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Monthly Archives: July 2006

Why not have a seat?

I really don’t understand what it is with people who keep scheduling meeting where the idea is to stand the whole time. Seriously, my boss has a “standing meeting” with his boss every week. It seems that many people schedule these standing meeting extremely regularly, usually at the same time and day every week! Never once has it been a sitting meeting – no, always standing. I don’t even know what the meetings are about. My boss’s calendar usually just says “Standing with NB.” I should try that as a pick up line for a date! “Hey, wanna get together and stand sometme?”

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I’m pressing on in the search for a home. After last week’s debacle (thanks a lot, Adam, for buying that out from under me!), I’m expanding my search to include areas outside of Berkeley. For one thing, it is possible to get more for your money. Additionally, you can get a little more peace, pay slightly lower taxes and fees on the transaction.
The main problem with expanding the search is that now there are so many options! By the water? In the hills? North of Berkeley? South? Why not go to Walnut Creek where houses cost even less and you get even more? Isn’t there a good outlook for appreciation in areas like that?
This is one good thing about not being in a hurry – I can afford to take time answering these questions.

Categories: A Day in the Life | 1 Comment

Spare the Air, Spare the Assets

Spare the Air days have saved me $19.50 this week, and $32.50 over the past two months. The idea behind Spare the Air is that, on days when air quality is predicted to be low, public transit throughout the Bay Area is free all day. Now, this saves me nothing on the bus since I buy a monthly pass – that’s a sunk cost – but I do save money on BART. Every Spare the Air Day saves me $6.50 in BART fares! I’m not entirely sure that this program promotes people to ride public transit that wouldn’t normally, but at least it is a big held to folks like me who ride public transit every day.
Speaking of BART, I’ve come to a realization about riding backwards. Many people don’t like to do so. They say they become ill or are afraid because they can’t see what is in front of them. Riding backwards, though, has one real benefit and one very valuable potential benefit that should make the backward ride the most coveted.

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You’re Kidding

I made an offer on a house here in Berkeley yesterday. Within 3 hours of the offer being presented, it was rejected. Now, I wasn’t shocked that we were rejected. In fact, I rather expected to be. We came in at list price of $765,000. The market has been slowing recently, so I thought we were at least being fair with that offer. Turns out we weren’t. As I said, I wasn’t shocked that we were rejected, but the things that did shock me were:

  • The number of offers that were made (8)
  • Where we placed in the lineup (tied with one other offer for last)
  • The final selling price (over $900,000)

Outrageous. My Realtor couldn’t disclose the exact amount of the accepted offer, but it was close to if not more than $140,000 over the list price! There is no way the house was worth that much. Someone made a bad choice with that.

Categories: A Day in the Life | 3 Comments

Preparing for the future: An eye-opening weekend

Allow me to be 100% honest here. There have been times over the past 4 to 6 years when I have seriously doubted that the married life was for me. I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps it was because being single is so much easier: you can look out for number one and not feel like you’re being selfish, you can schedule your life your way, you can up and leave town at the drop of a hat.
Surprise, surprise. Relationships are work. Marriage is a life-long committment (at least it is meant to be, but that’s another story). There is something about marriage that is at once exhilirating and frightening. Marriage requires more than just “committment,” it requires a complete opening of oneself to another person, complete honesty, devotion and love. Some people say that men are afraid of committment. I don’t agree, at least not for the general population of men. What frightens me is all that other stuff. Committment is easy. We commit ourselves to things all the time: college, jobs, church, sports. Sometimes these things are challenging, but we stick with them. Committment isn’t the trouble. What if you were told that you had to be passionate about your job? You had to devote your life to it, and everything you do should be for, about or in consideration of the job? It is a scary thought!! But that is what you commit to when you get married. You are no longer two people leading separate lives – you are one person leading one life, and every action you yake impacts the union, even if you don’t realize it.
Now, over the past few months I’ve been trying to more closely explore my feelings on this subject. Even as recently as two weeks ago, I was still on the fence. But this past weekend opened my eyes to something brand new.

