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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

failures and wishes

Another week, another failed attempt at purchasing our own little piece of California. This time we weren't as deep into the process as with the last one, but somehow this one was a little more disappointing. What happened with the original place you ask? The inspection was an epic fail. Water damage all over the place (things that make your inspector say, "I've been doing this 28 years and I've never seen that before" are, shall we say undesirable). Oh and then there was the whole growhouse thing. No they were not currently growing p0t (that might actually have been a plus, extra income for the mortgage perhaps? heh) but there were clear signs that they had been and our inspector said he couldn't promise that they hadn't royally f*cked up the ventilation and/or electrical systems. That was like the cherry on top though, it really wasn't the worst thing by far.

Do we know how to pick 'em or what?

Anyway, Paul and I decided to donate to a couple of orphanages in Haiti after reading about the good work they're doing there and the dire condition many of them are in right now. God's Littlest Angels and For His Glory which runs Maison des Enfants de Dieu.

I've been doing a lot of research on what the adoption process was like for Haiti (prior to the quake, I'm sure there will be changes or that the program will be put on hold entirely for awhile) and was interested, thought not terribly surprised, to discover that the majority of the orphanages in Haiti are run by faith based organizations. There are actually are no government orphanages in Haiti and because of the nature of the orphanages most will only adopt to Christian or Jewish families. The government seems to have fairly strict marriage requirements (minimum ten years although I've read that they will relax that down to five years on a case by case basis) and they seem to generally want older couples (minimum age 35, but again they do make exceptions down to 27-28). This means that if Paul and I truly do feel called to adopt from Haiti we would most likely have to wait a minimum of 1.5 years (that would be the five year mark for our marriage and we would be 29/30 years old).

For me, I think this is something I'm actually really serious about doing. For Paul? I'm not so sure, but unlike a lot of guys he is open to adoption and I think if my first pregnancy is a hard one he will likely be even more open to it (especially if he doesn't get his boy! yes he's old school like that). From my research it's actually a shorter wait for Haitian boys so that would work in our favor!

I have read that Haitian adoptions even before the quake were long, bureaucratic, filled with needless red tape (more so than other international adoptions) and generally very drawn-out, angst-filled and stressful. It does give me pause but at the same time I think if God is calling us to adopt from Haiti He will make it happen. We have time to pray about this and prepare for it if it really is in our future, funny though I'm actually really frustrated that this isn't something we can get working on NOW (the process takes 2-3 YEARS). Of course, that's highly unrealistic considering we don't even meet the bare minimum marriage/age requirements and the earthquake will undoubtedly put adoptions in Haiti on hold for awhile anyway. I'm just impatient, as usual.

I do have reasons beyond just the earthquake for feeling like perhaps I'm being called to adopt specifically from Haiti but I'll save that for a post of it's own...

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wingless was still breathing at 4:20 PM - 0 comments

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

commitment phobe

Well internet, it appears there are no shiny objects in my future. However, a home? A home is looking more and more like a possibility.

I am still in my psycho-control-freak state, pouring over every document, searching the internet for inspectors, obsessing over the fact that the bank will not BOW TO MY WILL and give me all the terms I want despite the fact that we are admittedly getting a great deal on this house...

Holy crap.

A house.


Suddenly everything is framed in terms of how my life will change. No more turning off every single electrical appliance so the circuit breaker doesn't go off when I blow dry my hair (good). No more ridiculously indulgent 80 degree thermostat because no matter how warm we keep it in here we never pay more than $20/mo in electricity bills (bad). Both of us being able to fit in the kitchen at the same time (good)! Having an actual commute to the office (very, very bad).

I'm starting to understand all those men I berate when they know they have an awesome lady but they just can't bring themselves to take that final step and pop the question. I am totally That Guy when it comes to buying a home. Paul on the other hand is already happily imagining the window treatments he is going to buy...role reversal much?

