Category Archives: Real Estate & Rent

Another Sunday, Another 20 $2M houses

They range in price from $1.4M to $2.2M — that is, houses that in any other part of the country would range in price from $200k-$600k, but in the Bay Area are priced beyond comprehension. I took a solo day of open house touring to check out a few on the “lower” end of the range that I thought might work for myself, my husband, my son, my future child(ren), my husband’s dad and my husband’s mom. You know — a 1500 square foot 3br/2ba on a lot at least 6000 square feet with an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that we could all live in together as one big happy family…

I even started, in previous weekends, exploring further south (as in San Jose) – but prices aren’t much better there. You get a bit more for your money space wise, but you’re still spending $1.5M+. For a 2 hour commute to SF, you can possibly find something for $1.2M. It’s just extremely depressing and every day it weighs on me. I constantly text my husband “let’s move to NY” and I’m partially serious but he’s very serious he doesn’t want to leave. He’s right that with his mother and father we can afford something here. And I do want to stay but it’s just too much pressure if he’s going to continue to make $90k freelance income per year without asking for a raise or seeking additional projects –though his flexibility is helpful with childcare, but not so much with home buying.

I know, I know – we should keep renting. We’re fine in our 1 bedroom right now (which at 800 square feet and $2500 rent controlled to inflation is a STEAL!) When I have kid #2, we can move to a 2/2, which will likely be $4500/mo, but that is going to be in at least 21 more months. (hopefully) as I don’t plan to get pregnant again until May. That’s nearly two years of saving $$$ living in a one bedroom if we can survive it.

But I’m still just a train wreck over the whole “so this is it” mentality I have now… this is it… I’ve “made it” – heck, this year I may bring home over $350k in total income – and yet there is no way I can buy a house as my career won’t consistently deliver $350k / yr in income. I’ll be back to $150k in a few years probably and we can’t afford to buy on $240k income. I don’t know how anyone does it.

I’m trying to just let it go… to stop wanting so much because I know that’s what makes me unhappy, and outside of feeling a little distraught by the state of my bedroom (because it includes my husbands office and looks like a college dorm room in terms of furnishings), I’m pretty happy where we are now. I wish my son had an outdoor space to run around in,  because we don’t get to the park often enough and our balcony isn’t safe for him – but he has the entire living room floor as his toy room. There are no stairs (inside our home anyway) for him to hurt himself on. We have a pool in the apartment complex I’ll definitely be enjoying with my son this summer. So it’s not all that bad.

I just don’t see how I go from where I am now to that next step. Buying a home is probably the wrong move financially. So we wait. We wait and probably get more and more priced out of the area until we have to move. Maybe that’s the strategy now. I wish it didn’t have to be. But these $2M houses make me spit out my water and laugh so hard… $2M should buy you luxury and I don’t think I’ll get over that to buy a home in that price range, nor can I get over spending $1.5M to buy a fixer upper on a not-so-great street. So, yea, for now, for-ever?- we rent.

Against a Wall: HCOL and Those Golden Handcuffs

Driving to work in traffic the other day, I kept thinking–how am I going to do this for another 30 years? Even with splitting the cost of a $2M home with my MIL, we still end up with a very high mortgage that means I’m at best stuck working high-stress jobs that pay well and at worst burning through my savings faster than my baby lunges for my chest when he’s hungry.

There are parts of my current job that I like. My boss is actually really awesome. I know I’m always a heartbeat away from falling out of favor with her, but she’s a good person and I like to work for people who are not self-absorbed sociopaths. She’s just really good at her job and also really good at all the things I’m not — being poised, being a leader/executive, managing lots of things at once, staying cool under pressure, et al. Luckily, she also respects my skillsets–despite surely wishing I was better at being a “professional” my value add is, well, valued. It feels good to be valued. I wish I could be a perfect employee, but I’m far from it, and after this chapter is over it may be my yet-again downfall… but at the least I’ll walk from this one knowing I’ve done some good.

Yet at the end of the day, I know this isn’t sustainable. I’m in survival mode… and we all are, because that’s how business is run these days. Maybe in government jobs things go slow… but we don’t have time to stop and think and be super strategic we just have to go go go. For all my shortcomings, I can take some pride in my ability to be flexible in these types of environments. I know not everyone can perform when every day is another day of fighting fires and not enough time to get things done. But somehow I do get things done. It’s usually the last minute–which I want to be better at–but they get done.

