Category Archives: Real Estate & Rent

When To Move In Together

This May, my boyfriend and I will be celebrating our 6 year anniversary. Many people are surprised that we still don’t live together. We spend many nights together and might as well live together, but the costs of living together would dramatically change our budgets.

As many of you know, four years ago I lived in a studio apartment in Silicon Valley. In 2007 when I moved in rent was $905 a month, utilities included. The next year, a big, evil apartment management company bought my complex and raised my rent to $1100 a month. The following year, when they raised it again to $1295 per month for the large, but definitely not luxurious studio, I moved out and got myself roommates.

I’ve never done well with roommates — both because I’m not always the cleanest of people, and because I can’t stand other people’s noise when I’m in the mood for silence. But this time around things worked out. One of the girls I live with is more of the mother type, so as much as my occasional mess bothers her, she helps keep me on track, and I do my part to keep my mess enclosed in my room. We’ve had one roommate move out, due to her schooling taking her to another part of the state, and my consistent roommate’s girlfriend moved in. She’s never home (she works until 11pm at night) and is very quite. The  motherly type roommate can talk a lot, but generally is respectful if I go into my room and don’t want to have a conversation. All in all, the living situation works out.

My apartment is in a condo complex and is quite lovely for the area. We have a complex pool, we are right off the freeway, and in the beautiful hills of Silicon Valley. The 3br 2ba is about $2200 per month total, and since I have one of the smaller rooms I pay $645 a month in rent. Utilities split come to $70 max, even in the cold months. When I moved in I was paying $605 a month in rent, so in three years it has only gone up $40 a month in rent, which is really not bad at all. I shudder to think of how bad my financial state would have been should I have stayed in my studio apartment (which is now going for nearly $1600 per month to first-time renters!!!)

But as I get older, living with roommates feels a bit juvenile. Yes, I have my own small room which can fit a full-size bed and not much else, and a large shared living room which is decorated relatively nicely by my roommates (with my bookshelves and books being my only contribution to the space), but it just doesn’t feel like my home. I always feel like I’m living in their home. Which would be fine if I were single, but the fact of the matter is I spend a large number of nights each week at my boyfriend’s house. I feel comfortable with him, even in his free-standing wooden shed where he lives (it has internet and electricity but no plumbing or kitchen, you have to walk into his hoarder grandparent’s house for that.)

Now that he’s turned 30, he has perked up about the concept of moving in together. I’m ready for it too, but the finances don’t make a lot of sense. He made $25,000 in income last year (taxed at self-employment tax rates.) Living for “free” (he pays bills, for his car, and food, but not much else) he can live on $25k per year. Since he made so little, after taxes, he was able to take home $22k in 2011. He has $8k in an emergency savings account, and no other savings. No debt either, so he’s doing fine as long as he stays in his freemium model of living. As soon as we move in together, and as soon as we think about our future, this all changes.

I made about $100k last year, maybe $65k-$70k after taxes. Putting out incomes together, $90k after taxes should be enough to live together, even though I’d clearly have to pay more of the rent. A decent 1br in the area goes for $2000 / month, maybe $1800, but after utilities that would be $2000 at least. Even if he were to increase his income substantially and we could split this 50/50, that would be $1000 per month or about $350 more per month, $4200 a year that could be put into my investing accounts.

On the other hand, moving in together would likely force my bf to get a full time job with a reasonable salary, which, in the short term, would reduce our spending ability quite a bit, but in the long term may enable him to increase his own earnings. It’s difficult to go from $25k to a $70k salary, but if you take a full-time job at $50k and earn basic income raises, eventually you will get up to $70k per year. Ideally together we will bring in $200k pre-tax by the time we have our first child, which would let us live on $100k per year, and have $30k-$50k for savings. But that also would require that we both continue to work full-time with no time off for parenting other than the few weeks one gets in the US from your job.

Regardless of the future, I wonder what is best for now. It seems like I should stay in my current living situation as long as possible, saving as much as possible, till the time comes when we get married and it is more rational to move in together. But I’m also tired of living like a young adult with roommates when also having a very stable, long-term, committed relationship. And I’m even more tired of spending so many nights in my boyfriend’s shed, without plumbing, and having to wander through the woods in the middle of the night to get to the main house, where I trip over his grandparent’s mess, and eventually find the one bathroom in the house with no working sink.

