Buying a New Home in Southern California

Newport Beach, California

My dream of living in California and owning a home is about to come true. Assuming everything goes well with the closing process, we will live in our new Orange County home on June 30th. It’s not even half the size of our home in North Carolina and our backyard is basically non-existent, but our playground is the beach and the mountains and it’s open 365 days a year. The process of buying in southern California hasn’t been simple for us. We would like to own a three-bedroom home in southern Orange County, but I think the cost of living here is one of the highest in the country. Β The current market is also a nightmare. Normally, from my experience, the asking price on a home is the highest someone would have to pay, but it’s the starting bid here. We put an offer on a house for $20,000 over asking price only to be beat out by someone who bid $25,000 over asking price, waived all appraisals and inspections and paid cash. It took six stressfulΒ bids to final have one accepted, which means we had five let-downs before this.

As soon as a house that interested us became available, we would rush to see it that moment and put in an offer on the spot. If it made it to an open-house the cash offers would come flowing in and we didn’t stand a chance. Do you know how stressful that is? It’s the most expensive financial purchase of our lives and we had hours to decide. Then, we’d have to wait a day or two for a reply. Every moment was excruciating. We didn’t want to get excited about it just in case a better offer came in, but we were bidding on what could possibly be our home. We wanted to dream and plan and imagine our life there. Admittedly, I cried over the process more than once this month.

We’re now in escrow and tomorrow is a big day. We will get the appraisal results back and if they are too low, we could loose the deal. I’ve already put in our notice to leave our apartment at the end of the month and the packing process has begun. If the deal falls through, we don’t have a place to live next month. Making it all come together seems impossible right now. So… I’m hoping for the best and planning for the worst.

Should I be deliriously optimistic about it already? Probably not. It will be a devastating blow if it all falls apart, but if it goes as planned, I enjoyed every minute of buying our new home. Screw it! I’m going with the crazed enthusiasm. Check with me later in the week to see if it paid off.

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88 thoughts on “Buying a New Home in Southern California

  1. I also have a dream of living in CA. But I have heard as well that others want to be out of there. (and there are a lot of Californians here) I guess what I miss the most living in land locked Colorado (which I love) is the ocean and fresh seafood.

    Either way it’s your dream and I’m sure you will love it. Home is where you make it.

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    • 365 days of ocean is definitely one of the top five reasons why we moved to California.

      Everyone has a vision of what is the ideal location for them. Our vision has become a reality with California and it’s even greater than we imagined.

      I think Colorado is a pretty great choice as well. I’ve loved every visit there and I look forward to returning soon.

      Have you always lived in Colorado?

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  2. Good luck, I remember going through this in San Diego. My son is about to go through it in Seattle where the market is very expensive and competitive also. Wishing you lots of luck and a speedy closing!

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    • We could have chosen anywhere in the world and SoCal was our first choice. We now know that it was a great decision for us and feel like every day is a dream, but everyone has a personal preference. SC is a beautiful place to live. Did you grow up there?

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  3. Oh, I spent few month in Orange County almost 30 yrs. ago… it wasn’t that bad. Anyhow I loved to have a cottage at the beach, I love the sea… but soon enough I realized that the Pacific can be very tricky and in the winter quite windy and cold (was a place near Redondo Beach). The thing went another way and I returned to my natal country where I still live with my own family. Actually the dream of California passed down to my youngest daughter πŸ™‚ and I guess I’ll send her there for studies.
    I wish you to find your dream-place soon… important is to valuate the property along several weeks (here we do so) to be able to see it in the morning, at dusk, when is raining and with sunshine.
    Serenity :-)claudine

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    • Schools, location, and value were are key priorities. We can make any house a home but we can’t make any school good or any price work. We’ve also made good friends here that feel like family and we’d like to be as close to them as possible.

      Which area would your daughter like to live?