I can do this for a few more years at best, but with one kid and hopefully with another one or two in my future, this can’t be my life–at least, not forever. And the hardest reality to face is that even WITH this being my life, I still cannot safely afford a house here… not even a townhouse or a condo within 45 minutes of work (or at least I think I can’t afford one… it’s so hard to gauge what’s affordable because it all depends on making a crazy amount of money via bonus and stock. Sure, my next few years, if I can keep this job, will be quite lucrative – but that doesn’t mean 30 years of such high pay.)

My husband is pretty adamant about not moving into a condo or townhouse… he wants a house. He wants to pay $2000 a month for the mortgage from his income, wants his dad to pay $2000 a month, wants his mom to put down $1M in cash (possible) and wants me to make up the rest… which will be anywhere from $3000-$6000 a month for a house that we all live in together. But, houses cost more than the mortgage and taxes. There’s fixing up and fixing in general. Running the numbers, the picture looks so unpretty.

I’m sitting in my 1 bedroom apartment thinking– how long can we last here? It’s certainly the safest way to live right now. In our $2500/mo 1 bedroom, I’m saving a lot of money. Worst case, we rent forever. Best case, the money I’m saving and investing in the stock market goes up to the point I have enough for a sizable downpayment on our own place without needing his parents to buy with us. But then there’s the whole matter of him WANTING to live with his parents. Ugh. Is this why marriage is so tough? I’ve spent my whole life trying to obtain independence and I know it’s nice to have grandparents nearby but I’m not so sure I want them literally in our backyard…

My realtor has pretty much disowned me at this point. I feel bad because she spent so much time with us taking us around and showing us houses but at the end of the day I can’t buy a $1.7M home that needs a lot of work. I can’t buy a $1.2M condo that’s a 2 bedroom and needs little work because it’s a 2 bedroom and why would I buy a 2 bedroom condo when we want more kids and will want more room?

But we’re stuck. We can’t leave… well, I can’t leave because my husband refuses to leave and I don’t really want to and we have, at least for now, free childcare here so why would we leave? And our friends and his family are here. And there’s no where else we want to go. And my job and my 10,000 recruiter emails are here (there have definitely been an uptick in recruiter emails lately- mostly from San Francisco-based companies.) So. Even if I won’t always make $250k+ a year, I still will likely be able to get jobs here making $150k+. But that’s NOT ENOUGH to live here when your. husband makes $90k 1099 and especially when you’re prone to losing your job for a few months every few years.

It’s just super depressing and I feel like a spoiled brat every time I talk about how depressing it is… I’m so lucky… I need to learn to be grateful and get over it, right? But it is suffocating–the way we work. The way we’re expected to work all the time and because I can’t do that effectively right now even if I wanted to because I have a young child then I feel like I’m letting everyone down because I can’t get through all my work at the office (and I’m half asleep all the time to add to that.) I could try harder. Be more organized. More focused. Drink more coffee. Wake up earlier. I don’t know. Again, I’m in pure survival mode… but that’s not living. That’s hoping and holding your breath that you’ll make it three more months to vest another stock grant. Another chance at maybe being able to have a future here.

But what is that number anyway? The “number” — net worth number– is probably far to large to ever be possible. My husband and I have a joint net worth now of $925k (about $800k of that is my savings.) That’s SO MUCH MORE than I ever thought was possible to save. We’re close to hitting $1M! That’s insane. So why do I feel so broke? Maybe I should take more risks. Buy a house and figure prices will go up… that inflation will make $9000 a month in mortgage seem sane in a few years down the road? With my mental health situation and now with a kid, I just can’t take those kind of risks. Not with $1M in the bank. Maybe with $2M in the bank… or $3M. I’m not sure how many million but definitely more than $1M. Ideally enough to buy a $2M house outright with $1M in retirement savings, so $3M seems about right.

So if I (we) add $50,000 a year cash to our investments, assuming $800k is invested now, in 16 years at 5% YoY interest we’ll have $3M. Of course by then houses will cost a lot more than $2M. That doesn’t work. If we add $100,000 a year, then we have just 12 years to wait… but then in 12 years if a $2M house increases in value 4% YoY the house will cost $3.2M… nope, that doesn’t work either.