Relationship & Life Next Steps: Moving in Together

I’m 28 and this March my boyfriend of 6+ years will turn 30. Even though I’m quite content with my current arrangement — living with two roommates and paying $650 a month in rent, while my bf lives at home in the back of his grandparents/mothers house.

But I’m also wondering, what’s next?

I’m ready to take the next step and move in with my boyfriend, and he’s ready to move in with me, minus the logistics. My rent situation right now is financially smart, and he’s not even paying rent (which works since he’s working PT and quitting soon.)

Looking at our options:

Stay in our current situation until we get married: Rent will stay $650 / month for a while, my landlord rarely increases rent and I just had a $15 / mo increase. Probably the smartest move. We’ll move in together in 2013/2014 after we get married.

Rent a 1br Apartment: This will likely cost $1600 – $2000 / month. Even split between the two of us, that’s $800 / mo at the very cheapest, more likely $1000 / mo for each of us.

Buy a 1br Condo: $600k? It’s hard to figure out the exact costs of owning a 1br condo, but it seems like this will end up being quite a bit more than renting given HOA, taxes, and other fees.

Buy a house w/ an in-law: My bf’s parents currently do not own property. His mom lives in her parents house, and his father rents an in-law. His mother could feasibly help us out with a downpayment, and his parents could live in an in-law on our property and pay us rent.

Still, the best plan seems to be to stay in my current living situation. Paying $650 a month in rent means I can possibly save $50k per year. The second my living situation changes, my hope of saving $250k by 30 disappears. The house I want to buy when I have a family will likely be $1.5M, and my bf currently has $0 in savings, so it’s up to me to be able to afford that. If I can get to $500k in savings by 35, maybe I can buy a $1.5M house. I’m not sure if that’s enough, and I’m also not sure I can get to $250M in savings by 35 — I think if I spend the next seven years living with roommates, not with my boyfriend, I could do this. But that’s a long time, and I really want to start living my adult life with my boyfriend in our own place, so we can invite friends over for dinner and such, and so I can stay with him and not have to worry about not having my things and having to run home before going to work in the morning.

Meanwhile, if I save $500k by 35, I’ll be able to buy my (nice) childhood home outright in New Jersey! It’s crazy how cheap the housing is there.

Rent Increase: Just 2%

My roommate informed me that our landlord is raising our rent in 2012. I was worried it was going to be a huge increase, given we haven’t had rents raised in a while, and at my last “property management-owned” complex where my rent was increased 22% the first year and 18% the next (from $900 to $1100 to $1300 when I finally got out and got roommates again.)

My rent started out at my current place at $602.50 for my room (I share an apartment with two other girls.) Shortly after I moved in my rent was raised to $632.50 per month, which was still less than half of what my former studio was charging. In 2012, my rent will go up to a whopping $647.50 a month. I just looked up the current cost for my old studio, and it’s now listed at $1570 – $1705 per month! For a studio! Yikes, I’m glad I left. That would be eating up half of my income now, and back then it would have eaten up all of it.

However, looking at my old apartment rent increases is a good reminder how important it is to try to get a yearly raise to at least keep with the rate of inflation, and hopefully a little extra. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve managed to take my raises by switching jobs and factoring in what I should be making, even if I never got a raise at my earlier company.

However, now that I plan to stay at one company for a long time, I know I must focus on figuring out a way to obtain reasonable pay raises or better in the coming years. I’m not too concerned about the price in rent at my current apartment, but what if my elderly landlord decides to sell the condo for one reason or another, and I have to move to a place that costs more.

How much do you pay for rent? How much did you pay in 2010?

Maybe it’s time to buy my own place…

It’s not what you think. I’m not determined it’s time to buy my own place because the housing market is down and mortgages are still low, though that’s part of it. Given I’m not sure how low the market has really gotten in Silicon Valley, the $500k 1br condo prices don’t really merit jumping into the housing market. I’ve all but accepted that my rental days are only numbered by the days between rent, not the time I’ll be living here.

