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Friday, May 4, 2007

Our Silicon Valley House Saga

First a little background on how we got here. I feel I must start with the housing....
Well, after ten years in the valley (Silicon), working my tail off and being lucky enough to cash out of the housing market - we can't seem to figure out how to get back in. When Bars and I first got married, we toyed with the idea of leaving the area (for most of the same reasons we are going through now).

But then we were pregnant and found THE house. We could just barely afford it, but it was a good investment. Small (1200 sqft), old (1950'S) house in Santa Clara that needed work. But in the Cupertino school district. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, that's good. That's say-your-kids-live-with-your-cousin-to-get-in kind of good. So we did it.

We bought the house in fall of 2001 and lived real frugally for a couple of years (more on that later). We remodeled it too. Ourselves. Still very proud of that.

I'm talking tear it all out in the kitchen, tear out the walls, put in some new electrical lines (practically everything was running on one main line (computer, tv, kitchen appliances, electrical outlights, lights, you name it). We wound up with a completely new kitchen and master bathroom, new windows everywhere, added a french door in the master bedroom, and more windows in the dining room, drywalled the wooden paneling, hardwood floors revealed (still needed refinishing) repainted, new lawn, and new landscaping.

It took all of our spare time and was a great learning experience that gave me confidence in doing any work around the house (although plumbing seems like something that if you screw up, you really lose and electrical still scares me a little). But considering that I grew up in a house where repair work is done ala yellow pages, this was HUGE.

During this phase of our live, we had our first daughter, Bells. She practically grew up that first year at the Home Depot. Sometimes I wonder if I scarred her for life by pushing her around in her little car seat hooked into to an overloaded shopping cart, looking so far up to those funny lights they use. Also, it really sucked to have an infant and no kitchen. And everything was a race. Finish the floors before she crawls (just in the nick of time). Always clean up everything up to spotless (I swear you could have eaten off the floors at anytime - I was more pyshco about it than I am now).

By the time we were done with it all, we had our boy, Gus and a gorgeous, probably too small house. Oh and it still backed up to a really noisy 4-lane road in the back. We knew this when we bought it. Double paned windows made the inside not so bad, however revving motorcycles were always noteworthy. And the backyard was just not peaceful. Beautiful for the eyes, not so much the ears. Then there was a new construction up the road for a Kaiser Permanente Hospital. ER in 2008. Can't imagine the ambulances.

So we figured this:

  1. It's never going to be this nice again with two little kids running around.
  2. Once that hospital is there - everyone will figure it out.
  3. My husband was So Sure that the housing market could NOT stay as high as it was and right then there was little inventory, higher prices and it seemed like a good time.
  4. We had enjoyed the process and would do it again when the time was right, my husband figured about a year later.

So we sold it. Made some money, not double or anything but enough to put away a really good down payment for next time. We moved into an expensive, luxury new 3-bedroom apartment (with elevators) that was walking distance to Bars work (okay he still drove it) and 3 minute drive to mine. It was a nice place, but we have very active children. We also had downstairs neighbors who didn't like to hear the "pitter patter" of little feet. So we had to let the kids jump on the furniture. I still worry I am a bad mother for saying "Stop jumping on the floor, you can go jump on the sofa." How weird is that. I am sure that I will be paying for that for a LONG time. Did I mention that these guys downstairs partied until like 4 in the morning on many many occasions. No Justice.

So after our one-year lease was up, we hightailed it out of there. May 2006 and the housing market was still hot. Bars said be patient, it will happen. We rented a nice 70's style 4 bedroom house (1800 sq ft - awesome, best sized place we have lived) in Milpitas. Now further commute (oh yeah, and Bars company moved further away, actually closer to that first house. Argh.) We also had our third, and probably final child, Sera. And our still here. Waiting.

BUT - Bella should start kindergarten this fall and we don't like the schools here. Or the pace. And I always said I didn't want to raise kids in the Bay Area (okay I said CA, but I only know here).

AND - it looks like Bars was right about the real estate market. For the most part.

EXCEPT - it doesn't seem like the Bay area was as DRASTICALLY hit as elsewhere in the country. It is in a slump here, but things are still selling. Just not crazy, multi-offer, 2 days on market, 20% over asking like before.

SO - What should we do?

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