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Money and Main Street
4 of 9
Boynton Beach, Fla.
Boynton Beach, Fl
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Purchase price: $285,000
Price change from peak: -42%

When Scott Furr and his partner Damian Hetherington sold their North Carolina condo in 2003 and moved to Palm Beach County Fla., they intended to buy a house. It took a lot longer than they planned.

"The real estate market was exploding here in Florida, and it placed many desirable homes out of reach," said Furr, a structural designer.

Even confining their property searches to short sales, homes listed for less than what the current owners owe to their lenders, the pair found most homes overpriced. They finally got lucky when their agent recommended a house that had originally listed at $425,000 in November 2007. By the time they saw the home earlier this year, the lender had approved a short sale of $325,000 on a $390,000 mortgage.

The pair fell in love with the four-bed, two-bath, 2,800-square-foot Mediterranean. They offered $285,000, haggled some as area prices continued their decline (down 16% this year, according to real-estate Web site Zillow.com) and closed in June. They even got the lender to throw in 3% at closing.

But when they took possession in July, there was a bit of a surprise: The previous owner had trashed the place before he left. "He removed all the shelving and lighting fixtures," said Furr, "and left a refrigerator full of rotting food."

There was also tons of debris in the yard, garage and attic. "We got a 30-yard construction dumpster and came over every night after work to clean everything up," said Furr.

But all's well. They now proudly own a beautiful home with lovely gardens complete with palms, all for a price they couldn't have touched a few years ago.

"I feel the bust was badly needed, and it opened up an opportunity that we otherwise would not have had," Furr said. - L.C.

NEXT: Brentwood, Calif.
Last updated June 15 2009: 10:24 AM ET
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