My fiance and I have been living in a dream world for the past week. I don’t remember which of us first brought it up or why, but we got the idea into our heads of moving to a new location. Our two nominees are Portland and the Denver area. We’ve spent all week on www.zillow.com looking at gorgeous houses sitting on quarter acre plots of land that cost half of what a one bedroom condo would cost us here in the Bay Area. We’ve been wondering why anyone would be willing to pay the steep price to live here. Is the Bay Area really so much better than Portland or Denver that the houses should cost three times as much?
With all big decisions in life, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. There’s more to this decision than just housing costs, but I can’t deny that that’s a huge factor.
We started aggressively saving for a down payment on a house this year, so even though it will be some time before we can afford to buy one, it’s on our minds quite frequently. At current prices, a small house in a decent, safe neighborhood that’s not too terribly far from our work would be about $500K. That means we’d need to save up $100K. At our current savings rate, that would take about 8 years. And in 8 years, who knows what the houses around here will cost! But in Portland or Denver, we could get a bigger house, on a much bigger plot of land, for around $250K. We’ll be in a position to buy a $250K house in 4 years at our current savings rate. And we’d have a much smaller mortgage to pay off. When it comes to housing, the Bay Area is the clear loser.
This is the tough one. My fiance’s entire family lives in the Bay Area, I have two brothers in the area and my parents are about to retire to the Bay Area, so we’d be moving away from our whole family. This is why we’ve been thinking about Portland and Denver – at least they’re relatively short and cheap flights away, so we could visit a lot. But it’s still a big deterrent to moving.
On the other hand, we’d like to start a family of our own, and I want very badly to be a stay-at-home mom. There is simply no way we can do that in the Bay Area. Paying for a $500K house and saving for retirement, children’s college, etc. means that we’ll need two incomes. Slashing that housing cost in half means that I could at the very least cut back to part time when we have kids, and possibly stop working entirely.
As I said, this is a tough call. Moving would mean leaving our family, but it would also mean we could start our own family without worrying as much about money.
I have a great job here, and my fiance has a decent one. Neither of us have a great deal of career ambition though – we’re not looking to climb the ladder to the top, we just want to make enough money to support ourselves and save for the future without taking on an inordinate amount of stress. To be cliche, we work to live, we don’t live to work. We’ve both gotten pretty comfortable in our jobs, so looking for new ones – and wondering if we’ll find any – is a little scary.
There is the possibility that I would be able to keep my current job and work remotely, but it’s not an option for my fiance. But if I could swing it, it means I would be able to continue working for a year or so until he gets set in a new job. His new job may pay slightly less than he’s earning now, but the difference in pay is nothing compared to the difference in housing prices.
We have an incredible amount of cultural diversity in the Bay Area. Whatever we want to do/eat/see, we can. I can’t imagine that Portland and Denver are devoid of culture, but it will definitely require a lengthy visit to each location to determine for sure. It is also a requirement that anywhere we move would have good community theatre, as I love performing.
As a non-practicing Jew, it’s not crucial that I live in a community with a large Jewish population, but it is crucial that I don’t live in a community with a lot of evangelical Christians. There’s a pretty good mix of religions in the Bay Area, so I don’t feel suffocated by any one religious group, and I’m mostly able to avoid contact with any hyper-religious people. From what I can tell, Portland would be a similar situation, but there are several suburbs near Denver that may be too religious for me.
I’m a die-hard liberal. My fiance is much more moderate than I am, and tends to dislike all politicians regardless of party affiliation. I can deal with a healthy mix of Democrats and Republicans, but if my neighbors are all pro-lifers who still believe that Obama is Muslim, we’ve got an issue.
So there you have it, those are a lot of variables to weigh. As my down payment fund continues to grow, these considerations will creep to the forefront of my mind and become a frequent topic of conversation between me and my fiance. From a financial standpoint, moving to a cheaper location seems to be a no-brainer. It’s all the other factors that make the decision a lot harder.