How one Berkeley couple bought a new home during the pandemic
Sharina and Brandon are a married couple, currently residing in Berkeley, who used to live in a home Sharina bought before Brandon moved to the Bay Area. That home was zoned as a detached condo, sharing one lot with three other units.
After putting a lot of sweat equity into the condo and earning enough actual equity, they decided in early February 2020 to look for a new home.
Finding a bigger home, both to live in and as an investment, was something they’d talked about for years.
“We started looking right at the beginning of the pandemic,” Brandon says. “There was a big question mark on the economy.”
Aside from that uncertainty, another challenge faced Brandon and Sharina in their home search: Sharina was mid-way through a year of active duty stationed in the Middle East for the US Coast Guard. Not only was she out of the country, her schedule was unpredictable.
Brandon also works for the Coast Guard, as a civilian financial analyst. As he was in Berkeley while Sharina was deployed, he took on both selling their current home and finding a new one.
Working with their Flyhomes Client Advisor, Eric, they had video conferences to discuss what they were looking for in a new home and the strategy for selling the one they owned.
Initially, they discussed a Flyhomes Trade Up. With the pandemic adding uncertainty to the market, buying first and then selling made sense. That way, they’d definitely have a permanent place to land even if it took some time for their home to sell.
It turned out that the couple were able to get an FHA loan while still owning the condo, so they were able to buy before selling without using the Trade Up program.
Even though Brandon was the one who was there in person, Sharina says buying a home is more her thing.
“I saw listing pictures. Brandon would do walkthroughs and send me emails,” she says. “The time difference was the hardest part because we were at opposite ends of the day.”
They both looked at buying as an investment and didn’t get too emotional about it. Coming from a two bedroom/one bathroom condo, they wanted a yard. They’d gotten handy after working on their first home, so they were willing to do cosmetic repairs.
They loved their Berkeley neighborhood and didn’t want to go far. When they found a duplex in the same zip code that checked all of their boxes, they went for it.
The home is in a different area of Berkeley, but one they still love.
“We felt like we weren’t sacrificing what we enjoyed about where we lived before,” Sharina says. “We’re close to the Bay, there are shops and restaurants in walking distance. There’s coffee two blocks away.”
Bonus: it even has a garage, rare for the area.
“In our favor, the sellers wanted to cut ties and part ways with the home,” Brandon says. “Eric knew we had substantially more money to offer, but when we told him our max he said we wouldn’t need that much. I was super-impressed because other agents’ first answer seemed to be to go all in whether you have half a million or four million. We barely went over asking and were able to get it.”
The most stressful part of buying the home was all the documents required for their loan.
“Having Eric as an ally throughout the whole thing helped us navigate,” Brandon says. “He never got stressed out. I followed his lead.”
Moving during the pandemic was quite a task for Brandon to take on by himself. They’d lived in their previous home for 10 years, so he had a lot to pack up. Sharina made sure to tell him what not to forget or get rid of.
Once he moved out, Eric hired stagers and prepped their condo to sell. Brandon was also HOA president at the condo, which made it tricky for him because he had to represent both Sharina as the official owner and the HOA.
“It happened quickly,” Brandon says. “We got offers before we were officially listed. We ended up with 15 offers and one was head-and-shoulders above the others money-wise.”
Once their house was sold, all that was left for Brandon to do was settle in and wait for Sharina to get back to Berkeley. After postponed flights due to the pandemic, she finally returned to her new home on the Fourth of July.
Welcome to your new place and thank you for your service!
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