I know everyone says just take your money and move somewhere cheaper… but let’s assume that’s not an option. Then what do we do? The house we wanted for $1.7M (that would require about $400k-$500k work) is still available – hey at least I called it as being over priced. But, it will be gone soon enough. The market will get competitive again. Now is a “good time to buy.” Another house we looked at was shown one weekend and gone by the next. Most decent properties still go that fast around here. And I still don’t want to live with my husband’s parents so… my only option is figuring out how to save $300k for a downpayment AND how I can afford $5,500 a month while my husband pays $2000 a month ($7500 total.) That’s what a $1.5M house costs, give or take. $300k down and $7500 a month (at 4% interest, so it’s prob more than that depending on when you buy.)

could sell $300k (+ capital gains tax) worth of stock AND just commit to paying $5500  per month on my own for the next 30 years (and hope my husband can keep doing $2000 a month.) I need to keep saving because if I need to take unpaid leave or god forbid lose my job for a few months (which will happen, let’s be real we’re talking about me here) then… well, I need enough cash to cover $5500 a month for about a year, so $66,000 cash, not counting general emergency fund. And where does the money come from to send our kids to preschool? Or after school activities? Or summer camp?

The numbers just don’t add up.

Ok, so let’s say… probably more realistically… we buy a $1.3M condo (priced at $1.2M, but it goes for $1.3M because that’s how real estate rolls in these parts.) HOA is something like $333/mo. Some are higher, some lower, but that’s about average. It could go up. There could be a special assessment. But nonetheless… with $333 / mo HOA and a $1.3M condo/townhome… that’s $260k down and $7000 a month… so I’m still paying $5000 a month, just $500/mo less and $40k savings on the downpayment. Substantial, but then the value of the home won’t go up as much because it’s a condo.

Or, we say… you know what, we’re going to move to the east bay because houses are cheaper there. We can get a house in a decent but not great area for $900k. Phew.  Our downpayment is JUST $160,000. Yes! Doable. Our monthly payment is $5000, leaving me with JUST $3000/month to pay. This looks a lot better. But then I’m paying $6 a day for bridge toll ($120 / mo) and commuting an hour or more to work each way – maybe more, if I work in the city again one day. Still, not so bad. But, wait, then we have to add in childcare because my husband’s parents do not drive and can’t get to us. So that’s $2,000 a month, if not more. So then we’re back up to $7000 a month anyway… and that’s with just one kid (I know, this is just for a few years… but still, it’s the years the $ costs the most before inflation kicks in and makes the mortgage somewhat ok.)

How the fuck do people do this?

Maybe we should just suck it up and buy a $900k home in the east bay and pay for childcare and drive to see his parents on the weekends. That’s probably what normal people would do. Or they’d move to Denver. Or Austin. Or Boise. Or Portland. Or Raleigh. Or anywhere else things make mathematical sense to live.

Welp. That’s my rant for the day.

 

We ALMOST Bought a $1.8M House…

And I am, at this moment, regretting not doing it.

$1.8M.

$1-8-0-0-0-0-0-0.

That’s a heck of a lot of cash.

We’re not rich people. We’re not the type of people that should be spending $1M a home, let alone $1.8M.

But — that is what it looks like we HAVE to do if I don’t want a crazy horrible commute and we don’t want to leave the area.

What makes the $1.8M possible is that we’re still strongly leaning towards buying with (AND LIVING WITH) my in laws. The big requirement is that they have a separate living area from us (separate unit on the property or at the least an in law with separate entrance.)

The $1.8M house was super cute. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, with a 400 square foot garage we could convert…

It had its issues. Other than being $1.8M. It had some termite activity, according to the disclosures. The 400 square feet of the garage would be challenging to turn into a real 1 bedroom apartment (my in laws aren’t married but are friends, so they can live in the same unit just need their own rooms.) The lot didn’t seem that big, though I guess it was at 7,500 sq ft, but most of that was in the front yard and in a very long driveway.

I regret not buying it, but I would have regretted buying it.

It was originally a 2br/1ba, and along its life some time an addition was plopped on the back of another bedroom and bath – the master suite. But the suite wasn’t that sizable… a full sized bed felt tight in there. While the home showed quite nicely, the reality was that for $1.8M it was too small for us, given we want to grow our family soon.

But I don’t think anything here will really be the right fit… unless we want to spend $3M+, which we don’t, and we won’t, unless we win the lottery we don’t play.

That said, my husband and I started tracking our joint net worth and it’s about $920k right now. Not too shabby. Mine is about $840k of that! But that’s ok. We’re doing well, yet living in a 1 bedroom apartment. I realized that this year, with my stock and bonus and such, I could clear $300k-$350k before tax ($117k of that I’ve already made as of April 1, which is crazy to think.) If I could maintain this level of income for the next 30 years, sure, we can afford a $1.8M home. But I won’t. I won the job lottery at the moment and am holding on for dear life. In 3 years, I can save a good $300k and we should break $1M in net worth. After we hit $1M, I’ll feel comfortable having another child… but I’m not sure I feel comfortable purchasing a home for $1.5M+. $500k, sure. $800k, maybe. $1M, possibly. $1.8M…

That’s too much for a house. That’s just insane.

