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Steve & John's West Coast Move

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Our real estate agent called last night to tell us that there were 13 offers on the SOMA property and that we're among the 4 that they want to counter. This is 'Real Estate Survivor' and we made it to the semi finals. Now we have to eat the bugs, or in this case, agree to some terms could change our move date and cost a few thousand dollars more. The good news is that we gave ourselves a bit of room to stretch. John was at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival last night, so we couldn't discuss it until pretty late in the evening; we'll call our real estate agent this morning and put together the paperwork.
We were outbid on the SOMA place, so it's back to square one. We have another trip planned in a few weeks. It's very disappointing, to have gone so far above the listing price and making all the other concessions and it's still not enough. It's a very frenzy atmosphere - I would use the 'b' word ("bubble") but everyone seems to think this is standard operating procedure in this market.


Earlier in the week, I sent an e-mail to our agent asking him to check on a few properties that looked interesting on the online MLS. He got back to us with info on them, then a day later told us that all but one already have contracts. How can you compete if the places are gone before you get to them?

In the mean time, we've had a few showings of the Denver condo, but no one interested enough to talk about offers yet. Unfortunately the owners of a similar unit above us are dropping their price a few thousand dollars every week and they're now well below our price. We bought a St. Joseph statue (an old Catholic tradition) today.

Bottom Line: We're trying to sell in a buyer's market and buy in a seller's market. I'm getting pretty frustrated but I'm trying to stay open to whatever happens. We have two more househunting trips planned, including this coming weekend.

San Francisco
Our agent met us at the airport and showed us four places before we got to where we're staying. That's got to be some sort of record. He has a list of stuff we're going to see every day of this trip. It's going to be busy, but hopefully we'll come out of it able to bid on something (or two or three).

Three of the four today were houses. I'm not sure I want to live in a house again. We did great things with the yard in our last house and it's nice to be able to let Tasha out instead of taking 3 walks a day, but I really hated the yard work and we didn't use it nearly as much as I expected once it was done. When we moved into the condo in Denver I said "I could be happy to never mow a blade of grass again" . The extra storage space in a house is nice, but worrying about damage after every storm (or tremor out here) is not. There's also the intangible factor - I'm finding that I like living above rather than at ground level.

We had dinner with some friends who we did not see on the last trip. Everyone is being very understanding about our need to focus on real estate rather than doing lots of social stuff. We're staying with some friends this trip and we spent nearly an hour discussing the places we saw today. I know we're boring everyone to death.
San Francisco
We never got near the Dore Alley fair, which was today. Instead, most the places we looked at were north of Market. Actually we were pretty disappointed with the places we looked at south of Market. Obviously the architects never thought about how anyone would live in those spaces. Why would you design a 5 story building without an elevator? Did you not think about getting groceries (or furniture) into the unit? Why, on a 16 foot wide unit, would you have a 10 foot wide bathroom at the entrance, so there's no usable space next to the door? Don't they realize that using a metal grate for a balcony makes the balcony totally useless?

Between the last trip and this trip we decided to raise the price point we're looking at. We're closer to the level we set as our maximum comfort level, so we'll have less room to negotiate and we'll certainly be on a much tighter budget once we've bought the place, but there are more choices at this price level. At the lower price level, it's a case of "pick either space or location"; at this level, it's a case of "space, location, view - pick two".

We found a place with space and location that is taking bids tomorrow, so we spent most of the evening reviewing the online inspection documents that the owners of the unit posted (isn't the internet wonderful?) and writing the "essay" question, i.e. the letter to the owners explaining why they should pick our offer. Given the short fuse for the bid process, we don't have the time to do the due diligence that we would like. We've actually spent more time doing research for a one thousand dollar television than we are doing on some of these houses - it's a little scary.
San Francisco
We had dinner with some friends from Colorado who had moved to San Francisco last year and are now being transfered to LA. They told us about their difficulty in finding a decent apartment in San Francisco, including having to do the "essay question" to get a place. Yikes, we always thought that if we couldn't buy a place it would be simple to rent one.

