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October 30, 2007

Sometimes staying put is the best decision

Last year, Enrique and Veronica Sarria considered buying a larger house for themselves and their four children. They ran the numbers, then decided to stay put.

A good decision, it turned out.

The Sarrias, who live in Modesto, said they likely would have paid more than $300,000 for a house in 2006, near the crest of a boom cycle in the real estate market. Today, with the housing market slumping, a home they would have bought probably would have dropped in value.

"I told my wife it was kind of risky," said Enrique, pastor at Iglesia del Valle Central, a church for Spanish speakers in Turlock.

"We didn't want to get in more debt," said Veronica, a homemaker. "We just decided to stay where we are."

Where they are is a 1,220-square-foot, three-bedroom house near Memorial Medical Center that they bought in 1999 for $102,000. It can get crowded, they said, but it's home.

The mortgage will be paid off in nine years. That will free up income that the family can put toward college educations for the children, ages 3 to 11.

Veronica, 35, emigrated from Mexico. Enrique, 43, is from Colombia. They met while living in the Bay Area.

The pastor said the Bible has about 2,000 verses dealing with money. The take-home message: Borrow only for what you truly need.

-- John Holland

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