House hunting in the bay

Initially I didn’t want to write about this until I actually accomplished my goal, but at this point I think anyone who would potentially read my blog probably already knows, so it’s not like I’m trying to keep a secret. I. AM. HOUSE HUNTING.

House hunting, which I’ve been doing since December, is a lot more difficult than people make it out to be. I think job searching and dating gets all the hype but comparatively, house hunting is a much more emotional process for me. Maybe I just lucked out in my own job searching and dating experience though – or maybe because I’ve always dreamed of owning my own home, it is of bigger consequence to me than the others. But what I think all three have in common is that throughout the process, you’re constantly asking yourself what you really want, what you think you’re worth, and you have to put your fate in other people’s hands.

From my perspective, bidding on a house is more difficult to gloss over – if you don’t get the job, you can tell yourself you maybe flubbed on some part of the interview, they weren’t looking for exactly your skill set, whatever. If a romantic interest doesn’t work out, you can chalk it up to timing, difference in interests, so many things. With houses though, it’s straight forwardly how much money do you have? Not enough? Then no but thanks.

At this point, just three months in, I’ve made two offers – one I just got rejected tonight and the other I had received a counter offer but I walked away. I don’t regret walking away and I don’t regret the offer price I put out that was rejected. So I have no regrets but also no house.

Here’s how I’ve felt throughout the process – maybe one day you’ll know what I’m talking about or maybe you’ve already been through this before. Hopefully this is an entry I’ll look back on and reread and think HA so glad that part of my life is over now! Hopefully that day will be soon.

There are a ton of real estate search websites and apps nowadays, but basically I just go to look at whatever my real estate agent sends me. We used to go out together on the weekends but now that we both have a narrowed idea of what I want, I just go out and look at one or two open houses on the weekend on my own. I found my agent very randomly with no recommendations but I think we’ve matched up really well. She’s someone I can comfortably sit in a car with for hours (critical when touring together), she’s not too pushy but is very motivational and great with follow-up. Having a real estate agent keeps me from just calling it quits and keeps me going.

The weirdest moment for me thus far was after I rejected a counter offer – for a few weeks afterwards I didn’t see any properties I liked and kept wondering if I had just thrown away something good. Now that I’ve made my second offer, I realize that I really wasn’t IN LOVE with the first place, so it’s a good thing I didn’t go after it. Sometimes though, I’ll wonder to myself why I have to be IN LOVE with a house. Some people go with jobs they’re ok with. Some people date people they aren’t wildly passionate about. Why can’t I buy a house that I just moderately like?!?! Well everyone keeps telling me to hold out … so maybe they’ve got a point.

If anyone ever tells you they are looking for a house, go ahead and assume they’re working at about 50% productivity. The days when I have to make an offer are insane. As someone who is pretty indecisive, having to commit a bunch of decisions to a contract within a short period of time is just too much to handle. I think because my agent deals with these contracts every day, she’s used to each clause and they’re mundane to her, but for me I’m like “OMG how many days SHOULD this contingency be for?!?! OMG SHOULD I pay for this fee or should the seller?!?! OMG SHOULD I do this? DO I care about lead paint?!?!” Every little check box seems like such a huge and crucial decision.

So filling out a contract is insanely stressful. After signing it, I feel a little relief and a small sense of “hey! I think I’m an adult!” but then after a few hours my brain just starts racing around thinking of all these hypothetical situations where I’ll have to pay much more in closing costs than I anticipated, I’ll have no money left for furniture, maybe I’ll lose my job and be stuck with a mortgage – basically I feel like I currently have this wonderful pot of backup money and I’m very unwilling to let it all be used in a downpayment and actually have to live paycheck to paycheck. When I start seriously contemplating making an offer, that’s when a part of my brain kicks in with “BUT YOU ARE TOO POOR FOR THIS!!!” Why is it that my parents and my lender and my agent think that I have enough money to buy a home but I don’t?

The wait to hear back from an offer is crazy stressful too. This is when I keep waffling between “I really want this but don’t want to admit it to myself” and “omg please don’t let me get this property I JUST WANT TO NOT BE POOR” and “I just want this all to be over please let me get the house whether I really want it or not.” Th wait to hear back on an offer is the part that is probably the shortest but it feels the most drawn out of all.

My agent just keeps reminding me that I’m looking in a particular difficult market. I imagine it’s the same as in Arcadia, so I’m not fooled into thinking the Bay Area is the only magical place with a crazy market. But it’s just frustrating for me to think that if I could feasibly commute from the East Bay, I’d probably be sitting in my own single family home right now and would have probably paid $150K less than what I will one day end up having to pay just to live near my workplace aka Palo Alto. It’s frustrating that my mom is still stuck in a time when she thinks I should underbid the list price or maybe just tack on $1K or $2K and I have to keep telling her that even if I add $60K to the list price, I probably still won’t get the winning bid. Some of the places I was interested in (but had the common sense to know I couldn’t afford it) ended up going for well over $150K over the list price. At this point, the best I can hope for is another economic bubble burst and hopefully I can get a house before the bay area market rebounds.

I would venture that in the Bay Area, it’s probably easier to go out and find someone to marry to have a double-income to buy a house, than it would be to try to buy a nice house on a single income.

Well at least I have my hobby for 2014. House hunting.