Friday, February 16, 2007

A Picture of my New Home !

Just thought I'd post a picture of my New Home !

Here it is... (click for larger pic)
1800+sq.ft, 2 story, with fireplaces, 3 car garage, 4bed, 3bath
and a 6000 sq.ft lot (3000 of which is backyard)

It is less than 5 years old and is going to be fun to decorate internally and externally (landscaping). My Significant other has already chosen nearly every element of our new furniture wish list. I just have to fork over the checks from time to time.. haha.
But I really don't mind. She is very good at decorating and matching colors and fabrics and all that jazz. She does it tastefully and keeps a great home.

This Valentines day I couldn't afford to take my wife out to dinner or get her a fancy arrangement of flowers or jewellery. Mainly because I was scraping all the money I could muster into my savings account during escrow and saving all the rest to furnish the place. And God bless her, she didn't mind it at all. So we spent 14th February evening on plastic chairs eating Pizza and drinking champagne. (in our San Jose apartment.. we have sold all our current furniture) We watched Cold mountain on DVD. Believe you me, it was (in my book) a really nice Valentines day.

Yesterday (15th Feb) , I presented my wife her valentines day gift. A small felt blue jewellery box with the keys to our new home in it. Uh-huh, yeah, corny, I know.. but you had to be there... :)

Now THAT's a valentine day present !! :-)


Hey by the way, is anyone in Tracy selling their Pool table ? I need one for my game room !
email me.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why did I move to Tracy ? - Part 2

Read Part - 1 of this 'click here'

...continued from Part - 1 I told my colleagues that I bought a new house. After the "Wow, Congratulations" and the pats on the back, came the usual question.

"Where did you buy your house?"

"Tracy" I reply with a smile, knowing what was to come next.

"TRACY ?? Good God, you're crazy !!" they all say, "how will you commute all that distance ?"

Now I launch into my standard sales pitch for Tracy... and it goes something like this.
  1. Tracy is a family oriented town.
  2. Tracy is very safe and very quiet and the houses are very new.
  3. Value for money ($ for house) is so much better. (I own a 1800sq.ft 2 story house in Tracy with fireplaces, 3 car garage, 4bed, 3bath and a 6000 sq.ft yard... beat that for $500k).
  4. Appreciation may be slower than the bay area, but it does appreciate. (My insurance agent bought a home in Tracy in 2003 for $380k , it is now worth $515k. So don't tell me there is no appreciation.
  5. Tracy has all the major outlets that all other Bay Area cities have for example : SEARS, Marshalls, Safeway, Albertsons, ROSS, Grocery Outlets, JC Penny, COSTCO, Home Depot, Best Buy, Cost Plus, Barnes&Noble, TARGET, OSH, Rite Aid etc etc etc... the list can go on and on... YES it is all there...
  6. The schools in Tracy are good. My home is close to the Jefferson School district. THey have a K-8 school just a minute from my house.

Screenshot from Google Maps (For indicative purpose only)

You see like so many people, my friends and colleagues look at the map of the bay area and see Tracy and think "Hey that's too far". But it really isn't. The distance from my office in San Jose and my home in Tracy is exactly 52.6 miles (yes I set the trip meter in my car).

The distance from My office to Gilroy is 40 miles
The distance from My office to San Francisco Center is 48 miles
The distance from My office to Salinas is 60 miles
The distance from my office to San Ramon is 36 miles
The distance from my office to Walnut Creek is 46 miles

And I have colleagues and friends living in all the above areas. They all drive to work in San Jose / Santa Clara.