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      • Unfortunately the best music conservatory in the USA are on the east coast (Juilliard School in NYC – Curtis Institute of Music Philadelphia or the New England Conservatory of Music Boston, just to name three…) but first my daughter shall learn well english and a stay at the ELC English language center in Santa Barbara will be the first step… We have friends in L.A. which may take care of her for few weeks…
        :-)c

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  4. Wishing you much success and will keep my fingers crossed that it all comes together. I know we had our moments this year hoping that everything would come together and it did. Although we were looking for a rental. Our next step is to buy a house in this area. Good to follow your dream!!! Excited for you.

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    • Thank you! I really need the positive vibes today. I’m impatiently waiting for word.

      I’m so happy that things worked out for you with your rental and I hope the house process is equally smooth. Are you in Washington State? (I could go back through our messages but it’s easier to just ask πŸ˜‰ )

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  5. Good luck, good luck! Buying a house down there sounds like a small nightmare. I can’t imagine waiving inspection rights before purchase. It’s like: crazy. Glad you guys kept your heads on your shoulders and are buying smart. P.S. Can’t wait to see pics of your new home. (I’m optimistically positive that the deal will go through.)

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  6. Best wishes and I hope everything works out. Orange County is very nice, remember it’s also earthquake country, so be sure to have a disaster plan and store lots of food and water at home and in your vehicle. In Arizona, where I am right now, we don’t have to worry about earthquakes, but it would be nice to be in a state near natural water features.

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  7. Buying a home anywhere is a nightmare until the final papers are signed. Kinda like having a child, and then you forget all the pain you went through. The best to you and your family. Of course, this means pictures.

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  8. Fingers crossed for you. ❀
    In a city in Ontario, I had a sister who went through the same process as you. At one time it was unheard of– in fact not allowed–to pay more than the asking price and in some cities there are these nerve-wracking bidding wars.

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    • I have never heard of a bidding as you refer to it (I refer to it as a sales contract or purchase agreement with terms and conditions, etc. or multiple offers) as not allowed anywhere in the US. I am a licensed Real Estate Broker! So, I speak with a lot of knowledge. When an offer comes in the Seller/Listing Agency is notified- no one knows the terms or conditions except that Listing Exclusive Agency and of course the Agent who wrote the contract. There is always “time is of the essence”, thus multiple offers can come in. Buying without contingencies is risky! I do not care what State in the US you reside. If the appraisal comes in low you can opt to pull out or come up with the monetary difference Lesley got it?

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        • In residential Real Estate appraising Real Property is determined by comparable sales. Meaning properties in a location, style, room sizes, lot size, etc. We use at least 3 comparable sales and/or what’s on the market at present. Pluses and minuses are given to superior or inferior comparable properties. Commercial Real Estate appraisals are totally different as to the approach to value. As is Industrial and Special Use (ie, schools, churches) it is a method one must follow. Were there multiple offers on this home and yours was accepted? Or were you in a counter offer situation? Please do not use the word bidding – you bid at an auction and buy it that day. In Real Estate it is offer, counter offer, accept or reject. Multiple offers or one offer it must be presented to an owner. I will guide you as best as I can Lesley. It does not matter what US State.

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  9. I have lived in California all my life- and though it IS expensive here, I don’t care what anyone says, I LOVE my home. You will love it, too. I am never tired of waking up and smelling the sea air, when it is cold, I dress in layers (because the weather is NOT predictable), and when I get bored of the beautiful scenery here, I drive an hour up or down the coast and check out the scenery there. Yes, my rent is crazy…but I get to live in paradise. I hope it all works out for you. Don’t let anyone bring you down about California. It’s a beautiful place, and a wonderful spot to make your life. Sending good vibes your way. πŸ™‚

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    • We could have chosen anywhere in the world to live and we chose California. I’ve traveled to more than 60 countries and it is still my favorite place in the world. Although we are just buying now, we’ve lived here for a total of 4 years and I still feel the same as you… the ocean smells, the weather, the scenery, the options… it’s all one big dream.

      Which area do you live?

