Sentimental about a house, and Chico’s wild market

The other day, curious about the home I grew up in back in the Bay Area, I looked it up online. Its estimated value in the current market: $980,000. That seems crazy to me. What an eye-opener. I mean, the house is nice, but it’s not million-dollar nice—or at least it doesn’t seem like it after having lived in the North State for the past 20 years. We’re talking about your basic early-1970s rancher with a backyard that is almost all pool.

How do people afford a nearly seven-figure home like the one I was raised in? Well, for starters, Livermore’s median household income is more than double Chico’s. Here, a comparable house in a similar location would probably sell for $450,000, which is out of the price range of most Chicoans, myself included.

My mom put the house on the market in the 1990s when she decided to transfer with her job to a suburb of Sacramento, where housing was much more affordable. I went with her.

I still remember how sad I was to leave my childhood home all those years ago. It was almost like there had been a death in the family—like I lost a little piece of myself. Looking back, I was probably overly attached to the place. Granted, I was a teenager at the time, so pretty much everything was a big deal.

But I couldn’t help but think about all of the birthday parties, sleepovers and other good memories associated with the place. Like me stepping onto my then-boyfriend’s skateboard when we had our first kiss—an occasion that took place at the end of my street, by the park named after one of the city’s big winemakers. At the time, I didn’t realize I’d take all of that with me, no matter where I ended up.

The largest purchase of my life—not to mention the most nerve-wracking—was by far that of my own home. The paperwork, the approvals and all of those digits in the price tag. It was a bit overwhelming, but my husband and I didn’t have the added stress of buying in a sellers’ market back in 2011. We didn’t have to compete with other offers. Basically, we got lucky.

I feel for folks trying to purchase a home in Chico these days. The market is bananas, which is why, for our annual Business Issue, we decided to delve into the subject. In it, you’ll see the perspective of a young couple attempting to purchase their first home, as well as a real estate agent’s take on things. There’s a piece on the local residential construction boom, and yours truly checks in with a sneak peek at what’s in store at Meriam Park—a sweeping mixed-use project unlike anything in Chico. We also feature a local couple who flip houses and will appear on an HGTV show based on that work. That’s not all, so be sure to read throughout the paper.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the market, because my husband and I have toyed with the idea of selling our place, but we just haven’t seen much that motivates us. Plus, we love our neighbors. Also, over the past seven years, we’ve done a lot of work to improve the place. By the time we finish, we might just want to stay put indefinitely.