Tag Archives: buying

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.

 

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.

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

Shopping for a Car: The Unnecessary Saga

*edited to add: the reason I am considering such an old car model is that for the next 2 years I have the remainder of my DUI sentence with increased insurance premiums. I am paying $120 per month right now for very basic, no comprehensive insurance due to the DUI. The punishment was deserved, but I do not see myself buying a nice car which requires comprehensive insurance. My original plan was to keep my old car around until the end of the sentence so I wouldn’t have to worry about comprehensive insurance, but it’s pretty much dead now. So I’m trying to buy a car that will get me through the next 2-3 years that won’t require even more expensive insurance. I forgot to mention this.

There seem to be as many models of cars as there are people in the world. Big ones, small ones, fancy ones, simple ones, Japanese ones, American ones, European ones, new ones, old ones, really old ones with expensive surgery to make them look like younger ones, et al. And today, with my poor, destroyed ’99 Toyota parked silently in a carport space waiting for its end of days, I know it’s time to get a new(er) car. It’s been time for a while. Since, in 2011, when it was hit and had the front bumper ripped off. A year later, the insurance company finally agreed with me that the accident wasn’t my fault and send me the remainder of a $2000 check. But, the car, worth less than this with 200k miles and a leaky engine, wasn’t worth repairing. I started to hunt for a new car. Yes, in 2011.

It’s getting a little (extremely) ridiculous that I haven’t purchased a car yet. The two issues at hand are 1, determining which car to get, and 2, figuring out how to pay for the car.

When I bought my last car, I went about it in my typical anxiety-ridden way. While I was curious about the plethora of choices out there, I quickly limited my  choices but determining I should get a  Toyota or Honda. I didn’t like the Honda logo or body styles (superficial, yes, but I am) so a Toyota was the winner. I didn’t want a Corolla because they were, well, ugly (I had no idea about performance comparisons at that time.) Prior to deciding on a Toyota I nearly bought a used Chevy Aveo or a used Saab hatchback from two different dealers. Those were the only two cars I tested out before deciding on the Solara. Continue reading