But then there are nights like this. I hate feeling like an old stodge, but I’m rarely home, and tonight, on a Saturday night granted, I’m home sick, in bed, asleep, at 2:30am, and my roommate comes home from a night out with her sister who is in town visiting, and she seems to forget she has a roommate who is sick and asleep. If it were midnight, ok, I’d get over it, but it’s 2:30am. They’ve been bouncing a ping-pong ball as well for some reason. While the noise has all but simmered to a murmur now, the damage is done. I’m wide awake (hence the reason for this blog post.) Perhaps my sanity is reason enough to buy my own place.

In the meantime, today I read a bit about the markets, and freaked myself out over the potential to lose all my cash, even with a switch to more value investing. I’m not stupid, I realize that’s a risk with investing, but suddenly I’m thinking my $60k in stocks might be better spent on the downpayment for a condo. The dollars still don’t add up — not unless I want to be the on-site landlord to roommates, and I’m not the responsible type who would be up for that challenge/drama.

So it looks like rent is still in my foreseeable future, as are nights like these.

She Really Doesn’t Want to Move

In 3 months, my two roommates will be moving out. And I will either be moving out also, or have successfully found two new roommates. Stressful moments of being a renter like these are the few times I think paying for a mortgage would be worth it. (Then again, in the Bay Area, the only place I could afford would be crooked and vertigo inducing or burnt and dirty — see the San Jose Mercury News cover story on Bay Area homes you can buy for the national medium home price.)

Today, I met up with a girl i know who has an apartment in another Silicon Valley City. It’s a 2br/1ba. Her roommate is moving out in July, so the plan today was to look at her apartment and extra room, and then for her to come look at my apartment. Her apartment is very small and, well, it feels like an apartment. It doesn’t feel like a home. That can be fixed, but it’s just so tiny. And the rent is higher than my current place because it’s a 2br. So rent there for a room that’s smaller than my current room in an apartment that’s not as nice would be $725.

My place is a 3br/2ba with a large room for $770 and two smaller rooms for $635. Free laundry in the apartment. A pool in the complex. The apartment is right off the highway. It’s 30 minutes or less to my office. And the more I thought about it today, the more I realized… I really don’t want to move.

So, I could just tell the girl I met up with that I’m not interested in her place. I bet she’s going to want to stay there because it’s close to her bf. We also discussed looking at other places when it gets closer to July, but it’s such a pain because we both would have to give 30 days notice, and we couldn’t even really start looking until the month before we’d have to move.

And… moving, on its own, is expensive and a pain. Renting a UHaul, dragging all your stuff from your place to the next place, it’s just no fun at all. So I’ve decided that unless I find an incredible place to move to, I really want to stay here. The hard part will be finding two roommates. It would be nice if this girl wanted to move in here, into the cheaper room. That way we can rearrange the rents so the two cheaper rooms are $575 each, and the larger room is $870. I think that’s fair since the larger room is giant, has a walk in closet and a big closet, and a private bathroom.

Hmmm…. this is really bumming me out right now.

Rental Prices Rising as Housing Stuck in Slump: Or, The Tiniest Apartment in NYC

When people don’t want to buy houses (or are forced out of their houses because they can’t afford them) that means one thing: rental costs are going up. It’s a simple law of supply and demand. Reis Inc’s quarterly report showed the vacancy rate dropped to 6.2 percent in the first three months of the year, down from 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter. It was the steepest fall since the commercial real estate research firm began tracking the market in 1999.

Increased employment, especially for 20- to 34-year-olds, is spurring demand for housing. Many of those newly employed younger people, however, cannot come up with the tens of thousands of dollars often needed for down payments, turning them into renters. — Reuters

However, not everyone is letting rising rents get to them, even in the world’s most expensive cities. Renters, for frugal inspiration, 40 Year Old Felice Cohen — a professional organizer in New York City — shows that you don’t need to spend a lot to live in an expensive area, you just need to be, well, extremely organized. And be willing to sleep 23 inches from your ceiling. This woman spends $700 a month in NYC on a 90-square-foot closet apartment… closet. You have to see this (if you haven’t yet)…

20-Something Life in The City vs. The Burbs

It’s Sunday morning, and I roll out of bed after a much-needed full night of rest and stare out my window. One roommate is up, clanking around the kitchen, but otherwise, there is just a slight breeze that can be heard through the windows and silence.

It’s all too tempting to remain in my bed another hour longer as there really isn’t anything to jump out of bed to do. In order to get anywhere, I have to drive at least 10 minutes away. To get to the city, it’s an hour drive give or take. So, while I’d love to head to Golden Gate Park for a run, instead, I lie in bed, and imagine what it would be like to live in the city.

