ted & pamela

Archive for August 2009

Home hunting, part 2

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

On Friday, August 7, right in the middle of my workday, our agent (and Pamela’s uncle) Don called to tell us that one of the townhomes we really liked had an offer that the seller was going to look at that day, and that if we wanted to place a competing offer, we had to let him know within two hours.  Naturally, I freaked out.

Although Pamela and I both liked this home and had been considering making an offer on it for some time, we were hoping to leisurely look at homes until we were really, REALLY sure that this was the best place for us.  I called Pamela and asked her to come to Google that afternoon so that we could discuss whether we wanted to make an offer.  I also called my parents, but my Dad told me that he would be fine with my decision either way and that I should decide for myself, and my Mom wasn’t home.

Pamela drove over, and we talked.  We went over our finances to make sure we could afford it, then talked for as long as we could about whether this was the place we really wanted.  We never really came to a conclusion — we both liked the place a lot, but neither of us could shake the lingering doubt that there might be an ever better, cheaper place somewhere out there.  All too soon, our time was up.  We called Don and told him that we wanted to place an offer, and worked out the logistics of getting all of the papers signed.

The seller’s agent was a nice lady named Trish, who we had talked to a few times when we visited the home.  (We visited the home on three different days.)  On Sunday, Trish let us know that our offer would probably win, and we negotiated the terms of the final offer.  There was a lot of back-and-forth with emails.  Basically, for each document that was part of the contract:

  1. Don or Trish would email out the document as a PDF
  2. Pamela and I would go through it with Don to make sure we understood it
  3. I would initial or sign every page, sometimes multiple times on a single page
  4. I would scan and email it back to myself (yay for fancy office printer/copier/scanner machines!)
  5. I would email it to everyone else.
  6. Repeat for each person whose name/signature needed to be on the contract.

Needless to say, it was quite a process.

At the same time, Pamela and I worked with Don and Trish to get some home inspectors into the house.  We had to prod Don a few times to get things moving, but by Wednesday we had a general inspector and a hazardous materials inspector lined up for the next day.  Basically, the general inspector has a huge checklist of things to look at in the interior and exterior of the house, and produces a report about what’s okay, what should be fixed, and what needs to be inspected by a specialist.  We brought the hazardous materials inspector in to check for the presence of asbestos and lead paint, primarily so that if/when we remodel, we know what needs to be treated particularly carefully.  We also considered having the inspector test for radon, but after doing some research, I found that it should be pretty easy to do this particular test ourselves.

We’re still waiting for the formal report from the general inspector, but his verbal comments that day indicated that he thought that there wasn’t anything we should be really worried about.  (i.e. nothing that can’t be fixed or will require ripping apart the place to fix.)  We should get the results for the asbestos and lead inspections by the middle of next week.

In the meantime, I need to get all of my money together and lock down a loan rate so that I know how much this place will actually be costing me…

Home hunting, part 1

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

We made an offer on a home today.  That’s the end of the story so far, but I should probably start at the beginning.

For the last month or so, Pamela and I have been going out once or twice a week to look at homes.  I needed to find a place to live, since my household is disbanding in September: one of my roommates is getting married, one is looking for a home, and one is moving to Los Angeles.  Pamela and I decided that this would be a good time to figure out where we would live after getting married.

We didn’t really know what we were looking for at first, and actually, we didn’t even know whether it was a good idea for us to buy a home.  We’d both lived our entire adult lives in small houses or apartments shared with multiple people, and we had no idea what we would do with an entire house to ourselves.  We started, as expected, by looking online for help.  We found the New York Times article on the cost of buying versus renting, CNN’s article on buying a home, and lots of other resources.  Of course, we had also heard that this was a great time to be buying a home, since home prices had fallen quite a bit after the real estate bubble burst and interest rates were at historic lows.  After all this research, we still didn’t know whether we should be buying a home, but we decided that we should at least consider it.

We went to a bunch of open houses to scope out some neighborhoods and took notes on what we liked and didn’t like about each home.  It was a bit overwhelming; the only parameter we really started with was that we wanted the home to be between our workplaces.  There were literally hundreds of homes in our price range that matched these parameters.

The first weekend, we started off by looking in Cupertino, since it is basically at the intersection of highways 85 and 280, right between our workplaces.  From there, we branched out to Los Altos to the north and Saratoga to the south over following weeks, and then to Mountain View and Los Gatos.  We never really looked in Sunnyvale; we had the notion that Sunnyvale was sort of a bland, nondescript city in the middle of the valley with nothing to recommend it but lower home prices than its surrounding cities.  Same goes for Campbell, except that at least Campbell has Dance Spectrum.  =D

We quickly learned more about what we liked and disliked.  Luckily, in most cases our preferences were similar.  We both liked places with lots of natural light, open floor plans, and quiet, shady neighborhoods.  I had a thing for cathedral ceilings, Pamela for secluded backyards and deer.  We both disliked communities where all of the houses looked the same, and homes where the whole of your outdoor view consisted of your neighbor’s window and nearby buildings.  Also, after living in a house 500 feet from the highway, constant traffic noise was an absolute showstopper for me.

Even though we did some research on every home we considered, we found that it was hard to predict how much we’d like a home before seeing it.  Some homes had great online photos and descriptions, but looked so bad in person that we didn’t bother walking in.  At other homes, we wondered how the home owner managed to take such bad pictures of a good property.  Most of the places we looked at landed somewhere in the middle:  generic homes neither wonderful nor horrible.  Oftentimes we’d see homes that were wonderful in some ways, and fatally-flawed in others.  For example, one home looked pretty nice… until you saw that it was directly underneath a electrical tower.  Not one of those little utility poles that provide power to nearby homes, but a full-blown tower.

As of last Friday, we had looked at ~32 homes.  That’s when circumstances forced us to make a decision.

Updated WordPress

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

I just updated to WordPress version 2.8.4. The process wasn’t as simple as I had hoped.  I had to backup a bunch of files and directories that I wanted to keep, unzip the new version, overwrite my WordPress installation directory with files from the new version, then copy the backed-up files back into the installation directory.  After that, WordPress ran a database update script.  Took me… 30 min. or so.  At least everything seems to be working still.

Please let me know if anything on this site looks or behaves strangely.

Not dead

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

We’ve been meaning to blog about our plethora of activities, including our roadtrip, wedding planning, and home-buying adventures every day for about the last month, but we just… never… seem to find the time.

Well, it’s now 3am and I should be sleeping, but instead I’m going to try to write some short updates.

Roadtrip: we took a two-week roadtrip from Las Vegas through the Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches, Salt Lake City, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and back to Salt Lake City.  Along the way, we managed to take upwards of 4k pictures.  We’ve gone through maybe…. 1500 of them so far.

Wedding planning: we’ve been talking to a priest at St. Thomas Aquinus Parish in Palo Alto, and we’re working through the process to get a dispensation to marry outside of a church building.  The priest, Father Thierry, has been really helpful, and we’re happy to be making progress toward our wedding plans.

Home-buying adventures:  over the last four weeks, we’ve looked at ~26 homes in Los Altos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Saratoga, and Los Gatos.  It’s exhausting.  Every weekend we go to see homes, and during the week we scout out places we want to see next.  Oh wait, you didn’t know that we were looking at homes, did you?  That’ll have to be a story for another time.  🙂