I love this home, but…

by singlemomseeking on April 22, 2009

Buying a home in the San Francisco Bay Area can be very competitive experience that often ends with what we call all-out “bidding wars.”

Open houses are swarming with folks, and eying each other with looks that say, It’s mine.

This week, I felt like I’d found the perfect home. It has been re-done from top to bottom, including a new roof, a new foundation, new wooden floors, high-end appliances, a huge landscaped backyard. I love this house:


Yes, this is a real picture of it, and I’ve been inside three times in the past five days — with my kid.

When she walked into this house — with my agent and me — she paused and said: “I like it.”

The agent burst out laughing. “Well, you’re certainly a girl who knows what you like, aren’t you?”

So, what’s the problem?

I went to look at the house tonight and something didn’t feel safe. Back with my laptop, I looked up the local crime report. In the past three months, there have been numerous assaults, robberies, and narcotics incidents in the surrounding blocks.

To further freak myself out, I checked out the organization “Megan’s Law” for my first time: a sex offender lives one block from this home, on this street.

I’m so disappointed. The home is in my price range. I can get a good alarm — and a big dog. If I want to make an offer, it’s due tomorrow night at 6 p.m. sharp. Help.

Fortunately, I have an expert to turn to: Dr. Leah Klungness has bought more than one home solo, and she’s here to share her invaluable experience.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

singlemomseeking April 23, 2009 at 11:08 am

Update: let’s just say that I haven’t slept much the past 24 hours…. It turns out that the house next door to this one is empty (not very good in terms of safety). And there’s a “transitional home” across the street.

Yet, NINE other families are already writing offers to turn in tonight on this house! Wow.

LEM: Yes, I’m looking at foreclosures, too! So far, the ones I’ve seen are unlivable (no windows, termite-infested, etc.)

ALL of you are incredibly helpful. Thank you!!


Apples April 22, 2009 at 10:52 pm

You know sure it is location location location but when you are in a situation like mine (you are better off just for the record lol) I can’t afford a cardboard box in the location I’d prefer. What do I do then? That is my problem right now. I am coming to terms with my poor self. However that being said I wish I was able to live a sheltered life in some high class gated community. BTW I hear the most dangerous sexual offender is the one who hasn’t been caught.. Get all your facts before hand but don’t talk yourself out of your dream house…
Go off FACTS only. And what you can afford.. So if you don’t get this house what then?


Nappy Kitchen April 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Safety and good school system first.

What good is a cute house if you’re afraid to come home to it every night?

I feel your pain. Good luck!

Nappy Kitchen´s last blog post…‘Growing’ Dandruff for Nappy Hair


Legal Editor Mom April 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

P.S. There should be an abundance of foreclosures, yes? I’m not even looking for another house right now but I’m on a list where they are e-mailed to me and I receive listings of foreclosures in my area almost daily.


Legal Editor Mom April 22, 2009 at 6:16 pm

You’ve gotten a lot of great advice here but I strongly agree that you should research the neighborhoods that you’d prefer to live in and then search for the house(s) there in your price range. That’s what I did and I don’t regret it for a minute. People are impressed with our house, our area, and Lexi’s school (one of the best around here), and it’s only because I really, really did my homework.

I also agree that you should go with your gut. If you’re not relatively comfortable, keep looking. It’s too big of an investment to be iffy on. Best of luck!


Mama Dharma April 22, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I don’t have much to add to what has already been said here…except to echo that the perfect house for you and M is out there waiting for you!

A bit surprised to hear that the housing market is still so intense out there. I guess that’s the Bay Area for ya. Here in DC (also a relatively hot market) we have been hit by the recession/depression whatever it is…it’s definitely a buyer’s market except in a few very very choice neighborhoods.

Mama Dharma´s last blog post…Big boys don’t cry…


judy April 22, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Let the school..especially high school thing get off your plate.

I am a teacher in a city school with a kid….schools change with every principal which can happen over the course of the summer…district policies can change about where kids can and cannot go…there are great teachers in every school there are not great teachers in every school…M will be aademically successful and enriched from home.

