Rich and I spent all morning with my cousin/realtor and her husband who are helping me look for a house. I won't live in it, it just as an investment. After all, real estate is about the surest thing you can put your money in around the Bay Area. So I pulled out my contribution to our Stock Purchase Plan, and am planning to reduce my 401k dole-out as well. I have gathered enough courage to be a first-time home buyer.
I remember going through the same process 4 years ago, for an entirely different reason. I was looking for a townhouse to buy for my parents, who were planning to migrate to the United States. Though Rich and I were already dating then and he was also helping me, I had a different realtor, a no-nonsense tiny lady who packs a mean business punch. My cousin wasn't even remotely involved in real estate then too, she was busy working at mySimon.com. Ah, the good old dot com boom days.
The house prices back then were outrageous, but I felt like I found a couple of reasonable deals. I made an offer on a 2-bedroom, 2-bath townhouse and flew to Houston the same day to meet up with my parents. We were attending the wedding of a cousin there. I sprung the news to my parents at our hotel, and excitedly showed them pictures. Even if they too got excited at the prospect of living in their own house in the States, their mood suddenly changed when they found out how much the house cost. They felt really guilty that I would wipe out my savings and will have a greatly reduced cash flow. After a long discussion, we all decided it's not wise to buy the house at that time. When I was sure that they have made up their minds, I called my realtor to withdraw the offer. Luckily, it hasn't been accepted and my deposit check was graciously returned by the seller. Back then, sellers have their pick from a multitude of buyers, with the bidding reaching an incredible amount over the asking price. I was lucky my seller felt getting another buyer would not be a problem.
Unfortunately, things did not really work out. I found out later on that my parents would have preferred a place of their own, but by then it's too late to purchase a house, since I got them a lease in an apartment and my dad underwent heart surgery that racked up a lot of bills.
Now my dad is gone and my mom just shuffles between here and the Philippines. As I look at the houses now, I methodically calculate how much I can rent it for, how easy or difficult it would be to maintain it, what kind of renters I can attract for it. I miss the time when looking at houses meant ensuring that it's one level, because my dad doesn't like stairs, or imagining where my dad's lounge chair will be as he watches his favorite Game Show Network, or making sure that the master's bedroom had a walk-in closet for my mom's extensive wardrobe.
I am looking for a good house for other people, because I missed out on providing a good house for my people.