Today, Justin and I are officially San Francisco’s newest homeowners.

After several years of renting and getting the shakes every time we looked at real estate prices in the San Francisco Bay Area, we finally took the plunge. What finally did it for us, what finally pushed us over the edge, was the need to find some place closer to Justin’s new office in the South of Market (SoMa) area of San Francisco.

Read more about our home search process, and see some cool pictures of our new place, after the jump…

After perusing a wide variety of listings, we finally started visiting some open houses and soon made the acquaintance of Kathryn Williams, a Realtor with Urban Bay Properties. Kathryn spent some time with us to learn what we were looking for in a home, and she happily ran through various scenarios. And our scenarios were certainly varied.

For example, we flirted heavily with the idea of building a home, and were pretty close to making an offer on a piece of land on a hillside in Brisbane, just south of the city, but that property was sold a couple of days before we were in a position to make the offer. We also looked at some lots in Belmont, but none of them excited us greatly, especially as we looked further into the costs and complexities of building.

Luckily, Kathryn also had us visiting resale homes and condos around SoMa, Inner Mission, Potrero Hill, and surrounding neighborhoods. On Saturday, September 16, we were heading up to the city to scout out things in preparation for a speed run to a dozen open houses on Sunday. The traditional open house time is 2pm to 4pm on Sunday, and that’s not a lot of time to zoom around the city and tour up to a dozen places. So we plotted things out using Yahoo! Maps and our car’s navigation system to make sure we could get to as many places as possible in our limited time frame on Sunday.

While we were up in the city, we noticed that one property on our list was actually open on Saturday too, so we decided to stop in. We got there just a few moments before the agent was scheduled to close things up. Luckily for everyone, we were able to get in and tour the place… because we immediately fell in love with it!

The place was quite new (less than 3 years old); it was spacious (over 2000 sq. ft.); it was stylish and airy with tons of wallspace for our art collection; the neighborhood is quiet and attractive (lots of renovated warehouses turned lofts, offices, etc.); it’s within easy walking or biking distance from Justin’s office, BART and CalTrain; there’s a large grocery store and lots of shops and restaurants within walking distance; and it’s very easy access to I-280 and Highway 101.

We saw some nice places that Sunday, including one or two that we could see ourselves living in, but none of them were the slam-dunk that we saw on Saturday. By Sunday evening we had decided to make an offer.

Normally, offers are accompanied with a pre-approval letter from the mortgage company showing the sellers that you have the wherewithal to pull the deal off. Thankfully our Loan Officer, Stephen Barber from Guarantee Mortgage, was able to fit us in Monday evening, ran us very swiftly through the application process, and was able to get us a pre-approval letter by the time we left.

Obligatory Privacy Note: Because we regularly request our credit reports (twice a year), and routinely challenge any erroneous data that appears on them (which there usually is), we were able to know going into the meeting what our credit situation was — and have been able to shape it over the course of many years. For example, we were able to close out old and unused accounts that were dragging down our credit scores, correct the inevitable errors that crop up, and calculate whether we were maintaining enough open accounts to keep creditors licking their chops. Remember the old story about lenders only lending money to people who don’t need it? There’s truth in that, and showing that you have a handful of open accounts with low balances seems to suggest that you’re on the hook but not struggling. (Yes, I made a fishing reference.)

We then dashed across the street to Kathryn’s office, where she briefed us on what she’d been able to turn up in terms of research and information about the property. Two hours later we had decided on how much to offer — a little more than 3% under the asking price — and got all the offer documents prepared and signed.

However, we wanted to take another look at the place before we gave the green light to Kathryn to present the offer, and luckily for us there was a broker open house the next day, Tuesday.

We walked into the place, and the second visit was better than the first. We saw more and more features that we’d missed during the rushed first visit, and everything we saw made us love the place even more. We gave Kathryn the “thumbs up” and everything was set in motion.

The sellers countered back with a modest increase over our offer and after some minor haggling over the settlement date, a speedier removal of the financing contingency, etc., we had a deal!

It’s now exactly one month from the day that we first set foot in the place and today the deed was recorded! We’ve got a mortgage that resembles the GDP of some small Caribbean nations, the housing bubble is deflating, and we’ll be just a few miles from the San Andreas fault. What could go wrong? :)

Many thanks to Kathryn Williams for her great professionalism and for making this such a smooth process. And thanks also to Stephen Barber and his team for what has been one of the smoothest mortgage processes I’ve ever heard of. Marcia Webster-Davis and the folks at Fidelity National Title are also to be commended for an exceptionally smooth escrow process.

Here are some pictures of our new place:

Our new home in SF

If all goes as planned, we’ll be moving in before Thanksgiving! And stay tuned for news of our housewarming/holiday party!