When I moved out to the Bay Area in 2005, I always assumed I’d end up in San Francisco. But, instead, I’ve managed to live just about everywhere within an hour radius around the city and never in it.

There’s a part of me that feels like I need to experience city life now, before I get “old” and have a family and a reason to trap myself in the ‘burbs. Right now, there’s a piece of satisfaction with life I’m missing, and I think that has a large part to do with not living in the city. I want to be able to go to a figure drawing open session on Tuesday night… or Thurs night. And make new friends that are my age who like to go out and do… things.

Right now, I’m in a coffee shop in San Francisco near the Lower Haight, and the energy here is so city Sunday. Soft music plays, people are talking, reading, enjoying the day. Through the glass in front of me are four women, probably in their early 30s, enjoying a relaxing lunch, the SF version of Sex & the City (more hoodies, ponytails, but probably similar conversation.) And I want that… I want a life outside of work and watching reruns at my boyfriend’s house.

July 1 I have the opportunity to move… I can either stay close to work, or… maybe it’s the right time to make the move to the city. It would mean an hour-long commute to work, and more expensive rent, but it could also mean finding the missing link between my life today and my happiness.

What do you think? Do you live in a city or suburbs? Does living in a city help one be happy and feel more connected in her 20s/30s?

My Dad Thinks I Should Buy A House

Mom: “Dad thinks you should buy a house.”

Me: “I don’t have enough money to buy a house. The cheapest 1br condo here would be more than $300k.”

Mom: “He said you should put a down payment of $100k. You have $100k.”

Me: “Most of that $100k is in my retirement accounts.”

Mom: “Dad thinks you should buy a house before you put money in a retirement account.”

Me: “Ugggggh. Tell dad if he wants to buy me a house, I’ll buy a house.”

Mom: “Dad thinks YOU should buy a house.”

A day rarely goes by when I haven’t browsed the condo listings on Craigslist or Zillow, oogling at various houses that I can’t afford. I don’t feel the need to buy a house right now… as it seems the option is paying $700 in rent or $2000+ in mortgage, interest, insurance, taxes and HOAs. Buying a place just doesn’t add up.

What really frustrates me is how my dad always thinks he knows what is best for me. Here’s why it doesn’t make sense for me to buy my own place… my job, despite being full time with benefits, isn’t a sure bet. Working a startup, you have to assume that within two years when the money runs out you may be out of a job. I’m confident that even in this dismal economy I can get another job eventually… but when I’m renting digging out $700 a month to cover rent from savings doesn’t kill me. Covering a mortgage probably would. Then there’s the fact that I don’t know where I’ll be in one year, let alone five years. And housing prices here aren’t that low like they are elsewhere in the country.

So, you know what dad, I’d rather rent. I like my mobility, my semi-affordable monthly payments, my ability to put most of my monthly income into the stock market (which… may also be a bad idea, I’m not exactly an investing genius.) In the long run I don’t know if I’d do better “investing” in a house vs taking all that money and investing it in the market. But I figure odds are I’ll make out better in the long run going the stock route vs. the crap the foundation of my house collapsed route.

But seriously, dad, if you really want me to buy a house, I’ll gladly accept a downpayment from you.

Moving On… Out?

Sure, there have been moments where I wanted to pull my hair out living with my current roommates, and I’ve been guilty of causing these moments in return, but the past 2.5 years living in this apartment have been some of the most stable in my life. This has been the apartment of my mid 20s, and now it’s time to figure out the housing situation of my late 20s.

My current apartment — a room in a 3br, 2ba in a nice condo complex in the Bay Area burbs (next to houses that cost $1.5M+) cost me $632.50 a month. The room is small, but big enough for a full size bed, and has a wide widow overlooking greenery, blocking the parking area from view. It has large sliding mirror doors on the closet, which makes it seem more spacious, and much better than the room I first lived in when I moved to the Bay Area (in Burlingame) that cost $450 a month but really felt like a closet.

