When we first arrived to SF on July 31st, we moved into a temporary furnished apt. on Berry St. We took full advantage of the 30 days the company provided for us in our relocation package. We definitely felt a sense of urgency to find a house and sign a lease, but it was nice to know that we had a month. (Realistically we needed to find something before Jeremy started working full time, so we really had about 12 days.) Prior to moving to SF, we debated a lot about different scenarios on how to find our next home. Would we send Jeremy out early to house hunt by himself? Should we all go together as a family? Should Jeremy house hunt by himself with me taking care of the kids at the San Francisco apt.? We knew it wouldn't be easy to drive around to several places a day looking at properties with two kids in tow. We also knew it would be terribly difficult for me to wrap up the moving details and sale of our house in KY by myself if Jeremy was already in San Francisco. Jeremy was adamant that he would not leave me in KY with the kids to deal with all the moving chaos by myself while he house hunted and started working. It was already a big, emotional move. Doing it without him would have been even worse. In the end, we decided we would do it all together. I'm thankful that Jeremy was able to take off several weeks of work and that we all got to experience living in the city together.
After weeks of cleaning, donating, downsizing, packing, etc., it was truly a nice break to live in a furnished apartment. We only took what we needed for a few weeks. The rest was loaded up in the moving van, driven across country, and stored until we were ready for it. The apartment had two bedrooms and two full baths. It had a washer/dryer and a fully equipped kitchen. The master bedroom had a large walk-in closet where we set up Caleb's pack-n-play. He slept great in there because it was so dark and quiet! Well, it did take him about a week to adjust to the time change, but then he slept well! Emily had her own room and a large queen sized bed. The apartment had several nice amenities, but my favorite things were the outdoor patio areas with gas fireplace and the easy access to a nice waterfront promenade area that took you directly to AT and T Park.
We only took one day off to rest before we started our house hunting in earnest. We had one day with a local real estate professional and then we were on our own. Daniel provided us with tons of information, set up appointments for us to look at properties, and provided us with an insider's view of the pros/cons for each city we were considering. We downsized to one car during the move because Twitter only paid to ship one car and our other car was very old. Also, we wanted to take advantage of all of the many public transportation options so that we would not have to deal with rush hour San Francisco traffic. As we looked at our options, being close to public transportation into the city (BART, Caltrain, or ferry) was very important.
During our first day, we saw properties on the peninsula in Millbrae and just outside of Burlingame (a highly desirable but expensive area.) We also looked at places in San Carlos and San Mateo. We finished up our day far out in the East Bay at Walnut Creek. It was a long, hard day because both of us wanted to see these areas to get an idea of where we might want to live, but that meant the kids had to tag a long in the car with us ALL DAY! That first day was a little discouraging, but we had already prepared ourselves for the sticker shock. It just blows your mind that in certain parts of SF and the peninsula, you could pay $4000+/mon. and live in a house that is not very nice and small. It was somewhat encouraging to see that we could afford a 4BR, 2 1/2 BA house in Walnut Creek. It didn't have a back yard (only a concrete slab) and it lacked personality, but at least it was close to the BART line and would meet our needs. I was very tempted to sign the contract on that house THAT day. I was terrified of not finding anything else that would meet our needs in such a short time frame. We had been forewarned how incredibly competitive the rental market is in the Bay Area. Properties often are rented the same day they are shown and have multiple applications. One family we know had a terrible time with their relocation and it took them months to find a suitable place (although their situation was complicated because they had 3 kids and two dogs.)
Anyway, Jeremy talked me into waiting. He was right for us to wait because I like where we landed much better! Almost all of the new leases are advertised on Craig's List. For a few weeks, we were on Craig's List all the time. We learned that if we were interested in a place, we needed to get there asap to check it out and have all of our stuff ready. (Deposit money, credit report, bank statements, letter from work verifying employment, and family bio.)
