Househunting: Stage 1
Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004
Clearly after four or five trips to Los Angeles in the last month (I've lost count), I'm now at a loss for stuff to do in all my free time outside work, and so Rachel and I have started househunting.

Starting nearly three weeks ago when we saw a friend of a friend's offering on a whim, I've now toured the inside of no less than 26 houses in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Fremont and Union City. It's been an incredible learning experience, and it's hard to see a place you love and realize that when you've only seen 3 places you don't yet know the shape of the bell-curve, much less how special this particular house is compared to everything that's out there.

Now that we've seen a larger number, I'm getting more confident in my ability to assess how remarkable a given property is, and we've seen some really great places and a handful of houses you couldn't pay me to live in.

Back when Blacksheep was buying a house, I told her my strategy for apartment hunting (gleaned after 7 moves in 4 years), which is to give yourself at least 4-6 months during which you have no pressure to move, but could at any time, and look at at least a few places a week, until you find the place that you can't live without. Now, as I agonized about submitting an offer on a beautiful house with a huge master bedroom and a wine cellar but no true family room and a lackluster kitchen, she reminded me of my advice and helped me do the right thing and pass on it.

So the hunt continues. I'm getting finances in order, budgeting to make sure of my appropriate range, and working on a loan pre-approval. Rachel's seeing some places today with Ammy's realtor and I'll probably be running out for an hour in the afternoon to see the few she thinks are worthwhile.

Already we've discovered some very important things about Bay Area culture and our own wants and needs. I really cherish being only three miles from work, which is actually too bad because thee are some fantastic places in San Jose that Ammy would love to see us in. After a year in Mountain View, we value the culture of Castro Street and University Avenue, and I'm loath to give those up to live in an ivory tower, or at least a new village. For the same reason, we've learned that Union City isn't the place for us, where the offered homes are uniformly 3-10 years old and laid out more like tents at a crowded campsite, and where a 'community center' is that place with the exercise room and a pool, instead of the street with funky cafes and tapas bars.

So this is a time of stress, but the exhilirating kind. Uncertanty mixed with self-determinism is a heady brew, and I have to be ready to move quickly when the right place comes along, while still climbing high enough on the real-estate learning curve to know I'm making a sound decision.

It's funny how often I find my Game Design professor's words valuable. "Cool ideas are a dime a dozen, but good ideas are worth at least $50 each." In the last few weeks Rachel and I have seen at least three houses that would be 'cool ideas' but the more we look the more I feel like we haven't yet hit upon a property that, for us, would be a 'good idea'.

And so the search goes on!

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