In the past few weekends, we have visited a few open houses, just to get an idea of what the real estate market here offers. This is a somewhat masochistic endeavor, as beautifully staged homes are harder to criticize than lived in homes. The whole theory behind staging is to make homes even appealing to prospective buyers, and potentially illicit a purchase. However, our theory was that our many years of buying and selling real estate would provide us with the needed clinical detachment.
First, we saw a 1000 square foot 2 bed/1 bath Craftsman home in the very desirable Willow Glen neighborhood. Willow Glen is a very trendy, tree covered area within walking distance of everything you could need, like groceries, pharmacies, and restaurants. Love, love, loved this house. Luckily, I brought Mr. Sensible with me. While I spent my time looking at the beautiful original woodwork, and the lovely original hardwood floors, he was mentally measuring kitchen counter space, bedroom sizes. While I gazed adoringly at the large old trees shading the house and porch, he counted out steps to approximate measure the sizes of the garage, noting that there was no regular door into that building, only the large car access door. The agent told us that they were holding off on offers, until the following Wednesday.
Since we knew at the outset that we were not ready to start the actual purchase process, we took the proffered flyer and headed out. I was a bit numb from the experience. Even though I felt that the asking price was a bit higher than market rates, I was sure that the home would sell over asking price on Wednesday, since it seemed to be getting a fair bit of traffic. Much to my surprise, it was still on MLS later in the week, and had another open house today.
This weekend we visited two other open houses. They were both 2 bed 1 bath bungalows of a similar size. They were very nice, well staged, and with little to criticize. Of course, my dear hubby was still able to find things that weren’t completely to his liking. In the first one, he felt the backyard was too small, among other things. The yard was typical for the neighborhood, but I admit that the tall dark fence was a bit imposing.
The second home was in my favorite area of Santa Clara, known as The Quad. It is so named because it is the original down town area of old Santa Clara, and the neighboring homes are equally old. Some of them have even obtained historical status, which places a lot of restrictions on the owners, but gives them a significant reduction in property taxes as well! The home we were looking at is not one of the historical ones, but still had a lot of the quaint features of the day. I absolutely loved this little house, but once again, it fell short in his estimation. His main complaint was that there was a very busy road, one street away. The fact that it was walking distance from a plaza that I frequent quite a bit was a huge plus for me, but not for him!
Today was a usual Sunday, one in which we do our week’s worth of cleaning, and household maintenance. While we were slogging through our usual cleaning and tidying chores, we discussed our rent vs buy conundrum. The list prices of the three homes we have visited, in order of visit, are $840,000, $750,000 and $688,000.
Obviously, buying a home would mean taking on a mortgage that is bigger than we have ever had. Having a big, fat mortgage here has a serious advantage that we never had in Canada: mortgage payments here are directly deductible from income. Even so, the sheer size of the beast scares me!
We are currently paying $3750 per month in rent for our 3 bed 2 bath 1400 square foot bungalow, that is in virtually original condition from when it was built. That means old carpet, ceramic tile kitchen counters that are so commonplace down here, and old inefficient bath fixtures. We get terribly frustrated with a lot of these old relics, and commiserate with each other by saying “at least its not permanent!”, implying that we’ll buy a home someday. What we really need to do is arrange to meet up with our bank’s mortgage specialist, and crank some numbers. That could either encourage, or discourage, our ideas