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  10. Good luck! We bought our house in San Diego just over 6 years ago. What a roller coaster ride! I totally understand. But all of the pain (and money!!) and disappointment left us with the perfect house for us. I’m so glad the other houses didn’t work out for us! Things work out for the best – I truly believe that! Will keep my fingers crossed for you!

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    • Thank you, Megan! We put a few other bids in too and I’m glad they didn’t work out. As soon as I walked in to this house, I had a feeling it was going to be ours.

      Where are you from originally?

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  11. We’re neighbors! I live in Orange County, too. Welcome to SoCal! I love it here, and I’m sure you will enjoy it, too. Beaches, trails for hiking, mountains, deserts, it’s all good. Need a writing group? Want tips for trail hiking? Where to take the kids? Best beaches? Let me know, I’ll try to steer you in the right direction.

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    • Are you from here originally? Which area do you live? Although we’ve been here for a total of four years of and on, we still like reading suggestions from others. There is so much to discover that we could never know it all. πŸ™‚

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      • Yes, I’m born and raised in Southern California. But I’ve only lived in South Orange County for the last five years. It’s been an adjustment. Go see my blog’s latest entry. LOL. I’m in Laguna Niguel. I love it. It’s beautiful. Sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I hope you feel the same way once you’re settled in your new home! I’m new to blogging, not sure how to message you. But feel free to reach out to me. My name is Natalie. http://www.finickyfeet.wordpress.com

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  12. Just wondering why you would want to trade in NC for CA? NC also has the ocean and the mountains, it also has more rain, its MUCH cheaper and it doesn’t have all the other disasters CA has either (earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, etc). PLUS, there are more reasonable rules for living in pretty much every state. I hear you have to have a permit for a backyard BBQ in CA. I would NEVER live in CA, no matter how beautiful it seems, not enough freedom for me there, not by a longshot! But if it’s your dream, I hope you get it. Just wondering WHY CA over all the other beautiful places in the US?

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    • Everyone has their ideal place to live. This is it for us. In NC, we lived in Charlotte. The cost of living and the people were fantastic but we were far from the ocean and anywhere that is close to the ocean isn’t as great an airport option. We didn’t love the weather, especially the humidity and we wanted to be able to swim in the ocean 365 days a year. Ocean states with year-round swimming are limited. The only other place that we considered was Hawaii because of the weather and beaches but it is too isolated for us. πŸ™‚

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      • Oh, I see. Yeah, its hard to find somewhere close to the ocean with good airport connections. Also to have perfect weather. Florida has beautiful beaches for year round and has good connections from Tampa and Miami. Texas has some great beaches too, but both are hot and humid for most of the year. I spend the summers up in the Northwest if at all possible, just to enjoy being outside. By living here in Texas, I can afford to travel. If I lived in CA (or Hawaii), there would be no way I could afford to do any traveling. I think I’d rather use the AC and spend my money elsewhere.
        Enjoy CA, it is a beautiful state. πŸ™‚

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  13. Good luck, I have my fingers crossed for you. I’m actually in California at the moment (Sacramento). I can see why you love this state so much and want to live here πŸ™‚

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  14. We’ve bought 13 houses over the years including one in So Cal in the mid-80s. We never encountered a hitch in the closing process and hope your house comes through. Wishing you and your family lots of luck.

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  15. I hope you get the house. I love living in LA and by the beach. I have been here for the last 16 years. My husband would travel a lot during his consulting days and says that there is no place like SolCal and we pay for its perfect weather.

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  16. Congrats! I don’t know why there are so many haters out there, California rocks! Especially if you’re an outdoors person. But the drought does suck, other than that I guess people need to explore around. It’s a great state, north and south. Glad you joined us.

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  17. My wife and I have been here in Spring Valley since ’73 and have no plans to leave. Yes, ours is but a middle class family neighborhood. But it has a lot of the same cool neighbors, centralized to the beaches and downtown and malls and state parks, no major gang problems and we’re under Prop 13 (very low property taxes). Enjoy your new digs! Peace.

