December 16, 2020

Buying A House In California As A Single 30-something

FILED IN: Lifestyle

One of my goals for 2020 was to make a big move when my lease was up. I had dabbled with the idea of moving to San Francisco to experience the city life, and I considered quitting my job and relocating to Southern California, too. Of course, at the end of 2019 I had no idea that everyone’s world would be flipped upside down only a few months later. My original plan had been to choose a city first, and figure out my job second. When the pandemic hit and so many companies were making lay offs, I didn’t think it would be smart to quit my current job. As such, I accepted the fact that I’d be bound to the Bay Area for a bit longer so I started looking at one bedroom apartments. Even though the location was always up in the air, one thing was certain: I was going to live by myself. Being single, and 30, I just felt like living alone was the next logical step.

I know what you’re thinking: how did she go from looking at one bedroom apartments to buying a home within months? Bear with me as I explain.

Over the summer my parents relocated and bought a house in El Dorado Hills, California. I had the means to buy a house, but it wasn’t really something I had considered for my foreseeable future. I always assumed I would wait until I was ready to set down roots with a significant other, and had no idea where I actually wanted to live. But watching them go through the home-buying process intrigued me, and I started looking at Zillow and Realtor.com more frequently. Of course, anywhere that I could afford was well outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, and I had a career to consider, so I wasn’t browsing homes with the intention to buy. I was mostly just trying to get an idea of what I could afford, and what my options would be down the road.

As the pandemic went on, I started having really transparent conversations with my boss. We have been working remote since mid-March, and with my lease ending after the holidays I wanted to know if and when we’d be going back to the office in San Francisco. It didn’t seem like working from home indefinitely was totally out of the picture, so my wheels started turning. The appeal to the Sacramento area was that 1) the homes were within my budget, 2) I had a lot of friends living there or moving up that way, 3) my parents were close by, and 4) the commute wouldn’t be impossible if I had to go into the office a couple times a month.

For reference, a one bedroom apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area would be upwards of $2,500— more than the mortgage for an entire home would be in the Sacramento area. It just didn’t make sense to continue throwing money away into overpriced rent when I could be building equity and own something myself.

I wouldn’t consider myself spontaneous, but when I decide that I want something, I want it right then and there. I have next to zero patience. And I decided that I wanted to buy a house. I had the money for the down payment from stock investments, so it was a matter of figuring out what mortgage I could afford as a single income household. My dad works in finance, so naturally he had me crunch the numbers before I got too invested in being a homeowner. I created an excel sheet of my monthly income— both my salary and my blog income— and every reoccurring monthly expense, and then I added in an estimated mortgage. I’ve never felt more vulnerable than I did putting all of my finances on paper. But once we figured out what I could comfortably afford on my own, I was able to narrow my search and look more intentionally.

The rest happened fast. (Are we surprised? I’m stubborn).

Through my months of browsing, I realized a new build was what I wanted and needed. While I see the appeal of buying a resale home, everything that I saw within my budget would have needed tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations and I didn’t want to have to deal with that on my own— financially and mentally. I also narrowed down my search to a one story. Since it’s just me, I didn’t need anything huge.

One night I poured a glass of wine and spent hours scouring Zillow and Google. I found a builder that I loved. They had a whole slew of homes in different towns and price ranges, so I picked 3 different communities and toured them all. I loved the first community but it was too expensive, I hated the second, and the third had limited availability. I ended up passing on all three.

Since my parents had recently gone through the home-buying process, they were pretty familiar with a lot of the newer developments in the area. We looked at one development that my mom said was within my price range and I hated it— the homes were too close together, the standard interior finishes were ugly (so I would have had to upgrade almost everything), and the sales guy was a total PLAR (personality like a rock). My parents thought I was being too picky and unrealistic about what I could afford. I left that development super grumpy, and was ready to give up on the whole process. On our way down the hill, we stopped at a development on a whim and my mood instantly changed. As soon as I stepped into their one story model I knew that was the house I wanted. It had all of the structural features I wanted, the floor plan was everything I needed, and the standard interiors were something I could work with. I imagine how I felt about this home is how many people feel when they meet “the one”— it just felt right. When you know, you know (ya know?). Still, I looked at a few more developments after that just to be sure. Nothing else compared.

They had the perfect lot available with a one story already being built on it, so the next step for me was to get pre-qualified for a loan. I truly wasn’t expecting to get approved, but I was able to pre-qualify on my salary alone, without my additional blog income. So, that was cool. At the very least it was nice to know that I could buy a house on my own if I wanted to. The available lot was set to be completed in February 2021, which worked out well with my lease. I weighed the pros and cons, and decided against it. It was just too soon for me. I wanted to be able to move in with my parents for a few months to save money before I closed on a house. Not to add to the down payment, but for appliances, furniture, and to have a decent cushion in my savings in case of emergency.

Instead, I got added to a priority list for a similar, but different, lot. They called me on Friday, November 13th (I just realized in this moment I bought a house on Friday the 13th) saying that the lot had been released and I had 24 hours to make a decision before they offered it up to someone else. I had all the emotions in that moment. I cried happy tears, stress tears, and sad tears for everything I’d be giving up. I consulted with my parents, thought about it long and hard, and ultimately decided this was the right move. Making such a big commitment was scary for me, but when was I ever going to feel ready to buy a house alone? I knew I couldn’t wait around for a significant other to start building my life, I had to take this next step.

I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t nervous to tackle this alone, but I am so excited for this next chapter, and am so proud of myself for doing it on my own.

Casa de TOM will be done (hopefully) in the early fall 2021, stay tuned.

xx, jordan

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