


“Yes, it is a very big deal,” said Lorinda Plechot, 30, on the verge of tears. “It’s everything we wanted. My daughter goes to school right over there. I grew up in La Palma. My family all lives around here. We’ve been looking so long. This is the house we wanted.”

The two-story, 2,456-square-foot houses range from $264,000 to $284,000. They are deemed affordable because a family earning 120% of the county’s median family income can qualify to buy them. That means the maximum annual income for a family of four is $70,900.

Fifty-one townhouses and 35 senior-citizen apartments will also be built on the site. The 1,874-square-foot townhouses are being sold for $165,000 and about half are taken. The one- and two-bedroom apartments will be rented for $525 and $590 a month.

Mark Buckland, president of the Olson Co., which is building the tract, says the homes could not be sold or rented at those prices without reduced land costs. The city redevelopment agency donated 2 1/2 acres, or about two-fifths of the land on condition that the housing be sold or rented at “affordable” prices, Buckland said.

The firm has built similar projects in Brea and Fountain Valley.

The eagerness of buyers “is an indication there’s pent-up demand in the market place,” said Ken Agid, a real estate marketing consultant in Irvine.

“We’re all waiting for the consumer to regain confidence. Then there’s going to be a shock wave,” he said.

Since 1990, the state population has been growing at a rate requiring about 170,000 to 190,000 new housing units a year, but only about 95,000 were built each year, Agid said.

When families and individuals living with relatives or friends start looking for housing of their own, they’ll discover there is a shortage, he said.

“It could be the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s all over again. This could be an early indication.”