Category Archives: Real Estate & Rent

Just a bit terrified of making decisions…

I wish my husband and I could have a straightforward conversation about why I feel uncomfortable with buying a house with gift money from his mother, and then with her living there as well (in an in-law unit.) Financially it is not a horrible idea (as long as we never get divorced) but emotionally it’s really weighing on me. It isn’t even the living with her that is making me uncomfortable, I just don’t want to merge our finances.

His mother also is being put in a bad situation, even though in her nativity she may not know it. What if she gives us $1M and a few years down the road my husband is hit by a bus, and I want to sell the house and move closer to my family across the country? Even if I wanted to give her back the $1M at that point after selling the property, I couldn’t do this without having to pay taxes on this. There’s no clean way to give her the money back. So then I’d be stuck.

Now hopefully my husband won’t die… and all of the other 10,000 equally awful scenarios won’t actually come to fruition (i.e. I get a brain tumor and go batshit, or get in a car accident that is my fault and creditors come after our house and take it away, etc etc.) There are just SO many things that could go wrong and my husband is all like THIS IS FINE it’s NOT A BIG DEAL. It is a big deal. It’s a very big deal and a very big amount of money and maybe I’d be more comfortable with it if he treated the situation as such. I’m reaching out to lawyers to make sure that if we’re going to move forward we have everything clearly in writing regarding the what ifs. He gets upset at me for being concerned. It’s frustrating.

He also is really having 2000 sq ft house envy, which is partially my fault as we’ve been house shopping for over a year now and I’ve shown him some bigger homes in the area so that the ones we can (barely) afford(?) that are 1200 square feet seem too tiny to consider. I get it. I want a house with big rooms and space to grow and just space overall. But without his mother’s money, we should be spending no more than $1.5M on a house and really less than that (if you want to go for the 2x income, we should be spending $500k-$600k on a house, but that will not get us a studio apartment out here.)

I’m starting to lean towards buying something in a “lower cost” area — San Bruno, Pacifica, South San Francisco, Daly City — maybe even Hayward. I’ve also finally accepted that what we buy today may very well not be our forever home, and if it is then we’ll learn to love it (yes, it’s hard to be willing to compromise so much when still spending $1.3M-$1.5M, but that’s the reality of life in the Bay Area.)

I knew going into my marriage that my husband and I don’t see eye-to-eye financially. He’s perfectly happy making $90k 1099 per year, never asking for raises, working in the same non profit for the last 10+ years. I was also making $90k at some point, but that was a long time ago as I’ve moved jobs and received raises and bonuses and such. I do believe that marrying him was the right thing to do–we love each other and that’s what matters. We also both entered the marriage with no debt, which helped. We pay for our used cars in cash. We still save more than we spend. We’re not from totally different planets when it comes to money management.

But looking forward over the next 10 years, I want to have 1 to 2 more kids, and I just don’t see how it all works…

As some of my readers have suggested, we could and probably should continue renting, get a bigger place as a rental and we’ll still be better off than buying. But my husband now is opposed to renting a bigger place! He really wants to buy. With his mom. He doesn’t want to deal with moving and having to move again (and again and again.) I get it. But right now, maybe it’s not the right time to buy. Or maybe it is — mortgage rates are low, we have $1M in net worth, we’re both employed, we have one 1 year old and may have another or two in the next 2-3 years…

I am sad that I don’t have a husband who I can talk to about my concerns and be heard. I wish we could be in this together but it doesn’t feel like we are. He will pay up to $2500 a month in mortgage so my only option is to find a house I can personally afford where the rest of the mortgage is on me. I haven’t figured out how to make that work, especially given my job stability is always non existent and my mental health continues to be a train wreck.

In better news, I finally applied for term life insurance and submitted all my tests/paperwork… (guess what, my husband is putting off submitting his!) — anyway, that’s the subject for another post. I’ll find out if I’m accepted at all and what my rates will be next week. Until then…

The Job Downward Spiral: There’s a Physics to my Employment

Either I’ve done a better job overall this time around or things just move slower in public companies. I think it’s a mix of both. But now a year-and-a-half in and it’s clear I’m past the phase of newcomers victories and excitement and well into the phase of “I suck at this.”

