Finding a way to own instead of renting in the Bay Area, even during the pandemic
When the pandemic started, Kristin and Cliff were renting in Point Richmond.
Kristin was enjoying her ferry commute to her job as a game sound designer at IGT, an international company where she works on a variety of projects, and has recently been composing music for slot games. She’s previously worked on games including The Sims and other EA products, LeapFrog’s early gen Leapster handheld games, the Pokemon online trading card game, and Facebook games.
Cliff, a theater sound designer and teacher at Stanford and San Francisco State, was getting ready for the Frankenstein production he worked on to open at Alley Theatre. Opening night turned out to be the only night for the show, as the theater had to close.
For this creative couple, the switch to remote work opened up the possibility of moving farther from the city.
“We started looking in March,” Kristin says. “The pandemic hit and we realized we were going to be stuck in this apartment for a really long time. It kind of added to the claustrophobia of the times.”
They owned a home previously, in 2007. When the recession happened, they decided to sell and go back to renting until they were in a better financial position.
In March 2020, the time felt right. “We have better credit now, more saved, and the interest rates are crazy,” Kristin says. “We were older and wiser, too. We qualified for a lot more than we ended up spending.”
The couple decided it made sense financially to buy again rather than to continue spending money on rent.
Facebook and other companies in the area started announcing that remote work was likely to go on indefinitely.
“We didn’t know our companies’ policies yet,” Kristin says, “but we started looking at Russian River, at vacation properties. It would be an hour and a half commute if we do have to go back to offices, but who’s to say it won’t only be once a week?”
Their wishlist prioritized outdoor space. Because their first home had been a fixer upper, they also wanted someplace with minimal projects.
When they bought their first home, the couple remember feeling pressure from their agent. “We liked him, but I think some of his advice was for people at a different financial level,” Kristin says. “It seems in retrospect like he was pushing us in over our heads.”
They found Flyhomes and met their Client Advisor, Eric. They appreciated that he was thoughtful and they were happy to learn about Flyhomes products like Guaranteed Offer and Cash Offer.
They started their search with a wide net and started looking at homes online. Virtual tours were starting to become more available with the need for social distancing, but seeing a home in person was important to the couple.
“Even the half an hour that you see a place in person doesn’t seem like enough to commit to such a big decision,” Kristin says. “Ideally I’d love to spend a night to be able to experience what it’s like.”
Touring in person felt risky at that time in the pandemic, but the couple got comfortable with social distancing.
As their search progressed, they decided not to move very far from their workplaces.
Kristin says, “When we got close enough to bid on something, it just became too much of a gamble for us. What if we do have to go into the office?”
They narrowed their search area to Vallejo and Point Richmond because they like the ferry commute, and the mix of urban convenience with nature.
Originally looking for a house, they made a traditional offer on one single family home. The seller chose another offer.
Then they found a condo in Vallejo near the ferry terminal.
“I don’t think either of us ever pictured ourselves as condo people,” Kristin says, “but it’s kind of perfect. It has the perfect level of maintenance. It’s all fun cosmetic stuff that we get to do. There’s a koi pond in the courtyard that I’m going to restore.”
They also loved that the condo is quiet, looks different from other homes, has two stories, and actually met all their goals for a house. Plus, they love the neighborhood.
This time, they worked with Eric to make a Flyhomes Guaranteed Offer and their offer was chosen by the seller.
From there, they found signing paperwork online during the pandemic was a smooth process. They liked being able to take the time to look over documents and then sign from home.
Now, Kristin and Cliff happily enjoy their outdoor courtyard space and their chosen neighborhood. With restaurants nearby to visit on foot and lots to explore, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to the future in their second home.
Their best tip for other people looking to buy during the pandemic? Keep an open mind to the type of home you’ll look for. Practically, know that the interest rates on condos are a little higher than single-family homes. And really understand how much your rate impacts your monthly payments.
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