Chronicles Of A Father With Cents

Simple Life. Personal Finance. Family

So We’re Looking for a Home

kyle-mills-322993If you have been checking out my comments on some of the personal finance blogs you know that I mentioned that we are currently looking to buy our first home.  Since Baby with Cents was born, one of our next goals was to look for home so we can be settle in and have a place for Baby with Cents to grow up and evolve from a baby into adulthood.

Our Current Living Situation

If you have read my expense reports, I mentioned that we are renting an in-law in the Outer Sunset in San Francisco. Luckily we got very low rent for this place around the time we were getting married.  The landlord basically told us if we don’t throw any  parties (even a small one with up to five people) then he will keep our rent at $1000 a month.  We happily agreed to that and been living here ever since.  We rarely invite people over and if we do it would only be at the most two other people.

We live in a prime area, a block away from the infamous Golden Gate Park where lots of tourists come to visit and numerous concerts, marathons, and picnics are held.  We are also close to the beach as well where a lot of people get their jogging in and can get really crowded on a nice day with numerous beachgoers on top of the runners.  But in terms of buying a home in this area, it can get really steep.  A typical row home that is over 1000 square foot with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths can go between $800K to $900K. So we already eliminated the idea of trying to buy in our current area for that reason.

Our Down Payment

The low rent has helped us greatly in saving a good amount of funds for the past five years and has geared the both of us in putting a good amount of down payment for home in the Bay Area.  We knew that we live in a HCOL(high cost of living) area and that meant taking a while to build that savings so we can  be in a position where we can put a pretty good down payment and not to put the minimum down payment and face high monthly mortgage payments.

The House Search

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Typical row house in San Francisco

We started to do some casual searching on the usual housing sites: Zillow, RedFin and Truila.  We initially targeted a few cities around the SF Bay Area and wanted to find a single home that meets our needs: 2-3 bedroom with 2 baths and between 1K to 1.5K square feet.  Our price range is between $500K (which is low in the Bay Area) to $700K but if we really like a particular home we will bid up to $750K.

During the latter part of 2016 we found some homes online that we liked and went to open houses but we both didn’t get that feeling of, “Yeah, I can picture this as our home.” It was more like, “It’s a nice place but there is something wrong with this, didn’t really like that” type of mood.  It also didn’t help that the listing prices on some of these homes were really close to our price ceiling.  That meant that even if we felt like placing a bid, we would easily get outbid given the high demand on homes in the Bay Area

In the beginning of this year, we started to be more aggressive in our search where we targeted specific cities where we really wanted to buy.  Outside of location, we had the usual factors when looking for a home: proximity of good schools where Baby with Cents can attend, length of commute to work, great neighborhood and drive time to get to grocery stores, shopping malls and eatries(In N Out, hehe) .

This past spring, we found an area close to SF where we both loved and decided that we wanted to buy home there.  We made an appointment to check out a home that was in the middle of flipping on a Sunday. After checking it out, we didn’t like it but driving through the area made us feel that it was a great place to have a home.  The real estate agent that showed us the home lives in the area so that made us more intrigued since we can contact her about the positives and negatives of living over there.

After that visit, we focused our home search to that area.  We also went through the pre-approval process to show that were really serious in buying one.  We picked our primary bank to mortgage our home because they do have low interest rates and we didn’t feel the need to shop around for other lenders since we researched online and concluded that our bank was the right choice.

Pre-Approval Process

The pre-approval procedure is a thorough process but if you can get access to all your accounts pretty easily then the procedure will be simple.  When you pick out a lender, they will ask you for everything that relates to your finances and identification.  They want a copy of your identification, your last two years of your W-2s, paystub(s) from the last 30 days, and the last two months of all your bank statements and retirement accounts. They do this to verify that you have the financial backing to put at an adequate down payment and project that you can pay back the loan on the term you signed up for.

Nowadays, it’s pretty easy to access these statements since it’s available via pdf so you don’t need a stack full of paperwork to give to your lender.

Getting Serious

After getting pre-approved, we searched for homes in the target area aggressively.  Unfortunately, there were not a lot of listings in that specific area because for one, it is a small area which means the inventory is low and two, whenever there was a listing, it would be over our price range.  Some of these homes were too big in terms of square footage for us and there were others that were in the somewhat in our target but it was more of wanting an extra bedroom, bathroom or more backyard space.

