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As in, my physical domicile.

Adventures in Real Estate, part 1

We arrived in San Francisco on September 16, exactly 13 months after we left. I took one look at the rental market on Craigslist and gasped. It seemed that rents had doubled in the time we’d been gone. Well, not exactly, but two-bedroom apartments were going for more than double what we first paid for our one-bedroom five years earlier. Even if we stuck with another one-bedroom, we’d easily be paying $600-800 more per month than a year before.

And so, at the end of our first week in San Francisco, we found ourselves attending a four-hour long first-time home buyers class. We didn’t even have jobs yet! But I knew that eventually we would. In the meantime, I had nothing better to do than get educated. More than anything, I didn’t want to fritter away a year or two of rent hemming and hawing if we pictured ourselves eventually paying into a mortgage. Let’s bite the bullet now (while housing prices have stabilized and mortgage rates are at historical lows).

By the middle of our second week in San Francisco, we both had respectable job offers. So I called up some mortgage brokers and explained our special situation. If we had to wait a year or two to rebuild our financial history, I wanted to know that sooner rather than later. But on the contrary, I got the sense that given our spotless credit, lack of debt, and my remaining savings, our year-long absence from the workforce wouldn’t pose that much of a problem as long as we could provide documentation of our previous salaries, had at least a month or two worth of paystubs from our soon-to-be new jobs, and hadn’t changed careers. This was a watershed moment. If the banks would lend us the money, we could do this.

On our third week in San Francisco, I met with a team of two real estate agents that had been recommended to me by my tax accountant. They seemed professional and straightforward—so I decided to start working with them. That weekend (Oct 9th) we visited more than half a dozen open houses. Nothing really won us over, but we got a good sense of the properties on the market and within our price range. The very next day I started my new job (Stephanie had already been working for a week) and the day after that, we moved into a furnished studio with a month-to-month lease (after having spent the previous three weeks crashing with several very generous friends).

Continue reading Adventures in real estate, part two

Last transmission from Pine Street

Here we go. Leaving our once-cozy little apartment on Pine Street. The rental car is packed with all the things you see in the photo below. A combination of stuff we’ll need on the way to Austin (camping equipment, etc), stuff we’ll be leaving in Austin (important documents, clothes), and stuff we’ll be taking with us on our travels.

Stuff we are leaving San Francisco with
The last of our stuff

Our first stop is LA, to visit with relatives and friends. After that it’s Tucson to visit Saguaro National Park. We’ll be meeting up with my Dad in El Paso on Thursday night, so that we can drop off the rental car and drive with him to Big Bend National Park, and then on to Austin for a week. Stephanie and I will be updating our assorted statuses as we go, when we can. But very likely my blog will fall behind real life.

Road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Phoenix to Tucson to El Paso to Big Bend to Austin

Map of our route from San Francisco to Austin

My parents asked me last night when does the “trip” begin for us? Was it last Friday, after our last day at work, or is it when we set foot on the boat…? Without getting too philosophical, I said “neither”. The trip begins now.

All our stuff in 5 square feet

I always forget how hard moving is, even though I’ve recorded my past travails in great detail. Perhaps forgetting is a survival skill, because if I ever truly anticipated the full physical, emotional, and mental effort involved, I’d never move again!

This time was no exception, even considering a massive furniture sell-off and a full week to pack and prepare. The unusual thing was that we’re not really moving. We’re just storing our things while we make our way around the world. In order to do so, we reserved a 5×5′ climate controlled storage unit in Santa Rosa: climate controlled to protect our things from the heat and cold, in Santa Rosa for cost savings (cheaper than San Francisco) and proximity to friends we can stay with when we return.

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Not working, but packing

This week is our last in San Francisco—after four years as city-dwellers. It also marks the end of five years of California living since I moved to Santa Rosa from North Carolina. For Stephanie it’s been nine since she moved from France. On Sunday we’ll be picking up a rental car to begin our journey across the country (to catch a boat in Philly). I’m sure we’ll be back, I’m just not sure when or for how long.

Which means this week we pack. We’ve already spent the last several weeks selling most of our furniture, (in truth I’ve been getting rid of stuff since January), so the hope is that we’ll be leaving with much less than we came with (or accumulated over the years). Then on Friday we’ll be taking everything that’s left up to a 5×5′ storage unit in Santa Rosa where it will remain for the next year or so.

What’s important enough to keep? Books—a lot of which are cookbooks. We still have CDs—need to rip some for the trip. Pottery and objets d’art. All of our kitchen stuff. A select few pieces of small furniture. Clothes—some of which we’ll be leaving with my parents in Austin (so we have something to wear when we return). And that’s pretty much it.

It’s a little funny thinking we won’t be seeing any of our stuff for a year or more. But it’s also kind of refreshing, like we’re creating a personal time capsule. Complete with inventory in Google Docs!

A Moment in Time

This was my humble submission for A Moment in Time, the New York Times’ Lens Blog’s collaborative project to collect photos from people all over the world taken on May 2nd at 15:00 UTC.

Unfortunately for me that meant 8am on a Sunday morning, so I dutifully set my alarm for 7:55. Of course that also meant I wasn’t out doing anything particularly eye-opening. Instead I was just beginning to open my eyes. So I tiptoed around the apartment, camera in hand, paying particular attention to the morning light coming through the closed blinds. And I settled on that.

Kitchen window for 'A Moment in Time'
Mini blinds in the morning