Andreea Stucker thought she made a good investment when she bought a Huntington Beach, Calif., condo with her boyfriend in December 2005.
But then she and her boyfriend split up. He moved out just as the housing market crashed, leaving Stucker broken-hearted and broke.
With her own income down at least 60 percent, the real estate agent was unable to make the $4,400-a-month mortgage payments on her own, even after taking in roommates.
"I begged the bank for over seven months to grant me a loan modification to reduce my payments, because I was rapidly going through my savings," Stucker, 34, recalled. "I ended up completing a short sale on my home, and my credit took a huge hit."
Three years later, Stucker has mended both her heart and her credit score. She has a new husband and, "miraculously," a new house.
Stucker is among the emerging ranks of boomerang buyers--people who bounce back from foreclosures or short sales to become homeowners again.
Generally, buyers must wait at least three years after a foreclosure or short sale to qualify for a government-backed Federal Housing Administration mortgage. It can take seven years to get a conventional loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
"I think over three-fourths of these folks will take a stab at the comeback trail," said Paul Scheper, division manager for Greenlight Financial in Irvine, Calif. "Even though some are coming off a bitter experience, most will be looking to regain the American Dream."
Three to five people who went through a foreclosure or short sale show up each month at the Credit Counseling Service's homeownership courses in Santa Ana, Calif., and Irvine, or up to 20 percent of the attendees, said Sahara Garcia, the agency's director of education. She first noticed the boomerangers in late 2011.
"They're out there," Garcia said.