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Buying a Condo

I'm slacking on my journal writing! I realize that I never wrote about buying my house (really a condo)... so here goes!

Origin Story

I realized I hated landlords ever since I started renting in college. I'll write another story about that, but let's just say that landlords stink. There might be a few good ones out there, but I think "ethical" and "landlord" is mutually exclusive. I really wanted to own my own property, even if I had to pay more than I would renting. I remember going to open houses from Davis through Fairfield during college. These were typically legit houses, (or "hice", as I would say) and of course I would not be able to afford any of them. I remember asking about one of the agents in an open house about the competitiveness, she told me "this house for under a million is going to be gone in a week." Geez! I never followed up with it to see how much it sold for, but I'm sure buyers were outbidding each other. What a great outlook so far.

After graduating college, I got a job offer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley. That means I'd have to face the horrors of bay area housing. I didn't really want to live in the central valley unless I absolutely had no choice. My parents were so nice (thank you!!) to let me move back in at home so I could save up a bit. This wouldn't last very long, though!

Looking for a Home

I started working in August 2022, and began my house search in October. At the time, I thought buying was still a fever dream, so I actually started by touring a few rentals in the east bay. After a short time, I applied and got pre-qualified for a home loan, so I could see what my limit was. I met my first agent who took me on tours of condos in the Walnut Creek area. They weren't too bad, just a bit pricey for their size. I remember one of them was completely lined with mirrors on the walls, which I though was kind of creepy. I couldn't see myself living there. (At least, figuratively speaking.)

After a while, I gave up with that agent and met up with my second agent who worked in the Oakland area. I really did not want to move to Oakland, but figured I'd give it a try anyway. This agent was kind of pushy and stressed me out a bit. We saw several places in Oakland and surrounding areas, including a converted 200 sq.ft. garage in Berkeley for a quarter million dollars. What a steal! We also saw some definitely haunted houses in Vallejo. Nope.

Still, nothing was really catching my interest. Starting to give up hope, I had a crazy idea. Marin?? It's actually very close to Berkeley, separated by the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. I met up with my third agent and the vibes instantly clicked. He drove me around Marin, showing me several of the different towns with condos for sale in my price range. Unfortunately, there were slim pickings. Marin is expensive! I loved the town of Larkspur, but there was only one condo I could afford, and it was awful! You couldn't open the oven the whole way, the kitchen was so small! I toured a condo in San Rafael that was owned by someone with a YouTube Silver plaque! (I regret not getting a picture of their @...) Moving on, there were about 2 or 3 I could afford in a town called Novato. I actually REALLY liked Novato - it reminded me a lot of Davis, where I'd lived for the past 5 years. Sadly, nothing really stuck with me, and my agent and I decided to give it a break for the holidays.

Offer, Escrow, and Close

In January 2023, nothing new was on the market. But, in February, my agent gave me a call and sent me some pictures of an off-market condo in Novato. I was interested so we took a tour. It was awesome! The owner's stuff (they had a lot of stuff) was still inside, so it was a bit messy. I loved the fact there was a private patio, air conditioning, washer/dryer, and guaranteed parking space. And the house itself just felt great. After only a day or 2, he helped me put in an offer. It was rejected with a counter. I met them in the middle and the owners accepted! Then the fun began.

I went into Escrow at the beginning of February 2023. I had to pay a deposit and get a home inspection. There were a ton of online and physical documents I needed to read and sign. (I felt bad for all the trees sacrificed to make all that paper.) I also had to get approved for the loan, which was stressful. On top of that I had to get home owner's insurance - a huge pain in California. Finally, I closed on March 3, 2023, and got the keys to MY NEW HOUSE! Walking in, just felt jarring. It didn't feel like I belong there, but yet it was mine.

One Year Later

Since moving in, I've done a lot of work to my condo. I did some re-painting, especially in the kitchen, I upgraded the electrical outlets, lighting, gardening, added carpet to the staircase, and a bunch of other small jobs. I've paid off about 1% of my loan (yay...) and way too much in insurance and property taxes. Despite the fact it is a bit far, I love my house, and Novato. I live within walking distance to the grocery store, post office, hardware store, pharmacy, hair salon, and 2 awesome Mexican restaurants. Novato also stays much cooler than the east bay or central valley, and I'm very close to so many awesome outdoor adventures in Marin. I regret nothing!!