I probably shouldn't do this, what with being in the midst of negotiations to sign my life away, but I'm going to pour myself a glass of wine now.


wingless was still breathing at 6:18 PM - 0 comments

Monday, January 04, 2010

shiny objects

If we don't get this house I am totally buying myself a pair of diamond earrings.

Because, whatever. They are sparkly.

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wingless was still breathing at 9:21 PM - 0 comments

Friday, January 01, 2010

maybe you better sit down for this

If I had been standing, my knees would have gone weak when I read this:

Last year, Oakland’s Ad Valorem rate was 1.33% of the tax value of the property. This year, somehow it magically has risen to 1.41%. If anyone understands how this came to be, I’d be very interested in knowing. I was unaware the electorate had passed a bunch of large new taxes.

Um...Okay...If I was completely terrified before, I'm whatever is one notch above that right now. In my last post I wrote:

Oh yeah, and not that people in my current neighborhood aren't liberal (they are, very) but the new neighborhood appears to be full of those hardcore IN YOUR FACE liberals who also have money and are therefore the absolutely most annoying type of liberal there is.

It looks like not only are they generally annoying, they will have the power to cause my wallet a large amount of pain if we do buy this home.

Read the entire thing if you are remotely interested as the author makes excellent points about resale values and why voters who are homeowners might vote to approve these ridiculous taxes.

As an aside, why is it I've never read this guy's blog before? If nothing else comes of this at least I have a new blog to read.

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wingless was still breathing at 11:21 PM - 0 comments

no goals, but a list nonetheless

Today, on the first day of the new year decade, we spent the afternoon driving around what may be our new neighborhood. In a lot of ways it is the polar opposite of what we have now. Suburbia versus urban living. Cityscape versus wooded mountains. 550sqft versus 3,130sqft.

Yes. Three thousand one hundred and thirty square feet. What the hell are we going to do with that much space? I have no clue. We are bursting the seams of our 550sqft studio right now but needless to say we will be doing a lot of furniture shopping if we do end up getting this place.

And in case you were wondering, yes I am still terrified. I know we have a long way to go since our offer hasn't even been presented yet much less accepted and since this is a REO I'm not taking the inspection as a given...I'm just terrified of committing to owning a home. Maybe it's not a rational fear but apparently I am a commitment-phobe (except when it comes to marriage haha).

I think if we found the absolutely perfect place, a home that involved zero compromises then I'd be fine. After all, that's what I got when I married Paul and I had no butterflies about that. But even in the current market, there's no way we can afford everything we want in the areas we're looking in.


  • minimum 2 bedrooms (city), 3 bedrooms (suburbs)
  • minimum 1.5 baths (city), 2 baths (suburbs)
  • a view is preferred
  • parking (non-leased)
  • usable outdoor space (at least enough for a small grill)
  • excellent schools (if in the suburbs)
  • easy access to a supermarket (in the city this means 1/4 mile or less)
  • no walkups on upper levels
  • cat friendly
  • nice updated kitchen/baths (or priced low enough to allow for remodel)
  • no street noise (we are sick of hearing the garbage truck/street cleaner in the middle of the night!)
  • if in the suburbs, easy access to BART and/or short commute into the city (>30min)

  • And I'm probably forgetting about fifteen other things. Let's just say while Paul and I make comfortable living, especially considering we are relatively young, we do not make enough to realistically afford all of that in the neighborhoods we want (North Beach in the city or a school district that's ranked top 50 in the nation in the suburbs).

    This particular home is in an area we haven't given a thought to in the entire two years we've been looking. My mom started to think outside of the box for nice areas that would cut down our commute time in comparison to the suburb we were focusing on and came across this place. With no traffic it's a 20-25 minute commute to the office, the negative being we would have to cross a bridge. But it is close to a BART station so that is an option as well. It's generally considered a wealthy area but has proven not to be resistant to the recession and housing crisis. This is bad, but also good because it means we can actually afford to live there. This house is still at the bottom of the price range for the area and it's towards the top of our price range.

