House Hunting Journal – Neighborhood Research

One thing the Internet has enabled in a huge way is the investigation of the neighborhood. Since we are placing an offer on a house we like, and we have learnt to not trust the Trulia crime map (it says our apartment is lowest crime, HA!)

Fortunately, there are many options. Since we are in San Jose, we can use the SJPD Crime Map website to see what activity is in your area. (I would bet my bottom dollar that most modern police forces have something similar). I trust it, because it seems to correlate well where we live.

It lists vehicle thefts, vehicle recoveries, robberies, burglaries, and even where registered sex offenders live (more on this later). You can get some detail on the disposition, and actions, as well as a macro view of the density of crime.

(Hint: I was astounded at how much crime happens in Sunnyvale, a "good" city…)

You also see some trends. Neighborhoods with higher housing prices (i.e. where the "richers" live) have a lot of burglary. Near public places you find more assaults. And so on.

Of course, there is another tool for tracking registered sex offenders. The "Megan's Law" website. Once you accept the disclaimer, you can search by city, address, zip code,county or even name. Looking up zip codes is an eye opener. Sweet zombie Jesus there are a lot of sex offenders. From child porn aficionados to "Lewd acts on a person under 14" (why 14 seems magic is something I just don't want to know), to rape and others.

There are a lot, I mean SHITLOADS of sex offenders. Even in affluent areas.

Well, the offer is in, and we are crossing our fingers. We will still go to open houses this weekend, as we know that the odds are so-so.

House Hunting Journal – Neighborhood considerations

Continuing on the thread of house hunting in Silicon valley – the search for a decent $700K house to buy – yesterday Barbara scratched one folly off her dream list.

One thing that is charming about the downtown San Jose area is the “Craftsman” house. Typically built about 100 years ago, small lot, small house and tons of character. You see some that are extremely well done.

There also happen to be many that fit our price range nicely. So it is not surprising that there is some attraction to them.

However they do have some deficiencies:

  • They are small. Often much less than 1,000 sqft. They were built at a time of simpler pastimes, and really weren’t designed with the concept of a “living room” for the TV or other activities.
  • They are often in neighborhoods that are, uh, sketchy. There is a reason why they are affordable, and that is because they have always been affordable and thus attracted a comparable clientele. Working class, but also a fair amount of crime.
  • They often are in need of a lot of repair. Yes, many/most on the market have upgraded kitchens, with better appliances, but unless a prior owner spent major coin, they often have ancient plumbing and wiring that was designed for much lower draw than the current typical household.

The one that Barbara viewed yesterday had all these flaws. Her comment was that in the middle of the day, the neighborhood didn’t feel safe. What about walking our dogs at night?

It was in the Burbank district of San Jose, just north of Santa Clara, and a place that I used to bicycle through as fast as I could when I rode to SJSU, so it has been sketchy a LONG time.

Any neighborhood that makes our current digs seem like a huge step up, is not a place to consider.

Relocating back to Silicon Valley – The Good

Hell has frozen over, and it looks like I am going to be relocating back to the Silicon Valley. I left there in 2003 to take a job in Tucson that I liked, and came to enjoy much of what Arizona offers. A couple times I flirted with going back, including a very tempting job offer.

As we head out to “preview” the south bay, I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on some of the good things there will be about returning to my childhood and early adult home.

  • Family and Friends – Since I lived in the south bay until I was 38, I still have many ties to the area. My step father, and sister still live there. My other sister lives a few hours away by car in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I also still have several friends in the area. It will be good to reconnect with them.
  • Climate and Activities – I love the outdoors and the related activities. Cycling, hiking, scenic drives are all good stress relievers for me. Tucson had great (technically challenging) hiking, but the climate was such that you were limited from May to October due to the heat. It will begreat to have redwood forests, Stevens Creek Reservoir, Fremont-Older, and other great hiking. Being an hour or less from the beach will be a huge benefit (not that I am a beach comber).
  • The Food – Tucson had the best Mexican food I have ever had. But I struggled to find good Chinese or Indian food. The one Korean restaurant was so so, and everybody’s recommendation for Italian, “Caruso’s” doesn’t even rate a sneer. I know that the Bay Area has a much wider selection, and the ethnic communities do have far better restaurants and variation. Yum. And one thing that I greatly missed is good sourdough bread. Yep, Beyond Bread did a passable sourdough, but nothing, I mean nothing compares to real crusty, chewy San Francisco sourdough. Yum.
  • Business – I am not ever planning on leaving my current job. I love it, and at heart I am an instrumentation guy. But, after the barreness of Tucson, and the better but not great employment market of Phoenix, it is reassuring to know that there will be opportunities to find new challenges should I need to. Silicon Valley remains the epicenter of much of the tech world.

There are some plusses to the move, and I will keep them in mind as I am hunting for neighborhoods, weighing commute, quality of life, and where I can realistically afford to live.

Next post: The Bad