The bay area of California is notorious for its expensive housing. With its convenient drive to the ocean, the location is prime. Home to Google, eBay, and a myriad of other companies that were key players in the dot com boom, it has provided jobs to computer geeks turned millionaires, further driving up home prices. But for myself, a kid growing up there, it was just simply home. It was where my bicycle tires knew the sidewalks and where I was well acquainted with the playground equipment and local library. It was where my parents lived and where I made the greatest of friends.
When I moved away in 2001 to attend college, I had no idea that I could never truly go back. Reality hit the table with the real estate listings in magazines showing asking prices containing far too many digits. Especially for someone like me. After all, I had set out to be a writer and by this time I was also a newlywed. Living in our childhood bay area town was simply out of the question.
My husband and I moved up to Sacramento, which was much more reasonably priced. Still crazy compared to most of the nation, but once a Californian, always a Californian, so we were determined to make it work. Unfortunately a large chunk of bay area residents agreed with us, and while we both worked full time to save, the housing market in the Sacramento Valley skyrocketed. It had become a miniature bay area, and if we wanted to start a family and be able to share that with our parents and other loved ones, then we knew we had no choice but to suck it up and really plan our financial future carefully. Which is what we are currently doing now.
The first step in that planning was to check our credit and come up with a money agenda. While my credit score was definitely nothing to brag about thanks to my irresponsibility with credit cards while still a teenager, my husband’s score was decent. However, we both had things to repair, and we began to work on it. Calling creditors, finding out how to remedy situations it can all seem very discouraging and futile. However I knew that in the long run, showing that I was righting my wrongs and moving strongly on a positive financial path was the best thing that we could possibly do.
Setting up a budget was another difficult first step in becoming an aspiring homeowner. Newly wed and kid free, we enjoyed eating out and having fun whenever we pleased. Combine that with our busy work schedules that didn’t leave a lot of time and motivation for cooking, and we realized that a tremendous amount of our money was going toward dining out and other unnecessary expenses. I didn’t wait for the new year to make a resolution. Right then and there in the dead of August, I resolved to learn how to cook, and little by little, we have been saving money and the meals have become more edible.
Talking to a loan consultant was another valuable step in home owning preparation that we recently took. We were fortunate enough to have a great man in our church that was in the industry. Sitting down with us free of charge, he broke down our finances and let us know what our price range was going to be. He reminded us of property taxes, closing costs, and all of the financial details involved with owning a home.
Most importantly, he taught us the red flags that happen when working with lenders. He advised us against anyone who wouldn’t acknowledge what our exact monthly payment would be, and he helped us to learn about prepayment options and what to do if we found that we are having second thoughts about a loan we had chosen.
Choosing a neighborhood was our next step, and that was truly the enjoyable one. While we have yet to select a specific house, we have found a great community in the Sacramento area that we are sure would be perfect for us to be a part of and a place where we can truly start our future. We enjoyed researching about the history of the city, and what future plans there are for it. While we will have traffic, we will not be far from our jobs. And while we will not have a huge backyard, we will have a safe neighborhood close to schools. And while it may not be the bay area dream home that we originally had in mind, it will be a first home which makes it wonderful.
We are playing the waiting game now, working and saving until we can buy late this summer. The experience has truly been full of learning and also mastering the art of being patient and not giving in to the instant gratification culture that you often find out here in California. Instead, we are going slowly and steadily, planning our future the right way. And in the end, that will truly be the biggest reward.