I’ve been assigned a few larger projects to manage and after failing at one or two my boss was really hoping I could pull off the latest and greatest, but nope, I fell right on my face. Looking back I see a few areas where I could have improved, but overall I just feel lost. I don’t know how to help drive collaboration when I’m unsure what the expectations are. I did uncover these expectations along the way (and feel I could do a much better job managing a project like this next time) but the problem is I seem to keep missing the obvious and not getting what I’m supposed to be doing… which at my level, as my boss points out, is not acceptable. She used nicer words, but that’s what she meant.

The good(?) news is that I’ve been assigned a slew of projects that I HAVE been successful at. Unfortunately, these projects are one-off “do not make any sense on a future resume” type of projects. Maybe it’s time I stop caring so much about said future resume and just try to do what I do best–which is run with the punches and take on creative projects that no one else would have the foggiest how to manage versus trying to become a manager of cut-and-dry processes and failing time and again.

At 35, it’s no longer cute to fail or figure shit out. I should have it figured out by now and it’s clear I don’t. I’m scared because without resume-building projects I have no where to go after this. It’s hard to have that conversation with your boss because you aren’t supposed to be thinking about “after this.” And it’s less about moving up at this point and more about maintaining some semblance of a living wage once this job is no more. Maybe I’ll stay in this role until I retire with inflation-based raises, but that’s unlikely. I know my boss sees that I can do SOME things well (otherwise I’d be OUT already) but is that enough? I don’t want to be the easy to cut person in the organization and without adding clear value I’ll be cut sooner or later.

I just wish the last project didn’t end up the mess it was. I really don’t know how I could have done it all better. I still am not sure I could really do it better if I started over, which is the scary part. I don’t know how to get teams inspired to do great work, or to collaborate. Everyone seems to think I go off and come up with ideas on my own and decide everything without consulting others, but I keep asking everyone else what they want and I’m not getting any answers. I guess I’m not asking them in the right way. Or… they just hate me and don’t want to collaborate. I don’t know. My one co-lead on the project was super nice, but he also ended up driving things down a path that made it all more complicated and took away my control–which, funny enough, is what my boss wanted me to have… control to make the project great, but then also be collaborative and get everyone else’s input, but to lead. At the end of the day, I’m a shitty leader. But I’m not going to stay in a senior-level role without BEING a leader in my field. Independent contributor is not worth much and I’m way overpaid to be one right now. Good problem to have? I guess. It makes me feel like crap every day. I can’t even look my colleagues in the eye anymore.

I’ve set 7 time-based goals for myself to stay in the company and just try to survive. And by survive I mean do great work that keeps me employed, but also do not try to move up or gain resume-building experience… just do whatever my boss(es) want me to do and stop trying to do the things that would help me move up but do not come naturally to me. That’s 7 dates across 33 months that I need to survive and then, as long as there isn’t a major recession, I’ll have some sort of flexibility to figure out my next steps… I mean, not a ton of flexibility because if I have a mortgage and another kid, flexibility is out the window unless my husband is willing to move to a lower cost of living area and he isn’t.

It is just all so suffocating… I’m so fortunate for all I have and I know I’m in a much better spot than many others in this country, but I just can’t breathe. I don’t want to get caught in this self pity crap but I also don’t know how to be better. Once I start thinking this way it’s hard to focus and be productive. Every little thing I do I self doubt so much that I slow down my output and my output gets worse and worse until I inevitably get let go. Fired. Whatever. That’s what I do. It’s not funny. It’s not poetic. It’s just my life.

But with a toddler and wanting another child, it CAN’T be my life. I’m really fucking scared right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever see the day I have a. job where I’m not worried about getting fired. This is the best situation yet as the head of the department likes my work and has given me the opportunity to do projects seen by our senior leadership team, but that still doesn’t make me professionally immortal. And I know even if I can hold on for dear life these next 33 months, there’s still after that… if my resume has nothing on it other than weird projects that make no sense at another company, or would be comparable to what a much more junior person would do with a much lower salary, I don’t know what I’ll do —

I was talking to my husband and we agreed that our mortgage should be no more than $5000 with his father adding another $2000  in rent (basically $2500 for each of us per month plus $2000 for his father.) My husband really wants his mother to go in with us on the property but I’d prefer to buy separately and just have his father rent from us (his parents aren’t married, it’s complicated, but I am comfortable living with his dad if he is renting from us and it’s clean cut like that.) So we can put down $300k on a $1.5M property which is about $7k a month. That might be doable even if I lose my job, but it will be hard to maintain 30 years of a career that can support $2500 a month. And it’s going to be very hard if not impossible to find a place that costs $1.5M that has a good place for his father to live.

