RISMEDIA, July 6, 2007—(MCT)—When Charles Cai came to America from China nine years ago, he hoped years of sacrifice would one day pay off for him and his family.
Cai and his mother, who came with him, initially settled in Brooklyn, living in a series of small apartments while Cai went to school and worked part time to save money.
Their last place was a one-bedroom with wiring so old they couldn’t use an air conditioner or a plug-in heater.
But Cai, now 30 and a U.S. citizen, said, “My mom and me, we had a plan.”
With manageable rent, careful budgeting and a $47,000-a-year job as a Metro-North signalman, Cai had savings of $50,000 and a strong credit score of 745 out of 850, making him eligible for the lowest mortgage rates. Financially, he was ready to start looking.
But Cai felt a new urgency last year after he married Hui Liu, a woman from his hometown of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province in southeast China.
After Liu, 29, got pregnant, the couple signed up for a home buyer-prep course at Asian Americans for Equality. The nonprofit offers classes and counseling through a subsidiary, the AAFE Community Development Fund.
The couple set $250,000 as their target price. They got a $13,500 grant for first-time home buyers from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. A Federal Home Loan Bank savings program matched each dollar Cai saved for a home 3-to-1.
They pored through listings in Chinese newspapers and magazines. Although Brooklyn was their first choice, they also looked in Queens. Flushing was crowded and expensive, Cai thought. Bayside was nice, “but everywhere you go, you must take the bus or drive,” he said.
They loved one place in Sheepshead Bay, but ruled it out because the commute for Cai — newly promoted to a Metro-North electronic technician based in White Plains — would have been brutal.
Then they saw an ad for a two-bedroom co-op on 65th St. in Bensonhurst for $249,000.
Listing agent Betty Yee of New Life Realty took them to see the apartment; it was about 800 square feet, which would be tight but would work for them, and Liu liked the nicely kept lobby.
“It was very clean,” she said. It was also near a subway stop.
The couple negotiated the price to $225,000. The sellers, a retired couple moving to Hong Kong, gave Cai and Liu their air conditioner and a TV. But the really big gift came from Liu’s mother — $50,000 for the down payment. Cai added another $50,000.
With a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 6% from North Fork Bank, the couple’s combined mortgage and maintenance payments are $1,300 a month.
The family, including Cai’s mom, Jin Xin Liang, moved in right after the April closing. His wife stays home and looks after their 6-month-old daughter, Joy.
Cai is thrilled Joy will grow up in a house her family owns.
“I moved so many times,” he said. “My baby will have a different life from mine. She won’t have to worry.”
Copyright © 2007, Daily News, New York
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.