My husband makes $80k a year. We aren’t paying for childcare right now, but if his parents got sick that could change any minute and we’d have $2k/ mo right there. With another kid, that’s $4k a month. It just doesn’t add up. Even if his mother puts down $1M and we have a $800,000 mortgage, that’s about $7000 / mo. How does anyone do this?

The Things that Matter: American Workaholism and Being a Mom

It’s 5am and I am exhausted but can’t get back to sleep after my son woke up screaming for milk a few hours ago. He didn’t actually drink that much. My breasts are still engorged and I’m too tired/lazy to pump. I’m supposed to “wake up” for work in an hour, to make myself presentable for an 8am meeting. I’m not doing the best job of being presentable given I’m so exhausted and no amount of coffee will help.

But my exhaustion isn’t just due to being woken up in the middle of the night. It’s the hopeless exhaustion of now being in the midst of the roller coaster of life, with time both going too fast and too slow, and memories of long gone childhood reminding me that life wasn’t always like this–always so formulaic in its requirements for supporting basic sustainability of existence.

My fear to pay more in rent a month isn’t helping. My fear of running out of money, or, more so, of getting to the point where I have a nervous breakdown and do not go into work one day because I can no longer stand the majority of my waking hours being dedicated to trying to get people to buy a product that–very successfully–helps companies reduce their workforce (though that’s not its primary purpose, but like most tech for business these days, it’s one of its benefits.) Oh, it’s a great product and it’s exciting to be part of a company that’s growing and a team that is not in it to change the world despite also building products that reduce headcount (the idealism of startups was nice for a while, but it also feels good to be part of a team that doesn’t entirely live and breathe work 24/7.) But, at the end of the day, always the very long yet never long enough day, I sit in traffic on the freeway for 45 minutes with all the other commuters headed home and talk to my 6 month old son on the phone who is crying and anxious for mom (well, for mom’s chest anyway) and who doesn’t care that I’m sitting in traffic or that I have to go to work to make enough money to try to save so maybe one day we can buy a house and go on vacations and such.

The reality is that my situation is so much better than 99% of the world, maybe even 99.9% of the world, and I’m still, well, not happy. I don’t know if I have the capacity for sustained happiness, given it’s me we’re talking about, but I’d like to not constantly live in fear. I acknowledge that buying a house with monthly mortgage payments will heighten my anxiety immensely. If we can make it work to buy a property with my MIL and FIL, and keep our monthly payments closer to what we’re paying now (or at least what we’d pay in rent for a decent 3br/2ba apartment), then maybe that’s ok. But then there’s all the other issues that come up with home ownership. It’s terrifying.

But then I’m also sitting here, 35 going on 40, realizing that there is no “when” at this point in life. I’m past the stage of saving and waiting. It’s now or never. I have a kid. I have a job that is as stable as my work will probably ever be. I have a husband who may return to school to make even less than he does now, but at least he’ll get benefits in case I should lose said job. Why not just take the leap? Have some stability for once? I’d like to give that to my kid. He won’t remember his first year of life, but I’d prefer not to jump around from rental to rental throughout his life. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I grew up in one home from 0-17 and although moving once or twice in that timeframe is ok, moving every year or every other year is best to be avoided. I want to meet my neighbors, I want to feel like we’ve “made it” by having our own backyard, however small it is. Our own kitchen and bathroom and walls and tiny storage area so my bike doesn’t have to live in our living room.

I’m tired. I’m tired and unhealthy and I know my body is upset for it. I feel myself aging too fast. I’m not finding time to work out and my diet has gone to complete shit. There’s so much I want to improve, but for now, I’m barely getting by.

Home (Bitter) Sweet, $2M Bay Area Home

I haven’t written in a while, because as a new mom working full time, there isn’t time in the day to do much other than work, feed (a baby), eat and sleep. And even that last one rarely happens these days.

A lot is going on with our finances these days, so I have plenty to write about, but I’ll focus here on our recent quest to purchase a house in the Bay Area. In short, it’s not going well. I just can’t accept that we have to spend $8k a month on a mortgage for the next 30 years in order to afford anything remotely decent in the likes of a 3br/2ba house. And the market isn’t even at its hottest these days.