    It's bigger than we wanted. Since we live in a studio we are actually more comfortable with smaller spaces, ideally we thought we'd get something around 1,500-2,000 sqft and this place is double that. While it's not what we ideally wanted, getting more space is not a deal breaker. The downside (besides all the cleaning!) is we would have TONS of room to entertain but the only guest parking would be on the driveway because of how narrow the streets are. I'm also not sure how I feel about maintaining so much house and the cost of heating it. I'm thinking, I don't feel so good about it.

    The house is on a hillside so we are particularly considered about what the inspection might have to say about the foundation. The roof looks like it might be a bit warped so we are curious about that too. And there is some water damage on the second level (it's tri-level) so that is an area of concern as well. From our untrained eyes the house looks solid (we were actually able to see underneath two of the levels because of how it sits on a slope) but what do we know.

    It has nice views from the top level and the view from the bottom two levels are obstructed by the neighbors trees...if we do buy this place we'll probably have to make nice with them and eventually let slip how much we'd *love* to have a view from our kitchen..hint hint.

    What else should I say about this place...

    Everything in the house is new enough and nice enough that it doesn't have to be remodeled (except the floors because of the aforementioned water damage). Although Paul has ideas about changes he wants to make (because, of course he does) he's admitted he can live with everything for good long while before getting serious about any upgrades. Because of the price point of the home (again assuming a relatively clean inspection report) it's not unreasonable to think we can put quite a bit of money into the house and still not come close to over-improving it which is a huge bonus for us since Paul has the remodel bug.

    The elementary school is excellent, the middle school is acceptable and the high school is, well, awful. At least by our standards. We've been told by people in the area that most people send their kids to private schools. This is not ideal since it can have a major impact on the resale value of a home and we both want our kids to go to the best schools possible. BUT we figure high school is at least fifteen or so years away so maybe it's not that big of a concern. As far as resale goes, it seems like the people who buy in that area don't buy for the school district anyway since we've been told that a lot of them actually bypass the public school system altogether, including the excellent elementary schools.

    I think my major hesitation about this home is that it's not in the city, which is a bit schizophrenic on my part since I know I don't want to raise kids in the city, but also, my kids are only figments of my imagination right now so I'm still feeling a bit selfish about what I want versus what my imaginary kids might need. I like being five minutes away from the office. And I like my neighborhood. Sometimes I just look around and think, wow, I live here and I'm amazed.

    Oh yeah, and not that people in my current neighborhood aren't liberal (they are, very) but the new neighborhood appears to be full of those hardcore IN YOUR FACE liberals who also have money and are therefore the absolutely most annoying type of liberal there is.

    I think when it comes to buying a home, part of my trepidation comes from the fact that I really don't know what I really, really want. Do I want to be in the city or do I want to be in the suburbs? I want the best of both worlds! I want the convenience of the city and the convenience of a suburb and realistically? I am being unrealistic. I know. I think I'll probably end up being happy no matter what happens.

    Or at least I hope so.


    wingless was still breathing at 8:17 PM - 6 comments

    Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    it is and it will be

    This is going to be a quick, hyperventilating post, just before the new year! Paul and I think we've found a home that we love and has almost everything we want and need. Paul is ecstatic and excited to make the offer and I am excited but also completely terrified. If we buy this house then I guess the dream of quitting our jobs to run off to Paris (or fill in the blank sexy European city) is off the table.

    It's just yikes! Am I ready to be a real grown up yet? I'm just a kid. Or am I?

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    wingless was still breathing at 9:58 PM - 0 comments

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    just add it to the list of things i've worried needlessly over this week

    Well, the house near my parents is out - they accepted a higher offer. And I'm perfectly okay with that.


    wingless was still breathing at 3:48 PM - 0 comments

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    like trying to get over an ex-boyfriend you're still secretly in love with

    I think one of the biggest reasons I've been so torn during this round of house hunting is because we've been focusing a lot of our attention on the 'burbs this time. And as much as I don't want to end up raising kids in the city, well I don't have any just yet and I love this city dearly. More than I ever expected I could love a city not named Paris.

