Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I must admit I am hesitant to write about the house before escrow actually closes (that whole chickens before they hatch thing...) but I suppose I can throw just a bit of caution to wind as we received good news today on the paperwork front with respect the arduous escrow process. (Long story short, the unit we are buying is in the process of becoming a condo... And oh what a process it is! It is currently one third of a three unit building... which is NOT the same as being a one CONDO in a three unit building (as far as the city is concerned)... even though it has it's own front door and walls and address and gas meter and everything... it looks, and smells, and acts like a condo... but make no mistake, it is not a condo... yet. First we must jump through many many many paperwork hoops, and then must we smile really big, and ask the city REALLY REALLY nicely, and even go as far as to pay all of NEXT YEAR'S property taxes up front... and THEN, if we're lucky, the city of San Francisco will graciously bestow upon our unit the miraculous name of condo. At which point in time we can FINALLY get a mortgage loan. Ugh. And don't even get me started on the fact that, long before Kyle and I made an offer on this place, the current owners had to win a lottery just for the mere pleasure of applying and paying for the necessary permits in order to ATTEMPT to become a condo. Gahhhhh!)

Little know fact: The condo conversion process, in total, takes about 2 years... that is after you've won the condo-lottery, which can easily take 7 - 10 years... in those 2 years most people age about 15. It's true.

So anyway... we heard good news today that the Mr. Head Honcho at the title company was "issuing the Title Company Guarantee of the Condo Map today"... which is really just confusing jargon to me... but my real estate lawyer tells me it's good news and we are now mere days away from being a condo. (I think) Hooray! So escrow might actually close in my lifetime.

So anyway - that's the ugly back story. Now for the fun part. House details!!!!!

Assuming all continues to go well, Kyle and I will (eventually) be the proud owners of a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom middle floor condo in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood of San Francisco. (Eeeeee!) The building was built in 1906 - which means it's dripping with, ummm, we'll call it character. It even has the original (made in 1904 - stamped right on the bottom!) claw foot bathtub... which p.s. we will NOT be keeping, b/c I hate claw foot tubs. Sorry. (Although it does weigh 400 pounds, so I understand the previous owners' lack of enthusiasm for moving it.) The place is about 1220 sq. ft - which sounds big (to me) but really isn't once you start trying to find room for all your crap (for instance, the piano from my dad's house - ugh, where on earth am I gonna put that thing - I REALLY wish I had just played the flute as a child.) But anyway... there's a WONDERFUL yard (I think this was the biggest selling point for us) out back with some grass, and a plum tree, and a lemon tree, and a whole garden growing everything from herbs, to strawberries, to corn, to tomatoes, to peppers. I swear, Kyle is chomping at the bit to just get out there and get his hands dirty. It's so cute. :) So yeah, the yard rules and sorta makes up for the fact that the building doesn't have a garage (although it DOES have quite a bit of storage in the basement - which was a big requirement for me... because, well, have I mentioned all my CRAP??) The place also needs a new roof, which is annoying, but at least we get to split the cost between all three owners. And the unit itself desperately needs a good scrubbing and an interior paint job and we'll definitely be ripping up the hideous blue carpet that is currently covering up the original hardwood floors. (Hardwood floors - eeeee!!!)

So yeah - it'll be a bit of project house, but the projects seem manageable (I hope!) and the neighborhood is AMAZING and it was in our price range. We're pretty excited.

See the two windows in the middle here? Those will be ours. :)

And now some Q and A's, because I know you want to know.

1. How long have we been looking for a house?
Seriously looking? Since January. And by seriously looking I mean that during the past 5+ months, we've maybe missed 3 open house Sundays. We even saw places on Easter. EVERY Sunday morning we'd get up and pull together all the open house addresses we found during the week and we'd then diligently map out our route (some weekends we had as many as 10 places to see in 3 hours! Proper route planning was key.) Then we'd eat breakfast, get coffee, and be on our way for the rest of the afternoon to check the prospective places out.

2. Did we work with a real estate agent to find places we liked?
No. 99.9% of all real estate agents bug me. And between and and my constant vigilance in watching for new For Sale signs in neighborhoods I liked, there really wasn't much information that a realtor could provide me that I couldn't get on my own. Plus they bug me. (Did I mention that?)

3. Is this the only offer we put in?
No. This house was the fourth place we liked enough to consider putting in an offer on. The first place was an amazing (and HUGE!!!) 2 unit building that we wanted to buy with another couple. I loved that place... but it really wasn't in our price range, and the building hadn't been split into condos yet - so financing would have been a pain in the butt. We (us and the other couple) put in an offer but we were out bid by a whopping $200,000. (Yes we were outbid by the cost of a WHOLE HOUSE in most parts of the country.) Defeat. The second place was a upper unit in a two unit building (also not yet a condo, but more reasonably priced.) The neighborhood was great but the floorplan was pretty disfunctional. We decided that we could knock down some walls and make it work and we actually had our offer accepted! Wheee!! But then we tried to get financing and the downstairs owners didn't have enough equity to convince the bank to refinance the loan (see - this is the problem when a place isn't a condo - you can't get individual loans for each unit. Instead you have to get a loan for the WHOLE building - which can sometimes be impossible.) So then we found place number three... place number three will live on forever in my heart as the one that got away. I LOVE LOVE LOVED place number three. HUGE (1600 sq ft), a CONDO!, AMAZING floorplan, garage, storage, yard, huge kitchen, beautiful hardwood floors and gorgeous wood trim throughout. I was instantly in love. Unfortunately so were 7 other people. We offered $21K ABOVE asking and were still outbid. (Probably by quite a bit.) Ugh. And then we found place number four and here we are. :)

4. Did we put offers in on places without a real estate agent???
We tried all sorts of different stuff. For place #1, we found an agent (after we found the place), and wrote an offer the old fashioned way. What's crazy is that she would have gotten the entire Buyer's agent commission for about a day and a half of work. (I am in the WRONG business!) For place #2, we decided to try using the listing agent on the condition that he kick back $5000 to us to help cover closing costs (which seemed fair since he'd be making double commision because he was acting as both the selling and listing agent.) For place #3, we used a redfin agent - which has the huge advantages of a.) the agents don't pester you by trying to find you a place to live and b.) to compensate for not pestering you, they give you HALF of their commision when the deal closes. AWESOME!!! For place #4, we decided to go it alone - I wrote the whole offer contract myself (it's NOT rocket science, in fact it's mostly just fill in the blanks!) We decided not to use an agent (not use even a redfin agent, even though we love them!) because we knew that there were other offers on the table for the place we wanted. And if we didn't have an agent, then the sellers wouldn't have to pay our agent - which meant they got to keep more money for themselves, which made our offer stronger without us having to actually offer more money. Plus, did I mention that it is NOT rocket science??

5. When will escrow close?
I have no freakin clue. Maybe 4 weeks? 6 weeks?? It all hangs on the place officially converting to a condo and then us getting financing for said condo. Booo.

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