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.

Money Monday: Airbnb Beginner’s Luck

Our Airbnb transaction went without a hitch this past weekend. So smooth. The renter was completely engaged with emails, text messages. He let me know when he was 30 minutes away from arriving. I love that—responsive, responsible, low risk.

I came home for a leisurely lunch on Friday, read some reports, and waited for his arrival. I did a walk-through, pointed out the brand new linens we had purchased for his stay, showed him the fresh towels and new toiletries, handed him a set of keys, told him where to leave them, and off I went to enjoy the rest of my Friday and weekend.

When we returned on Sunday, the only indication someone had stayed was the tussled bed. He must have brought his own towel because he returned our clean ones to the closet. The place was exactly as we’d left it.

We both left positive recommendations.

Me as the host: Planning and logistics went smoothly. Very easy to communicate with him. Perfect experience for us as a first-time host.

The renter: Lovely home, gracious hosts, and an impeccable location made my stay one of the best SF experiences to date.