Archive for October, 2012

Forget Your Perfect Offering

October 18, 2012

In the depths of the remodel, before we’d even moved into our new place, Mr. WholeHog and I would half-joking talk about putting it up for sale. The remodel had given us a much more realistic idea about the kind of work that our place required, and since SF’s real estate market was much stronger than it was when we bought our place, we figured we had good chance of selling it and recouping what we’d put into it.

But the idea of selling our new place remained a joke until about a month ago when 910 Page Street came on the market. 910 Page seemed like a better version of our place. It was top floor and had many of the same historic details, but it was in a two-unit building that had retained its lovely Victorian exterior, while our place was in a three-unit building that was covered in crappy siding. It had a small yard, and it even had parking, but the real kicker was the location: it was a few blocks from some of our favorite restaurants and close to what will soon be the second location of Bi-Rite Market. It was walking distance to Mr. WholeHog’s work and within two blocks of both my sister and my cousin.

“This was the place we should have bought,” I told Mr. WholeHog. As much as I hated the idea of moving again, I put the open house on my calendar and I spent the next few days weighing the inconvenience of moving against the convenience of the location and thinking about how to break it to our realtor that we wanted to sell our place and buy a different one.

I felt right at home at the open house since 910 Page had the same entry — the same stairs and the same open hallway along the top of the stairs — and the same general layout as our place with the living room in the front of the building and the kitchen in the back. I noted some of the differences as I walked through the rooms: we have a separate dining room, while it had a small dining nook off the living room. It had more closets, but ours gets better light. But when I got to the kitchen, I knew the fantasy of selling our place and buying this one was over: the kitchen needed work. It was tiny and dated. The roof sloped the way ours did before we remodeled. The agent cheerfully told prospective buyers about how it could be improved: “If you knocked down the wall between the kitchen and the second bedroom….”. I couldn’t get out of the open house fast enough.

I realized that I’d had the equation wrong. I’d been weighing moving against location and crappy siding against classic Victorian woodwork, but the real choice, it turned out, was something I hadn’t had to consider when we were first looking to buy a home: whether to take on another remodel or not, and that choice was crystal clear to me. I’ll take crappy siding any day.

It turned out that I shouldn’t have wasted my time to even considering 910 Page. It sold for $135,000 over its asking price (far out of our budget). It was yet another sign that I am where I need to be right now. Our home may not be as well located as the place on Page, but it’s one we can afford (and it may soon be more affordable if our refinance goes through) and at least our kitchen remodel is behind us.


I went out into the night

October 7, 2012

Many nights, after we’ve finished eating dinner and watching The Daily Show on Hulu, Mr. WholeHog and I head out on a walk. Sometimes we walk because we’ve eaten too much at dinner and need to walk it off. On other nights, we might walk somewhere to get dessert. On the rare warm nights, like we experienced earlier this week, a walk is a way to get out of our stuffy apartment; on other nights, it’s a way avoid doing the dishes. And sometimes, like after making an offer on the apartment that we now own, walking helps us clear our heads.

I thought about our evening walks when we were looking for a place to buy, and Noe Valley is a pretty good area. It feels relatively safe, the streets are fairly clean, and we don’t run into crazy street people or drunk kids — although at times, we have to wade through the crowds of people waiting for their number to be called at Mitchell’s ice cream. Usually the people we see on our evening strolls are out walking their dogs or going on a nighttime run.

There’s a lot to see in the dark. TVs are now so large and bright that on our walks we’ve watched the neighborhood’s TVs turn from the Olympics to football to politics. Given the home improvement projects on our minds these days, we’re often more interested in the paint colors or the built-in shelves we see in other people’s living rooms than what they’re watching on TV.

On our recent strolls, we’ve watched the predictable start of Decorative Gourd Season. First, there was just the occasional pumpkin sitting on the front steps, but now the full-on Halloween assault of spider webs, ghosts and jack o’ lanterns has begun. One night, as we walked toward Glen Park, we heard a strange shrieking sound and found two skunks fighting over a bowl of cat food that had been left out on someone’s front porch. Earlier this week, a hot Indian summer night, we walked up Bernal Hill in the dark and watched a huge orange moon rise up over the East Bay hills.