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Money and Main Street
5 of 9
Brentwood, Calif.
Brentwood, CA
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Purchase price: $417,000
Price change from peak: -46%

When Len and Rebecca Bingham moved to the Bay Area a few years ago, they knew they couldn't afford to buy in that high-powered market. Still it frustrated them since they came from Alabama, where the prices were much more reasonable. "For the first year and a half or so we were trying to figure out how to get the hell out of California," said Len, an engineer.

Friends advised them that if they wanted to buy they would have to use an exotic loan product, such as an interest-only mortgage. "They said, `You have to do that out here,' but I refused," Len remembered.

Fortunately, not long after their arrival in 2005, home prices in suburban San Francisco started to tumble, and this year the Binghams found a 2,400-square-foot, four-bed, two-bath on a cul-de-sac in the Contre Costa County town of Brentwood. When the home was newly built - just a few years earlier - it sold for more than $700,000; the Binghams scored it for just $417,000 - a 46% savings. On average, home prices have fallen 22% in the county during the first three quarter of 2008, according to Zillow.com.

Best of all, the house was in very good shape. The previous owner had it custom built as an investment and only lived in it for about six months. The rooms were like new and the grounds were well planted and maintained.

"We live at the top of a hill and have views of Mount Diablo and the foothills from out front and back yards and west facing windows," Len said. "We are so blessed." - L.C.

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