Category Archives: Real Estate & Rent

Should I Buy a Condo?

Most jobs in my industry are an hour north of where I live (more than that in traffic) and I’m growing weary from the commute. We’re paying $2500 a month in rent currently for our 800 square foot one bedroom and I’m starting to think renting is no longer cost effective for us. Granted, we won’t be able to afford a 1 bedroom quite a nice as the one we are renting – BUT – we could buy a 1 bedroom condo closer to the city and then at least we’d lock in our monthly rates so we can actually afford to stay here.

My crazy thought is buying a 1 bedroom 1 ba condo. I wouldn’t have considered this before, but it’s the only way we can own property for <$600k. My goal would be to get the monthly mortgage under $2000 so with standard $500 HOA, we’d be paying the same (or even less next year) than what we are paying to rent. Continue reading

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It Takes $450,000 to Be Middle Class in the Bay Area

The other day I was having a debate with one of my blog readers about the definition of Middle Class. We were both trying to sort out what the income requirement was to be “middle class” in the Bay Area or any region of the country. I came up with a pretty simple equation…

Middle Class, to me, equals being able to afford a modest house for a family (3br, 2ba) in a reasonably good neighborhood within one hour of where you work (i.e. a suburb of a major city.) Based on various estimates you should spend about 25% of your AFTER TAX income on your monthly home payment. Thus, in order to determine what it takes to be middle class in any region, we can look at what homes cost in that region, and base our definition on that. Continue reading

No Cable TV for Now, Fast Internet Instead

Since I’m determined to read more, get out of the house more to see friends and exercise, and generally not be a lazy couch potato, I decided to avoid getting cable for the time being. Instead, we’re getting 50MB internet and skipping cable altogether.

The cable bill for the first year wouldn’t be that bad, but then I’d get used to it and have to pay the ridiculous fees charged after the first 12 month rates expire. It really is ridiculous to pay $100+ per month for cable television when most of the shows are available through other means. I even already have Amazon prime which offers many shows and movies as part of the membership. There’s also the option to buy Hulu Plus or Netflix if this isn’t enough.

Instead of the cable membership, I splurged on a waterproof case for my Kindle ($70) so I can come home after work, fill up the tub, and read myself silly. Better that then starting mindlessly at the screen. I figure if I’m desperate for television I can sign up for the local gym, which offers tv screens in every cardio machine… at least then I’ll be able to get healthy while watching television instead of the opposite.

Is Cable Television Worth the Cost?

Every evening when I get home from work, I usually run 10 miles and then follow that up with completing a new 500+ page book. Just kidding. I sit in front of the tv and veg out. For better or worse, mindlessly flipping through the channels is what I do. It helps calm me down after a long day. It is a huge waste of time yet it is one of those things that brings a little joy to my life. Who doesn’t love falling asleep to a House Hunter’s marathon?

I haven’t actually watched a ton of TV living with my roommates in my previous apartment because they had control of the living room area and I generally hibernated in my room, where my cable connection didn’t work. I still spent some time when they were out on the living room couch enjoying a few hours of random shows. And I always thought that one day when I moved in with my boyfriend in my own apartment I’d finally have access to the television whenever my heart desired.

Now, however, I have quite a first-world dilemma on my hands — determining whether I should get cable television, an alternative, or avoid tv altogether (maybe so I can run 10 miles a night and read a few classics at the end of a long day.) My bf isn’t interested in television so he refuses to split the cost with me, so it gets quite expensive as a solo bill. With internet connection, for the first year cable (without the fancy channels like HBO and Showtime) will be $70 per month. That seems somewhat reasonable, but that’s just the year one special. It can go up to $100 or more per month the second year. Yikes. Do I really want tv that badly?

There are a few different options… AT&T vs Comcast. Alternatives like Hulu Plus or Netflix or Apple TV. Yet I’m not much of a series watcher, I’m more of a channel surfer. It’s a guilty pleasure and I miss it. Yet the cost, which was reasonable split 3 ways in my last apartment, is no longer something that makes sense when I have to cover it on my own. Cable TV for $600 per year (year 2) OR… well, spend it on something more useful than rotting my brain with repeats of law and order SVU.

How much per month do you currently spend on internet and/or cable?

 

Put in Our Application – The Waiting Game Begins

Wouldn’t it be nice if spending $400 per month more than I wanted to on an apartment would guarantee that the place would be ours? Yes, our 700-square-foot one bedroom, should we secure the affinity of our potential landlord, will be $2200 per month. Not even the commitment to pay that much for a relatively small (and outdated) place gets us immediate confirmation.

