Sunday, September 22, 2013

Take 29 House hunting in San Jose - Part One

Take 29
House hunting in San Jose - Part One

And so we begin the thrilling, exciting, and sometimes disappointing and frustrating task of finding and buying our next home. When we first moved here, houses were at an all time low and deals were everywhere to be had. It was a buyer's market. But, unfortunately,  we weren't ready financially. We still had a property in Canada and many months would have to go by before we could start looking at the possibility of owning a house.  Ironically, now that we are free and able to do so, the market has changed and it is now a seller's market. Prices are higher and competition is fierce. Price wars are commonplace and some sellers are more than happy to take advantage of the situation because they have the upper hand. Regardless of all this, we are pushing forward.

In Canada, when you decide to buy a house, you go to your bank or the bank that offers the best conditions. Here, to get the best conditions and rates you go to a Broker. He or she will gather your information and negotiate the best rate with a bank, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or a private lender. He will speak on your behalf to secure that needed mortgage at the best rate. Unless, happily, you are financially loaded and don't need the help of a bank or a broker. If so, good for you ! As for us, we need a lending hand.  The broker we chose was extremely competent at explaining the American Mortgage system to us and informing us of our financial possibilities and realities. We were thankful that he turned out to be a conservative person and not a salesman out to entice us into taking a bigger loan than planned. We had our goal and he agreed with our numbers. So, after his confirmation that all of our information checked out, off we went with our agents, a real estate couple whom we met a few months prior at a garage sale (go figure!) to visit houses through private showings and open houses. When you look in popular and cool neighborhoods open house events can be circus-like. Here in Silicon Valley the demand for houses is greater than great, the inventory is minimal and its about to get worse since several large tech companies are hiring by the thousands. So back to open houses where there are people everywhere, taking measures, opening doors and windows, etc. A time consuming and tiring activity where you see houses in all shapes of disrepair at ridiculously high prices. A daunting task to see the jewel in each of them. 

And then a ray of hope. There was an Eichler, in our price range. When we first moved to California, we became aware of Eichler homes. They are mid-century modern houses built between 1956-1970, mostly in California with a few in New York State, by Joseph Eichler. A man with a wonderful philosophy of life which included wanting to design homes for people regardless of religion, race or creed. The houses are generally flat roofed with radiant floor heating and walls of windows looking towards the backyard with minimal windows in front, allowing total privacy while exuding wonderful avant-garde design. If you are curious, Google Eichler homes and you will see the reason for our passion. There is even an association for Eichler homeowners mainly for guidance on resources to renovate the mid-century homes and to inform as to new listings of Eichlers. This particular one had been perfectly renovated respecting each little details of the design right down to the colors of the exterior and even to the civic numbers on the house. Those owners got it perfectly. Every little detail. We were in love! Totally smitten. We could imagine our lives there,Taylor frolicking in the yard, Constance the cat bumping into windows at first. We could see ourselves there. So, we put in our best and largest offer as well as a note (some sellers encourage that to know who they are selling to) explaining in a few words who we were and why we wanted their house. And then we waited. We were on pins and needles. When the answer came, we were devastated. The house had gone to another buyer offering more, but not much more. At least the sellers didn't force a bidding war, like it happens in the more desirable areas;  they just considered all the offers they got (and there were a lot) and picked their favorite.  After the disappointment, we figured we had learned a valuable lesson and had to regroup. We had to return to the drawing board, to our list of wants in a house, and strive not to compromise. In my next post, you will find out what we did and what we found. Don't miss it !

Here is a wonderful recipe I found in the paper the other day. Add a glass of Chardonnay (or not) and you will have a great meal and maybe leftovers for a sandwich if you double or triple the recipe.

Pancetta Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

1 trimmed pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon white wine
3-4 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Season tenderloin on all sides with salt and pepper.
2. In a small bowl, mix the mustard and wine. Using a pastry brush or your hands, cover the tenderloin liberally with the mixture. Sprinkle rosemary evenly over tenderloin.
3. Lay a 10-inch square of parchment or wax paper with pancetta, overlapping slices by about 1/2 inch. Lay the tenderloin 1 inch in from the edge closest to you, parallel to the edge. Fold the bottom inch over the tenderloin, then roll the paper around the tenderloin. The pancetta should be tightly wrapped around the roast. Remove the paper.
4.Place the tenderloin on a rack in the roasting pan. Roast about 20 minutes or until the the pancetta is golden and crisp and a meat thermometer registers 140 degrees. Let rest 10 minutes, then slice into rounds 1-inch thick.

Enjoy !