RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And with many Americans struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments, falling home prices and rising foreclosures offer an opportunity to others to buy. Throughout the day on NPR, you can hear kitchen-table conversations with people about how they're dealing with the current economic conditions. NPR's Kathy Lohr spoke with an Atlanta couple trying to buy a home.
KATHY LOHR: Karen and Aamir Siddiqi got married four months ago and moved from Denver to Atlanta. They're both 30 years old and right now, they live in a hot spot in the city called Atlantic Station, where they rent an upscale, three-bedroom apartment.
Ms. KAREN SIDDIQI (Project Manager): We moved down here and planned on renting for a year, but once we saw the property values in the market, we just decided that with interest rates nice and low, it was the time to get started right away.
LOHR: Sitting on a large, circular sofa in the living room, Karen Siddiqi and her husband talk about their future. They're both young professionals with steady jobs. She's a project manager for a huge Web and video- conferencing company, and Aamir works in sales for GE Healthcare. Together they earn about $200,000 a year.
Mr. AAMIR SIDDIQI (Salesman, GE Healthcare): What started out as kind of just, hey, let's peruse, let's search, has turned into, we can't miss the opportunity right now.
LOHR: So for you, this economic downturn has been good news, in a sense?
Mr. SIDDIQI: It has. And we've been discussing this, that - where unfortunately, someone else's misfortune can turn into another person's fortune, literally. And we're very fortunate and blessed to be in a situation where we're able to capitalize on the current conditions in the market.
LOHR: Both Aamir and Karen work from home offices. In the not-too-distant future, they hope to have kids. So they're looking at big homes with lots of bedrooms in the far Atlanta suburbs. And mostly, what they're looking for are foreclosures.
Mr. SIDDIQI: They're not just dull, drab, unkempt homes. There are homes that just - people unfortunately could not keep up with the payments on. They're absolutely immaculate, and they're just severely underappreciated right now.
Ms. SIDDIQI: It tugs at your heartstrings a little bit. But you know, hopefully, by buying the home, we're helping everybody out of a bad situation.
LOHR: About an hour northwest of downtown, in Ackworth, Georgia, Karen takes a second look at a home the couple bid on nearly two weeks ago.
Ms. SIDDIQI: When you walk in, you're in a formal sitting room, and it looks like there's the stone fireplace with some nice, kind of floor-to-ceiling windows, which is beautiful.
LOHR: Very high ceilings.
Ms. SIDDIQI: Isn't it gorgeous? Yeah, so I guess it would be called the two-story great room, maybe.
LOHR: This two-story, five-bedroom home on a cul-de-sac was built in the past five years. It's not in foreclosure yet. The family that owns the house and the bank are working on what they call a short sale. That means the owners are having a hard time making their payments, so they're selling the home at a loss in hopes of preventing a foreclosure. In a good market, the home would be worth about $450,000. Now it's going for around $300,000. As we head downstairs to a partly finished basement, Karen says this is one of more than half a dozen homes the couple has made an offer on.
Ms. SIDDIQI: We offered under 300. We offered 292. So we'll see if it comes through. But I really do like the house. I like the location, and I think it's beautiful. So fingers crossed, and we'll see what happens.
LOHR: Karen and Aamir Siddiqi don't hear much about the personal stories of those who've had to give up their homes. Mostly they're dealing with banks. And for lenders, these sales are merely transactions and perhaps a way to recover some of their losses. Back at the apartment, Aamir Siddiqi says the couple is careful about how they spend money because they're buying a house. But they're not afraid to move forward.
Mr. SIDDIQI: Like everyone, we're more cautious. We're looking at where it makes most sense to invest in what. But when it comes to real estate, I think, you know, the economy is cyclical, and all the things that go down must go back up at some point. So, yes, I think it's not going to stop us from pursuing our dreams.
LOHR: Recently, Aamir and Karen Siddiqi did hear back from the bank. Another family has made an offer on the home in Ackworth. The couple says that's OK. If they don't get this house, they believe time is on their side and eventually, they'll find just the right one. Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.
MONTAGNE: NPR reporters have been talking to families about kitchen- table issues during the economic downturn. You can hear more of these stories later today and at our Web site, npr.org.
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