Another day in Paradise

What a shock. Where I USED to live, it will be 106F today. Here (Santa Clara) it will be 79. The local people will bitch about it being HOT.

I have a lot of DMV stuff to do, alas, California is nowhere near as efficient as Arizona is/was. When I first relocated to AZ back in 2003, I walked into the local MVD office in Tucson at about 11:00AM, took a number, and before I could sit down, I was called. I re-registered my car, got my driver’s license, transferred the title on my motorcycles, and was out of there in less than 20 minutes, plates and driver’s license in hand.

Not likely to be replicated in California. Hoops up the wazoo, probably 3 trips (hopefully with appointments) and a lot of money out of pocket. Sigh.

Drivers

Both states have their share of asshole drivers. But they are different in their bad practices. I need to recalibrate to account for the beemer drivers who seem to like to pass on the margins here. Without signals. Far over the posted speed limit.

Life is good. If only we could sell out damn house in Chandler…

Welcome to California

Well, it is technically a “welcome back”, as I grew up here in Silicon Valley.

My job relocated us to Santa Clara, and over the last week, we made the “move“. The positive is that the movers rocked, and really got our stuff packed and loaded in record time.

After spending the weekend on a leisurely drive from Phoenix to Santa Clara (via the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, and Lake Tahoe) we got to our temporary housing Monday morning.

Our last relocation to Tucson in 2003 found us put up in a decrepit Extended Stay America in Tucson. Shudder. Here our digs are a bit better (ok, a LOT better). We are in an Avalon apartment, well furnished, and a reasonable size. Sure, it has lousy appliances, and the washer and dryer sound like a mac truck is driving through, but it is very serviceable.

Our first trip to the grocery store was expensive (over $400). Partly because groceries are more expensive here, but mainly due to the need to stock up.

When I picked up my car, I lamented the fact that it needed to be less than 1/4 full of gas. First thing, a fill of premium. Gulp, it’s about $.70 a gallon more than in AZ. Sigh, might be time to buy something more fuel efficient than the S2000.

The weather is pretty awesome. Mid to upper 70’s during the day, and very pleasant at night. Humidity is high compared to what I am used to (low teens in AZ).

Tuesday was the first day in the office. The apartment is a hair over 4 miles from the office, a straight shot down Lawrence expressway. And I am going the counter commute direction, so it is a short commute. Sadly, the house we will likely be able to afford is not going to have such a wickedly awesome commute. Sigh.

Oh, and California finally figured out how to time their traffic lights. Today I didn’t hit one red light on Lawrence.

We do miss our dogs, so I am looking forward to picking them up in Tucson over the 4th of July weekend.

Now we just need our house in Chandler to sell. We are still priced the lowest of all the SE valley single stories, a good $12 – $18 per sqft under the area.

Fingers crossed.

Selling your house blues

I have been griping a lot lately about the hassle of selling your house. It really is a pain in the ass for a number of reasons:

  1. You can’t “live” anymore. You have to clean clutter, and to keep every surface clean, dishes in the dishwasher, clothes folded and put away. So you pack about 1/3 of the stuff you would normally have out (like my guitars and a lot of electronics, books, and other items), and live minimalist. Suck.
  2. You no longer look forward to weekends. They are the most popular showing days, so Saturday and Sunday you wake up early, and get the house ready. Vacuum, wash the counters, polish the cook top. And then you wait. Can’t do anything that takes more than a couple of hours, because you need to get the dogs out if someone calls.
  3. Always ready to pack up and leave. We have dogs, two greyhounds, so when someone wants to see the house, we have to leave and take them away. They are getting awful tired of walking around the local park.

So, that is the rut of my life right now. I don’t look forward to weekends, I am discouraged that we go 4/6/ or even 11 days between showings, yet we have to be ready at a moment’s notice to bolt.

Life sucks.

House Selling Blues

Down in the dump today. I am being relocated from Phoenix back to the San Jose area, and things seemed on track for a smooth transition. Got our house cleaned up, fixed up and ready to sell. A month earlier, houses like ours was low inventory, and in demand.

Cool

Put it on the market April 2, and priced it to sell (about $12 – $18 sqft below the comps), and did our thing. Went out of town the first weekend so as to not be disturbed by the viewings. Got 6 or so that weekend, and an offer.

But the offer fell through due to some of the restrictions of the relocation company. Bummer. Back on the market.

And very few showings. We just had a non-holiday weekend without a single call.

I am wondering what the listing kryptonite is? A few blocks a way (short walk) three single story houses went on the market about the same time as ours. All three of them sold within 5 days (to property management companies and investors who will turn them into rentals).

We are still well below the local comps, so I really don’t want to reduce the price. But we may need to do something to get interest back. This sucks.

“Silly”con Valley Neighborhoods

More on the saga so far.

This week we spent three days crawling around neighborhoods looking for places that fit the criteria:

  • They are livable – as in, we can walk our dogs in the evening without fear for our lives.
  • We can afford it – We do have an upper limit to what is affordable, after all. I don’t have early Facebook equity.
  • The commute doesn’t completely suck – Probably the hardest of all. The further away you get, the more affordable it is, but this is inversely proportional to the suck factor of the commute.

On Monday we ruled out a few neighborhoods in San Jose. The fear factor and the feel of some of the neighborhoods was pretty bleak. We also ruled out Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Yes, some affordable options there, but my commute would be tied to Caltrain, and it is a LONG drive for when that wouldn’t work.

But we did find some downtown areas that were well within the “livable” and “affordable” category. And it would be possible to commute by bicycle if I wanted, a bonus!

Tuesday we went up the east bay. Started in Milpitas. Very little inventory, (but lots, and I do mean lots of foreclosures) but every neighborhood we looked at was ratty and run down. Likely due to the reduced tax receipts caused by all the foreclosures (people in foreclosure are not paying their property taxes either). A real turn off.

Further up the east bay, we checked a few places in Fremont. The problem here is the neighborhoods were squiffy. Some really gnarly neighborhoods that made me want to drive through quickly, and some that were in the process of gentrification. But that process was not far enough along to make them attractive. Plus the commute from here is getting egregious.

Last place on the east bay was to check out the Hayward/Castro Valley area. A colleague lives up there, and recommended it. Claimed it took him 45 minutes to get to the office. cough He must never do it in the commute hours. It takes 45 minutes with no traffic and being at the speed limit on the freeways. Big negative.

We also went up the peninsula. Some people urged us to look at Redwood City. The few (very few) affordable places were east of El Camino Real. Very rough neighborhoods. Of course, west of El Camino Real are nice, but it starts at $1M and goes up. Apparently that part of Redwood City is the slums of Woodside.

Lastly, there was one house in “Menlo Park” that met our price target. But this finger of Menlo Park is just east of East Palo Alto. EPA often fights for the “Murder Capitol of America” with DC. Yes, EPA is changing, but it is still not a neighborhood to covet.

The Net Results

The trip was a success. We accomplished:

  • We will be able to buy something that is affordable (if we hold our nose and not think about the price).
  • There are some neighborhoods that are suitable and should be in our price range (yay!)
  • We now know what we don’t want. The fact that we were able to cross a lot off our list will help tremendously when we are actually shopping.
  • The move, while scary, is not terrifying. Yes, it will be tough, and yes, we will give up a lot to move back, but it is going to be do-able.

Now to the next phase. Getting ready to sell our house. We will likely need to downsize a lot of the detritus of our lives. It’s as good a time as any to streamline, so they say.