I’m Homeless!

Well that was a downer. To watch Cal lose their lead, then ultimately lose the game was heart-breaking. Ugh.

Before I get entrenched with work this week, I wanted to quickly post that we definitively sold my condo. I mentioned previously that selling a home has to be one of the most stressful life events, ranking up there with losing a job, moving to another city, and getting married. Funny, I should probably count myself lucky since, comparatively, the process was actually really smooth since we took offers 10 days after it went on the market.

I had to give my tenants notice. They weren’t too happy.

We staged it ourselves, painting the whole place and moving furniture from Dean’s apartment into my condo. I bought a bed from Mancini’s Sleepworld for $200 which included delivery, then turned around and sold it for $100 on Craigslist. We also bought a head board (that we returned), bedding (that I carefully repackaged and returned), and San Francisco prints that I framed and hope to sell. So total we spent about $1,000 to get my place ready, primarily to cover the cost and labor for painting.

I paid $455,000 for my condo at the height of the market in 2005.

We listed it for $499,000.

Sold it for $525,000.

Frankly, I just wanted to break even. I’m very happy to have made a profit because I know other people who lost money, including the other original owners of the two other units in the building. They sold during the downturn while I held on.

I learned a couple lessons during this whole experience:

Do not buy during a frenzy. I feel like we’re currently experiencing an unsustainably hot real estate market.

Buy when others aren’t.

Next time you buy something (i.e., clothes, books, picture frames, toys, antiques), ask yourself if you really need it. It’s incredible how much unnecessary crap we accumulate.

I Will Sell This House Today!

Clock is ticking, people. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to buy a walk-in closet in the heart of San Francisco for half a million dollars. I mean, seriously, who in their right mind would pass on my humble abode?

All joking aside, we are holding a final open house this weekend Saturday and Sunday from 2-4pm, and taking offers by Monday at 4pm.

My place only went on the market a week ago so I’m totally floored at the expedited timing.

There’s no way a suburban dweller can fathom the benefits of my $499k 1-bedroom condo, but let me quickly list them here:

I live across from the Kaiser Emergency Room and Labor & Delivery so if ever you find yourself suffering from symptoms of preeclampsia (that’s a nod to Downton Abbey), you can stumble across Geary Blvd for some medical assistance.

Free washer & dryer. Yes free! Not that coin-operated bullshit that’s reminiscent of our dorm days.

A backyard. Sure it’s a shared backyard, but there are a total of 3 units in the building, with only 3 current occupants. You’re guaranteed to have it all to yourself. If Dean and I lived there, I could totally see Dean working on the backyard on the weekends, tending to his flowers and an avocado tree.

A garage parking space. Need I say more?

I find homeowner association dues for condos in the city mind-boggling. These are fees used to pay for common area items, property insurance, and to fund an ever-growing reserve that never gets used. These HOAs are paid every month for the duration of the time that you live in your property. Like an STD, they never go away, not even after you’ve fully paid your mortgage. So when condos are marketed as having low HOAs and the HOAs are $300-400 a month, I’m like that is CRAY-CRAY! Mortgage payment + HOAs + property taxes = Is this property even worth it?

All that said, my HOAs are $200. I am not a fan of HOA fees (as I think they’re stupid), but if you’re going to buy a condo, my place is it.

Money Monday: Consumer Reports

For anyone who wants to check out Consumer Reports for the next couple days, feel free. I ordered it to get some comparison information for our HOA. But I’m cancelling it after the one month time frame is over – which is Thursday July 26th.

It’s actually helpful and useful. In addition to appliances, I looked up information on mp3 players and laptops.


User Name: Cgacad

Password: 2420Geary

Money Monday: HOAs

99% of San Franciscans can’t afford to buy a single family home unless you want to live in Bayview which may sound pretty, but most definitely is not. Instead we hoard our money to buy a little piece of the American dream called a condominium which means you’re permanently attached to other property owners through a building Home Owner Association (HOA). As a full-fledged member of an HOA, you have the privilege of paying monthly HOA dues. These dues can pay for utilities for the common areas, insurance, and other maintenance. Essentially, HOAs = flushing money down the toilet. If you sell your place, you will never recover this money. If you have fully paid off your home, you will continue to pay HOA dues for the duration of the time you own your home. It’s mind-boggling. So mind-boggling that hard-working people are dumb enough to pay this crap. All because we can’t afford a non-detached home. Are you with me? It’s an abusive real-estate cycle.

Since most of us property-owners can’t afford anything but a condo, the best we can do is minimize the HOA payment. I was lucky enough to buy into a newly-formed condo with reasonable owners who wanted the pay the least amount possible, because we were all smart and logical. We started out paying $100/month. I’m currently the only original owner from that first triumvirate. Since then, the dues have increased to $200. Even this amount is low. You will not find many condo owners in the city of SF paying less than that.

Sometimes I haphazardly look at Zillow listings when I dream of a better life outside of the ‘Loin. Yesterday I came across this 2-bedroom, 2-bath beauty in Lake Merritt going for $420k. 1,300+ square feet a few blocks away from BART. Doesn’t get better than this. Take a look.

Gorgeous, right? But something had to give. That’s (what I consider) a low price for such a cute place. I emailed the agent and asked him one question – what are the HOAs?

$720!!! That’s per month. Granted, the place comes with a door man, but $720 with all the same caveats I mentioned above. Money down the drain. So sad, so pathetic. Whoever buys this place is stupid.

Budget: Extreme Makeover

I’ve been crunching numbers non-stop lately.

It started when my tenant gave notice that he’d be leaving at the end of this month. Quick to Craigslist. What’s the going rate for a 1-bedroom apartment in Lower Pac Heights? I’ve been renting my place for more than two years, steadily increasing the rent with each new lease. But this time, I aimed a lot higher. The rental market is dot-com hot. I’ve got Googlers, engineers, doctors, interns, VCs emailing and calling. A New Yorker hired at Facebook told me he was contending with crowds of applicants at every open house. Bejesus! Instead of 20%, I should have increased the rent by 30%. I still would have had the demand.

With the rental money covering my mortgage, HOAs, and property taxes combined, I don’t want to be one of those un-disciplined Americans who takes that extra money and spends it. Like when we get raises, we adjust our lifestyle accordingly. No, I want to be fiscally conservative.

More research! Even before the tenant changeover, I have been eyeing mortgage rates, targeting a 4% or lower 30-year rate. Then a friend tipped me off to consider a 15-year. THANKS KITTY! I couldn’t seem to make the numbers work, but I kept on it. Determined to cash in on these low rates, I searched all the major banks’ websites for mortgage rates. I scoured the web. I looked at ING and First Republic. I called Residential Finance Corporation because they had mailed me a promotion. And lastly, I checked Navy Federal Credit Union who I used to refinance my private student loan. There it was, a 3.125% 15-year mortgage rate – right on the money.

A little bit of luck, ample social networking, friendship, a lot of research, and persistence. It pays.