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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Joys of Homeownership

I'm going to start a series of blog posts about owning a house. I'm learning about this homeownership stuff as I go along, and it's amazing how much there is to learn. Most of it, unfortunately, has to do with the house being a financial burden in unexpected ways.

Here's an example: we had the house remodeled (put in central heating/AC, a laminate floor, and double paned windows everywhere) before moving in. When I got the first water bill on Saturday after moving in, I was stunned by how much it was. It turned out that the previous owner had put in a new lawn, and new lawns have to be watered frequently while they establish themselves. Well, they don't have to be watered that frequently after a month, which was when we bought the house, but of course, I didn't know to turn down the water frequency. Sigh.

Then there's the Radon problem. Turns out that the ground under many parts of California is radioactive. Not in a directly harmful way, but enough so that irradiated air can come up into your home, since your home has a lower pressure than the outside. Well, breathing that air can be pretty bad for you, so we have to do some radon testing. The state of California subsidizes the test, so it's only $5 for a self-test kit. But it's one of those things that nobody seems to know about (about 12% of homes are affected, so it's worth your while to get tested!) Mitigation is relatively cheap, but it's non-trivial.

On the plus side, when it was 90 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, I really enjoyed having a well-insulated and air conditioned home! Boy, it was worth every penny. And it turns out that you can sign up for the smart AC program and get regulation of your AC system at peak demand times, which is pretty cool. And of course, not being in a carpeted environment is expected to do good things for my allergies as well.

I'll get into other housing annoyances as I find them, and I'll try to keep in mind that I really do enjoy living in a house as well.


Unknown said...

Spider plants are surprisingly effective at filtering out radon.

You didn't run into any of these issues with your place in Saratoga?

Piaw Na said...

But doesn't radon gas come from underground? In any case, indoor plants are no good, since they will make my allergies worse. Sigh.

No, "my place" in Saratoga was my parents', and clearly, they didn't check for Radon either. I'll have to order a kit and have them test the house for it.

Unknown said...

It would be awesome if there was a blog on "How to succeed at a project that a big sucker company acquires so that you can maybe afford a home in Silicon Valley."


Piaw Na said...

Hahaha. My parents bought their house in 1990, at the bottom of the previous housing depression, at well under $300k. That's how you afford a house in Silicon Valley (that and Prop 13).

And I'm working on a book about Silicon Valley startups, but the house kept getting int he way.

Unknown said...

I'm almost certain that your parents didn't go through massive amounts of mathematics and probability and said "ok, based on data and our models, we're at the bottom. It's time to buy."

So in that sense, "you should have bought in 1990" advice isn't helping the future generations :)