Meet David Cleveland, a house-hunter trying to navigate the San Diego housing market. He recently moved from Denver and is trying to find a house to buy. He agreed to keep us posted on his search for a house here, as a window into the process in these market conditions.

He sleeps on a boat and showers at the gym, and his wife and kids stay with family in Orange County, while the Clevelands try to navigate the local housing market.

Here’s Cleveland, in his own words:

I would have to agree that we haven’t seen the end of the mortgage mess yet. I was lucky to sell my house in Denver, CO for 98% of my asking price in 11 days, but I lived in a hot neighborhood and priced my home at a fair price. What I am seeing here in San Diego is a continued feeding frenzy. Yes some are losing their houses, but there are people out there that are bidding up the prices of homes that are in short sale or are foreclosed thinking they are getting a great deal. Others in trustee sales are also becoming investors choosing to rent out the home vs selling.

What you find is that modestly priced single family homes just do not exist in this market. And what is there sets off a bidding war between as many as a dozen parties.  We’ve lost at least 5 homes due to these circumstances. There is lots of inventory at the high end, and the low end, but not so much in the middle. 

So for now, I sleep on a small boat, shower at the gym, and work Monday through Friday.  My wife and twin 4 year olds live with my in-laws up in Orange County looking at the MLS listings every day for anything new to come up. But after 2 months we are starting to re-think our ability to purchase in the given economy.  At least I don’t have to pay a mortgage in this economy I guess, though I’d love to try.

Cleveland lived in California once before, in the Bay Area, but he left because of housing prices. He moved to Denver, where he and his wife could afford a 1,100-square foot bungalow built in 1918 (with a basement! he adds) near the city’s upscale Cherry Creek North neighborhood.

Cleveland was offered a job that he said seemed to have been written with him in mind at Cricket Communications in Mira Mesa. Since housing prices have started descending from the stratosphere, he and his wife decided to move to San Diego with their 4-year-old twins. They’re looking for a $500,000 detached house in Carlsbad, Rancho Bernardo, or maybe La Mesa. He said he knows they won’t find an equivalent house to the one that they had in Denver, but the proximity to family makes up for that difference.

But, like economist Ryan Ratcliff, whose tale of house-hunting frustration we learned about earlier this fall, Cleveland has found the house hunt a difficult one here in San Diego.

He’s sleeping on a family member’s boat and seeing his wife and kids when they come down to look at a listed house or sign papers to make an offer. “If I’m lucky I get to have dinner with them,” he said.

On the offers they’ve submitted, Cleveland has been outbid time after time.

“We are oh-for-five in the offers game,” he said. “It’s causing us to kind of step up. Part of it is doing as much research as I can to get a better understanding of what’s happening in the market. And my agent and my wife are scouring the MLS.”

I asked him why buying won out over renting. He said that’s a question he’s been getting from a lot of people. But the Clevelands are certain they want to buy, because he has a relocation package for his new job that includes financial assistance for closing costs and furniture storage. Renting means losing those benefits on the table, he said.

But the search is frustrating. “It’s not pretty,” he said. He said they were planning to send in two more offers today.

Cleveland said he’ll keep us in the loop, and we’ll post his progress here. Check back for updates on his search.


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