Being a mom, if you must, ask the elementary schools about other things….my DD was a librarian helper in 4th and 5th grade..with a shift..learned the dewey decimal system….she was a crossing guard, had leadership responsibilities, learned about traffic safety….stuff like that


Oakland Mama April 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Congrats that you’re buying a house! I wanted to offer up a piece of advice that my (much older) brother gave me years ago when I was buying my first house. Don’t get too attached to any one house – it’s just a house. There is no one perfect house for you. if this one doesn’t work out, there will always be another opportunity.

My personal opinion – I focus much more on my neighborhood and surroundings than the house itself. If you don’t feel safe, comfortable or at ease, you won’t enjoy living in it.

I know you are under time constraints but if you’re not sure about the neighborhood, the schools, the environs, I’d say keep looking – and try to contain your search to neighborhoods you are comfortable in.

Good luck!
Oakland Mama


avigail74 April 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I live in a very safe neighborhood in Boulder, and yet, I am still not comfortable with my child playing outside alone. If she wants to play outside, she has to have one friend her she or older outside with her..And I even call the parent to make sure its ok with him or her. Despite how safe my hood is today, I still don’t trust the world.

I lived in a bad neighborhood when I lived in Berkeley — with at the time a 7 year old…there were gangsters and drug dealers…they kept to themselves and the neighbors actually all helped one another when we needed to be on watch. We let our girl play in the backyard and it was fine.

I only truly worry about houses on the corners because its easier to rob in seen and run away quickly.


Shannon April 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm

So I think that the dog and alarm are super ideas. That being said, I think that M isn’t usually far enough out of your sight to come into harms way right? The other thing is, dangerous things can happen in ANY neighborhood. As long as it’s not drive by shootings and gangs we are talking about, I’d call the local PD, speak to the neighbors and go from there. And maybe implement a neighborhood watch program-make positive changes and maybe it will BECOME the neighborhood you want!

Shannon´s last blog post…10 GOOD things about a long commute.


GLSD April 22, 2009 at 12:14 pm

What that looks like a beautiful home. Definitely talk to the neighbors now. Get some insight of the neighborhood. Drive by at different times of the day/night… take a look for yourself. Definitely and alarm system and a big dog 🙂 Go to the schools in the neighborhood and check them out all the way through H.S. But most importantly, go with your gut!


April April 22, 2009 at 11:13 am

Everyone’s already shared great wisdom and advice. I’d say that schools would be my top priority in moving again. Don’t just check the elementary, but the middle and high schools as well. particularly the middle school. Studies show that’s usually the turning point for kids.

April´s last blog post…Weekend Wrap-Up


singlemomseeking April 22, 2009 at 12:42 pm

April: Thanks for reminding me to think ahead! Set for elementary/middle school… but high school? I’m sure it will be there in a blink, yes?


MC April 22, 2009 at 10:53 am

I’d second what everyone else says here: sex offenders are living *everywhere*. Also unfortunately, crime also occurs nearly everywhere anyone could afford to live. But that doesn’t mean you’ll ever see bad stuff, even if it occurs within a few blocks. A lot of times criminal activity stays confined very tightly within a certain geographical area and doesn’t stray beyond a particular street or other boundary.

There was a sex offender living in my neighborhood for a while (yikes!). (It’s an older lower-middle class neighborhood in my state’s 2nd largest city, a little run down, but I always though it was totally safe. I’ve lived here for 13 yrs!).

I only heard about the SO from the mom of one of my kids’ friends who lives a few blocks away. I was horrified, but she said “not to worry” because the neighborhood had “organized”.

Apparently several parents got together and organized some others in the neighborhood into a “keep and eye on that dude at all times” watch group! Because a lot of kids live in my neighborhood. The mom & talked to was militant about the watch group, and she said that the retired people who are home all day were especially helpful.

It was kind of funny, actually. After I talked with her, I’d sometimes see “that guy” out walking his dog by the park and then I’d notice several elderly people hanging out there too who had brought their birdwatching binoculars along! And they weren’t shy about making it obvious they were watching him. Eventually he moved away.

Now the retired people have resumed notifying me about the weeds in my lawn and “you know, you should paint that window sash” and so on, but I don’t mind. I figure it’s good that someone is watching what’s going on in the neighborhood.

