Category Archive 'Housing'

Still flummoxed by the Bay Area housing market

Housing, Personal finance

I wrote in the Bay Area. Believe it or not, we’re still looking, casually I suppose, and have come near to bidding on two or three houses since then, but not close enough to pull the trigger. The one thing that’s changed is that we’ve narrowed down our needs to being in a “good school district” since our son has been attending speech therapy, and the therapist has advised that we live in a school district with good support in this area in case he would need to continue using these services in school.

Up until now, we were considering semi-fixer-uppers. A few weeks ago, we looked at this house, a trust sale, and even though we were fairly convinced we could probably get it for under $925K asking, after having some contractors take a look, they came out with estimates that were far from figures we were comfortable with. Our thought was that with some add’l money, we might be able to make it look somewhat like the since it has the exact same floor plan (this house sold for $1.27M, another outlier in our opinion). Then we got the estimates:

  1. $120K to remodel the kitchen (keep in mind this is a 1920s house, so small kitchen)
  2. $75K to redo the basement
  3. $60K to put in a bathroom
  4. $100K if we wanted to tilt the roof to make it not a flat-top house

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$8K First time home buyers’ credit extended

Housing, Personal finance

Seems the ever popular that offers qualified first-time home buyer an $8K tax credit was expanded and extended earlier in November.

Now, rather than expiring at the end of December 2009, it’s been extended into the first half of 2010 (purchase agreements have to be signed by April 30th and closings final by June 30, 2010), offers up to $6.5K to qualified repeat home buyers, and increases the income cap limit to receive the full amount of the tax credit to $125K for single filers and $225K for joint filers. You can also receive partial credit for up to $145K and $245K, respectively.

While this is good news for us (something is better than nothing), it unfortunately isn’t a significant enough event for us to find a place any faster. Even with the full $8K credit, that’s < 1% of the house prices we've been seeing listed in the area, and it might just cover what I estimate will be our closing costs. Wow, that's sobering. We're continuing our house hunt but simply finding much less inventory now that it's December (read: winter, or maybe "not summer"). Our current lease is up in March, so we'll have to see whether we find something by then, choose to renew the rental on our tiny house for another year (our landlord is not open to month-to-month leases), or opt for renting some other place. The good thing is that after seeing so many houses, I've got a much better sense of the housing market on the Peninsula, so hopefully the next time we find a place we like, we'll be ready and won't get cold feet again!

It’s a big jump from real estate theory to real estate practice…especially in the Bay Area

Housing, Personal finance

Last week, we made our first actual bid on a house, and boy, was it a roller-coaster ride. Up until then, we had been browsing and MLS listings, looking at open houses in the area and not really seeing anything we liked or that was remotely within our price range.

Then we happened across a house in a neighborhood we hadn’t been considering. It was as close to what we were ideally looking for as we had seen, and it didn’t need any obvious changes or upgrades. Believe it or not, that’s rare on the . For readers who are unfamiliar with Bay Area housing, you just have to trust me on this one. It’s been a shock to understand just what sort of housing inventory and pricing there is around here, even in a “down economy”.

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Using Excel’s built-in amortization table

Excel function tutorials, Housing

Thanks to our nascent house hunt, I’ve been trying to back into figures on mortgages and monthly payments. Luckily, Excel has a handy just perfectly suited for this purpose.

Here’s how you get to the template in Excel 2007 (which according to my recent poll is the version most readers use, if only by a hair).

In Excel 2007, go to the “menu” button (the goofy-looking windows symbol in a circle) in the upper left-hand corner. Click on “New”. This will bring up the following window:

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Still suffering from Bay Area housing price sticker shock


A fixer-upper in Burlingame, CA priced at $1.1M

According to its description, 'needs work...but great value!' in Burlingame, CA, priced at $1.05M

We’re a few weeks into seriously starting to look at the Bay Area housing market (as in actually going to open houses and going on trips with our real estate agent to get to know neighborhoods).

Although we’re starting to get a bit more accustomed to prices of houses in the area, I still can’t get my head around the idea that a basic 3bd/2ba house will likely cost nearly $1M. These are houses that would run in the low hundred thousands anywhere else, let alone in Tennessee, where I spent most of my childhood.

We’re basically looking for a solid house that will retain (or possibly even appreciate) in value over time and that doesn’t involve an unreasonable commute time to my work; nothing fancy, and we don’t even care if it’s new, although not having to cross the Bay every day would be nice.

Here’s what I’ve been able to pick up so far from our trips:
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