After dinner we got news that we were outbid again - this time our offer was the lowest of the seven they received. Not the direction we want to be going. John said he can't do this roller coaster too much longer. I'm rolling with things a little better and I saw a few places that I liked today while John was in Menlo Park. We have a big list for tomorrow, so maybe someone will be willing to take one of our offers. Or maybe we'll buy an RV and John can drive our home to Menlo Park every day....well maybe not.
San Francisco
We both went on the real estate agent tour today - we saw about 12 places in 5 hours. We're getting good at walking in and saying 'no' if we something that we don't like.

Our agent talked to the listing agent for a place near Dolores Park we saw Sunday and convinced her to take a pre-emptive offer rather than wait for the announced offer date We all assumed that this meant we would be the only offer they looked at, but the listing agent told a few others that she was taking pre-emptive offers today. We scrambled to get the offfer info together so our agent could get it across town by the deadline. He said he found out that there are 4 offers. Yikes.
I was home (in Denver) for about 18 hours before coming to Dallas for a business trip. Today we found out that there are 6 offers on the Dolores Park place, but we're "in the top three". They asked our agent how amenable we would be to raising our price; we said "no way", as we're already offering 23% over their listing price. If we don't get it, we've got a few others we're going to bid on.

Also today, John got a call from his new (i.e. Menlo Park) manager's manager who offered him another position - in downtown Denver! We talked for a while about it, finally deciding that the position in Denver wasn't as good a career move as the one in Menlo Park.

later that evening....

In anticipation of not getting the Dolores Park place, we put an offer on a loft in SOMA that has been on the market for a while but has not shown well because of an uncooperative tenant. We offered about $10,000 above the list price.... and the sellers accepted. So now the main purpose of the next trip is to get the inspection done. Hopefully that means we're done with the "buy" side of the equation and we can concentrate on the "sell" side in Denver. For our friends reading along, thanks for your prayers, good thoughts, or whatever, and keep it up a little longer.
John has talked to our real estate agent and we have appointments with the inspector and a painter for the SOMA loft. Assuming the inspection comes up good, we'll get an estimate from the painter so we can have the place painted between closing and moving.

The SOMA loft is small (965 sq ft), so we're going to need to rent a storage unit for things like skis and John's collection of Roseville pottery that we're just not ready to part with. We've started a list of things to do on our next trip (August 7). We're also going to sell some furniture, etc. There's not much else we can do on the SOMA place until we get out there.

In the mean time, we're starting to turn our attention to the Denver condo. We had no showings this week, even though we lowered the price. It's definitely a buyer's market, with several new developments near downtown offering special deals. We know we lost one buyer to a developer's incentive package in a new building. Plan 'B' is to rent the condo, but we know we can't cover our expenses with the rent, so it could be a little tight. Good thing we didn't get the more expensive place near Dolores Park.
San Francisco
We took BART into the city and walked to our friends' apartment and it didn't feel like we were tourists. But then we played tourist, riding the cable cars (at least it was the California line, not the touristy Powell line) to get across town. We even gave directions to some tourists on the cable car, and they promptly went the other direction.

Tonight we walked around SOMA near the loft we've got an offer on. We stopped someone walking a dog and asked about the neighborhood. He pointed out a few places where we could find a little grass for Tasha and was very helpful with information about what areas were better or worse to walk through at night.

We got to the Lone Star fairly early and watched the crowd arrive. Here we're still feeling like tourists; at the Wrangler (in Denver) we'd know at least one or two people in the bar.

After two drinks we headed back to Folsom street to walk around the loft building again. We wanted to make sure we saw it earlier and later on a Saturday night. There were actually fewer people hanging around the street than I expected; this is a good sign. Unless the inspection has surprises or we see something really spectacular on Sunday, we're probably on for the SOMA place. It feels good to have an address to plan around.