Pick Us! Example of a Home Buyer Letter

Need an example of a home buyer letter?

Here is the one we submitted in addition to our $1.1 million offer for 614-618 Eugenia Street in San Francisco. Fingers crossed!

Home Buyer Letter:

July 18, 2013

Dear [Sellers],

Thank you for taking the time to review our offer.

We are a Match.com success story! Catherine is a book-loving academic while Dean is a TV-obsessed sports fanatic. While it seems opposites attract in our case, we share a love for exploring the San Francisco Bay Area (favorite hike is the Tomales Point trail in Point Reyes) and keeping a clean, clutter-free home. The well-designed esthetic of your property clearly aligns with our own. We especially love how much natural light fills each of the rooms.

While we have struggled with fertility, we are absolutely confident that 618 Eugenia will provide us with a happy, zen-like atmosphere to conceive our multi-ethnic kid: Filipino, British, and Italian, or FBI as our parents like to say. We love that the downstairs area can accommodate visiting family and we look forward to showing them around Bernal Heights—the perfect neighborhood to live in and raise our family. In fact, Hillside Supper Club is one of our favorite restaurants.

We will be attentive and thoughtful landlords to the tenant who rents the studio. Our current landlord at 757 Sutter Street entrusts Dean with renting, processing, and handling issues at our apartment complex of 34 units. With an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Catherine has worked for [large bank] for close to 10 years. Dean has had a successful career in software sales for more than 20 years.

We have our hearts set on calling your property home, and hope you’ll agree that we are the right fit to become the next owners.

We appreciate your consideration,

Catherine Gacad & Dean Barbella

Money Monday: The Rigors of Getting a Mortgage in this Economy

My friend Affinity who wrote this fantastic post on retiring early, agreed to write another post on getting a mortgage in this challenging environment. She made the move from San Francisco to Oakland and had this important advice to share. This is exactly what I needed to hear. While we are not in any rush to make a move, Dean and I are always on the hunt and having all of these items in place will only make the home purchase process that much easier. Take it away, Affinity!


My husband and I had owned two units in a tenants-in-common building in San Francisco, where we had purchased the building with a group loan and then later converted to individual loans on each unit, so we were not newbies to purchasing a home or the mortgage acquisition process, but it is much more difficult than it used to be.

The mortgage process is all new, and not for the better. We have a credit rating of over 800 and savings appropriate to a couple retiring in their mid-60s, so we thought the process would not be difficult. Here are my suggestions for making it as painless as possible:

1. Do not overbuy. Buying a house that is a little less than you might like may not appeal to you, but it will make it easier to qualify for a loan.  Lenders are much stricter about your proving you can service the loan than they were prior to the foreclosure crisis of the last few years. In order for us to do that we had to move to Oakland from San Francisco.

2. Most lenders now require a 20% down payment unles you qualify for a special program of some sort. We put down 25% to improve our interest rate. So have your cash in order before you start.

3. During the loan approval process do not buy a car, run up any credit cards, or make withdrawals from your savings, except to move the loan process forward.

4. Have your taxes done and filed. We purchased in February 2013, and our lender wanted us to provide a 2012 return, which we had not filed yet since it was not due, and then they contacted the IRS directly to verify that it matched the IRS return we had given to the lender.

5. Since our condo had been purchased by the seller in the last 12 months and was then being resold to us (flipped), our lender required two appraisals, that then stretched over the next six weeks. So that means you have to be patient.

6. They want every financial document; bank statements, brokerage statements, your W-2, etc. for the preceding 2 or 3 months, and if the loan approval process stretches over longer than a month, then they want you to provide fresh statements.

We had problems with self-employment and seasonal W-2 income. The lender wanted a statement from our accountant that we have a legitimate business. Since we do not have an accountant, they did not want to use the self-employment or seasonal income as part of our ability to pay the loan. This seemed a little odd since we were not only paying state and federal taxes on the self-employment income, but social security (F.I.C.A.) as well. We had had the same seasonal income for over 10 years and it was even W-2 wages so this was an unpleasant surprise.

7. Check your credit. Contact Experian, TransUnion or Equifax for one free credit report a year. You should have a credit score of 720 or higher. Check for errors or small bills that might not have gotten paid. Credit Card debt should not exceed 50% of your credit limit (although in general I recommend you pay your cards off every month). If your balance is above 50% you may be able to get your credit card company to increase your limit.

