Money Monday: Retiring in the San Francisco Bay Area

My friend Affinity chided me for looking outside of the Bay Area and away from family, when I can very well retire here at home. She was totally right. She wrote a guest blog post on retiring early here. It was one of my most highly-trafficked posts.

I spent some time on Zillow and found the following places. There are some serious deals to be had.

$250,000 – 3 bedroom, 2 bath home in Vallejo, CA – 30 minutes to wine country,  40 minutes to SF by car

It’s like a cheap version of Falcon Crest or Dallas, right? Clearly a little dated, but definitely has character. A retired couple like me and Dean have no need for 3 bedrooms, but just wanted to showcase the breadth of what’s available.


$169,000 – 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo in Hayward, CA – 1 hour to wine country,  30 minutes to SF by car

This is perfect! 1 bathroom for me, 1 bathroom for Dean. 1 bedroom for me, 1 bedroom for Dean. Haha! This place is a score at the price. I might have to buy it now. Rent this place out and have it completely paid for by the time we retire. Who I am kidding? We can write a check for the list price, forego the mortgage, save 4% on interest, and rent to college students since Cal State Hayward is across the street! I’m seriously going to ponder this investment.


$155,000 – 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath home in Concord, CA – 45 minutes to wine country,  35 minutes to SF by car

This price is a steal. I am tasting retirement! 55 here we come.

Money Monday: Landlords, Slumlords, and Me

You know how people call their landlords ‘slumlords?’ I am the opposite of that.

I’ve been renting my 1-bedroom, 650 square foot condo in Lower Pac Heights since June 2009. This 3-and-a-half year time frame can be broken down into 6 separate lease agreements ranging anywhere from 3 to 18 months. I’ve had interns, an award-winning documentary film maker, and graphic designers from France.

I’m friendly, responsive, and accountable. Each of my tenants gets a warm welcome with a document listing all my favorite restaurants and things to do in the city. Who does that? I respond quickly to leaks, ants, and all other issues which are corrected immediately. If anything, I’m the Funlord.

Between you and me, I am gearing up to sell my property, cash in on my investment, and extract that trapped equity. Lord knows you can barely buy a 2-bedroom in the city with less than a $150,000 down payment. The real estate figures in San Francisco are mind-boggling.

Being the Funlord that I am, I told my tenants immediately upon deciding. I wanted to be respectful and up-front with them. Well, they pretty much turned on me, and asked for a substantial payout which they are NOT entitled to, not a single penny. GO SUCK IT!

The reason I’m writing this post is because I had dinner with a few of my lovely city-dwelling girlfriends and they all believed that as a landlord, you are required to give your tenants a lump sum upon kicking them out. Turns out, that is not true for all circumstances. So please before you go writing unnecessary checks, talk to the experts and authorities. My real estate agent Brendon DeSimone is the bees knees. He is constantly in the press, does interviews for Fox News, blogs on Zillow, and he’s appeared in a bunch of the home design shows on TV. AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING.

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.

Money Monday:

How many of you are users? It was one of those websites I signed up for early on, then forgot about. A friend of mine mentioned it recently which propelled me to give it another try.

Hands down, Mint is the best financial website out there. Gone are the days of tracking debits and credits in an Excel file. Mint aggregates all my balances in one place (my mortgage at Wells Fargo, my brokerage account at Schwab, my Chase credit card, my savings account at Navy Federal, my property value via Zillow). I can track all my transactions, figure out a budget, and see my net worth.

It’s pretty awesome. Check it out.

Sunday in Oakland

We spent a fabulous Sunday in Oakland. We started out with a housewarming in a glorious loft with the hosts serving bacon, mac and cheese, scones, paella, and more, all home-made. YUMMY!!! Best housewarming ever. We followed that up with dinner at hotspot Plum restaurant. Prices were high considering their portions were pathetic. Won’t be going back there. Food was good, though. We ended with our favorite bar Van Kleef which is now open on Sundays. I always think of the luxury store Van Cleef & Arpels, but Van Kleef is more diamond in the rough.

Mark my words, Oakland is the place to be.

I did a quick Zillow search. Check it out: 2 bedroom, 2 bath, Lakeshore condo for less than $200k. Lakeshore! Give yourself a few years and you’ve got your home paid off! A Lakeshore condo home for $192,000. 1,000+ square feet plus parking. Jump on this, people!