We were interested enough in two houses to fill out an application and we were lucky that in both cases, the owners liked us and picked us. The only problem was timing. We found out that the homeowner of the SF house we liked had picked us before we had a chance to see another top house on our list in Alameda. There was no way for us to see the inside of the Alameda house earlier. Jeremy and I didn't have a peace about giving the SF homeowner our deposit money before we saw this other house. Jeremy had scoped out the Alameda neighborhood. He felt that I would like it better and he really wanted me to see that house. We set up a meeting with the SF homeowner and asked if she could wait a couple of days for us to make a decision. We tried to convince her that we were very serious, but needed to look into schools and other things. We had paid a small application fee, but if we wanted the house, we really needed to pay her the deposit that day. She said that she would "probably wait until Tuesday" to make the decision. The "probably" immediately told me that this SF house was not going to be definitely on hold for us. Even as we had our meeting with her and she said she had picked us for the lease, the house was still being shown. As we drove away that day, I was worried that the house would be gone and a little fearful that the Alameda house would not be what we hoped.
A few days later, we went to the Sunday open house for the Alameda house. There were people crawling all over this house like ants on a piece of candy. The house was in a desirable area in Alameda near the "Gold Coast" and a short walk from a very good school. I had my doubts about it being right for us because this single family Victorian home was divided into a duplex. We would have all of the upstairs part of the house and the front of the first floor. The back portion of the first floor is rented to a young married couple. They have a separate entrance from the back door. Nothing is shared other than the back yard (not much of a yard, more like a garden patio.)
After seeing both houses and weighing the pros/cons, we decided we would rather live in the SF house, but it was a very close call. We both went back and forth over what to do. Turns out, the decision was made for us. Once we called the owner of the SF house, we found out she had already leased it! UGGH! I almost felt betrayed, but I wasn't terribly surprised. We had a few hours of feeling stressed out because although we had filled out an application for the Alameda house as our back up plan, we didn't know yet if we would get it. Mercifully, we didn't have to wait long and we found out that same day that we had been picked for the Alameda house. I think I felt more relief than excitement. Jeremy had started working and had we not gotten this house when we did, the search was going to start all over and be very complicated. (Me and the kids looking for a house in a big city while Jer works? NO thanks!)
I've tried to put the other house out of my mind, but every now and then I think about it and wonder how our lives would be different if we were living in San Francisco. That house was a good $600 more/month. It is always nice to pay less for rent. It was also in an area of SF that is very hilly with curvy roads. I wouldn't have been able to stroll or bike with the kids very easily. It's in area that tends to be pretty cool and foggy. The weather in Alameda for most of the year is close to perfection. We almost never have fog and most days it is in the 60's or 70's. SF is usually a good 10 deg. cooler than this part of the east bay. I have parks I can walk to. I can bike all over the island. Alameda has great schools and is very family friendly. It's just a great place to live. Alameda is actually an island city across the bay from San Francisco and across a canal from Oakland. We liked having a local beach, good parks, and a vibrant community. All of my every day needs for groceries, shopping, doctors visits, preschool, restaurants, etc. can be met without ever leaving the island. However, I have easy access to the rest of the Bay area. One tank of gas lasts me a couple of weeks since I never have to drive more than 1-3 miles to get where I need to go on the island.
But on the flip side, it would have been nice to have more space and a nicer home in San Francisco. Jeremy would have had an easier commute. We would have enjoyed being so close to all that SF has to offer. We very much like attending First Baptist San Francisco and this would have been easy to do if we were at the SF house. The church is about a 45 min. drive from Alameda and is proving to be a little too far for us to travel every Sunday.
For the short term, I'm very happy with where we landed in Alameda. We have very nice neighbors. Emily's preschool is very good and affordable. If we send her to kindergarten next year, we can walk or bike to school every day! I've been attending a MOPs group (Mothers of Preschoolers) that meets at the same church where Emily goes to preschool. It has been FANTASTIC! I could go on and on about what a blessing this group has been to me. At least a few times a month, I have childcare for Caleb, a yummy breakfast with new friends, and interesting speakers to listen to and conversations with other mothers. I wonder what we would have done had we landed in SF? Would I have found a group like this? Would we have found an affordable, good preschool for Emily? We were very lucky to land a spot for Emily because it was mid-late August by the time I learned where we would be living and could search for a preschool.
When I look at the big picture, I am overwhelmingly thankful for God's provision and guidance during our move. Our prayers and those of our family and friends were answered in a mighty way. When you go through challenging times, you become more attuned to His work in your life. It is one of life's biggest paradoxes that you feel God's presence more during the hard times than the easy times. June through September of this year was very challenging for our family. Now that we have made it through the transition, I'm extremely excited about this California chapter in our lives. I have no idea what our future holds, but I know who holds the future in His hands.