8. Apply for the loan before any transitions or retirement. We had just retired, and the lender did not want to rely on our W-2 wages since we no longer had jobs, and we had not yet taken any interest or dividend income since we had finished out 2012 living on our savings rather than taking money from our savings accounts, so we had a problem proving we had the investment income to service the loan.

If you are retiring and you have assets, but not much visible income, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow your lender to “annuitize” your assets by making a conservative estimate of what your savings/IRAs/assets would generate as income if spread over the life of your loan. In addition, if your are eligible for Social Security but have not chosen to start receiving it, you can generate an estimate to show your lender what is available to you.

9. This is going out on a limb, and you know I could be wrong, but prices are rising, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area. If the tech boom continues, prices may continue to rise, so if you are thinking of buying a home this might be a good time, for some stats on prices rising click HERE.  But then, this bubble may end soon, we will have to wait and see.

Why are things so much more difficult? The many foreclosures and short sales over the past few years have made everyone more cautious about lending money. Not only was there malfeasance on the part of the big banks, there was a lot of fraud on the part of borrowers. Many lenders sell your loan to the F.H.A. and they have to prove a much higher level the borrowers ability to pay back the loan since the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Good luck, we survived the process and are very glad we did. We now live in the Adams Point neighborhood in Oakland.

It has been fun talking about money, feel free to contact me if you have questions: affinitymingle@gmail.com.

I also have a plus size fashion blog and I would love for you to stop by and check it out if you have an interest or know someone who might enjoy it. It is more of a D.I.Y., how to make it work and a resource blog than a true fashion blog. http://affatshionista.com/

Money Monday: Missed Housing Opportunity

I have a set of housing criteria which filter out some real housing gems. One of these criteria is a parking spot which this condo in the Inner Richmond does not have. It’s already in contract and I swear if I had known about it, I would have pounced on it. It’s located just past Laurel Heights (one of my former beloved ‘hoods) near Arguello and Geary in San Francisco. It’s centrally located with a multitude of bus lines that will take you wherever you need to go in the city. And at discounted prices because it’s not in the hotbed of the Mission or SOMA or Potrero Hill. What a steal, especially since people are paying upwards of $700,000 for dorm-room lofts in those areas. Advice: broaden your range and criteria. There are deals to be had out there!

262 3rd Avenue – $429,000 – 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, 0 parking condominium



Money Monday: How Soon Can I Retire?

Did anyone see in the news that Bruno Mars’s Filipino mom died of a brain aneurysm…at the age of 55?! She was a dancer so I have to believe she was fit and otherwise healthy. When I hear about people who die long before they should, it makes me think of my financial well-being and wonder, how soon can I fucking retire?!

Let’s state the facts.

We’re not going to retire early by earning 85 basis points on our savings.

And let’s be real, no one gets rich by putting all their piddly money in the stock market, even if it earns double-digit returns for the next 20 years.

And before you homeowners jump in, let me give you a virtual smack in the head and tell you factually that owning a house does not automatically guarantee you wealth. It can very easily be a wealth diminisher, as we have seen so recently. I think homeowners are a lot like small business owners who are overconfident and don’t think about the worst case scenarios. Let me give you one: HOUSING BUBBLE!

Who do we know who’s rich so we can follow in their footsteps?

Doctors? My uncle, a brain surgeon who owns a mansion in Hillsborough with a pool and a tennis court, worked hard for his money. And he didn’t retire early. Do you know any doctors who retire early?

Lawyers? Ummm, you kinda have to make partner first. How do you spell PAINFUL.

Bankers, consultants, you name it. I really don’t see hard-working, ambitious professionals coming any closer to retirement than a chimney sweeper.

Entrepreneurs? Know anyone who has cracked the code? Not I.

You know who’s wealthy?

Business owners, like the Indian man who owns the Jack in the Crack on Geary and Mason. Jack-in-the-Box is my fast food chain of choice and I have to say I was really impressed during one visit with how the store owner handled the raucous crowd and also how he managed his staff. It was obvious he was a really good manager.

But really any successful business owner who isn’t peddling their goods on Etsy.

Landlords are wealthy. I said landlords, not homeowners. Slumlords who collect rent and make minimal improvements. Cha-ching! We all need to pool our money and become investors in multi-unit properties. Who’s with me?

What professions am I missing? Who can we emulate? We can always move to Florida and retire now.

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.