A First-Time Home Buyer Enters Real Estate Never-Neverland




Even itinerate chefs like myself need a place to lay my head, and to store my pots and pans. I’ve been a renter all my life and until recently never believed I could afford to buy a home in the Bay Area. No doubt I was spoiled, living as I did for 20 years in an affordable rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood (where the median home price now is around $950,000). But on my income, buying even a small condo in San Francisco was utterly unrealistic. And when my days in the rent controlled apartment came to an end, continuing to rent in San Francisco would have been a nightmare. Not wanting to spend half my income on rent, I ended up in Vallejo, very nearly the Bay Area’s last bastion of affordable housing. Finally, this year it dawned on me that in Vallejo it’s now cheaper to buy than to rent. While in most of the Bay Area, home prices have declined since 2007, in Vallejo they’ve plunged. Foreclosures are rampant, and homes which sold for $300,000 in 2006 are on offer for 80 or 90 thousand now. I am sorry so many people have lost their homes, but the city will die if someone doesn’t buy and revitalize these foreclosures. Thus was born, for the first time in my life, a case of real estate fever. Long story short, with the generous help of some family members, I’m armed with a down payment and the determination to become a home owner. I’ve researched the real estate market segment which interests me: small, probably two bedroom, one bath homes built in the teens to the forties of the 20th century, and priced around $100,000, or, hopefully, under. Being an older city, Vallejo has homes built in every decade from about the 1870’s to the present.  Mediterranean homes from the 1930’s are my preferred style, but I also like craftsman and 1940’s ranch houses. Consumed as I am with house hunting, I’d like to share with you a little bit of what is out there. Take a look at some houses of interest, including one on which I made an offer, after the jump…


This 1911 craftsman, pictured top and in the middle in the photo above, was offered at $84,900. While I loved it's style and location, at 738 sq. ft., it just seemed too tiny.


This 1304 sq. ft. house caught my attention because it's just around the corner from where I currently rent. Offered at $89,000, it was extensively updated in 2009. I would have been interested if weren't on a minuscule lot. One of the reasons I want to buy is to have a garden.

This 908 sq. ft. 1938 ranch is for sale at $74,900. It has curb appeal and appears to be in good condition inside and out, but I'm not convinced that I'd like the neighborhood.

This 19th century farmhouse, with upgrades done in the nineties, was offered at $123,000 and quickly sold.

This 3-bedroom 1,112 sq. ft. house built in 1932 has been on the market for five months, and I'm not sure why. Priced at $88,000, it appears to be in good condition and it's in a decent neighborhood. Perhaps it lacks curb appeal.

I was quite taken with this almost 1200 sq. ft. Mediterranean built in 1934. It is well laid out and full of charming vintage detail, including a fireplace and a breakfast nook. I made an offer at the asking price ($105,000) and then went up $2050 when another offer came in. Ultimately, the seller choose the other offer, and I am still looking.

The Zillow page for this house is here. Check back from time to time, as I will post updates on my home search.


5 responses

  1. I bought a condo myself last year. It isn’t exactly the home of my dreams but the price was right and the location is great. I can walk to work and walk downtown. I wasn’t sure I would like the condo life so I thought I’d give it 5 years and see. The prices in Burlington VT have not dropped as they have in other markets. Anyway – I’m working on making the most out of what it is. I LOVE perusing Houzz.com for ideas. Good luck with the search. It will happen!

    • You are right. For me to even consider a house, it must have a decent-sized kitchen. It doesn’t have to have granite countertops and all those popular upgrades, but it must have space enough to create an efficient and workable layout. The Mediterranean home still had the original cupboards which I quite liked, and it was roomy enough that I could have put a work table in the middle to gain counter space. Could have been quite nice!

  2. Well, the 908 sq. foot, 1938 ranch might be a diamond in the rough. Sometime good things come with a different intention. Take sometime and spend a few evenings in the neighborhood, to see what type of activities are going on int the evening time. I believe that was one of many homes we visited during our walking search for your new home. Keep an open mind. The right one will come your way, and it will happen sooner than you think…

  3. this seems like it will be an exciting venture for you and will turn out well if you are approaching the home searching process much as you do the food preparation process. both things are necessary (homes more in a “sheltering” sense rather) for cultivation of spirit and health. i enjoyed the postings of the photos, as I’m a craftsman home enthusiast myself…entertaining to enjoy both food and home photos on the same site! best of luck and much enjoyment in your search. Perhaps that special home will be glowing out at you much as just the right greens wink up at you while you’re in the garden – – – cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: