Good news – I’m moving to Pasadena!
That’s Pasadena, California, to be specific. My Texan friends were a little confused, since Pasadena, TX is down near Houston way. “Pasadena” means “crown of the valley” in Chippewa. Pasadena, TX was named after the city in Cali in a lame attempt to trick people into moving there. Based on the number of people in Houston, I think it worked. Damn that tricky city-namer!
Pasadena, California is home to CalTech, JPL, and the Planetary Society. For those of you who don’t speak Geek, Pasadena is known for The Big Bang Theory (TV Show), the Rose Bowl, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Ok, so all that is still pretty geeky, except for the Rose Bowl. I’m a geek, what can I say?! I have plans to become besties with Bill and then he’ll introduce me to Neil Degrasse Tyson (a famous astrophycist). I’ll date a CalTech professor, because professors are cool. Sally will attend CalTech in a couple of years for grad school and live with me. Penny, too, of course, since they’ll be married by then.
And we’ll all live happily ever after!
But first, I have to find a place to live. And before that, I need a list of what I want.
Jules Rules for My New House
- One Story
- Ground floor if it’s a condo
- I will look at condos, too, but house is preferred.
- Townhouses are usually 2+ stories, but if there’s a 1-story, I’ll consider it.
- 3 bedrooms
- 2 plus a guest room, so if push comes to shove, may have to cut back to 2
- My daughter may attend CalTech in 2 years, so I’d really like to have a room just in case
- Garage, one car
- Two would be nice, but unnecessary
- <30 minute drive to work
- Pasadena area preferred
- Walking distance to a grocery store
- Walking distance to bars/restaurants
- School districts aren’t important
- Move-in ready
- Not a fixer-upper.
- If a fixer-upper is all that I can afford, let me know.
- I can go up to $600k, but it’d be a stretch for me
- If there are HOA fees, then must be lower
Half a Million Dollars!
I love saying that I’m buying a house for half a million dollars! (Said with a pinky to the corner of my mouth.) Sounds fancy, because if I were buying that in Texas, it’d be a mansion. Here in California, though – especially in the LA area – I’ll be lucky to find a house that meets all of my criteria. But you know what? I gotta try.
The first place that I looked at was in Altadena, which is north of Pasadena. “Alta” means “upper” in Spanish, so the name actually makes sense. Take note, city-namers in Texas! Anyhow, this was a super cute bungalow: old, renovated, and small. Given the Tiny House trend, I thought that the kids and I could make it work. Ya know, go for a more minimalist lifestyle, versus the 2000+ sf that we had in Dallas.
The bungalow looked super cute in the brochure and online! The pics were fabulous!! When I drove into the neighborhood, though, I was less than impressed. It reminded me of one of the poorer sections of Dallas, where one of my ex-boyfriend’s families lived. It was a place that I didn’t mind visiting during the day, but that I was sure to vacate before sundown.
Still, I went inside to see the house. It was like a dollhouse, seen through my Texan eyes: so cute! So small! And OMG I don’t know if my couch would fit in there!
Surprisingly, the kitchen was big. I think it was half the square footage of the house. Pssht, who needs room for beds?! Come into the kitchen and have some grub! Wait, can I call it “grub” in Cali? Maybe it’s “cuisine” here. At any rate, I could see myself living here, if the neighborhood was safe.
Street view of the bungalow. Not so cute in context.
I walked up and down the block, and stopped a neighbor who was getting into his car with his family.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Do you think this neighborhood is safe?”
“Of course it is! Except, stay away from that house with the big fence around it; that guy is weird. Doesn’t come outside much. But the rest of the neighborhood, sure! It’s safe!” the guy told me. He was stocky, in a spends-time-at-the-gym way.
His wife nervously held hands with her two young daughters and said, “Oh yes! Safe! There’s a park around the corner…we go there to play…of course, you may not want to!” She giggled self-consciously.
“Great! Thank you!” I said, and continued on my walk. I saw some nice houses, twice as large as the bungalow, and people doing yardwork. Looked like almost any suburban neighborhood, except for all the cars on the streets. And how close together all of the houses were. And all of the fences, and the “Beware of Dog” signs, and…
I decided to get another opinion.
I walked down the street and around the corner to a small taco shop. It was a hole-in-the-wall, the kind of place where you knew you’d either get the best food you’ve ever eaten, or a cockroach sandwich. I was feeling bold, and ordered a plate of chicken tacos.
When the waiter brought me my food, I asked, “Is this neighborhood safe?”
The words had barely left my mouth, when he shook his head and said, “Oh no! I live 5 minutes from here, and wish that I could move. Go further north; it’s safer there.”
Raw honesty! That’s what I needed! I thanked the man and skedaddled outta there was fast I could. But the tacos were excellent, so I took one for Amy Arrow, who was joining me on my search in another hour. She later agreed that the tacos were excellent, BTW, so shout out to Mota’s!! 2397 Lincoln Ave, Altadena, CA 91001, check it out if you’re in the ‘hood!
Amy (a friend from high school who lives in LA) and I rode with my realtor to check out a few places. The beautiful condo made me sad, because there were stairs. It was perfect otherwise. The awesome houses in Duarte had excellent views of the mountains, which were amazing! But it wasn’t Pasadena. So we focused our search in Pasadena, at houses without stairs.
And we found it. The One. The house that Amy and I agreed met my Jules Rules. It was a 3-bedroom, 2 bath, 1922 house on the west side of the city, with a converted garage that I could use for my study and art studio. The owner was there, and welcomed us into the house, showed us around, answered questions. The carpets covered a hardwood floor that I was dying to see and refinish. It needed new paint, new doors, and other small repairs. Most importantly: I could afford it.
Of course, I had my doubts in the back of my mind: I really wanted something newer. Old homes could be money pits. I didn’t really want to sink my savings into repairs. Also, looking around, the owner hadn’t started to pack. That was odd, because the house had been on the market for 6 months. But then, not everyone is as organized as me. I start packing when I just *think* about moving.
Why had the house been on the market for so long? We speculated that the house was on a busy street, which would turn off some buyers. The owner had lived there for 20 years, so maybe he’s being picky about who he sells the house to.
I shook off my doubts. This is what I could afford in Pasadena, with enough room for all of us.
Amy shared my excitement over the place. “I can help you decorate, if you want,” she offered.
“YES!!” I practically shouted. Amy has the BEST taste! I love her apartment, her clothes, her…Well, she’s just generally amazing. “I was thinking light gray walls in the living room, and repaint the fireplace from that horrid brick-red to a dark gray. What do you think?”
“Yes, I definitely support painting the fireplace. That’s one thing about old houses – you can paint and make them your own,” she answered. And so we continued talking about all the work we’d like to do to the house, and how awesome it would be.
My realtor drew up the paperwork and I submitted a bid. At her prompting, I wrote a letter saying why I love the house and introducing my family. She limited me to one page, can you believe that?! I feel like my letter didn’t do the subject—me!—justice, but I did the best I could when limited to two paragraphs. Then I held my breath for hours while I waited to hear whether it was accepted.
Ok, not literally. I would have passed out. But I was on the edge of my seat with excitement.
Also, not literally. That would be uncomfortable.
Anywho, I FINALLY heard back. “Good news! The seller accepted your offer,” she said. “There was another offer, from an investor, but he really liked your letter and the whole package.”
I hear a cautious tone in her voice, so I didn’t jump up and down with excitement. “Which goes to how awesome a realtor that you are,” I said. “And?” I prompted.
“He wants a leaseback. That is, he wants you to buy the house, then he will rent it back from you for 30 days. He needs the money from the sale of the house for a down payment on a new one,” she said.
“No,” I answered. “If he is in the house, then I’ll have to be in a hotel. Why doesn’t he go to a hotel, and I’ll move into the house?”
We went back and forth for a week, but the end result was, I had to walk away.
Jack said, “No way should you lease the house back to him! You’d be responsible for anything that happened on the property! What if he decided to cook meth and deal outta the house? That’d be on you!”
Ok, so I think that’s a bit far-fetched, but I certainly don’t want the complication of leasing the house back. I mean, the guy hadn’t started packing, and his garage was full of 20 years’ worth of junk! He might start and decide that he needs a few more months to pack it all. Or, he might give up and decide to stay!
Moving on. ßLOL, like what I did there?
So I went online and found a FABULOUS condo near central Pasadena. It was so awesome, I couldn’t believe it! I texted my realtor, “Drive by this condo and let me know what you think of the area!”
She agreed to, but then I was impatient (SURPRISE!) and poked around on the internet. Seeing that the condo was right next door to Pintoresca Park, I checked Yelp for reviews. “Pintoresca” means “Picturesque,” so it must be adorbs, right?
Wow, the reviews!
Some were glowing, some were…
- “This park is GHETTO! GROWN Up’s smoking weed around kids. Young boys throwing the F word around. First and last time!
- All I can say is, eh, I like more private parks this park is in the middle of Husslin and busslin
- Great place to get high!! If you’re looking for a place slightly off the beaten path to look at gun clips, throw the F word around, deal the marijuana, or just go for a little Sunday afternoon Drug Addict Watching, this would be your park. It kind of sucks when the screaming kids show up with their lame parents. But hey, different strokes, eh? There’s a sweet spot to sling right across Raymond, if that’s your thing. You don’t even need an MP3 player if you want to enjoy music while bounding around the ample green spaces! Familiar tunes regaling of bitches and ho’s will engulf you around every bend of this dimly lit, lush ghetto gem…….But for real though, careful of the homicides……
I couldn’t decide on my fav part. “Husslin’ and busslin’”? or “It kind of sucks when the screaming kids show up with their lame parents.” Classic!
I shared these with my friend Renee (coworker, not Ms. Raspberries), who texted, “u gonna send Jack to that park?!?”
I answered, “LOL he’d come back yelping with his tail between his legs, like a whipped dog!” Poor Jack is a sensitive child. Ok, so he’s 23 years old; he’s still sensitive. And he’s still my child.
“so when r u visiting the park?” Renee texted, continuing to tease me.
“lol,” I responded.
“u gonna fail ur drug test living that close to a park like that?” Renee texted.
“From the contact high?” I texted.
Then I switched to my realtor and texted, “Nevermind. I looked at the area, and I’m not comfortable living there.”
And so the search continues. Maybe I’ll end up in a nice little condo near CalTech, and take up Party Crashing as a hobby. Maybe I’ll live outside Pasadena, and drive in for the parties (and to stalk Bill Nye, of course). Tune in next week to find out!
One thing is for certain: I’m moving to Pasadena!!
Pasadena is near LA (upper right) in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
LA is in SoCal (Southern California), 2 hours north of San Diego.
Fun Fact: SD is only 15 minutes from the border with Mexico.
Pasadena, Texas is down near Houston, which is near Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I am not moving to this area.