House hunger

When I moved here in December 2014 I was looking forward to being a renter for the foreseeable future. I’d been a homeowner for over 15 years and was glad to let go of the responsibility of maintaining a property.

Except I never completely got into the role of renter. Maybe it’s a case of just not being able to let go of that homeowner mindset, but I’ve been looking at properties for sale in the my neighborhood pretty much since Day One. It’s easy to keep an eye on sales listings since I walk the dog around the neighborhood nearly every day.

Getting used to the price of real estate in the Bay Area is something I still haven’t mastered, but it’s getting easier for me to imagine ponying up half a million dollars for a small house. And in the immediate neighborhood where I’m living houses are generally small. If a house has more than two bedrooms it’s an anomaly; if the house has more than a single bathroom, that’s nearly a miracle.

The small rooms are the downside of older, vintage housing stock, but there are many other advantages to this neighborhood. It’s extremely walkable. I can (and do) walk to the public library, the post office, the little hardware store, and the restaurants and drinking establishments in downtown Napa. There’s a big park about a block away with lots of green space, picnic groves, and big trees. I also have gotten to know the neighbors here already, and have made some good friends.

Just last weekend I visited an Open House on a property that was along my walking route to the library. This tiny house had a 625 square feet floor plan, including two bedrooms and one bathroom. I paced out the larger bedroom and noted that it wouldn’t hold my queen-sized bed.

However, there is a house for sale on my block that I’m seriously coveting. Yes, it only has two bedrooms and one bathroom, but it has a lovely floor plan. Both bedrooms are larger than average (meaning the larger room could easily hold a queen-sized bed, plus a dresser or two), and they are in the back of the house where there is practically no street noise. (Another pet peeve of mine is that most of these vintage floor plans have the larger bedroom in the front of the house where there is more noise from chatty pedestrians, cars, and trucks.) The house also has a large living room, dining room, and a small breakfast nook. It’s a rare property, and I’m sure someone with a lot of cash in hand will snatch it right up so they can enjoy it as a vacation home they’ll visit about once or twice a year. *sigh*

Still, I have to take a crack at it, so I’m putting in my paltry offer. If by some slim, slim chance I even get a chance at the house I’ll basically become a house slave with the majority of my income going to pay the mortgage and taxes. I’ll also be required (really, truly REQUIRED) to get a housemate so I can afford that monthly mortgage and tax payment, but…well…what the hell. I still feel like I need to pursue this silly dream. Too bad my lottery tickets were useless last week.

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12 thoughts on “House hunger

  1. I know what you mean. Oh how I know. It’s hard to break the desire for an actual house with a yard that’s yours and not the landlord’s if you’ve become accustomed to owning.

    If you’d love it ever so much and it’d be worth it, then I very much hope this offer is accepted 🙂

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  2. Good luck!

    I think the only reason I would want to own a house in the bay area would be to benefit from Prop 13. There’s some parts where rent control or lazy landlording are almost as good for renters, but there’s still that additional risk of losing the place one is renting. Having had a yard of my own, I’m no longer really interested in having a yard.

    I was talking to someone from Vancouver who wants to implement a special vacation home tax there so that people won’t be able to take these houses off the market and leave them empty. Seems like a lot of California could benefit from that as well.

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    • That’s an interesting idea about vacation homes. There are significant issues with housing in this little town. Vacancy rates for rentals are under 2%, and there is quite a housing shortage in general. The house next to me is a vacation home that sits empty nearly all the time. I’ve seen the owners there only three times in the past year, and they spend perhaps one or two nights in the house during each visit.

      Property tax is 1.25% here. I guess the extra .25% is a voter-approved local tax. Still, at these prices 1% adds up to a hefty tax bill.

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        • I see your point. I guess I was spoiled in the Chicago area, where the Cook County tax assessor wasn’t very accurate. There was a convoluted formula for property taxes that had nothing to do with the true market value and was in place until your area was slated for reassessment (about every 3 years). One could always contest the assessment if it seemed really off. My property was always assessed incorrectly, but it was in my favor so I just quietly paid my taxes. (The assessment showed that the house was a single story — wrong! — and had no garage — wrong! — so taxes were much lower than they should have been. I can only think the assessors were incredibly inattentive when it came to looking at my property over the course of the 60 years it had existed and the 13 years that I lived there.)

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  4. We have a roommate now (down from 2 previously!) to help out with the mortgage. Housing prices are pretty bad in the Greater Toronto Area and continue to climb, so I suppose unless it crashes, it’s still a good investment. There are sacrifices to be made having roommates, but they’re much smaller than having to give up the dream home instead! Good luck!!! 🙂

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    • Many of the home shows on US TV are filmed in TO. I’m shocked at how much housing costs. (Especially since I lived there for a couple years in the late ’80s and don’t remember it being so incredibly expensive.) I’ve lived with roommates in my old house in Chicago, but it was a big house and the roomies basically had the run of the second floor and their own bathroom.

      Houses here are tiny. I’m currently living in an 825 sq ft place, even if it is two bedrooms. There’s one bathroom, a small kitchen, a utility/dining area, and a small living room. I can’t imagine sharing this space with anyone I’m not already very intimate with, such as a relative, close friend, or boyfriend.

      The “dream home” was a generous 1400 sq ft, so taking on a stranger as a roomie wasn’t quite as daunting. All the rooms were larger than in this rental house, plus there was a dining room and a breakfast nook. My bid wasn’t accepted, but I figure that it wouldn’t be. I had to try, though.

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      • Yes, and I’m sure with production time, the housing costs you’re seeing are quite a bit lower than they’ve risen to already! We bought the house brand new in 2011 for ~$560k, which everyone told us was absolutely crazy. It’s a detached home, 2 car garage, just a smidge over 2,000 square feet but feels smaller because it’s 2.5 storeys. A very similar home (same builder, slightly different floorplan) with some nice staging and finishes is currently listed for $900!

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