The Hunt for the House

Posted by in The House

We thought we had a wishlist that wouldn’t be possible:

  • House, not a condo or tenancy in common
  • Nice neighborhood (were looking in Berkeley, North Oakland, Albany and Alameda)
  • Yard, bigger and sunnier the better
  • Over 1,000 sq ft
  • Walkable, close to transit and a grocery store
  • 2-bedrooms or more, or 1-bedroom with bonus space (for an office and guestroom)
  • Commute to SF downtown < hour
  • Vintage home, pre-1950’s, preferably 20’s or older
  • Income-generating potential: mother-in-law-unit
  • Cosmetic fixer, so that we can afford the house and the renos, nothing major…

We saw very small homes in nice neighborhoods, somewhat nice bigger homes in horrible neighborhoods, and horrible condition homes in great neighborhoods and everything in between. We waxed and waned over the location – I wanted Alameda first, then Berkeley, Sami wanted Oakland first, then Alameda, and we both didn’t really like Albany or El Cerrito.


Our Redfin agent was Tom. He was a great guy. Since we were property virgins, I think he offered us some good advice, but wasn’t pushy at all. I liked Redfin, especially for us, since we didn’t really know any exact parameters, so would have been difficult for anyone else to recommend stuff to us. Tom did learn to know us during the process, and was usually right when he told us “you won’t like it” or “I think you’ll like this one”.

It’s crushing to see a home that’s listed in your price range, and seeing it would need hundreds of thousands of renovations. Or one that looked really good in pictures, and doesn’t need a lot of renovations, but is just too small. We ended up almost bidding on a few homes: the very first place we saw in Alameda, but got sticker shock, a nice condition home in Berkeley, which we decided minutes before sending in the offer that we actually didn’t love quite enough – and finally, the one I shed tears for missing out on: a blue craftsman home in Alameda, that had an enormous yard and a great layout.

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In hindsight, happy that we didn’t act on any of those.


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We actually saw our place the first time Saturday September 21 of last year. It was quirky to say the least, but we both really loved it. Especially in contrast with the others we saw on that tour: a home in Oakland that looked like there had been a fire inside, it didn’t have any windows, just plywood, and it smelled horrid. We also saw a place that was a commercial space with an apartment upstairs. We were seriously considering it, it was in our price range, and the commercial space could have become a coworking space / rentable office space for income. But the catch was that they wanted people to make an offer before you could even see the apartment…. it was just too weird. 

But we really liked this house. So we started putting together an offer. It was a short sale, meaning that the prior owner wasn’t able to pay the mortgage no more, so the bank sold it for less than what was owed on the mortgage. We were excited and ready to pounce.

And then it went pending on September 23, the following Monday. Drat. After that it wen’t off market. We didn’t know why, or couldn’t find out what had happened, so assumed it was gone. Saddened, we continued our search.

Some good ones, some bad ones, few we almost offered on.

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Then on November 8, it came back!
The very next day, there was an Open House. We had friends in town, Sami was out of town, so I went to see this and another place, both in Alameda, with my friends Pasi and Maija. We saw the other place first – it smelled of cigarrettes, and was like a fun house, was so crooked. Everything had been sprayed over with thick, white paint, and I mean everything – walls, ceilings, floors, trim, fireplace – probably to cover up the smell and dirt. We got a good laugh out of that one.

And then we went to see the other one. I guided them through the house, and we ended up spending a long time there, going through everything, planning. knocking on walls, dreaming big. We were excited. They liked it, I was in love by now.

Went through our set of photos with Sami, and showed a video I took. We still thought it a great idea.
So the following week, we started to figure out an offer.

And the rest is history! This was the only house we submitted an offer. And we got it.

The process from the offer to actually owning the place took months and was not a fun story. At some point people were telling us to sue someone… it wen’t that well. We were lucky that we got the first place we offered on, you hear horror stories of losing a house to Chinese investors buying all cash 300k over asking. our horror story started later.

But that’s a whole other story!

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Ainiin, ja suomeksi:

Me haluttiin historiallinen talo, jossa olisi piha, vähintään kaksi makkaria (tai ainakin sata neliöö), kivalta alueelta kävelyetäisyydellä palveluihin, ja mielellään vielä sellainen, jossa olisi toinen asunto, jonka laittaa vuokralle. Lisäksi toiveissa oli se, ettei se vaatisi ihan hulluna remppaa. Se tuntui aika mahdottomalta yhtälöltä, mutta kyllä me se lopuksi saatiin, joskin piha on pieni, ja remppaa on enemmän kuin tarpeeksi. Mutta niin on tilaa ja  charmia ja vuokrakämppäkin.

Nähtiin paljon kaikenlaista, homeisia taloja, ikkunattomia taloja, tosi halvalla listattuja mutta lopulta kalliita taloja, liian pieniä taloja ja huonolla alueella olevia taloja. Muutamasta melkein tarjottiin. Täällä ostellaan miljoonataloja käteisellä, joten meidän budjetti oli täkäläisittäin tiukka.

Tämä nähtiin ekan kerran syyskuussa lauantaina, meinattiin tarjota seuraavana maanantaina, mutta se oli jo mennyt. Ja sitten se katosi markkinoilta. Kunnes se tuli takaisin!

Mää kävin kavereiden (moi Pasi ja Maija!) katsomassa sitä uusiksi, kun Sami ei päässyt mukaan. Se oli edelleen ihana.

Sitten siitä tarjottiin, ja muutama kuukausi myöhemmin se oli meidän.

Ostoprosessista ja lainasta sitten myöhemmin. Vieläkin vähän ahdistaa sen ajatteleminenkin, se oli melkoinen farssi. Mutta loppu hyvin, kaikki hyvin!