ted & pamela

Posts Tagged ‘buying vs. renting’

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.