Ugh. When will my life not be a mess?

Another post on the impossible goal of buying a home in the Bay Area

When I drive from point A to point B I’m often calculating various life possibilities in my head. As of late, my math is focused on determining what kind of mortgage REALLY makes sense for my family. I figured $8000 a month DOESN’T make sense, but given prices of housing here are ridiculously high, I was hoping to at least get a number that felt somewhat doable.

Even though our household income should be over $400,000 this year (as long as I maintain my employment), there is absolutely no way to guarantee we’ll come close to this every year for the 30 years ahead. With my husband making $90k 1099 (I consider that $60,000 salary equivalent since it has no benefits and is taxed at a higher rate), and my income ranging in the past 10 years from $150,000 to $400,000 (total compensation), I feel fairly comfortable committing to $200k total family income for next 30 years–a combination of my husband staying in his job OR getting a job with benefits with a $60k salary minimum, and my having a job making at least $150k a year on average (which seems reasonable based on the various offers I’ve received in the past.) Theoretically our income would go up with inflation and more experience, but my husband has never asked for a raise and is not inspired to take on more clients beyond his one client, and I am fairly confident I’ll have to take a pay cut over and over again to remain gainfully employed, not to mention that I’ll likely take some time off to have kid #2 (and #3?) Plus, I figured out recently that we spend about $3500-$4000 a month not including housing on our lifestyle. Sure, we could be more frugal BUT I don’t want our housing to get in the way of being able to travel to see my family, see the world, send kids to summer camp, etc. I don’t think our lifestyle costs will go down that much as our kids get older–we’ll cut in some places and add to others.

So $200k a year in salary is $16k a month. If we max out our IRA/401k, that’s about $3k a month, leaving us with $13k pre tax, or about $8k after tax.

I think planning our next 30 years based on $8k after tax income makes a lot of sense. It still feels aggressive and scary to commit to anything based on it, but it’s not unreasonable.

If we make $8k in after tax income and our monthly expenses are $3500-$4000 a month, then we have $4000 left for a mortgage OR rent. Of course a mortgage is fixed while rent can go up over time… but let’s ignore that for now and just say that we can afford a $4000/month mortgage (including taxes, etc, esp since there are no meaningful tax deductions for real estate anymore.)

If my math is correct, IF we can put $600,000 down (50%) we can afford a $1.2M home.

But we don’t have $600k to put down, and the opportunity cost on putting that much of our life savings down will basically kill our retirement. We can put down less but then our monthly costs go up, which would significantly impact our lifestyle.

Even if we got our living costs under $2500 a month, that leaves $5.5k for a mortgage, taxes, etc MAX. That seems like better math… a $1.2M home with $300k down (more reasonable at 25% down) would be about $5.5k a month. BUT I don’t think we can find a house for that in this area — if we buy a condo, then condo fees would be on top of the mortgage, meaning we could afford less in a condo than in a house (sort of… maintenance costs in a house would eat up the HOA fees and then some.)

I keep running the numbers and I just don’t understand how anyone can afford a house here. I’m terrified of being stupid about this and buying something far from perfect for way too much money because I really want to own a house. It just doesn’t make sense.

I wish I could have a rational conversation with my husband about this. He just wants his mother to gift him the money and then we’ll live with his parents for the rest of forever. I want to find a place WE can afford on our salary without his parents living with us. He isn’t willing to consider getting a job that pays more and I can’t commit to earning more than $150k a year for the next 30 years.

My thought is that our best strategy right now is to rent a 2br/2ba and stay there for a few years and wait to see if our savings increases or what happens, but he’s pretty adamant about not renting. He makes me feel pretty crappy about not wanting to commingle my savings with his mother’s money (even if she is “gifting” it to him.) It’s beyond a matter of pride, though that’s part of it. I just want to have flexibility and once we buy with his parents we’re stuck for the next 30 years.

We could rent a 2br/2ba for $4000-$5000 a month now.

We could stay in our 1br for another year (or two, depending on when I get pregnant) — for $2500 a month and continue to save. Once we hit $3M in net worth, I can see putting $600k down on a house as we’re still diversified. But $600k on $1M in networth is too much.

That said, we’ll probably have a recession in the next year or two and our $1M will be worth a lot less. So selling stock now to buy could be a good move… or will housing prices come down with a recession? I wish I had a crystal ball.

 

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?