“I can tell you one thing, the walls of my future bedroom are not going to be plain white.” I made this statement to my mother at breakfast, a few hours before my birthday party on February 4th and discovered my sister’s birthday gift to me was a quilt she’d spent months making.
My Birthday Quilt
Which now gives me extra incentive to find my future new home. Not that I need an extra incentive; I’m excited to find a new home; I’m desperately looking forward to the day I can move out of my cramped little apartment and into a place where I have some storage space, and I can paint the walls any darn color I want. Renting in this area makes less and less sense economically, as after my appointment with Caroline the Financial Lady (Not her formal title), I discovered that my monthly lodging expenses might actually go down a little after buying a condominium. Or, depending on where that right place was, would only go up by a manageable sum without being wildly more than what I’m currently throwing away on the rent, alone. If I’m going to pay this much, I want a nicer and more spacious abode, and I want to build some equity. Rents go up especially in a recuperating economy, while fixed rate mortgages remain steady.
As I told my mother during that same breakfast conversation, I am also very conscious of how many things have to happen before that anticipated moving day arrives. Including finding the new place and buying it, hoping that 13 other people don’t outbid me. If you have a condominium or small house to sell in the San Francisco Bay Area right now, you’re in clover. If you’re trying to buy one, the market is much less favorable.
And so my hopeful and despairing moods are very cyclical, lately. At the start of February, I saw two condos that were both strong contenders, although neither of them was perfect. The condo I’d liked better was on a quiet street in a pretty neighborhood, but the kitchen was not much better than my current one, and the interior of the place needed some TLC. It had a beautiful little enclosed brick patio for a garden and a place to sit outdoors and a roomy master bedroom and bath with pleasant morning light. The other candidate was nicer and better kept inside with a much better kitchen, but had the problem of being on the second floor, and near busier, noisier streets. I don’t mind a two-storey townhouse, but I want to step out my front door and be outside, not in a windowless communal hallway and I’d rather have a patio than a balcony. Living in Earthquake country, I also want to be able to get outside quickly and easily.
That was “Cycle High.” I was both excited and nervous that first weekend in February, wondering if I ought to write an offer for one or both, without having a clue how to do so, having only just received pre-approval. Nancy, my Realtor and my mother calmed me down a bit over that first February weekend though, both holding the same belief that I could do better by going further and getting pickier about the places and locations I looked at. This was the time to refine my requirements, and really think about how I would be using my living space. Where would I put my writing desk? My art table? What if I decided to sleep in a smaller bedroom and use the master bedroom for my working space? Etc etc. Almost every condo I’ve seen has been better and more spacious than where I’m currently living, so there have been a vast and confusing number of “almost rights.”
“When you walk into that right place for you, you’ll know,” Nancy my realtor assured me. “Don’t just look for a nicer place, look for your home. You’re going to be living there for a long, long time.”
“Don’t be reasonable, be picky,” Mom urged in her turn. “Narrow things down for yourself. You never will find something completely perfect, but don’t settle for something that’s just okay. I haven’t heard you get really excited about anything, yet.”
Last week was Cycle Low. I went to see another condo on February 15th, even though I already didn’t like the location much just from what I’d learned by looking at Mapquest. However, the condominium pickings are very lean, lately, and for all I knew, it might have been Shangri-La by the freeway.
It wasn’t. There really is no substitute for going to look at places in person, no matter how nice the photographs seem when you view the listing online. I’ve seen a lot of pleasant developments where I could picture living, but Arcadia Terrace was one of the few condominium properties I’ve visited that gave me an immediate “please don’t make me live here” feeling. It didn't look dangerous or butt-ugly or have people making drug deals in the parking lot. It was just sterile and unwelcoming with that uniform “vertical rabbit warren for humans” aspect that constantly reminds you that you’d be living cheek by jowl with a great many other people.
Additionally, Fair Oaks Avenue was the sort of street I hate most as a driver; a narrow, heavy-traffic artery right near a freeway junction with inconveniently placed traffic signals that would have involved long waits before one could safely turn left onto it or from it, all complicated by the freeway junction being right there. Forget it! I'm already a nervous driver as it is. It was lined with grim apartment complexes and tacky strip malls with bars on all the store windows. It would have been a bad street for bike riding for all the same reasons it was bad for driving, as well as being miles from all the places I like to travel to by bicycle. It was also miles in the wrong direction from work, and miles from all the more hospitable neighborhoods I’d considered in my new home search. Living on a street that made me feel I’d be taking my life into my hands every time I left home or returned to it would have been a big enough disadvantage even for a condo that was perfect in every other respect.
Applying the “picky” principle, I knew the unit I saw yesterday was not going to be the “It” place before I even walked into it to see the inconvenient, uninviting floor plan, the cramped, charmless little patio, small bedrooms or smelled the faint but funky odor that permeated the place. Maybe that was the recently shampooed carpet, and maybe it wasn’t. Doris, Nancy’s associate, and I inspected the unit and agreed within five minutes that it was not for me, even though it had a decent-sized kitchen. One of the most depressing things last week was that Arcadia Terrace was one of only three listings in my target towns for a list price below three quarters of a million dollars.
I drove away at the bottom of my low cycle mood. I was relieved to cross Arcadia Terrace off my list permanently, but discouraged, nonetheless, convinced I shouldn’t have let myself be talked out of the two places I’d seen on February 1, both of which beat Arcadia Terrace in terms of location alone. The excited anticipation of being close to finding new homee was nowhere to be found. Instead, I spent the drive back scolding and second-guessing myself and wondering if I was going to talk myself out of every possible new home in my target area through being too picky.
Fortunately things are back on the upswing this week; yesterday, Nancy sent me five new listings. Now, if only someone will need to sell their nice little two bedroom in my favorite Sunnyvale neighborhood, soon…