Buying a Starter Home in San Diego is Easier and Less Painful Than Pulling Out Your Own Teeth, but not by Much.

house hunting in San Diego, first home, san diego housing, real estate market

Since last June, we’ve viewed at least 22 houses. Countless hours have been spent on Zillow zooming in and out on homes in great neighborhoods with beautiful landscaping. I’ve wasted away dozens of precious sleep hours (we have a nine-month-old who still won’t sleep through the night), googling terms like escalation clause, agonizing over whether our current offer would be accepted. During waking hours, I find myself daydreaming of our daughter having her own room, so that my husband and I can finally resume our marital relations without an audience.

Our finances are in order, our loan has been pre-approved, and we have an agent who is professional and experienced.  We’ve made four separate offers on four different homes. We’ve waived all contingencies. Offered above asking price. And still nothing. Why can’t we get a house?!? Because we live in San Diego, and my husband, a high school math teacher, might as well be working at Burger King because his yearly income just won’t let us have it our way. Why doesn’t this city pay its teachers enough to actually be able to live here?!?

So while our fourth offer lies on some realtor’s leather desk, most likely getting buried by bigger and better cash offers, I’ve decided to chronicle this long and frustrating process. It will give me something to do other than refreshing my inbox every twenty minutes, and give other potential home buyers out there a realistic view of what they can expect when trying to buy a home for less then half a million dollars in southern California.

House #1

We submitted an offer on this place without even viewing it. Our agent said we had nothing to lose, and the listing photos looked great. We were on vacation at the time, so I signed the offer electronically while lounging at the pool. Buying a house is fun!, I thought.
Then we went to see it.
The actual house looked nothing like it did in its listing photos, which showed spotless, gleaming hardwood floors, and a bright, airy kitchen. Instead, we were greeted by the smell of urine, stained walls and floors, the unhappy current tenants with their chicken, Maria, sitting on the couch.

Mother of God, I prayed, please don’t let our offer be accepted.

And it wasn’t.

We were more than glad to walk away from that house. After all, it was only our first try, and I wasn’t too keen on buying a property that had people and live game already residing there.

House #2

It was clean and bright, and free of chickens. It was also right down the street from a neighborhood park. Never mind the fact that an officer had been shot and killed there just days earlier. We still had high hopes for this home. Even though it wasn’t much bigger than our current residence, it had a massive backyard with the potential to expand, and the neighborhood seemed to be improving; aside from the occasional shooting. We made our best offer, and were put on hold while the sellers waited for a family friend to swoop in and buy it. Game over.

House #3

The high point of our quest…literally. You see, the entire home was set up as a marijuana growing facility. We’re talking commercial grade quantity, and quality, judging by the smell of it.  I was actually concerned that our daughter would catch a contact high while we toured the property. I felt like the chick from Weeds.

Inside, there was a wee little man with a bright red beard and dreadlocks tucked under a cap.  He looked more like a leprechaun who was guarding his gold. He asked us not to open any drawers or cabinets, or touch any of the marijuana plants. They’re after me lucky charms!

The house opened out back to a veritable garden of Eden (if God were a hippie), with every kind of vegetable fruit and herb you could imagine, all organically grown and cared for lovingly. There were stalks of marijuana everywhere, from seed to sprout, and the whole third bedroom was off-limits to viewers because apparently it was a grow room that needed to be kept dark for 12 hours a day.

We practically floated out of that house on a cloud. This was it! My dream house. A lush, thriving garden, a second bedroom attached to the master bedroom that would make a perfect nursery for Hannah, and a huge enclosed back patio where we could all live, play and work. The marijuana was just an added bonus. If we were to pick up where the leprechaun left off, we would probably never have to work a desk job again!

I asked our agent how high we could go. We must have all been really high, because we offered 20k above asking price.  I was both excited and nervous because I was so sure we had it. And then it sold for 15k more than that, to cash investors, or maybe drug lords. Who knows. I was so aggravated that I considered calling the cops and alerting them to what may be the largest marijuana growing operation this side of the Mexican border. But you know me, I would never do that.

House #4

A real sweet property, on Hanna Street! The same name as our daughter, with a slightly different spelling. It’s a sign, right?!? This house was really appealing to us. We ignored the hardwood floors, which were marinating in, you guessed it, urine, from either too many cats or an incontinent dog who was allowed to pee in every single room of the house. We focused instead on the lovely canyon view from a large covered patio out back, the quiet street that looked like it was straight out of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, and the retro kitchen with the adorable vintage oven and original porcelain sink. A spacious living room, and even a fireplace, where we could keep warm in case the temperature ever dropped below 60 in the wintertime. The floors would have to be completely replaced, but that was just about the only thing wrong with it.

So we offered the exact amount they were asking, which also happened to be our maximum limit. That was over two weeks ago, and we still haven’t heard back, so I’m guessing we didn’t get this one, either. I’m starting to get desperate. Maybe I should change our daughter’s name to Imperial Avenue, because that’s about as good as we’re gonna get. How come this isn’t like those shows on TV, where everything gets done in seconds, and nothing smells like pee? How many more houses will there be?

Update: We just heard back from our agent!!!

We didn’t get it.

Today’s house for sale was on the trolley line. Needless to say, we aren’t making an offer.

What Say You?