    Since we've just made an offer on a great place near my parents home out in Suburbia, I've decided not to focus on things like how when the sky is blue and the sailboats are out in the bay I am still so shocked and amazed by the beauty of this city that after two years I sometimes still can't believe I get to live here. No, I will not focus on that. Instead, I will focus on things I won't miss if our offer does goes through.

    I won't miss being constantly surrounded by people and cars and sirens and noises. I won't miss always being reminded that the world is a harsh and cruel place, reminded so often that you become numb to it all at the end of the day. I think fondly back to my days in T*urlock where people seemed to care about perfect strangers because it was a small enough place where you could care about people you didn't even know. I think being in the city for so long has made me hesitant to reach out when I see someone that may be in need...because in this city you pass someone in need on every block you walk and you start to feel like there is just nothing you can do about all the misery in the world.

    I won't miss the city buses that stop on every block or the pedestrians and bicyclists who don't seem to be aware of the fact that traffic laws apply to them too (and yes, I am just as guilty of this). I won't miss those obnoxious Cri*tical Mass people or the random gatherings of ugly naked men in the street.

    And yet, let's face it. Even with all that, there is so much more I love about this city that it more than makes up for its deficiencies. I'm just not sure if I'm ready to give it up. Ah well, it's in God's hands now.


    wingless was still breathing at 6:55 PM - 0 comments

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    can't we just date for awhile?

    Paul and I have been married for coming up on two years now and we still get comments from friends and strangers alike that go something like, "You married soooooo young!"

    Really, we were twenty-five (me) and twenty-six (him) when we were married which is young-ish sure, but by that time I'd been through three jobs and a master's program and he had been working for nearly three years. I don't know, it just didn't and doesn't feel like we were mind boggling young and I think a lot of those comments are due to the fact that we can pass for much younger than we actually are. Or so I hope.


    Since Paul is now once again gainfully employed and I just mailed in our 2008 taxes - which ended very unpleasantly with me writing good ol' Uncle Sam (and the bankrupted State of California) a nearly $7,000 check - we are looking for tax shelters. Meaning we are doing the crazy homebuyers dance again. It's surprising how off seller's expectations still are from the market - particularly in San Francisco where prices have only just begun to fall making it very difficult to convince these stubborn sellers that the condo they bought in 2007 did NOT appreciate by 10% since then.

    However, we have found a couple places that seem to be worth bidding on and that is why I can now no longer sleep. You see, while marriage didn't seem like a scary commitment to me (a big one, yes, but scary? no) buying a house is freaking terrifying. First of all, by the time Paul and I got married we had dated for almost three full years. That's three years of getting to know each other and making sure that, indeed, this is someone I can see myself building a life with, having kids with and rocking on a porch while shaking our fists at "kids these days" with. Honestly? It was an easy decision and not one that I've had to question or regret since I made it.

    On the other hand...buying a home. I mean, wow. The whole process seems so wrong to me. You're supposed to commit (at least a good chunk of) your life and your wallet to a house that you've probably spent no more than two hours in? And sometimes, when the deal is especially enticing, you have to make that decision in a day or two? I mean, I'm the kind of person who likes to dip a toe in the pool before ever so carefully inching myself in. I am not that person that does a cannon ball into the deep end before even so much as sticking a finger in to test the water.

    And then there's me wondering if I really want to be a responsible homeowner? I like going out to eat at outrageously expensive restaurants once in awhile. I enjoy blowing a hundred bucks on makeup I'll probably never wear at Sephora when the mood strikes. I like being able to take impromptu vacations or offering to pay when going out to eat with friends and family.

    And as much as I don't want my children growing up in the city, am I really ready to leave it behind when we don't even have any yet?

    And what if we want to quit our jobs and go backpacking through Europe for a year? What then??? (Okay, so we are probably not the type to do this, but I would like to be).

    Do I want to own a home? Yes, I think I'd like that. But I'd like to get to know it better first.


    wingless was still breathing at 7:30 AM - 2 comments

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    catching up

    I've been in a bit of a funk lately. Or falling into one maybe. Nothing in particular is going on...just life in all its hectic glory.

