The Millennial’s Guide To Real Estate

by juli boggs

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After a six months search for an apartment in midtown I’d reached the end of my renter’s rope. Whether San Franciscans were flooding our sleepy cultural-hamlet or if I’d just been out of the market for too long, a novella-sized stack of denied applications told me everything I needed to know. Renting sucks and it was time to buy.

I thought that would be the hard part, just deciding to do it, until I found out that house-buying is exactly as competitive as apartment-renting. It’s a war against time, where “war” means hemorrhaging money instead of blood, attracting bondsmen like starving sharks- though honestly my bond guy has proven very reasonable and I’d be happy to make a referral anytime.

It all begins benignly enough with the Open House. This is how I’ve spent my weekends for months now, cruising up and down tree-lined streets like a property predator, e-braking my Honda Civic at a glimpse of any “open house” placard set in a front yard, those white balloons beckoning to passersby like a ruse.

I park the car and step purposefully into the brightness of a stark home that is not my own. Staged furniture stands like a sentinel in every room, goading you to consider where a couch could fit or what would perhaps make a delightful home office. It is important to not be swept away by the crushing flow of hugely expensive possibilities such as knocking out a few walls and installing sky lights. You must quiet your mind of uncountable HGTV reruns and home improvement Pinterest boards, instead turning your vigilant eagle eye to sagging rooflines and peeling paint suggestive of far deeper damage than even your eagle eye can see. You do not want to be the fool that gets stuck with this place. I know because I’ve made mistakes.

It started with a hundred-year-old “charmer” in North Oak Park. After reaching an agreement we set to work arranging for the inspections, and within a week it was determined that the roof, the foundation, and everything betwixt were equally doomed. Even the towering oak tree in the backyard would have to go, its roots wrapped around the deteriorating sewer lines like a wrestler in full-nelson, necessitating specialists and their merciless, “indeterminable” quote for the full price of repair. The house seemed to be standing only by virtue of good weather, the next rain (should there ever be any again) slated to take it down. I walked from the deal and threw my lot in for a handful of other properties, but so far I’ve been shut out. What is a hapless millennial set on home-ownership to do?

While the siege of slum lords and billionaire investment groups threatens the affordability of our livelihood here, I will not allow their rampage to discourage me. Sacramento is my home, and it is here that my home will be found. Also, still looking for leads on an enthusiastic realtor.

*as run in Sacramento News& Review Feb 19 2015