House Hunting Journal – looking forward to moving

We have found a home we liked, placed an offer, and to our surprise, won the bidding. Woot. Now closing day is 10 days away, and it is time to reflect on how nice it will be to have a house again.

Some of the downsides to apartment living will be lifted.

  • Having a pantry – As a former chef, and someone who enjoys cooking, the worst aspect of apartment living is the limited space for storage of foodstuffs. I.e. a pantry. Being able to stock up on staples, to have room for some esoteric ingredients, a true spice rack. Right now, all the space I have is a kitchen cabinet, and it is cramped.
  • Buying sundries at Costco – as much as I hate the zoo that is Costco, it is nice to be able to buy toilet paper in 48 packs, and paper towels in quantities that will last. And cheaper too. We will once again have room to store these quantities.
  • private laundry – I have bitched about the laundry rooms on the premises at our apartments, contention for the machines, having other peoples’ soap scents in your clothes, and the general filth of the facilities. Having our own machines hooked up again will be awesome.
  • A yard – A fenced off, safe place for our hounds. Having to leash them up every time they need to potty is a drag.
  • non-through street – not strictly an apartment thing, but we will be living on a street that isn’t a thoroughfare. We currently are at the corner of Lean Avenue and Blossom Hill road, with a highschool next door, and two elementary schools walking distance across Blossom hill. That leads to a lot of traffic, at all hours, and it is difficult to sleep.
  • Garage – while it is not the awesome three car garage I had in Tucson, we will once again have a garage. A priority will be to unpack enough to allow us to park in the garage. It is good to be able to park under cover. My S2000 has suffered in the 7 months we have lived here.

Yep, we can hardly wait. The list of things to fix/change is piling up, but soon, oh so soon, we will be moving. Yay!

Relocation Saga, Part 97

Our timing was impeccable. All through the last year, the housing market in Phoenix was literally on fire. Values were rising, houses were flying off the shelf, and we saw that our home had some serious appreciation.

Then we put it on the market. SLAM that door shut. Suddenly inventory went from less than 4 weeks to more than 6 months, and it turned from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. Almost over night.

So, even though we priced it to sell, and we were aggressive up front, and being in a good neighborhood with great schools, and desirable location, our house has languished for almost 3 months now.

We took the plunge and moved, hoping that being unoccupied and clean would help traction, but alas, no, so we are in temporary housing, and have a little more than 3 months until our company will buy our house for market value.

A bad place to be.

Options are bleak:

  1. Stay in temporary housing and keep our household goods in storage. It is tight, being in a 1 bedroom apartment, and it is in a good location, about 4 miles from the office, and a counter commute, so that is a positive. But the bad news is that after July 15th, I have to start paying out of pocket. At $159 a day (minus fees and taxes). Gulp. That is nearly $5500 a month for “rent”. Add in the almost $1,000 a month to store my household goods, we are quickly approaching $7K a month in out of pocket expenses (not counting our mortgage, and utilities we need to keep up on the house in Phoenix). Groan.
  2. Rent a temporary place. Find a pet friendly place, and rent. Seems easy, but we do have two greyhounds, large (yet calm) dogs makes this difficult. Rent will be much less than the cost of the temporary housing, and we can get our “stuff” back. So that is cool. But we have to sign a lease for a year.

Not really a choice. Burning through our savings at $7K a month will wipe out our down payment before my company “buys” my house in October. Then we won’t be able to afford a down payment. So we rent.

Found a complex that is “pet friendly” and a reasonable price. We will sign the lease shortly, and hope to move in in the next couple of weeks.

The irony: the management company asked if we had a rental history. Uh, no, we have owned for almost 16 years in total…

Welcome to California

Well, it is technically a “welcome back”, as I grew up here in Silicon Valley.

My job relocated us to Santa Clara, and over the last week, we made the “move“. The positive is that the movers rocked, and really got our stuff packed and loaded in record time.

After spending the weekend on a leisurely drive from Phoenix to Santa Clara (via the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, and Lake Tahoe) we got to our temporary housing Monday morning.

Our last relocation to Tucson in 2003 found us put up in a decrepit Extended Stay America in Tucson. Shudder. Here our digs are a bit better (ok, a LOT better). We are in an Avalon apartment, well furnished, and a reasonable size. Sure, it has lousy appliances, and the washer and dryer sound like a mac truck is driving through, but it is very serviceable.

Our first trip to the grocery store was expensive (over $400). Partly because groceries are more expensive here, but mainly due to the need to stock up.

When I picked up my car, I lamented the fact that it needed to be less than 1/4 full of gas. First thing, a fill of premium. Gulp, it’s about $.70 a gallon more than in AZ. Sigh, might be time to buy something more fuel efficient than the S2000.

The weather is pretty awesome. Mid to upper 70’s during the day, and very pleasant at night. Humidity is high compared to what I am used to (low teens in AZ).

Tuesday was the first day in the office. The apartment is a hair over 4 miles from the office, a straight shot down Lawrence expressway. And I am going the counter commute direction, so it is a short commute. Sadly, the house we will likely be able to afford is not going to have such a wickedly awesome commute. Sigh.

Oh, and California finally figured out how to time their traffic lights. Today I didn’t hit one red light on Lawrence.

We do miss our dogs, so I am looking forward to picking them up in Tucson over the 4th of July weekend.

Now we just need our house in Chandler to sell. We are still priced the lowest of all the SE valley single stories, a good $12 – $18 per sqft under the area.

Fingers crossed.

