Tom Soto

Finding Balance in the Storms of Life

How I Got a 30yr Home Loan at 4%

Posted by Tom Soto on November 5, 2008

Yes, a 30 year home loan with an interest rate at 4 percent. OK, it was not easy, took patience and (here’s the kicker) you have to have a life long disability. Or in my case, a child with one. Oh, and you need to live in California but other states have similar programs.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned from this experience:

  • For those of us who struggle with disabilities there is help out there.
  • Having patience saved me from making a bad financial decision for my family.
  • If I can’t afford it, don’t buy it. (Thanks Dad!)
  • My family, while struggling with Autism and its challenges, is truly blessed.
  • Help others to achieve the dream of home ownership.

My story goes like this. Our family moved four years ago to Long Beach, California because of its school programs for children with Autism. However, at the time it was at the height of the housing market and home prices in the area were out of reach for us. So we rented. My job income allows my wife to stay home but we still have to sacrifice many things for her to do that. I had several friends, family members, and realtors bombard me with, “Why are you renting?” or “There are loans out there that will allow you to buy with no money down.” And believe me it was tempting. But in the back of my mind I heard my father’s voice, “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” We could have bought using one of the “interest only” or similar loans but I always asked, “What’s going to happen when the loan became due?” Again, I heard, “Don’t worry, you will be able to refinance” and again I was tempted.

Just over 2 years ago while doing some research on children with disabilities I stumbled upon the website of the California Housing Finance Agency or CalHFA as its known. I could not believe my eyes. Yet there it was, we were eligible for the Homechoice loan program that offered a 30 year loan at 4 percent for people with disabilities. They also offer other loan programs to help first time buyers. However, there was one problem and it was a big one. The loan only offered up to the Fannie Mae conforming rate which was not enough to cover a house in our area without having to come up with a huge down payment—around $200,000! So while my hopes seamed dashed at that time nevertheless I waited.

Then the housing market crashed. Now while this hurt many people, especially those with bad loans, including friends of mine, this became a huge opportunity for my family. Home prices fell so much so that the Homechoice loan program now covered the house we wanted to purchase. I still had to come up with a five percent down payment but I had saved it sacrificing new cars, tv’s etc. Our cars are over 10 and 8 years old!

We finally put an offer on a house and our loan with CalHFA went through. We became home owners on September 17, 2008. Which we are totally blessed to have happened because one week later CalHFA had to suspend the Homechoice loan program and some others due to the current financial crisis. I am hoping that they bring them back soon and will post as soon as they do. I want as many people as possible to have a chance at owning a home, especially those with disabilities as that is where my heart is. So with some patience, some wisdom gained from a very wise father, and some prayer, a lot of prayer, our dream of home ownership came to be. Hopefully, this will help someone else acheive that dream too.

Posted in Amazing-Read It!, Autism, Inspiration | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

End of Summer Review

Posted by Tom Soto on September 30, 2008

End of Summer Review.

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Book Club Reading List-Week 8

Posted by Tom Soto on August 10, 2008

More book reviews.

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Third Day on the 3rd Day-Street Week Edition

Posted by Tom Soto on August 3, 2008

Third Day’s new CD “Revelation” came out this past week. For Third Day on the 3rd day the theme is about “Street Week” and what we did during the week. So here goes, another list about Third Day on the 3rd day:

  1. Picked up the new “Revelation” CD.
  2. Saw Third Day perform at the Tonight Show.
  3. There was an earthquake on the way to the Tonight Show.
  4. Mark said it was during sound check. Way to ROCK So Cal guys.
  5. Learned the meaning of “Salt & Light” at the Tonight Show.
  6. Watched the performance on TIVO. Greatest invention ever made!
  7. Watched my son Tommy come out of his “World of Autism” when we played the performance on TV.
  8. Tommy watched it about 20 straight times!
  9. Met some cool people on the Third Day boards.
  10. Got a Musicbuildstour VIP concert package for the San Diego show. OK, happened a couple of weeks ago but way cool and my wife is gonna be happy!

