Last weekend, Brian, Adriana, and I headed to California for a house hunting trip. The experience was very different from finding a place to live in the DC area five years ago. Back then, I came out to DC on my own, spent some time looking around, and figured out what I wanted for myself. Of course, we'd talked extensively before I headed out about what we wanted, but I didn't have to negotiate with anyone as I realized that neither the Virginia high rises that Brian thought might be a good idea nor the Georgetown basement apartments that I had envisioned were right for us. After a weekend of riding Metro and taking wrong buses to get around, we ended up in a condo (above ground, but not in a high rise) in the suburbs for a little more than half of what we were paying for our little house in Santa Cruz.
Now we are moving back to California. Our rent is going to go up, although we fought it (and fought with each other over it). We both went on the trip this time. Instead of newspaper listings, a cell phone, and a Metro card, we had easy access to Google maps and the VTA website so that we could check commute times, as well as a relocation agent who took us first on a general neighborhood tour around the South Bay and Peninsula, and then pulled up listings and took us to view various condos and apartments. The whole experience was vastly different. We negotiated with each other and bounced ideas off the agent.
I think we'll be happy in the place we chose. It's in Mountain View, which we wanted but then decided we couldn't afford. Before we left for California, we decided that we would focus on San Jose, and after an evening wandering around we decided we loved the idea of being right in downtown San Jose. Then we discovered we couldn't afford it. Well, we could afford it, I guess, but we weren't willing to pay that much. During the neighborhood tour, I started thinking Campbell might be good, with lower housing prices and a cute downtown area. Unfortunately, the commute for Brian didn't look good. Then we fell ridiculously in love with a complex in North San Jose that was everything I didn't want in a neighborhood: office park after office park after office park. We are apparently suckers for pretty views and granite counters. But Mountain View seemed like a better bet and the apartment is spacious and seems pretty nice. I feel like such a housewife whenever I say it, but I am excited to have a kitchen larger than what we have now (not that it would take much), in spite of the fact that the stove is electric rather than gas, and I love that not only do we have our own washer and dryer but that they are not taking up room in the kitchen. Brian is already totally in love with the balcony, which gets lots of morning sun, so we're planning on growing herbs and maybe geraniums. We'll be able to walk to the library, parks, and restaurants, and on Sunday we saw that the farmer's market looked big and crowded. I'm excited about our move.
I'm not sure at this point which house hunting method I prefer. I liked the independence of looking for a place on my own, but I'm glad that Brian and I found a place together. I felt that I was exploring more as I visited places using public transit, but the relocation agent and his car made it easier to see a lot of places in one day. The hotel we stayed in was more comfortable than the hostel I stayed in five years ago, but I didn't meet cool women to go out to bars with. But one thing was definitely better about this house hunting trip: when my plane landed at BWI five years ago, it was ten at night and the pilot reported that the temperature outside was over 90 degrees with ridiculous humidity; on Thursday when we touched down in the bay area it was relatively cool and not humid at all.