So if you think about it, driving for 10 minutes more and 10 miles more to reach Tracy is NOT a big deal is it ? It just takes a little education for someone to see that it is not some small town with farms, but one that has grown from about 35,000 to over 80,000+ people in just a few years. And it will keep growing. See, people might not want to drive to Modesto or Manteca or Stockton from the Bay area as a daily commute (Though there are some that do), but Tracy is not that far.
I am not saying that the traffic isn't bad, it can be terrible sometimes. There is always atleast a 10-15 minute traffic jam after the 680/580 junction, but after that it gets bearable. The key is to skip the rush hour by about 20 minutes if you want to drive it. (starting at 9-9.15am from home and leaving work by about 6:30-7pm to head back)

Did you know that there is a train that runs from Stockton to San Jose every day , many times a day, to and fro ?? Yes, It is called the ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) and it picks you up from Tracy and drops you off at Great America, Santa Clara, and San Jose (Next to Stevens Creek) The train ride lasts around one hour and they have wireless access onboard, so you can get access to office emails on the way to and from work. (buy a laptop with wireless)

see more on the ACE train here:
See the Map of stations here:

I will upload some pics of my daily commute in my next post.

Why did I move to Tracy ? - Part 1

Short Answer:
Value for money and Quality of Life. :-)

Long Answer:
Having lived in the Bay area for about 4 years now it has always annoyed me that in order to own a semi decent hovel in the San Jose / Santa Clara / Silicon Valley area, you either have to be a millionaire, or have a really high salary (I'm talking $120,000+ a year). Now, there are many I know who do have salaries like this and many are my colleagues. But for the vast majority, owning a home in the Bay area / Silicon Valley area has been close to impossible for the last 4 years.

Now granted, many of my friends and colleagues bought houses in the internet/tech boom bubble time (1997-2001) and a few even managed to buy homes in the couple years after that. In 2003-2004 the market skyrocketed and landed them over $100,000+ in equity in the short span of a year or less. The current price of a decent single story 3/4 bedroom, 2 garage , 1500 +/- sq. foot home in the santa clara area is over $800,000. The nicer ones go for much much more.... That is the barrier to entry right there for over 90% of wannabe home owners that I know of.

Now granted, Silicon Valley is the place to be and the place to own a home, since the school districts and the shopping and nearly everything is a stones throw away. Plus all the good jobs are right here in the top tech companies and startups. But what if you fell into the "I cannot afford a nice home on my salary" category ? Are you doomed to renting a sardine can of an apartment for the rest of your days ? Or do you want to spend over $500,000 (That's half a million dollars ... gulp!) on a 1000 sq foot apartment that honestly in any other part of the country would go for 100,000 or less... Let's face it.. the apartments are crappy and small, you end up paying about $3000 a month on Mortgage (that's interest only) ... PLUS you have to endure a $200+ HOA (home owners association) fee ... which is honestly a waste of good money. (I will leave my opinions about home owners associations and their fees for another rant blog.)

So let me take a deep breath...
Why would I want to spend $3000 of my hard earned money and another $200+ on an HOA and still live in an apartment that I could honestly rent for less than half of the mortgage. The answer is "investment". I guess the house/apartment value increases much faster in the bay area than any other part.

But is that enough ?

I don't know about you, but where I grew up, we had farms and large open spaces and wind to breathe and a house that was not large, but spacious and comfortable. So I finally decided that's what I want. Fremont, Livermore, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Dublin and the surrounding areas are still more than half a million for even a good townhome. But travel 20 minutes east and you come to this lovely city called Tracy, where at the time of writing this, had a huge inventory of new/semi new homes at unbelievable prices (Mainly due to the real-estate correction and what some call the housing bubble pop in effect).

It could be considered the suburbs of the Bay area. Aah Suburbia. If you dont mind driving a little or even taking a train, you can live in pure luxury !!! Now if you work as hard as I do for your money and plan on staying in california long term... THIS is where you go !

Fact: Look at graphs available all over the net, housing prices in California never go down. They may crest and trough or slightly dip from time to time, but if you have a family and are going to make a long term committment to living life in comfort, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Tracy !

Commute be damned. I would rather live in luxury than suffer for the same price. To end this post I would like to show you two pictures that actually made up my mind for me. Now before you say that I am not comparing apples to apples, please note that the house I found in Santa Clara (Bay Area) was the cheapest one available, there were no single family houses cheaper than that at the time of writing this. In comparison the one in Tracy is median. There are cheaper ones with the same value for money.

Which would you rather live in with your family ?

Click image for expanded view

Fact: In California you cannot lose money in real estate long term.
Think about that.