Posted in Music | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Parent Lobbying Tips: Approaching Policy Makers

Posted by Tom Soto on August 1, 2008

See Tom’s Special Education Hot Topics.

Posted in Autism, Special Education | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Lines, Language, Leno and an Earthquake… Our Third Day, Day

Posted by Tom Soto on July 30, 2008

I had anticipated this day for a awhile. As Kari and I were getting ready to leave for the Tonight Show a 5.4 earthquake hit about 30 east of Los Angeles. Strong enough to get your attention. Having lived in Southern California my whole life, I’ve ridden through many quakes and never really feared them. That is until the Northridge quake. I lived in Santa Monica for that one and since then just a little movement brings back the fear of that night. According to Guitarist Mark Lee, the earthquake occurred during their sound check. Way to rock So Cal guys!

So after my chest stopped pounding Kari and I left Long Beach for Burbank. We arrived and got in line for the show. There were a lot of Third Day fans there. We ended being in about the middle of the line and had some fun talking with the other fans. The couple in front of us had just decided to come to the show that day and when the show’s pages started asking for tickets I saw that they were stressed about something. Turns out they only had standby tickets and were very disappointed that they were not going to get in. Just as they were about be made to move to the very end of the line I whipped out an extra pair of tickets and gave it to them. Needless to say, they were very grateful.

We finally were seated and had fairly good seats. At least they were directly in line with were Third Day was going to play. I was happy. Jay’s monologue was ok. I’ve heard better and I’ve heard worse. He does come out to meet the audience and take pictures with the folks before the show starts which was pretty cool. As for the guests, well let me just say it was painful. To be subjected to the foulest language that made this former Marine blush was a shame. I am not a prude by any means but it was bad, real bad. Especially when the majority of the audience was there to see the band. If you saw it on TV, believe me, it was much worse in person. The other guests on the show really drive home the idea of us being salt and light.

Thankfully, Third Day brought the presence of the Almighty when they played. I just felt His spirit throughout and it took away the worldliness of the other guests. They played their number one hit “Call My Name” and were awesome. I’ve seen them play it live three times in the last few months and this was definitely the best performance. But what really struck me was how they reacted after the show. They were hugging one another and it really seemed that this opportunity was special for them. They just seemed profoundly humbled by the entire experience.

After the show, Kari and I went over to Universal Walk and had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was just nice to sit and talk with her—just the two of us. Especially after a very stressful last few days that the both of us have been experiencing. Its important to spend time alone with each other and I always look forward to it.

We’ll be seeing our favorite band again in September. I have some great seats and a very special surprise for Kari. She’ll need to be ready to have her picture taken, with… Well its a surprise!

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Tonight Show with Jaaayy Lenooo…

Posted by Tom Soto on July 28, 2008

I have tickets to see the the Tonight Show tomorrow (Tuesday, July 29). Although I am a life-long Southern Californian I have never gone in person to see this show. Anyone care to guess why I am going—without going on to Jay’s website to see who will be appearing. Maybe there’s a coffee for the first one to answer correctly!

Posted in Personal | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Book Club Reading List-Weeks 6 & 7

Posted by Tom Soto on July 26, 2008

More book reviews.

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If One Mac is Good…

Posted by Tom Soto on July 23, 2008

Tommy\'s In Heaven

Tommy's In Heaven

Then two are better. Tommy’s lovin it!

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Let’s Bowl, Daddy’O

Posted by Tom Soto on July 21, 2008

Had a fun day of bowling at the Montrose Bowl in the City of Montrose, Ca. It’s straight out of the 1950’s. My department at work took a day off to have some fun and relax. I even sported a bowling shirt! If your looking for a fun place to have a company party check it out.

Hey Daddy\'O

Hey Daddy'O

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »