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Steve & John's West Coast Move

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My husbear John was recently told that his job is going away. The company has several other locations with positions that he can fill, but all require a move. We chose the bay area (he'll be working on the peninsula). I'm on the road a lot for my job, so I can work from pretty much anywhere. We've been in Denver since 1991, so this going to be a big move. This is the weekend we have started to tell people we are moving to the bay area, so I decided to start this blog. We have our own web server, so basically I'm going to update the database with the entries.

Everyone (especially our friends in San Francisco already) are telling us how expensive it's going to be; we've been looking at the real estate online, and while it is expensive, it's not any more than we expected. Actually, we're seeing some new developments in Denver that are similarly priced to some of the things we're seeing listed in the bay area. The good news is that we recently moved from a house to a condo, so we've already downsized a bit. It shouldn't be too hard to fit into a smaller space.

I'm concerned about my car since it just meets the Colorado emissions standards; I'm thinking we're going to have to sell/give it away before we get to the coast. We've started spreadsheet of all the tasks we can think of to prepare for the move. As John says "it feels like we're trying to jump the Grand Canyon".
We talked to real estate agents last night. One for the peninsula and one for San Francisco. Both seemed confident that we could find something in our price range, but both talked about having to make compromises. We'll meet with both of them in person when we're out there over the Fourth. We're a bit scared about the numbers, but we've talked about how we can juggle things to afford it. We really need to enjoy the cruise we're doing this summer, because it may be a while before we can do another.

We're still telling friends that we're moving - just last night we ran into someone in the grocery store. Everyone says they can imagine us out there. Makes me wonder if we should have done it years ago.
Bay Area
I managed to get a minor case of food poisoning yesterday, so l've been feeling queasy all day. We flew to SF for the first of 3 planned house-hunting trips. We didn't tell many of our friends we were coming because we need to spend the time househunting - there will be time to see them all once we've moved.

It felt strange as we were landing - I've always seen the bay as a place to vacation, and now I have to think of it as a place to live.

We had some issues with the car & hotel reservations, but all worked out eventually. We really had not driven south of the airport before - it reminded me a lot of LA. Palo Alto is cute, but seemed really quiet for a Friday night.

We went to some of the gay bars in Silicon Valley. Liked the Renegade. The others reminded us of really small town bars. The "Akron Effect" was stronger than we had anticipated. (explanation: When we met, John was living in Akron OH. He found there was very little gay life in Akron, even though a fair number of gay people live there, because Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Columbus were all within a 2 hour radius. Hence, the "Akron Effect" refers to a city that may be quite nice on it's own but is overshadowed by a larger city nearby.)

We've been noticing the signs on the freeways that announce each new city you are passing through. They all have two digit elevation numbers; coming from Colorado we keep thinking "why bother?". The population numbers have me curious - some seem very specific (e.g. "74,521"). I'm guessing we're going to have to call the mayor whereever we live and tell them add 2 to the sign when we move.
Bay Area
We met with Richard, our real estate agent for SF proper, today. He gave us a great survey course in what is available in our price range. After we finished with him, I suggested that we go back to the hotel in Palo Alto to change clothes and come back into SF for the evening. Immediately John said "I'm not driving all the way down there and back tonight"; so it looks like we need to live north of Palo Alto. Back at the hotel, we decided to go to the hotel bar for a drink around 11:30, but the only place open near the hotel was a Denny's. That appears to be the only nightlife in town. Strike 3 for Silicon Valley. It's not like we go out every night, but when you're used to living downtown (as we do now), you get real used to having options within walking distance.
Bay Area
We met with Tom, our real estate agent for the peninsula, today. He was prepared to talk about San Jose since he didn't know that we had already ruled out being that far south. We talked about what we were looking for and he found a few things in San Mateo county, but none were available to look at because of the holiday.

Since we had an afternoon free, we drove around San Francisco to look at open houses and to drive by some places we'd seen online. We found a great place - for $1.8 Million. Scratch that. We also caught up with a few friends. Driving down 101 this evening was great - each little town had fireworks, and they were almost timed so that as you drive south there was always something in the next town.
Bay Area
An unexpected free day - we had planned to meet with Tom and look at places on the peninsula, but since he didn't find much of interest yesterday, we have the day off. We drove to Half Moon Bay with some friends for lunch.

Today is also our transition day. We had a hotel in Palo Alto for the weekend to see what it would be like to live in the suburbs and come into the city for stuff. Now we're going to stay in San Francisco to see what John's commute to Menlo Park will be like. Since I typically don't go into an office - I either work at home or fly to my customer - my commute is a little less of an issue.

It feels very comfortable staying in town. We walked over to Chinatown for dinner and then took the long way back to the hotel. We currently live downtown in Denver, and I think we're discovering that we need that urban environment. The hitch may be if John's commute sucks.
Bay Area
Well, John's commute isn't great, but it doesn't suck, at least not at 6:30AM. It's longer than he commutes in Denver now, but not as long as the commute he had in our previous house. City living is looking more like a possibility. We've even found another condo that might work. We're certainly finding more to look at in our price range than I'd anticipated.

As much as I love the city, the weather is an issue. I haven't seen the sun in three days and the humidity was really getting to me when I went to the gym this morning. I suppose you get used to both, but one of the many adjustments to living here will be dealing with "three bad months of summer weather". Speaking of the gym - $20 for one day's use - ouch. The worst part is that they didn't have a deadlift platform or weights that roll.
Bay Area
Two sunny days - I feel much better. We saw another condo on Wednesday night. Definite possibility. We discussed the paperwork we will have to review and what we're going to have to do to make an offer. Of the three places we're considering, one looks like it's going to have way too much competition and the other two require bids on the same day. The good news is that we should know before the next househunting trip whether either is accepted. The process is rather topsy-turvy from what we're used to.

We met with the mortgage broker last night. She said that we could qualify for a larger mortgage than we're seeking. Then we looked at the monthly payments at that larger number. We'll stick with a smaller place. Those sort of numbers are pretty scary to two guys who grew up in the south and mid-west. Of course a bigger down payment would help, but that's dependent on selling the place in Denver.

I went out to the Lone Star and ran into a friend. He had some comments about the neighborhoods we're looking at and some we've rejected. Nothing was major enough to make us reconsider.

I'm actually looking forward to going back to Denver today. I'm getting tired of working from the hotel room. I want to play with the dog. I want to ride the bike. Still, we accomplished more on this trip than I'd expected and I'm feeling pretty confident that we'll be able to find a place before our move date in October.
Last night we got a call from our real estate agent that one the places we're interested in has moved up their offer date - to this Wednesday. This evening we put together an offer and now we're going to keep FedEx busy to make sure everything is signed properly. To top it off, I'm on a business trip tomorrow night.

This just feels like we're trying to jump onto a moving train. At this point, the cost is less annoying than the gotchas that keep coming up. Like providing a picture of ourselves to the seller - that would be a no-no in any other market because it could be construed as discriminatory, but in San Francisco it's a required part of getting the deal. Tonight we were told that at least some of the rent-back period the seller wants should be gratis; that would be absurd anywhere else, but we'll do it. We're not moving until October anyway so it all works out. Now we just have to shuffle the FedEx stuff back and forth and then wait.
We got an e-mail that the property we're most interested in had given out 14 disclosure packets. According to our real estate agent, we can count on about half of those resulting in offers, and for each offer we can expect the price to increase by approximately 3% over the listing price. That would put it at the limit of what we want to pay, but we decided not to adjust our offer so we have a little room to maneuver if they don't go quite that high. We spent the evening looking on line for other places in the area that might work if we change our criteria (e.g. "What if we didn't have a separate office?").

In the mean time, I'm feeling 'placeless'. I just got back from a business trip where I was saying "Here's my business card, but the info on it will change this fall as I move from Denver to San Francisco". I was just starting to get connected to the neighborhood here (we just bought our current condo last October) and now I find myself walking the dog through Golden Triangle thinking about SOMA and Potrero Hill. I'm trying to make plans with people here but still keeping options open in case we need to make another trip out there. Our museum membership has expired and the renewal letters mention upcoming exhibits and I have to keep reminding myself that we won't be here to see them. Likewise, we subscribed to a local theater company's season and I have to give the tickets to a friend. Then when I'm on the San Francisco newspaper website I see ads for shows and I have to remind myself that they will close before we are living there. I just don't feel totally a part of Denver or San Francisco. At least it's only for 3 months - when we moved from Washington DC to Denver, I had trouble making plans for almost a year as we tried to keep ourselves open for last minute job interview trips; this time we both have jobs going into the new city, so I guess we're in better condition.