Home Archives, page 3

As in, my physical domicile.

Rethinking the Refrigerator

In the half-year since we’ve been back in San Francisco and resumed a life many would call “normal”, I’ve noticed that our refrigerator habits appear anything but. I’m starting to think that’s because we spent a year without one—and have yet to “recover”. Imagine a year without cooking (other than a handful of cooking classes), a year without leftovers, a year without being able to preserve food from one day to the next.

You can probably guess that our fridge is almost always empty. Like bachelor-empty. In fact every two weeks, just before we go grocery shopping, it’s completely empty, except for a lone stick of butter and a jar of mustard. This has a lot to do with our shopping and cooking habits—we’ve almost completely stopped buying “refrigerate after opening” and frozen foods. We rarely cook enough for leftovers, though when we do, they get incorporated into meals the following night or two.

What we do keep in the fridge are the things that need frequent replenishing: vegetables, cheese, yogurt, white wine, mustard, eggs, and butter.

It’s like we’re using our fridge more like a root cellar, and less like a black hole. All this makes me wonder about refrigerator design, and whether there are any models optimized more for keeping fresh vegetables fresh, and less for keeping giant bottles of soda cold? Might such a fridge be more energy efficient?

As it turns out, our “new-to-us” fridge has two humidity-adjustable “crispers” and one short but wide temperature-adjustable “chef’s pantry” (whatever that means). Unfortunately one of the pantry lid hinge pegs had broken off, so in my new role as a homeowner, I ordered and installed a new left hand side refrigerator pantry drawer support. How hot is that?

Earthquake welcoming committee

It’s been ten days since Stephanie and I moved into our new home. Compared to past moves this one went so smoothly that I wasn’t quite sure what to say about it. So I’ll just tell what happened.

Justin and Stephanie on the steps of their new condo
On the steps of our new home

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The story of an armchair and sofa

The first armchair and sofa I bought, for my first apartment, took me six months to pick out, and then an astonishing six months to arrive. In the interim, the store where I bought them filed for bankruptcy (and eventually went out of business). In fact I was already in my second apartment when they were finally delivered.

My armchair and lamp
My old armchair looking swank in my Carrboro apartment

Two years later I loaded the armchair and sofa into a trailer for my move to California. They arrived almost unscathed—except for the hole that my bike pedal tore through the upholstery in the back of the sofa (thankfully out of sight when set against a wall). A little over a year later, Stephanie and I moved to San Francisco together, and of course my armchair and sofa came with.

My couch with new national park prints
My old sofa in our Pine Street apartment in San Francisco

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Adventures in Real Estate, part 3

After discovering that someone had made a bold preemptive offer on one of the coolest condos in San Francisco we’d seen, our real estate agents’ advice was to wait and see. Occasionally people make impulsive decisions and back out once they’ve had a chance to think it through. Miraculously, they were right. We discovered a few days later that the preemptive offer had been withdrawn. The sellers were still accepting offers—and expecting them to be submitted less than a week after the open house.

On Friday, November 4th we learned that 5 offers had been made, including ours, and that the sellers were going to do a multiple counteroffer to all parties. We were still in this game! Though we tried not to get our hopes up, we eagerly awaited the counteroffer. The night passed with no counteroffer. The weekend passed, no counteroffer. The more time that passed, the more our idle minds couldn’t help but imagine making it our home.

By midday on Monday, the belated counter finally arrived. It was a single page document requesting the purchase price be raised over our initial offer. And since it was a multiple counteroffer, we had no idea what the other offers had been, or what their counteroffers looked like. And we had to respond by 9pm the same day. This put us in an interesting position as we’d already made an offer at the top of our price range (not to mention over list price). Our real estate agents advised that if we really loved the place, we should consider responding with an offer over their counteroffer—to separate ourselves from the pack.

It’s easy to start down the slippery slope of “what’s another 10k?”, but if the purchase price went up, so would our down payment (which effectively acted as the upper bound on what we could afford). So we decided to split the difference, and made a counter-counteroffer slightly higher than our original offer but lower than their counteroffer. It was a funny moment, I felt good about sticking to our budget and countering their counter, but also wistful, figuring that we were effectively throwing in the towel (surely someone else would pony up).

So you can imagine our surprise the next day when our real estate agents called and said “We have some potentially very good news for you.” This was not the call we were expecting. They basically said that if we were willing to adjust one of the non-financial terms of our counter-counteroffer, the place was ours. OMG!!! Yes, yes of course we’ll do that. That night, November 8th, we were officially “in contract” on the coolest condo we’d ever seen, a mere month after starting our search. We were agog at our good fortune. We were in a complete state of disbelief.

Spanish-Mediterranean facade of our Abbey St condo
Our condo will be the top unit of this cute two-unit building
Living room with bay window and wood-burning stove in our Abbey St condo
The living room has a bay window and a wood-burning stove
Completely renovated kitchen in our Abbey St condo
Without a doubt, this is the coolest kitchen I’ve ever seen
Dining Nook/sunroom in our Abbey Street condo
The dining nook/sunroom opens out to mini-deck

Continue reading Adventures in Real Estate, part 4

Adventures in Real Estate, part 2

Since starting to seriously look at real estate at the beginning of October, Stephanie and I made a habit of trying to check out at least one or two open houses every Sunday. We weren’t being lazy, it’s just that there wasn’t that much available which met our minimal criteria: a two bedroom flat for less than 700k (preferably much less) in a broad central swath of neighborhoods from NoPa to Dogpatch (and possibly parts of SoMa).

San Francisco map of neighborhoods we were looking in for our real estate search
The blue box highlights our general area of interest

Once we’d gotten a good baseline of what was already on the market, and ruled most of it out, we realized that finding a place was going to depend wholly on something new being listed while we were looking. We also knew that the market was going to cool down around Thanksgiving and not pick up again until after the Superbowl. I pretty much expected we’d still be going to open houses in the Spring.

And then, just before the weekend of Halloween, our fourth week of serious looking, I got an email alert for a new listing with the following blurb:

Modern meets Historical in Hip Mission Dolores! This 3BR 1BA completely renovated home features soft & hardwood floors, new electrical, central heating, new windows, period details, wood burning stove in the living room, TONS of storage, chef’s kitchen w/Wolf range, stainless appliances & counters & Scavolini cabinets. A bright sunroom features built in shelves & an eating nook w/custom table for 8-10 people. Ship stairs lead to the attic bedroom which features roof windows, walnut floors & ample storage. On a quiet street with a Walkscore of 94, it’s close to Dolores Park, Bi-Rite, Delfina, MUNI, BART & more! Add to that the active street community with an active Google Group & annual block party and all that’s missing is YOU!!!

Real estate descriptions tend to be pretty formulaic, but something about this one caught my eye. And good thing too, because there were no photos. I pinged our agents for more details, and they said that the photos would be up on Saturday. When I finally saw them, they took my breath away. We went to the open house on Sunday, and it was even better in real life. The kitchen was to-die-for. There was a cute sunroom/dining nook. There were two bedrooms downstairs, a lovely single bath, and an attic-space upstairs that had been converted into a third bedroom. People were crawling all over the place to get a look at it. This was going to move fast.

The obvious appeal and popularity of the condo tempered our initial reaction. Nothing else we’d seen either in photos online or in person came even close to the level of finish and character of this place. We figured we didn’t stand a chance, so we figured, let’s give it a shot. I emailed our agents that afternoon to say we wanted to make an offer. They called back to tell us that someone had made a preemptive offer for more than 100k over list price, well above our price range.

Continue reading Adventures in real estate, part three