Saturday, August 29, 2009

We Got Yer Houses Right Here

We got underway on the Great House Hunt the first weekend in August. F. signed us up for MLS (Multiple Listing Service - a real estate database) updates for El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany and Kensington. Emails starting popping up daily, and I resisted the urge to open them immediately - this househunting thing could not turn into an obsession.

Which of course it did, almost immediately. I scoured through the listings, bought the Sunday paper and scribbled the list of the six open houses we needed to see that day. I'd done the online application for preapproval of a mortgage, and we were waiting for the results, but hoped to find something for $400K or under.

The first stops that weekend were very local. One house was just half a block away from our rental house. Just over 700 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bath, it felt like a mobile home (and not a double-wide), with a postage stamp of green lawn in front and behind. $375K asking price. Note to self: we need more than 700 square feet.

The second house was a whole block in the opposite direction, sitting in the point of a Y intersection. The house itself was in good shape, about 1200 square feet, but the yard was tiny, and chopped into three sections with funky fences. They were asking $499K, but perhaps we could negotiate them down. Another note: we kinda want some yard for our little dogs.

Two more in Albany, both ridiculously small and ridiculously overpriced for two bedrooms and about 800 square feet. $455K and $475K, respectively. One had a small lean-to against the house, just outside the kitchen door. Out of curiosity, I lifted the lid. A washing machine sat inside. A side door on the lean-to opened to the dryer. I tried to imagine standing outside in the rain, doing laundry. We moved on.

One in Berkeley was beautiful, just off San Pablo Park. The owner was an architect, and had done a great job opening the galley kitchen and adding storage - beautiful new kitchen and bath. I'd misread the price, though. $539K. The Husband was inconsolable, as he thought this the perfect house. I should have read the warning signs - he liked a house that looked old on the outside, but was brand spanking-new on the inside. Just the kind of house we can't afford.

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