Mark Alvarado is a graphic designer from California. He currently lives in Palo Alto where he moved right after graduating from the UCLA in 2007. Since he completed his bachelor’s program, he had been one of the fastest-growing professionals in this field. Some of his projects took him across the country, which led to his recent purchase of property in Marfa, Texas. A typical day from Mark Alvarado involves a few hours of client interactions followed by his computer work. Most of his campaigns are focused on things like brand recognition, marketing, and website development or modernization. Also, he is familiar with the basics of the real estate market as he has already gone through a few property transactions.
In what city/state was your first house located and approximately what year did you buy it?
The house I currently live in is the first one I ever purchased. That happened around 7 years ago when I finally got tired of renting properties. The location is Palo Alto in California.
What was your living situation prior to buying your first house? Where/with whom/etc?
I lived on the outskirts of Los Angeles during my entire college career. As many students, I shared a home with a few roommates. After completing my program, I moved to Palo Alto and rented a couple of different apartments. Then, I purchased the house I currently live in during the winter of 2011. I also bought a property in Texas around that same time. Although I have not lived there, that home in Marfa is where I spend a lot of my vacations.
What motivated you to purchase your first house?
I realized that paying a mortgage and watching the property value increase is a lot better than indefinitely paying rent without the ability to ever sell the property. Thus, it was mostly a business decision. Now, even though I love the home I live in, I will be able to sell it for a gain if I decide to move at some point. Not to mention that I do not have countless lease provisions that must be followed or snarky landlords to deal with.
How did you go about getting the money together to buy it?
By saving a certain percentage of all my earnings for about a decade. Most people do not realize that even mortgages require a hefty downpayment. In my case, however, I had saved enough to basically buy the home without having to get a mortgage. So, putting together all the interest I earned with the principal amounts eased my process of buying a house.
When you purchased, were you thinking of it as an investment or as a place to start a family. Please elaborate.
That depends. The house in Palo Alto was purchased as a potential family home. The property I own in Texas, on the other hand, was a pure investment. I had never envisioned myself moving to the Lone Star state and that decision still stands. Regardless, when I saw the value of the property in Marfa, I felt that it was hugely underpriced. So, I bought it with the intention to sell for a higher price later on. To be frank, however, this house in California could also turn into an investment if I get an offer that is too good to pass on.
What are 3 things you liked most about the house?
The location, size, and condition. Although Palo Alto is not in the heart of California by any means, it is close to everything that I need for work. In fact, most of my clients are less than 15 minutes away. It is also incredibly spacious and enables me to have a full home office. That can be quite useful come tax season! Not to forget that it was in a nearly-perfect condition with minimal signs of wear and tear when I bought it.
Was there anything you didn’t like about it?
The neighborhood is not as pretty. Nevertheless, I learned to live with it as there are some great schools, shopping malls, and businesses in the area. The fact that my neighbors dislike cutting their grass is something that I can live with.
Did you make any improvements or major renovations to the house?
Not to the one in California. The property in Texas is another story though. After buying it, I had to upgrade the electrical systems and build an entirely new fencing.
Please share 1-2 of your fondest/funniest memories from living there.
My favorite memory from Texas is a weekend of archery with my friends. It was in the middle of my backyard as it is large enough to host almost anything. In California, I think some of my business meetings that helped shape my career are my favorite events.
Do you still live there or did you sell it or rent it?
I still live in Palo Alto and I sometimes rent the property in Marfa. It is mostly short-term rentals to family or through platforms like Airbnb.
What advice would you give other first time home buyers?
Invest in a decent real estate firm. I used to think that paying a realtor is a waste of money as everything I need can be found online. Although this is true to an extent, it is impossible to research years of experience that some real estate agents have. Also, do not buy unless you are confident about your ability to make payments. There are so many people that fail to realize how a minor difference in a monthly mortgage payment can impact one’s financial situation. Trust me, $50 may appear immaterial but, in the long run, it is not.