Selling your house sucks

There are many reasons to hate the process of selling. The last time I had to relocate, we moved up front, and left an empty house. Get it cleaned, and let the agents have free reign.

This time, we have to sell before we move. This is much harder to accomplish.

#1 Select a realtor

There are literally thousands of realtors in any major metropolitan area. We are fortunate that we had to choose one who knows the Relo game and works with our Relocation company. Two good realtors, two slightly different approaches, but both seem competent. We pick the local specialist.

#2 Get ready

Unless you have fucking Martha Stewart as a maid, and a kick ass gardener, there are likely a list of things to do. You can live there, but you have to be ready to show at any time. And while it can be lived in, you really need to not have too much clutter.

So there are about 40 boxes of stuff stored in the garage. No guitars out. Not much besides the essentials.

It is tough living, but we have to do it.

Get the carpets cleaned. Get the tile scrubbed, fix those little things you never got to. Oh, your kitchen sink faucet died? Get it fixed. Oh, your garage door spring died? Get it fixed.

A few thousand dollars later we are ready.

#3 Put it on the market

Now the fun begins. It goes live. The marketing begins. The listing gets picked up by Trulia, homes.com, and Zillow.

We put it on the market on a Wednesday. We knew the first weekend would be busy, so we went to a local resort for a splurge. Put the dogs into daycare.

Now we are in the constant readiness state. Dirty a dish? Into the dishwasher instantly. Vacuum every day. Pick up dog toys and beds. We went from 10 dog beds to 3 that we move in and out.

We are now officially 2 weeks into it. Showing have trickled to once a day, or every other day. Easter weekend is coming. I bet that is slow.

#4 Bad buyers – Ups and Downs

The first Monday, we had an offer. Full price. Wanted the washer and dryer. Cool.

But the Relo people have a special process. Since they didn’t live here, they have no direct experience with the property, so they give minimal disclosure, and the buyer has to buy it as is (they do get to do an inspection, and we will fix what they find, but no need to come completely clean). The buyer, being a lawyer, didn’t like the terms. We were in limbo for 4 whole days before they backed out. Fuck.

I can totally relate to the buyer’s trepidation. A simple Google search shows that the relocation company is more than a bit skeevy, and has totally boned a lot of buyers. Sigh.

I know this happens, but it still sucks. Ironically, if we were just selling without the relo group involved, we would be 2 weeks from settlement. (You can be sure that I will hammer them on the customer satisfaction survey)

Summary

We have priced our house to sell. We are $12 – $18 a sqft below the neighborhood trends. But we are in a buyers market, so it will take time to get the right person to walk into our house.

I just want to get moved, and move on. Too much happening in life to have this drag out.

We have a showing tonight at 6:30. Fingers are crossed.

“Silly”con Valley Neighborhoods

More on the saga so far.

This week we spent three days crawling around neighborhoods looking for places that fit the criteria:

  • They are livable – as in, we can walk our dogs in the evening without fear for our lives.
  • We can afford it – We do have an upper limit to what is affordable, after all. I don’t have early Facebook equity.
  • The commute doesn’t completely suck – Probably the hardest of all. The further away you get, the more affordable it is, but this is inversely proportional to the suck factor of the commute.

On Monday we ruled out a few neighborhoods in San Jose. The fear factor and the feel of some of the neighborhoods was pretty bleak. We also ruled out Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Yes, some affordable options there, but my commute would be tied to Caltrain, and it is a LONG drive for when that wouldn’t work.

But we did find some downtown areas that were well within the “livable” and “affordable” category. And it would be possible to commute by bicycle if I wanted, a bonus!

Tuesday we went up the east bay. Started in Milpitas. Very little inventory, (but lots, and I do mean lots of foreclosures) but every neighborhood we looked at was ratty and run down. Likely due to the reduced tax receipts caused by all the foreclosures (people in foreclosure are not paying their property taxes either). A real turn off.

Further up the east bay, we checked a few places in Fremont. The problem here is the neighborhoods were squiffy. Some really gnarly neighborhoods that made me want to drive through quickly, and some that were in the process of gentrification. But that process was not far enough along to make them attractive. Plus the commute from here is getting egregious.

Last place on the east bay was to check out the Hayward/Castro Valley area. A colleague lives up there, and recommended it. Claimed it took him 45 minutes to get to the office. cough He must never do it in the commute hours. It takes 45 minutes with no traffic and being at the speed limit on the freeways. Big negative.

We also went up the peninsula. Some people urged us to look at Redwood City. The few (very few) affordable places were east of El Camino Real. Very rough neighborhoods. Of course, west of El Camino Real are nice, but it starts at $1M and goes up. Apparently that part of Redwood City is the slums of Woodside.

Lastly, there was one house in “Menlo Park” that met our price target. But this finger of Menlo Park is just east of East Palo Alto. EPA often fights for the “Murder Capitol of America” with DC. Yes, EPA is changing, but it is still not a neighborhood to covet.

The Net Results

The trip was a success. We accomplished:

  • We will be able to buy something that is affordable (if we hold our nose and not think about the price).
  • There are some neighborhoods that are suitable and should be in our price range (yay!)
  • We now know what we don’t want. The fact that we were able to cross a lot off our list will help tremendously when we are actually shopping.
  • The move, while scary, is not terrifying. Yes, it will be tough, and yes, we will give up a lot to move back, but it is going to be do-able.

Now to the next phase. Getting ready to sell our house. We will likely need to downsize a lot of the detritus of our lives. It’s as good a time as any to streamline, so they say.