The big question right now is whether or not we go in with my husband’s parents to purchase a home. In theory, this is a good idea, since his mother has $1M for a downpayment and his father can contribute $2k a month to the mortgage and bills. That would help a lot if we get a loan for, say, $750k on a $1.7M home. And, you’d think you could find a house with enough room for $1,7000,000. But – we’re in crazy land here real estate wise, and while $1.7M gets you more than a closet, it’s not that much more (and the closets, well, they aren’t big enough to fit much of anything.)

Anyone learning of our situation wold say — why don’t you live further from your work, or, heck, move to another state? Yes, all possible, but not what we want. I already feel like I live too far from work with a 45 minute commute one way and I barely see my kid. If we HAVE to, yes, I can do a 1.5 hr commute one way / 3 hrs RT but — then I get into the philosophical question of WHY. I don’t like my career to begin with, the reason I am working in it is because it pays well (at the moment, really well.) But that won’t last forever. And if there’s anything that gives me a panic attack, it’s committing to staying in this career (and somehow remaining gainfully employed in it) for the next 30 years.

I’m really not sure what to do here. My general thought is this:

  • Try my best to keep my current job for 34 more months, which is netting about $300k/yr pre tax for next 3 years
  • Stay in our $2500/month 1 bedroom apartment until my son is 1
  • Move into a rental 3br/2ba house closer to work that my father in law can also live in (requires a lot of looking for the right place, since he would need a private entrance to his room and ideally his own bath) — about $6000/mo ($4000 / mo for us, $2000 for his father)
  • Live there for the foreseeable future and save as much as possible
  • Either get promoted at work into a role that pays even more and that I can see myself in for next 30 years (unlikely) OR just keep saving until we have enough for a sizable downpayment to keep monthly payments low OR move far far away and never look back

The only reason why it makes some sense to buy a house now is that my mother in law has that $1M in cash earning basically no interest at the moment, so putting that into a house would at least allow that money to keep up with inflation, probably. It would even make sense for her to loan us the money and for us to pay her interest on it. Either she spends it then on something she needs in her life, or one day it comes back to us as my husband is an other child. Either way, it feels better than taking the full $1M and putting her in a tiny in law unit on the property without its own kitchen. She might not care, but it just feels wrong.

We did meet with a real estate agent and I’m running out numbers with a broker to get pre approval. I’m shocked that without my MIL’s $ for a downpayment, it still looks like we can qualify for a $1.8M variable loan, give or take. That’s insane to me. I know you don’t have to take as much as the bank offers you, but that’s basically a $9k a month payment. Since they aren’t counting my bonus or stock – that’s somehow assuming we can pay $9k a month on about $10k after tax. It makes no sense. And we wonder why we have housing bubbles that go bust.

I’m trying to avoid the emotional side of me that wants to BUY A HOUSE NOW. It’s being amplified by knowing that my mom has to sell my childhood home, and even though I’ve lived in apartments now for many years I always had a place to go back to that was my home. With that house being sold, I don’t have a home any more, and that makes me feel icky. Not icky enough to make a stupid financial decision, but icky nonetheless.

I hired a CFP to help us figure this all out but I am pretty sure I made the wrong decision in who I hired as we’re way too confusing for him – he’d be good with a straightforward couple who both earn tech salaries and will likely earn those salaries for their entire careers. That’s not us. So I’m pissed at myself for picking this guy. He’s not bad, but he’s not flexible and he doesn’t think outside the box. We need some flexibility here. And he’s supportive of buying the home now, but I’m not so sure he should be.

In any case, we’re working on pre approval then will decide what to do. I’m kind of hoping we find a 3br/2ba home for $1.2M that we can buy and live in with my father in law, with his $2k / month going toward mortgage/taxes, and then his mother can find her own similar property when she has to move in the next few years (when her mother passes away, the property will be sold and income split amongst the 3 siblings.) At that point, she should have about $1.5M in cash or more and she can go out and buy a small house with a nice backyard and we can have our $1.2M tiny house that we work to fix up and make our own. That’s really the best plan, I think, though finding anything half-way decent for $1.2M is pretty impossible here. We could get a 2br/2ba condo, but that doesn’t make sense since we want to have more kids and that wouldn’t allow us to grow our family or have guests over. So I’m hoping we go for a $1.2M house close to my work, we can make that work with his father so that covers taxes, at least for a few years, and we do our best to make this home our own. I really think that’s the best way to go about things, if we don’t just stick to renting.

Real Estate: Buying Property with Mother-in-Law?

The costs of home ownership in the Bay Area are, well, terrifying. My husband and I (and now my husband, his mother and I) have been visiting open houses each weekend –just to get an idea what, if anything, is in our price range. The short answer is–not much.

Although we’re definitely not wealthy, we now have the benefit (?) of his mother joining us in our home purchasing endeavor. And, by joining us I mean joining us to live with us in an in-law unit (or second unit of a duplex) that we purchase together. should be super-duper grateful that she’s offering a $1M cash downpayment to make this possible. I am. But I’m also super-duper nervous because the other $1M (since the properties we are looking at are about $2M) will come from my husband and I (mostly me myself and I) – and the way their family communicates is practically non-existent so I’d be wrapping my future everything up in a property that’s co-owned by his mother (or, she “gifts” him the money so it’s fully owned by us, but the ownership then is a lifetime of debt to her in other means.)

Do I like my mother in law? Good question. She is, for all intents and purposes, a quiet person who keeps to herself. She marches to the beat of her own drum, but we get along. Would I prefer not to live on the same property as her? Yes, of course. But she’s also willing to help out with childcare and as much as I am nervous about her providing childcare to my kid(s) once they’re of walking age (she’s doing a fine job now with the 10-week old), it’s certainly nice to not have to spend $20k+ a year on daycare, and it’s extra nice keeping it in the family.

The actual scenario we’re looking at is that his mother gifts us the $1M, we get a mortgage for $1M, then his father (who is not married to his mother–never has been–but who is friends with her) gives us $2k a month in “rent” to bring down the monthly costs. All-in-all, financially, doing this with a ~$2M duplex or a reasonable single family + in-law unit makes a hell of a lot more sense than spending $1.5M+ on a single family home with no future rental potential. Even if our mortgage is $7k a month, my husband’s father’s contribution of $2k brings that down to the $5k that is that max I feel comfortable paying monthly for our PITI. I’d like it to be less than that, but at this point realistically it’s not going to get under $5k for what we need to make this work.

I’m just struggling with the lack of fiscal communication here, and how it feels like I’m dealing with a bunch of elementary school students in handling a very serious, very costly purchase, should we make it. That said, what right do I have to ask for any sort of special communication when it’s my husband’s mother who is making this purchase possible at all… shouldn’t I just roll with it? He’s an only child, his mother has practically put her income after very low expenses under pillows her entire life, and she seems to want to offer that to my husband and my child(ren) more than spend it on herself… I mean, for a women who has never owned a home, car, or pretty much anything “new” in her life, I doubt she’s going to change suddenly and spend that money. If I thought she would, or even would enjoy spending it on something else, I’d refuse the cash. I don’t want to be responsible for destroying her retirement. But all she wants in her retirement is a small place to live with a backyard and, most importantly, to spend as much time with my child(ren) as possible.

The entire situation makes me so uncomfortable because even though I grew up with a lot of privilege and my parents providing for me, I have been extremely independent since I graduated college (outside of my wedding.) I feel guilty for the privilege I’ve had, but have always told myself that as long as I make my own money for the life I want to live once I graduate college, I’m doing right by the world.

There’s a very long post I will write one of these days regarding my own parent’s financial mess (my father passed away this summer and let’s just say the family networth went from $1M to $400k in about 4 years–again, that story will be saved for another post(s))–but I’ve been struggling too with coming to terms that I always thought there’d be something left to provide backup should I financially fall on my face one day–but the reality has sunk in that nothing will be left. I am in a much better financial situation than my sister who is 28 and still earning a little higher than minimum wage with no benefits, so I can’t complain. It’s still a scary feeling, nonetheless (to be written about in another post.)

But I’ve also saved up now $650k, give or take, in retirement and investment accounts, and I feel like I’m capable of buying my own property without the help of others. Well, I would be, anywhere else in the country. Here… anything under $1.5M is pretty terrifying, at least with a 30 minute commute from my job south of the city.

That leads me down the road of… why buy now? The prices are coming down a bit (I’ve seen a bunch of $100k price drops in the last few weeks which seems substantial), but do we really need to buy this year? Our 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment lifestyle isn’t that horrible, especially given the size of our apartment (800 square feet) provides rather large rooms compared to 3br, 2ba houses for sale (some of those “master bathrooms” are masterly tiny.)

His mother doesn’t have to move now either. She’s still living in her parent’s house (I believe, for free, which she’s done her entire life), so she is ok there until her mother, who is in her 90s, passes away (clearly not wishing this on her at all, but there’s the reality that few humans live past 100.) Once she passes away, we don’t know what will happen with the property other than that it will be sold and, we think, his mother will get 1/3 of its value (possible that won’t be the case but no one talks in the family about things like that.) Even without that inheritance, though, she will still have the $1M waiting its use for a home purchase with or without us.

Part of me wants to power through the next few years in our 1br/1ba and enjoy the rent control we have with our $2450 rent. I’m 45 minutes from my office in rush hour, but maybe I can work out an alternative travel the where I get that sweet 30 minute each way drive. I’ve considered moving us closer to my office… but we can’t get anything near nice enough at $2450 a month. We could pool resources and live with his dad for $4450 a month… but we know without a private unit / in law that would be a mess. We’re not even going to try that…

So, we may just wait it out as long as we can. When his grandmother passes away, that will make everything happen faster, since his mother will have to move. Until then, nothing is making us leave this place. Our son can easily manage to live in a 1 bedroom with us until he’s at least one, and maybe longer. It does suck not being able to invite people over, but heck, what people would I invite over? I don’t really know anyone. And I work all the time anyway, or at least I will when I get back from maternity leave.

That seems like the right option– even though we could qualify for a loan that, with his mother’s cash, would enable us to buy a property now. Yet I’m not sure buying is right at all anyway… home ownership is a hot mess from what I can tell… it’s costly, it takes all your time, there are issues you don’t know about when you buy that pop up later… and in the Bay Area you have to buy “as is” with no contingencies which just sounds like a recipe for financial ruin. Why bother?

Well, why bother because I have a kid and I want him to have a stable life… both my husband and I grew up in houses from the day we were born until adulthood, and we value not moving around every couple of years, especially for our family. So there’s that.

Leave the Bay Area? Maybe. If we don’t buy now… and if I can keep my current job for the next 3.5 years to collect my stock, and that stock remains valued at what it’s worth now or more, then who knows… we could pick up and move. His parents won’t want to, but we could buy a place on our own. He wouldn’t want to be far from his parents, so–I’m not sure it’s really an option, but if we can have another kid (or two more kids) it may be the best one.

In any case, I’m not sure what to do… as always… but after looking at probably 100 open houses over the last year… all I can say is I really don’t want to buy anything I’ve seen. That’s not a good sign.

Should we buy a house with my husband’s parents?

It has become increasingly clear that owning a house in the Bay Area (unless I want a 1.5+ hour each way commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the rest of my life) is pretty much an impossible feat on our own.   Theoretically I can become a VP and make $200k a year for the next 30 years of my life, but with my husband’s expected $50k income, we just can’t buy a house on $250k. And that’s IF we both are gainfully employed in such roles for the next 30 years straight.

His parents, not married but quite friendly with each other, are both seemingly interested in purchasing a home with us and living together. My husband, thankfully, realizes it’s not a good idea to live in the actual same house without an in-law unit (attached or dettached), and I’ve recommended if we’re going to go this route we look at duplexes which would be more expensive up front, but would give us more options long term as rental properties should they no longer want to live there for any reason (and we spend more than we would just us since there needs to be space for them.)

Duplexes around here seem to go for anywhere from $1.6M to, well, much higher. A really nice duplex could be $2M. The duplexes don’t come with much of a backyard usually (not that any property here does) but what’s nice about them is that together we might actually be able to afford ownership and the stability that affords.

His father is open to paying $2,000 a month towards a mortgage. I don’t know yet about his mother as she could likely help with the downpayment and then have to pay less monthly for a while (she apparently has most of her savings in cash, for better or worse.) Then, between all of us, maybe we could afford an $8k monthly mortgage. And, although I’m not quite sure how it would work, I think we could split the mortgage interest deduction three ways (since they’re not married) and thus actually be able to take the full deduction (though it would be worth much less to retired people, and I’m not sure it would be worth much of anything at all to them.)

I’m torn on whether living with his parents makes sense. His father is already offering to help out with the kiddo and I wouldn’t mind living with his dad if his father had an in-law type unit, or we had a duplex. He is very quiet and a nice, introverted guy that isn’t bothered by much. He’s a bit older too, in his 70s, and I think he just wants to spend time with his grandkid, which I appreciate. And it would be nice for my child to have a grandma it is close with (since my dad is across the country and due to his cancer may not be around that much longer unfortunately.) He currently lives in a very small one bedroom apartment in a 55+ apartment complex and I think his quality of life would increase substantially should he live in a house. He’s been sending my husband links to houses for rent with makeshift in-law units so clearly he’s very big on this idea of living together.  It certainly makes sense to offer him decreased rent/mortgage payments in trade for helping out with the baby.