    I don't know why I haven't felt like writing about any of it and so most of it has gone by without much of a mention here. For example, Paul and I almost bought a condo (twice actually!) but alas the only "housing crisis" in our neighborhood is that there apparently isn't enough of it. I'm pretty much okay with not being a homeowner right now because a) there is still so much uncertainty in the financial markets, who knows if our jobs are even as safe as we think? and b) being a half million dollars (plus) in debt frightens the hell out of me.

    There's also been a series of random events at work which have started me thinking about my Career. And the Future. I do like my job and it's definitely kept me interested longer than any other job has in the past, but I can feel myself starting to hit a wall. At the end of the day it's still mainly an operations position and I know that it's only a matter of time before I start wanting more. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm getting there. Contentment is so fleeting, it sucks.

    So I guess I'm going to have to figure it all out soon...do I want to go to b-school? Find a new job? Do I have a decent shot at moving up into sales eventually if I stay? I'll be taking my licensing exam soon and I plan on having a casual chat with the managing director about all this shortly after...IF I can muster up the courage. I know that no matter how it goes my own self-doubt will make me torture myself by going over the conversation over and over and over again until my brain explodes and/or I'm breathing into a bag.

    You know, I feel really lied to. When I was little, adults always made it sound like as long as you got into a good college, the rest would pretty much just map itself out. Then you get out of college and realize that it never ends...you're always wondering what the next step is.

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    wingless was still breathing at 3:21 PM - 0 comments

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    a lot but not (nearly) enough

    The other day I was going through our junk mail and AmEx had sent Paul one of those sweepstake entry form thingys. Being the cynical fellow that he is, Paul's first reaction was "shred it."

    I, being the hopeful optimist that I am, said, why not just give it a shot? It's a million dollars after all.

    This of course led to a discussion of what sort of dream home we would buy if we won - it was only a brief discussion because we quickly realized that a million dollars is really only $500,000 after Uncle Sam takes his share and that, that will not buy one's dream home in SF.

    Unless, of course, one's dream home is a 500sqft one bedroom condo with a great view of the building next door. And maybe a parking spot - if you're lucky.

    What housing market crash? Not here in SF anyway.

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    wingless was still breathing at 3:25 PM - 0 comments

    Saturday, March 01, 2008

    signs of life

    A lot of people who knew me in college might be surprised at how largely uninvolved I am in politics nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I can still deliver a pretty impassioned argument when the situation calls for it, but for the most part I just don't have the energy to keep up and care so damn much anymore.

    My excuse is that life has gotten in the way. And I'm not trying to say that I'm sooo busy these days - I'm well aware that there are mothers balancing demanding jobs who still find the time to stay up-to-date on current events and blog regularly - I'm just saying I'm a lot busier than I've ever been before and it's taking some adjusting. For the first time in my life I'm juggling several different things and for the most part don't have the option to blow off any of those things for a day or two or maybe a week if I feel like it. (Ahh college, how I miss you.)

    I miss sitting. And staring. I miss doing nothing. So usually if I'm not at work and not doing something related to trying to make an offer on a condo we're interested in, then I opt to just sit and do something mindless like read about what fast-food excursions Britney Spears took that day or watch some basketball.

    BUT! I think I am finally turning a corner. We've been at this house thing for over four months now and I feel like I have a much better feeling for the market we're looking in and the market as a whole (lucky for me I can get a good feeling for that at work). And I am also getting accustomed to not having the option of just staying home if I don't feel like going. Personal responsibility is a part of growing up, who knew? (You certainly wouldn't know it growing up here with the hippies who passed for "teachers.")

    I also have to admit that Barack Obama is making things interesting for me again. Not because he "inspires" me or makes me less cynical or anything remotely like that. He interests me mainly because I think he has a real shot at becoming the next president of this country and I disagree so strongly with him on pretty much everything. I also don't believe he is as "above it" as most people believe. He is just smarter than most politicians, this makes him a better politician, not a saint.