The rest of the apartment is nice. It has a balcony that I rarely use, a large living room / dining room space, full kitchen, the full bathroom that I share with one other girl, and another full master bedroom with its own private bathroom. The cost breakdown between myself and my roommates has never seemed totally fair… the private bedroom with walk in closet and private bath is $770 a month, where the much smaller bedrooms are $632 each. But I’d prefer to have access to a bath (not shower only) and like the window in my room, so never bothered to complain. The complex is nice, has its own small park-like area, and a pool that I’ve used probably 6 times total since I moved in (but enjoyed greatly on the rare really really hot days of summer.) And the location is pretty good too. It’s about 25 minutes to work, 30-45 minutes to the city sans traffic by car, 10 minutes to my boyfriends house, 5-10 minutes to the supermarket. I’m right by a freeway exit (off the better freeway in the Peninsula.) Oh, and there’s a washer and dryer in the unit!!!

So why move? Well, maybe I won’t. But whether or not I move, there are some major changes coming, because both of my roommates are moving out. One is moving out for her school program, she’s relocating to Southern California. The other is moving in with her girlfriend and closer to work. That leaves me with one 3br, 2ba apartment and no roommates.

While my landlord may choose to increase the price of the apartment when my roommates move out, they may not if I can find immediate replacements. And there are only a few reasons why I’d want to leave…

1) Finding two new roommates is going to be very difficult, and I’ve had so many bad roommate experiences before, that maybe I want to live alone right now

2) The location is ok, but it’s really inconvenient for biking anywhere as it’s up a giant hill. I’d like to live somewhere that makes it possible to bike to work, and use my car less.

3) Maybe now is the opportunity to move to the city. I’ve always wanted to live in San Francisco, and it makes a lot more sense to do it in my 20s/ early 30s, versus when I am ready to have kids and settle down. That said, it would be kind of dumb to move to the city right now, as it would increase my commute time. There are rooms in the city for the same price I’m paying now, or even less, but the apartments wouldn’t be as nice as the one I live in, and they’d also probably not be in the areas I’d want to live in the city (if I’m going to keep my cost the same)

4) Should I find a place that’s cheaper? 632.50 is not bad for a room where I live, but I could feasibly find a place that’s $500. It may not have its own laundry in the apartment, it may require a longer commute, but I could save more money (or have more money to spend on things I need like a car, mental healthcare, etc.)

So… I’m not sure what to do. I’m scouring Craigslist on a daily basis but it’s too early to look. My roommates and I have decided that our move-out date will likely be July 1, which means I can’t really start looking until Mid-to-late May. So that’s three months of driving myself nuts over this.

It could be a great opportunity to be in control of finding my new roommates for this place… but, to be honest, I’m just tired of having roommates. I want something more private, a place I can be a recluse in when I don’t need to be around people. Where I can watch American Idol in peace. But that dream is expensive. When I lived alone previously my rent skyrocketed from $905 a month to $1300 a month in just two years. I feel much wiser paying $600 a month vs $1300! Then again, if I was paying $1300 a month or more it would be an easier decision to BUY a place vs renting. Right now I think I’m doing pretty good renting. I’m able to put a good chunk of change into my investment accounts.

Is it better to own a studio apartment and put all my savings each month into that, or just put all that money into my investment accounts? Plus… with my mental instability (the joys of bipolar II) I think I need the freedom of not being locked into anything (like a mortgage OR expensive rent payments.) I guess I will just have to wait until May/June to figure this out. I’m so tempted to move to the city, but that’s probably an awful idea. What do you think?

The Housing Bailout: It’s unfair, it’s necessary, it’s ridiculous

They say a housing bailout is necessary. For all the people who purchased homes they couldn’t afford at to-good-to-be-true rates, here’s your bailout. I’m generally a liberal but this is going too far.

The problem stems from how the American dream is so closely linked to owning a house. If you can’t afford a house – don’t buy one. Renting is not the end of the world. It’s a lot cheaper. Wait until you can afford a reasonable 30-year fixed mortgage to buy a house. That’s what I plan to do.

Of course, given that the government is going to bail everyone out who can’t afford their poor choices, it seems I may have been better off buying a condo years ago. I could be facing foreclosure now, with my home underwater. I could be begging the government to bail me out.

I understand that when you have children the situation changes a bit. You want stability, a house that you’ll own, and not have to worry about moving if your landlord decides to kick you out. Ok, I get it. I feel for you if that’s the situation you’re in. But I still think that when it comes down to it, Americans need to be responsible for their own actions.

God, I sound like a Republican.