His mother is a bit of a different story. She’s also quiet and independent, but she’s a mess. Like, more of a mess than I am. I’m a mess, but she’s like a “I have a bunch of cats I gathered from the outside and a billion purchases from thrift stores I’m hoarding” a mess. My husband knows this, and doesn’t want to live with her if she will continue this behavior. But he seems pretty confident she will change if she moves into a new space (she lives in her own parents house now, and her parents also collected  lot of junk so that place is just chaotic.) She isn’t ready to move yet, but her mother is in her 90s and eventually she will have to leave the house and find somewhere else to live. At that point, we could all put our savings together and find a home that works.

I wish the duplexes weren’t so expensive. While I’m still a little concerned that she would let the house become disgusting, if she lived with my husband’s father I don’t think it would happen. I mean, maybe her room (if we had a duplex with a 2br for them) would be messy, but the rest of the place and the outside areas wouldn’t be. If they were detached units on the same property, that wouldn’t be so bad.

The other option is to rent a house that happens to have a room with a private entrance. This wouldn’t work with his mother, but she’s not ready to move right now anyway. My husband’s father would move in a heartbeat. I think we’re still pretty set on staying in this apartment for the first year of our kid’s life, but it really might make the most sense to move now since the first year is when grandpa will be helping out the most (and taking 30 minute train rides to get here, since grandpa doesn’t drive.)

I’m pretty certain if I pushed for it and found the perfect place, we could move in together next month. I’m not sure that makes any sense though — our rent is now about $2500 a month. So we’d have to find a house that is $4500 a month max. The houses around here that are $4500 are not that nice, and I haven’t seen any with in-law type units. We could maybe get a regular 2br/1ba for $4500 a month… but I think we all agree that living in the same house–especially with one bathroom–is a bad idea.

So we’ll probably just stay in this apartment at least for a year, but be opportunistic in purchasing should the right property come along. His mother may change things if she needs to move sooner than later. But we’ll see. I do think her savings would make it possible for us all to purchase something a bit nicer. If we could split taxes on the property 3 ways, that would help as well, since there is the $10k per person/couple limit on that deduction now, including income tax.

What do you think? Should I consider a duplex or house with in-law purchase? Should we rent a house? Should we wait?

 

Who can afford to own a house?

I’ve committed to remaining in our $2500/month one bedroom apartment for as long as we can stand it with our soon-to-be child. I’ve even gotten to appreciate the forced closeness we’ll have living in a small space with kiddo, especially in the first year when it’s recommended baby sleeps in the same room with parents…

However, I’m very concerned about what happens “next.” Yes, we can leave this overpriced corner of the country and live somewhere that a much lower salary would enable home ownership. I don’t even care about “owning” so much as I care about being able to afford some sort of residence that feels less like an apartment and more like a home. A townhouse would be perfectly fine, especially if it has a little grassy area in the back, and a community park nearby… Continue reading

A Loose 5 Year Plan

The whole “being pregnant” and going into “nesting” mode is real. I’ve been spending way too many hours scouring Redfin and Zillow despite knowing that I can’t afford a home here, other than maybe a 1 bed, 1 bath in a really bad part of the bad part of town.

So. I’m trying to focus my energy on longer-term, more realistic goals, while also ensuring that I keep my job in order to hit them.

2018

  • Age: I turn 35(!)
  • Networth: Close out the year at $645k-$650k
  • Housing: Live in 1 bedroom / 1 bath apartment (50% = $14.1k yr)
  • 401k: invest $22.5k
  • Stocks: invest $30k 
  • Baby #1: born, 0 – 5 mo
  • Baby #2: not born yet

Continue reading

Will I ever feel or be stable enough to buy a house?

I’m not sold that the American Dream of a white picket fence is the wisest financial move in the grande scheme of things. But, at 34 and pregnant with my first child, I long for the stability of a home with at least a small backyard and just – space.

Even though my networth is $540k, I’ve never felt stable enough in my career to purchase property. I thought by now I would – but I don’t and I don’t think I ever will. Given my husband is going back to school and will be starting over with a job making $50k, if we’re ever going to own it’s pretty much all on me. We can certainly rent a house – but when my child gets older, I’m afraid of having to downsize due to losing a job. I almost feel better about staying in a one bedroom apartment with the kid, and saving for as long as possible. Plenty of people do it, why can’t I? Continue reading