The Bay Area Home Buying Process (Spoiler Alert: We Haven’t Bought One)

Two years into our on-and-off again (now very on again) home search, we’ve looked at hundreds of homes, put an offer on one and just decided to pass on an other we came very close to attempting to get. Despite the strain of years of home searching getting to our heads, we both realized buying a polished-up fixer was the same as buying a fixer, and due to some serious permit issues possibly WORSE than buying a fixer. And so, we’re back to square one.

Our requirements make it pretty hard to find anything that works. I feel bad for my realtor. There is also nothing on the market right now, especially the area of the Bay that we’re looking (not to mention that everything around said area is currently on fire–why are we buying here again?) Sigh. It’s hard to leave. And I think many companies will still want employees back in the office when COVID is over… eventually.

So we started out with a budget of $1.5M… maybe $1.6M for the perfect house. I thought that was a healthy budget. Not so. Not for what we want. And while we can compromise — why should we? If we were going to compromise, we’d rent. At least… on certain things we can’t change like lot size, neighborhood, street noise, distance to public transit, shops, etc.

I decided I’m ok living with my father-in-law since it gives us some more wiggle room with budget — with his contribution, we can go up to $1.8M, maybe $1.9M. I thought that’s a HUGE amount and of course we can find something for $1.9M. Right?

Nah. With my FIL, we also need to find a place with an in-law, ADU, or two master suites. The home we almost bid on did have two masters (sort of) — the original master didn’t have an en suite, but at least it could fit our California King bed. Then the owners converted their garage into a bedroom and bathroom, with lovely French Doors to the backyard. So they started a permit on the doors… they never got the garage conversion permitted (because it’s not legal to convert a garage here unless it’s into an ADU following strict rules.) Oh, they didn’t file the permit about construction on the French doors being finished either. Guess they realized the building inspector would ask them about why their permitted French doors were installed on a very un-permitted garage conversion. Plus, there was a 300 sq ft un-permitted not-well-constructed sunroom that we were told would basically have to be ripped out and rebuilt if we ever wanted to do any legal permitted work on the house. Despite the “low” price for the neighborhood, the great street, the relatively great lot — we had to pass.

So back to the drawing board.

A few months ago we DID put an offer in on a house — a 3/2 with an in law downstairs. I didn’t love it because it was in the hills and I feel like being on flat or slightly hilly ground is important for my long-term health (I love to go for walks… but know myself that I wouldn’t on very hilly streets… and I’d never drive somewhere to walk.) We bit $1.65M on a house listed $1.8M. They said no, and we refused to go up. It ended up going $1.75M. Another house we considered, without an in-law, sold for $1.7M.

It seems insane to spend that much on a house. But we want to settle down and we’re ready. But the housing market isn’t ready for us I guess.

We’re looking in other areas nearby–but really I don’t see the point in buying a house unless I can be in the area I want to be in. Otherwise we can rent in that area and hopefully one day save up enough to buy. Like, by the time I’m 80?

It also happens that all the “how much house” can you afford calculators don’t really make sense when you make $170k a year ($250k family income) BUT you have RSUs that sometimes bump your income up to $300k-$800k at random. Which, I’m not complaining about, but it’s hard to figure out what we can really afford. It’s scary without having any idea what our future income will be–especially when my particular role can be paid anywhere from $80k to $800k a year (well, usually $150k-$200k.)

With our second child due in January, I am so ready to buy a home. We may end up moving into a larger rental, but I’m just done with renting. I’m almost 37. It feels like if we don’t buy now we never will. What in the point of getting a 30 year mortgage when our kids are 10??? It’s time to buy… if only there were houses on the market that made sense to buy.

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One thought on “The Bay Area Home Buying Process (Spoiler Alert: We Haven’t Bought One)”

  1. Have you looked into talking to David Green from BiggerPockets? He is one of the podcast hosts and he is a realtor in your area. He seems to be able to find deals that most people would discount. At the very least it could be worth it to reach out.

    Good luck!

    – Gale
    Gale L. recently posted..Pineapple Money

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