Still, I think it is wise for you, Rachel, to check out the area around your potential new home closely. Mostly, I think you should check out those who would be your very close neighbors–next door and across the street, and on the same block. Visit them, and ask them about others who live on the same block. I guarantee, if there’s been a chronic problem, you’ll know by their answers (even if they just roll their eyes and don’t say much). Probably they’ll tell you lots, and it will be either all good and you can relax, or will indicate significant problems you might want to avoid.


Coachdad April 22, 2009 at 10:07 am

Go for it… like other comments before, it really doesn’t matter what neighborhood you move to now, they all have their own problems. Best of luck to you with what ever decision you make.

Coachdad´s last blog post…Wordful Wednesday


T April 22, 2009 at 8:45 am

Wow. Most everything I was going to say has been said already.

Neighbors: Don’t be afraid to go and meet the neighbors now. That makes a HUGE difference.

Schools: check out the school system for M M.

Calling the police department was a great idea too.

Go with your gut. I would get a dog too! (Because I love dogs.)

And make sure there’s a room for me! 🙂

T´s last blog post…Wonder Woman


MindyMom April 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

The three rules of real estate:

1. Location
2. Location
3. Location

When you have kids is never about the house and always about the neighborhood. Find the neighborhood you want and then the house that lies within.

Good luck.

MindyMom´s last blog post…Hump Day Awards


judy April 22, 2009 at 8:07 am

I purchased my home thru a 1st time home buyers..I knew it was in a sucky neighborhood. Crimes..violence..gangs…crack houses

I could not have hand picked better immediate neighbors…2 homes south…4 homes north and 3 homes behind me..across the street has been somewhat transional…

In 10 years here the neighborhood has cahnged..I think there are only 2 crack house left in a 8 block area vs the 8 crack house in the 2 blocks when I moved in. The gangs have been pushed and moved around. My home has more than 3x in 10 years and because of the market a few Dr’s and high paid other computer geeks are moving in.

I looked up the crime rate and sex offender stuff once. Big mistake. However they live here not necessarily offending here.

You live in a big city as do I. If the home feels right and the price works then do it. If you are forcing any of the process here then wait.

While you think (as do so many) that buying a home is a huge step remember it’s a home..it’s stuff like dishes and shoes you can buy and sell again. The decisions you make daily for M are much more important.


John F April 22, 2009 at 8:04 am

Calm down…breathe. The worst thing you can do is get all worked up over this. If you don;t get it, there will be other homes. Really, there will.

Crime is everywhere and a good dose of vigilance is probably your best friend. Be aware of your surroundings and an alarm will likely do the trick. Also crime tends to be cyclical and hopefully you will be in your home longer than the cycle.

Sex offender? What was he or she charged with? Here in MD, a 17 year old boy having sex with a 16 year old girl can be convicted as an adult and labeled as a sex offender and required to register. Hardly a threat, but if it was something more violent, then maybe some more consideration is needed!

John F´s last blog post…Baltimore Cruise August 14-21, 2009


singlemomseeking April 22, 2009 at 8:09 am

Thanks to everyone for waking me up about the sex offender crimes. I had gotten worked up… This particular crime? “Oral copulation with minor under age 14.” (Yuck!!). And the site makes it clear that he might not even live there anymore… Thanks to Kari for suggesting that I call the PD directly.


Bill April 22, 2009 at 7:45 am

What’s your gut tell ya? Personally, those crime stats, etc would make me feel uneasy about moving there, dog or not.
Also, why was the foundation replaced??


singlemomseeking April 22, 2009 at 8:04 am

Bill, good question about the foundation (see why I turn to you!): the house was built in 1910, so the foundation needed to be redone. The house really has been redone from top to bottom….


Single Mom April 22, 2009 at 7:12 am

Unfortunately, I think most places you look at, you are going to be faced with the same situation.

My two cents: get a monitored alarm, join the civic/home watch association, don’t let M play outside of your fenced backyard alone (sadly this is the case now-a-days where ever you live- look at the poor young girl in California. You have to beware of EVERYONE- even Sunday School teachers !!)

