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Foreclosed home a bargain for first-time buyers

ROCKWELL — Bryan Duncan celebrated his birthday in a big way.
The day after he turned 24 on Dec. 9, Bryan and his wife Ashley bought their first house. And they got it for a song.
The couple paid $115,001 for nearly 1,700 square feet on two acres in Rockwell, a property that sold for about $200,000 in 2004 before the housing market crashed.
The Duncans bought one of 405 homes sold in Rowan County last year, up from 376 homes sold in 2011. Local real estate agents say the modest increase after years of declines means the housing market finally hit bottom and should continue a slow recovery in 2013.
Like the Duncans, many people found a real estate bargain last year. About 25 percent of the houses sold in 2012 were distressed sales, such as foreclosures.
Bryan is pretty sure their house is well-built. His dad, Jeff Duncan, constructed the home in 1995.
The Duncans’ new abode also just happens to be on a stretch of Rockwell Road next to four other houses all owned by Bryan’s relatives — his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncle.
Married for four years, Bryan and Ashley, who met in a church youth group as teenagers, had been looking for a house for about three months but couldn’t find anything they liked and could afford in the Rockwell area.
Then, a foreclosure sign went up on the house next door to Bryan’s parents.
Thirty minutes before the deadline, the Duncans crossed their fingers and put in a bid exactly $2,001 over the minimum required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
They won.
“We feel like we got an extremely good deal,” said Bryan, a licensed commercial contractor who works for his dad at J.J. Construction.
The Duncans locked in a loan at 3.25 percent interest for 30 years, taking advantage of record low interest rates.
“It’s overwhelming but at the same time, it’s very exciting,” Bryan said. “The debt is kind of the overwhelming part, but our mortgage payment isn’t much more than what we would be paying in rent.”
The couple had been renting an 800-square-foot guest house behind Bryan’s parents.
“We felt like we were ready to buy,” said Ashley, who works as a secretary for the Pregnancy Support Center in Salisbury.
The Duncans didn’t want to wait too long for fear that interest rates may go up.
“It seems like now is the best time to buy because of the prices and foreclosures,” Bryan said.
They tried to buy a house earlier in the year, but the sale fell through. Although disappointed at the time, Ashley said she’s now happy because their new home is “even better.”
“It feels really good to know I own something and that it’s mine,” she said. “At the same time, it’s a little scary.”
Bryan’s grandfather, Jim Duncan of Duncan Properties in Rockwell, initially helped the couple with the sale and then referred them to Realtor Kay Dover to complete the complicated foreclosure process.
“We will never know if we were the only bid and paid $2,001 more than we had to, but it was totally worth it,” said Bryan, who calls the stucco house near his family a “miracle.”
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home needed some tender loving care. The Duncans painted and installed new flooring throughout the house, as well as repairing walls and plumbing.
Bryan shared his birthday present with Ashley, who turned 23 on Jan. 1. She was the first baby born in Rowan County in 1990 and featured on the front page of the Salisbury Post, an article her mother still proudly displays.
Ashley said she never thought she would become a homeowner at such a young age. Now, she owns “literally the perfect house,” she said. “It pretty much had everything I wanted, even a walk-in closet and white cabinets.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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