I really try to take life one day at a time, because thinking too far into the future puts me in a constant state of unproductive panic. Right now, I need to focus on the next four years of our lives:
- 2018: baby #1 born (0 – 6 mo), I turn 35, 1 yr at job
- 2019: baby #1 turns 1, I turn 36(!), 2 yr at job
- 2020: baby #1 turns 2, preg w/ baby #2(!?!), I turn 37, 3 yr at job
- 2021: baby #1 turns 3, baby #2 turns 1, I turn 38, 4 yr at job
Then we… GTFO of the Bay Area. >Insert frown face and sad heart.<
I know we live in one of the most expensive places to live in the entire world. When I moved here 12 years ago, I knew that too. However, I didn’t really understand how the expensiveness of “San Francisco” wasn’t referring to just the city. It actually meant that one cannot afford to live anywhere within a 80 mile radius of the city.
While I didn’t grow up here, my husband did — but unlike many others who grew up here, unfortunately his parents never purchased real estate so there is no property in the family (other than the home his grandmother owns, which is a complete tear down once it needs to be sold.) His mother also has to figure out what to do — she, for better or worse, has been living (I think) rent free her entire life in her mother’s house. So she can buy something somewhere, but she won’t be able to buy out her siblings to purchase the entire property. We have no roots here as a family, financially anyway. Unless we somehow win the lottery, the reality is we are going to have to leave.
I’m seriously considering staying in the 1 bedroom until that point. Our rent control is helpful. We still have increases at inflation (it’s not like the SF 1% rent control or whatever that is), but it helps knowing our rent won’t go up $1000 a month in a year. Really, if we could get air conditioning to work in the living room / kitchen area, and I could get my husband to be open to the idea, I think we could make this work. At first, kid shares bedroom with us. Then, we move our bedroom into the living room and kid has the bedroom. When we have #2, perhaps we switch. Or something like that. But we have enough space here. I just can’t leave my kids in a hot room with no air conditioning, and while I could survive a few unhappy years without cooling my husband would not sleep and would be miserable.
My husband has tossed around the idea of moving to Seattle. I’m not a fan of this idea, namely because I don’t like cloudy skies and I don’t like constant rain. It’s also really not that much less expensive than it is here, as salaries would be lower and we’d have to deal with long commutes anyway. I’m not sure there’s any perfect city out there (we’re not moving to Austin, husband likes it grey and rainy, go figure.) Denver is a maybe but it doesn’t feel right for us – and we have absolutely no family or friends there. Really moving back east (for me) would make the most sense… perhaps to CT or NY, though prices are high there too… just within reach, with more options, better public schools, higher taxes, but lower cost real estate.
Then the crazy part of me starts to think – what if we could live in this one bedroom apartment forever. With one kid, and if we could figure out how to cool the other room, we could make it work. It wouldn’t be the life I had hoped for – but we wouldn’t be any worse off than other families who have no choice but to live in a one bedroom with multiple kids and other relatives. Is it really that bad? I value my privacy… but I can go for a walk and spend time in the park. So can my kids. It will force us to spend more time outdoors vs in our home, which is better anyway. We’d have more money to take trips. We could even rent an AirBnB for birthday parties. Maybe, at some point, we’d move into a two bedroom apartment. Or, whenever we reach that threshold of insanity, we’d move out and far away.
I’m angry at myself for not buying property in 2011, at the bottom of the last bubble. But how could I have known? And, the reality is I couldn’t afford much then either. Six years ago, my entire net worth was $145,000. After taxes and penalties, say that was $100k, with my 401k and everything. So, I’d have 20% down on a $500k home. Which. Still. Didn’t. Exist. Then.
Even if there is another drop in housing prices here, that means that job security is also out the window – not the best time to buy. Unless you make $500k a year, I just don’t see buying a home here making any sense. The reality is a basic home will cost you $1.5M – that’s about $7600 a month in mortgage, insurance and taxes, not including any maintenance. We take home $9000 a month after tax… and that’s IF we both have our jobs with no periods of unemployment in the next 30 years. It’s not even like we can cut back on things like travel or going out and afford a house. It’s just… impossible.
I mean, maybe if I figure out how to become a VP and increase my base income to $250k a year with a bonus that gets me up to $500k… but even then that’s super risky on one high income. At that point, maybe I’d feel more comfortable staying in the area and renting a nicer property for $5k a month… but owning here is simply out of reach.
I’m not complaining – I’m just sad. Sad because after all of this investing and moving up the corporate ladder, it’s still impossible. It feels unfair – even though I know it’s not. It’s just how the game works. I had a few chances of striking it rich in startups. They did not pan out. They usually don’t. My RSUs now could support a percentage of a small downpayment in four years… but by then that $1.5M house will probably be $2M. I’m not sure it will ever come down again.
So, we say goodbye to the Bay Area, when the time comes. We pack up and move to who knows where. I work remote or get a new job or change careers. We find ourselves a house with a backyard for our kids to run through the sprinkler in during a hot summer day. We try to make new friends and rebuild our lives. I’m terrified of it, but that’s life. Had I known 15 years ago what I know now, perhaps I would have done it differently. But, then I would have never met my husband, never have this future child to be inside me, never have felt this, well, happy. Yes, this is about as happy as I get. 🙂