At least we have good credit scores. I ran mine again (*expletive* Experian for being the most scammy spammy company around) and I’m  at 738. My boyfriend has a crazy good credit score over 760. I messed mine up with one or two late credit card payments in the past, but this was very clearly me forgetting the date to pay and not long-term collections type issues. However, the landlord seemed a little nervous when I told her I was changing jobs and going to work for a “startup.” I quickly responded “don’t worry, they’ve raised a lot of money. And we have enough in the bank to pay for a year of rent even if for some reason we ever did lose our jobs. Come on, how could you turn us down? Continue reading

Just Pick a Place Already You Two!

My boyfriend and I are terrible – terrible – at making decisions. He’s so terrible at making decisions at 31 he has never left his house and after eight years of dating we’ve never moved in together. I’m slightly less terrible at making decisions, but I am not anywhere near good at making them either.

So finding an apartment is an extremely difficult #firstworldproblems challenge. We’ve seen over 40 apartments and every one is not up to my standard of living, especially for the price they charge! I always thought if I decided to move to San Francisco I’d be ok with paying an exorbitant amount for rent, but it feels wrong to pay so much to live in the burbs. I don’t care how great the town is.

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Moving in With the Boyfriend: Part 932592

Today, I decided to stop being quite so stingy. I agreed to split rent with my boyfriend based on our income. If we spend 13% of our current income, he would pay around $850 and I would pay up to $1350. That means our maximum monthly rent is $2200, not $1700 like I was originally aiming for when I wanted to do a 50/50 split. That also makes this search process slightly less painful.

I’d still prefer to spend less than $1200 a month in rent, and I’m ok with paying that much while he covers $850. It’s fair given our different income levels and either I need to be ok with paying more for our lives and deal or I need to seriously consider getting a new boyfriend. As I love him and want to marry him, I’m going with the first option. Continue reading

Is Buying a House a Good Investment?

There are many schools of thought in terms of whether buying a house should be considered an investment. I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s expensive to rent a decent apartment and it’s unlikely I’ll splurge on on a nicer apartment when I know I’m throwing rental money “down the drain,” so to speak. My quality of life, therefore, would undoubtedly be better if I were to buy. That doesn’t mean such a choice would make sense as an investment, however.

The Motley Fools poses “Your Home Isn’t a Good Investment and Won’t Make You Rich.” Real Estate has generally appreciated 4% to 5% a year on average, compared to 9.1% for an S&P index fund and 7.16% for the “safe” 30-year Treasury. Then mortgages make your house cost more than it’s worth (and you’re throwing THAT money away too. “There are good investments in real estate, but your home isn’t one of them” the post argues. A rental property, where tenants pay rent that covers the mortgage, can earn 9.8% vs just 3.4% for a lived-in property. A commenter notes that rental property can end up with an even higher return, especially once the mortgage is payed down and all that’s left is rental income that has increased over the years. Continue reading

How Much Should I Really Pay for Rent?

After apartment shopping for a while now, I’ve come to terms with the reality that $1700/month is not going to get us a “nice” one bedroom. It WILL get us a one bedroom that has crappy reviews and doesn’t make one feel calm after returning home from a long day of work. And a long commute with a lot of traffic.

The thing is, I CAN afford higher rent. My boyfriend’s maximum is $850 so it’s up to me if I want to split 50/50 or chip in more for a place that will make me happy. My bf has lived in a shed sans running water and a kitchen for the entirety of his adult life to date, so he doesn’t exactly have high standards. The fact he’s willing to pay up to $850 actually surprises me, it turns out he does have some standards. However, he’s made it clear that he will not pay for cable and he won’t offer a penny over $850, with a preference towards $800. Continue reading

Hi, My Name is Her Every Cent Counts, and I’m a Racist

There are two types of racists in the world — the ones who blatantly hate on another race for being different, and the ones who just would prefer to be around people who are more like them. Most people are slightly racist. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. As the musical Avenue Q puts it – “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist Sometimes.”

Looking for an apartment, my racism comes out in full force. Neighborhoods around the Bay Area are very neatly divided along color lines. There are areas for Mexican-Americans, areas for Chinese-Americans, Indian-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, Cambodian-Americans, African-Americans and so on. Continue reading