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  18. Hi Lesley,

    I’m devoting today’s yoga practice to you today. I think you are such an honest open-hearted person who deserves all good things. I hope you get the house! I’ll be sending good vibes your way! (I rent in San Francisco and understand the housing stresses of California.) Let us know what happens!

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    • You’re such a lovely person! Thank you for the good vibes. I still haven’t heard anything. My husband is out of state too so I may be out of the loop today. It’s making time stand still πŸ˜‰

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  19. Congratulations! I am very excited for you. It is a stressful and hard process one that is totally worth it when it is over! I hope all went well for you and now you just have to move! Enjoy setting up your new house and collecting all sorts of fun objects from all over the world to decorate it with.

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  20. Ugh, I hear you Lesley! We just bought a new house, and are moving at the end of June too. It’s very similar in the Greater Toronto Area – you have to decide in literally an hour or two about such a big purchase. But your comments about feeling like this was the right place for you AND being happy that the other bids didn’t go through are probably great signs that this house is meant to be. Good luck – I’m sure it will all work out perfectly! πŸ™‚

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    • Congratulations on the new house! You must be excited. I hear the prices of Toronto are on the rise too, but it will all work out in the end. I look forward to seeing photos when you move in. πŸ™‚

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  21. Everyone who buys a home in California goes through the same thing that you have experienced. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you and since I am an optimist, I am sure that you will be moving into your new home at the end of the month. I live in Northern California but I adore the south. Welcome neighbor!
    Judy

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  22. I saw something similar on a television show about how difficult it was to buy in CA, especially Orange County and thought – nah it can’t be that crazy…but apparently it is huh?! California seems like an AMAZINGGGG place to live! All the best!!

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  23. The appraisal should be just fine. I’ll bet with all the positive vibes you’re getting from readers, things will work out in the end. It’s always a stressful process though…hang in there! Fingers crossed for us both. πŸ™‚

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  24. Not sure if THIS post is about the house that is closing at the end of the month. But I know how stressful it is and I can imagine how it has been for you. Don’t you think it is crazy (CRAZY!!!!) that people can pay $50,000 OVER the asking price of an already-outrageously-priced home and IN CASH!!!!! That just makes my brain leak out of my ear! Crazy.

    I am glad that you found a home and it is closing — if all goes as planned at the end of the month. Congrats!

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  25. Looking for a house or looking for an apartment in an expensive real estate market is intimidating and quite frankly, a nightmare. I apartment hunted for the first time in New York City last fall and was overwhelmed. My roommates and I ended up finding an apartment in our budget with most of the amenities that we wanted but turning in the paperwork to get approved was a race against time, not to mention my parents also had to submit paperwork too to be guarantors on our lease. I had never rented an apartment before in the USA so the process was new to me. If you walk into an apartment in NYC, you either want it right away or you don’t because it will disappear by tomorrow.

    And it’s the same thing in my hometown, most asking prices for houses are over a million (Westchester County, NY also has one of the highest costs of living in the USA). When my parents finally decide to sell their house to downsize, it will most likely be razed by a contractor and turned into a McMansion with an asking price of about $2 million. Nearly every house on our street has been gutted and rebuilt. They are thinking of moving to Connecticut where the taxes are lower (which I was surprised to learn). I want to know what kind of people can afford to buy houses at these prices. I sure can’t!!

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  26. Congratulations, hopefully it all goes smoothly.

    By the time we arrive at LAX in December for a week in our Orange County timeshare, your new house will have changed to a home.

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  27. This idea of bidding ’till you get the house is a dangerous trap that began in major Canadian cities ten-years’ ago. Unsuspecting purchasers got tied up in this practice and now bidding is out of control: Toronto and Vancouver. It will be difficult to get things back to a normal bidding situation. Buy the house you can afford and if you don’t stay within your budget your dream doubtless will turn into a nightmare down the road.

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