Being informed is much better than now knowing. Keep track of what is going on in your neighborhood.

Check the site for sex offenders often- even if you find someplace that a sex offender does not live near, he/she could move into that area, after you are there…..

Keep track of local crime- adjust your lifestyle accordingly….

If your gut tells you not to go with this house, keep looking… but if it is strictly because of the crime, there are things you can do to protect yourself & M and the fact is (sadly) you can’t avoid it most places you go.

Single Mom´s last blog post…Extra $1250 to pay towards debt !!!


singlemomseeking April 22, 2009 at 8:05 am

Single Mom: I think that I worked myself into a fearful frenzy last night. Thanks for this: “There are things you can do to protect yourself & M and the fact is (sadly) you can’t avoid it most places you go.”


Eathan April 22, 2009 at 6:29 am

Crime reports are important. One of the most important thing is to look at how long the neighborhood has had crime issues. It could be something in the last few months or it could be a long term problem.

It’s sad to say that sex offenders live all over the country esp. in major cities. You lucky if you don’t have one within a few block of you. Get a couple big dogs.

Follow your heart… If you have a bad feeling, keep looking.

Eathan´s last blog post…Modern Single Momma Contest


singlemomseeking April 22, 2009 at 8:06 am

Eathan: This neighborhood is notorious for crime, but it’s certainly changing (for the better). I’d refer to it as a “transitional” neighborhood, with lots of young families moving in. I see that as a huge plus. I think I’ll go back and talk to more neighbors today….


Amy April 22, 2009 at 5:57 am

It almost looks exactly like my house! Even down to the landscaping around the porch! Oh Rachel, I can see why you love it. Sadie and I sit on our porch all summer long. It is our own tiny little bungalow. I bring all my plants out to the porch in the summer and fills the front beds with pink and red imapatients.

Now as for the crime stats. How do those compare with where you are living now and the rest of the city? No area is completely exempt from crime, but there are some areas that can get very bad. My neighborhood (Midwest) has gone downhill in the 11 years we’ve lived here. I am not thrilled about it – but it seems like crime is on the rise here in every neighborhood. But for the most part, I feel relatively safe. I think there are 2 sex offenders in this area.

But, your safety is important. I have a nice big black lab/sheppard mix who would chew the leg off of anyone who touched us. I SHOULD have a home alarm. You can get those things, but in the end you really need to feel some level of safety no matter what.

This is such a hard one – but only you can really determine that final answer. I am so sorry you are torn – because it does look like the perfect little house for you! Good luck making your decision!


won April 22, 2009 at 5:01 am

I would only suggest being discerning with the sex offender info, unless you have all the info which I presume is not listed on MegansLaw. And cautious too, of course.

One could wind up on that list for consenual 17 year old sex if another party filed charges, or for doing other much more benign things than the imagination often allows us to consider. Or not…

And that’s the hard part. Not knowing. But your gut usually does.

won´s last blog post…Nice


Angie April 22, 2009 at 4:30 am

Some questions you should answer before you make your decision:

M and school – where will she go (look into it all the way through high school). Are those schools safe? What are the graduation rates? This is a great site for a lot of info:

M and Friends – did you see any kids in the neighborhood? M sounds like a confident girl who won’t get into the wrong crowd…but think about your feelings towards the kids in the neighborhood.

If you think both of the above are OK – I say go for it. M won’t be bothered by the sex offender. You have raised a strong confident girl who knows what to look out for. All you need to do is explain it to her and she’ll protect not only herself, but the friends she makes as well!

Yes and Yes for the dog and alarm though. You want to feel safe…do whatever it takes!

Good Luck!


Kari April 22, 2009 at 4:01 am

One of the things that I found when looking for an apartment was I’d call the local PD and ask them.

Then I’d look up the sex offenders in the area. I found they are everywhere and at that point I realized we aren’t safe from them. Also some people are on there for getting a sexual related offense for peeing in public. While that is gross and indecent it isn’t someone I’d be afraid would harm me or my child. So you’ve got to look at that stuff too.

Looking at the crime rate how does it compare to other areas you are looking in for your price range? That is something to consider as well.

Kari´s last blog post…I have it harder, you get a break…


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