Our real estate agent that lives in the area where we want to buy would send us listings for that location.  There was one occasion when she emailed us a home before it was listed but it ended up being too small for us.  There’s a period of time where we wouldn’t receive any emails from her because of the lack of inventory

It can get a bit frustrating sometimes because we’re ready to buy we know that if we want to live in this particular area, we have to be patient with the circumstances of trying to buy over there.  We think it’s perfect for us, the area has an elementary and middle school for Baby with Cents to attend and has great ratings and it has tight knit community where events are held such as 4th of July celebration, Xmas tree lighting, and BBQs where the whole community is invited.  The only downside is that there are no grocery stores; we have to drive 10 minutes outside the area to go grocery shopping.  But with all the great positives, we could live that negative.

As of today, we are still looking at that area for a home.  Hopefully we can buy one real soon especially with prices possibly going down with winter approaching.

Readers, do you think we are taking the right approach in our home search? What was your experience when searching for a home? Please comment below!

14 Comments

  1. That’s exciting! SF sounds expensive and comparable to Vancouver here. Townhouses (1000-1200 square feet) add around $1 million now. Hope you find your dream “forever home” too!

    • Thanks GYM!! I believe Vancouver is pretty much have the same housing costs as the Bay Area. They just finished a development of townhouses that ranges from 1200 to 1500 square feet by my parents place in Daly City(suburb of SF) and its listed for $1.5 million.

  2. Searching for your first home is exciting! Then actually going through the process is so stressful lol.

    We were pre-approved for over 700,000 but when you actually do the numbers, we would be paying over $5,000 in mortgage payments. Our house is $550,000 and our mortgage is $3,200. It’s crazy when you actually start seeing the numbers.

    When you do find a home you like, do not deposit and/or withdraw any large amount of money from your checking or savings accounts. They see that and will question you about it. One time, we made a deposit of $1,000 into our savings account and they questioned us about it. This was during the escrow process. We like to keep money on hand in case of emergencies, but we had to explain where the money came from.

    Its just stressful but its all worth it lol.

    • Thanks for the tip Melanie!! Outside of paychecks, we will try to prevent depositing or withdrawing any large amounts of money. But if we have to take out some money we will be ready to explain it.
      Hopefully that excitement of finding a home is getting close.

  3. Good luck! I’m in the Bay Area too, and the market is crazy. It’s great that you’ve found the ideal neighborhood to buy in, but you may have to cast a slightly wider net in terms of both area and housing type (e.g., single-family house vs. townhouse vs. condo)

    It’s great that your rent is only $1000; that’s a really good deal in SF. You can probably afford to be patient for a year or two with that rent.

    • We are looking for a single-family but we might be open to a townhouse depending on price and location.
      Thanks for stopping by Kyle!!

  4. Wait, $500-$700k? I didn’t think there was anything under $800k in SF. That’s awesome!!! Even in the outer sunset where I’m also from, my landlords house sold for 996k last year. If it was me, I would look love living near Geary street. Good food all up and down that 😎 omg…you lucky fish. I miss SF and it’s cheap sushi compare to Seattle’s crappy Japanese food scene.

    • Oh do Daly City! Kome buffet 🙂 or go far out to Novato where Jareds parents live. There’s an in n out there haha.

      • Lol, Mother with Cents loves Kome. She always goes for the sushi and doesn’t go to the other areas of the buffet. But it’s always crowded there even during the week.
        The area we are targeting is in the Daly City/South SF area and some listings over there go for $600-$700K so it’s possible we can find one at that price range.

  5. One bit of advice our realtor gave us when we started looking this year, because we were on a shorter timeline, was to come up with a list of what I wanted and what he wanted. Then we were supposed to combine them for our top 3 so that she would know our priorities. It helped us get a grip on the compromises we were willing to make. We completed our whole search this year, you can read about it starting here if you want: http://agaishanlife.com/2017/01/the-cost-of-safety-in-california/

  6. We’re in the same boat. We are targeting neighborhoods that we like but nothing has popped on our radar that we absolutely love yet but we’re in no rush 🙂

  7. Wow $1,000 rent sounds like a pretty great deal in SF! You can take all the time to look for something you love, no rush 😉

    When we bought our first house a few years ago in Toronto, it was pretty hectic w/ all those bidding wars . We had to just forgo most of them, but we eventually found one we love within budget. Though we had to go over asking price, it was a lot better than the other 20+ offers we skipped. (Btw, our housing market has cooled down here just after April lol!)

    After we closed, we did some upgrading in our separate unit and rented out the other so that the tenants can help cover some costs and utilities. Overall, so far so good.

    I hope you and your wife find your dream house! There’s absolutely no rush! Btw, it would be a bonus to be close to In n out burger — so tastey😋 too bad we don’t have any here. Booo!

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