    For example:

    McCain criticized Obama for saying in Tuesday night's Democratic debate that, after U.S. troops were withdrawn, as president he would act "if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq."

    "I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. It's called `al Qaeda in Iraq,'" McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas, drawing laughter at Obama's expense. He said Obama's statement was "pretty remarkable."

    Obama quickly answered back while campaigning in Ohio. "I do know that al Qaeda is in Iraq and that's why I have said we should continue to strike al Qaeda targets," he told a rally at Ohio State University in Columbus.

    I'm not sure what Obama is suggesting here? That we pull out except for "strikes at al Qaeada targets"??? What does that mean? Air strikes? Except that probably means more innocent civilians wind up as collateral damage. Can someone please explain what his plan here is?

    "But I have some news for John McCain," Obama added. "There was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq. ... They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11 and that would be al Qaeda in Afghanistan, that is stronger now than at any time since 2001."

    Ah, now this is where Obama's political prowess (at least in today's sound-bite media) is revealed. As I pointed out above Obama's position on Iraq and al Qaeada makes no sense whatsoever. But here he has managed to deflect away from that by reminding people that they are mad at Bush for going to war in the first place. Continue being angry about the past and forget actually trying to do something constructive with what we are presently faced with. This is like how some liberals always bring up "the Indians/Native Americans" when you ask them to give you an example of how the United States is eeeeevillllll.

    Obama said he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq "so we actually start going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the hills of Pakistan like we should have been doing in the first place."

    This is kind of a tangent, but doesn't this statement pretty much kill the less-than-well-thought-out idea that Obama's social spending can be paid for by withdrawing from Iraq? Clearly, and to my relief, Obama isn't planning on just disbanding the portion of our military that is currently serving in Iraq.

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    wingless was still breathing at 11:18 PM - 0 comments

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    Happy New Year!

    I've just come to the realization that I am nowhere near as excited as Paul is about the condo we've put an offer out for. I would be TOTALLY excited about it if I knew in my gut that we really were getting it at a steal. I think we're getting it at some sort of discount but I'm nowhere near the certainty I would like to have before making this kind of commitment. I gotta say, so far, this has been much scarier than getting married.

    Speaking of marriage, I think it's the reason I just realized I am not totally on board with this condo-purchasing-endeavor. Because, you see, my husband? He is so excited at the prospect of owning! His! Own! Place! Which he can UPGRADE! (Thus making the place even more ridiculously expensive than it already is!) And when he gets all excited like that I get confused and think I'm all excited too. Because he's just so darn adorable when he's into a project like that. And then we spend an entire five days of vacation scouring the net for the perfect faucet before I go to work and am actually away from him for several hours in a row and realize, you know what? I don't know about all this. Isn't it happening kind of quickly? Don't we want to think it through a little more?

    But at the same time, what if this IS a great deal and by the time I'm done thinking the opportunity is gone?


    What a way to start the new year.


    wingless was still breathing at 3:46 PM - 0 comments

    Sunday, December 30, 2007

    it's out

    Well it's official. We've made our first offer. And received our first counter-offer. And to be honest my stomach is still turning at the thought of how much money 586 square feet really costs in this city. According to Zillow it's actually worth more than 84% of homes in the US. There is just something so wrong about that. And yet we're serious about the possibility of owning it.


    At least we had the presence of mind to stay out of the market in the first half of the year when things were really at their peaks. We have a sneaking suspicion that this is the extent of the "downturn" that will be felt in North Beach (unless the economy gets to a point where people start losing jobs) - the downturn here being that there are literally only three properties on the market right now that are remotely in our price range. I'm pretty sure that people try to hang onto North Beach property if they can because at the very least you can always rent it out at exorbitant rates.


    We are off to EXPO today. Probably not a good idea since we are trying to adopt an "I don't care if we get this place or not" attitude...but oh well, because you know what? Our apartment right now really is better located and laid out. The only problem is that we don't own it. So meh.


    wingless was still breathing at 9:19 AM - 0 comments

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