I had the joy of spending part of the weekend with two wonderful children, Jacob and Zoe. They are both 10 years old. Jacob is the grandson of Jeanne, the woman I was staying with in San Jose this past November – February. Zoe is his Jacob’s girlfriend, and an equestrian student of Jacob’s mom, Gwen. I was lucky enough to take both of them to a geocaching picnic at Roaring Camp in Felton, CA and then out for some geocaching in the area afterwards. Go ahead, try and remind me of a better weekend that I’ve had over the past few months or even the past few years.
I can’t explain it, but there was just something about taking the kids out that was thrilling. Oh, they could be challenging, but overcoming the challenge was done more out of love than responsibility. Now, I’ve taken Jacob out geocaching before, and we had a great time. In fact, after our first outing, I posted an away message saying that I needed a 10-year-old son. But this weekend was different. With both kids, I had the opportunity to see them interact with each other, to hear them talk about the things that are cool for 10-year-olds these days, to feel an outpouring of emotion for and from them, to excite them with little metal boxes hidden in the woods, send them bravely into waterfalls, laugh with them, protect them, and admire them.
It’s settled then – I need to be a dad. I shocked myself when I came to this decision. Children had never honestly been part of my plan. I had nothing against them, but I also never felt the need to have my own. That has changed.
This poses a significant problem, though. Namely, marriage. Why? Because I’m pretty much retarded when it comes to relationships. It is an internal battle just to ask a girl on a date, a battle that is usually won by the retarded side. I have a pretty good idea of why this is: I’m not convinced that I’m interesting to anybody but myself. I’m not trying to be funny here. In all seriousness, for some reason, I can’t imagine that any sane woman would have any interest in me at all. Where this idea comes from, I really don’t know, but it is present nonetheless, and it is toxic. I think another issue is that the way relationships seem (to me) to work in the modern age is not the way I think they should work. I’m not looking for the random hookup. I’m not looking to date someone for the sake of going on a date. I’m not simply looking for the most attractive person I can find. I’m looking, ultimately, for something much more meaningful than that, and I’m worried that what I’m looking for is too hard to find in the modern world.
Alright, I know I’m sounding off my rocker here. But I started off this post by saying I was going to be 100% honest, and so I wanted to be 100% honest. There you have it.

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Return of the Digital Jedi

Well, it seems I had lost The Force for some time, but I’m back now. Yes, my blog posts seem to have suddenly stopped a few weeks ago, but there is a definite reason for that.
First, I’ve really taken to the mobile blog – what better way could there be to spend my 55 minute commute (each way) every day than by updating the journal? It is time that I’m confined to a limited space for an unavoidable amount of time with no specific tasks, so why not blog!?
Well, in order to successfully Blog from BART, you need a phone that gives you mobile internet. That’s where the Sidekick comes in. Unfortunately, my Sidekick (a replacement of the original, and only a month old) died about two and a half weeks ago. Yes, the replacement unit died! I was pretty displeased with this whole scenario, let me tell you. So, I sent the ‘kick off to be replaced. Well, I only just received the replacement yesterday, July 12.
Of course, I could have been blogging from a computer – after all, that’s still what the majority of bloggers are doing, but there have been other things pulling me in different directions as of late.
Perhaps the biggest news to report is that I am getting ready to buy a house here in the Bay Area. As you know, I’m currently working in Berkeley and living in San Francisco. While I do enjoy having the commute time to blog, I don’t particularly love the commute! As such, I’m looking to buy a place in Berkeley that is either walking distance to the campus or at least near a major transit line serving the campus. The past week or so has been spent diligently researching properties, mortgage brokers and real estate agents. I’m now in the middle of everything, focused on two very important tasks: mortgage pre-approval and finding the right property. Hopefully this week the mortgage pre-approval documents will all be submitted for review. There is a property currently on the market that I’m interested in, but in order to make an offer, the loan really must be pre-approved. While getting all the mortgage ducks in a row, I’m also reviewing all of the disclosure documents on the property trying to decide the true value of the house.
The market in this area used to be one, even as recently as a year ago, where, if you wanted a house, you paid whatever the cost, whatever the condition. Not so today. The buyer has a little more control today. They no longer have to accept every property as it comes. There are more houses on the market and greater flexibility in prices and it is easier to walk away from a deal if things aren’t going the way you expected within a certain inspection period. Don’t like that light bulb in the bathroom? Walk away. A year ago, that was impossible. If you wanted a house, you took it, warts and all. Today, warty properties either need to get some serious beauty work done, or they need to bring the price DOWN. The age of the $900K hovel is disappearing.
Don’t get me wrong, houses are still outrageously priced here, but this is now based more on land value than the structure. In order to sell, a worthless structure needs to be priced accordingly, or it will sit unsold. The Cali market is different in other ways, as well. For example, even though the market is cooling, you still can’t rest on your laurels. There are ways that agents try to “heat up” the market and drive price increases. One way is by accepting offers on only one date. Everyone who wants to make an offer comes to the table (or sends their agent to the table) on the same day. This creates a mini-auction, and the hope is that it will lead to higher offers. As the market cools, it would be dangerous to fall into this trap. I’m fortunate in that I am not desparate for a house right now. I can stand to offer only what I think a house is worth. If some schmuck wants to overpay, let him. Another way agents try to heat up the market is by underplaying a property’s drawbacks and overplaying the benefits. This is true in all markets, I would expect. This is why the disclosure documents are so important. When you’re talking about spending the (far) better part of a million on anything, it is important to make sure you understand exactly what you are getting.
All in all, the whole process is interesting at least and exciting at best. Wish me luck!

Categories: A Day in the Life | 1 Comment