I did take a look on Zillow today to see what was out there in terms of houses – and where the pricing was in SoCal these days. We are nowhere near buying a house, obviously. We would have to come up with a down payment first, especially with today’s lending market, and that’s going to take a couple years to save up. Also, right now, the only homes we could even think of being able to afford are smaller than our apartment. Seriously, it’s still over $400K for 2bd 1ba, less than 1000 square foot houses in the L.A. metro area – and that’s in suburbs, or in neighborhoods that are still borderline sketch like Highland Park.
I actually did look more towards Pasadena and the San Gabriel for browsing today. The justification for buying a house in L.A. would be if we had Critter 2.0. We can easily fit one baby into this apartment, possibly even two – as long as the second one slept in our room. As soon as we needed to move #2 off into his or her own room, we’d want a three-bedroom home. And if we bought within the LA Unified School District, we’d want to pay for private school on top of a mortgage. Even with our combined incomes, that would be too much of a stretch. Therefore, it would make more sense to look for housing in an area outside of LAUSD, where schools are better. We definitely can’t afford Santa Monica – so that leaves Pasadena, where I hear public schools are still decent. (I haven’t done any research on that, not yet – but it can’t be as bad as LA Unified)
The catch, of course, is the commute. Assuming both of us are “lifers” at our current employers (both of us are in good situations, work-wise, and could happily stay put for a decade), moving east would give me an hour-plus commute. Which is what happens to people who want to buy a house in the LA area. One of my friends at work bought a house with her husband in Anaheim. It meant they could afford a gorgeous, enormous home. It also means she has to commute up to two hours each way some days into Beverly Hills. If we moved out to East Pasadena, close to Paul’s work, he wouldn’t have a commute. I would. But we could buy a three-bedroom home in a safe neighborhood within a decent school district for $550K…in about three or four years when we save up a down payment. And it would make more sense for at least one of us to have a short drive to work than it would to move to someplace like Burbank or Glendale or the San Fernando Valley, from which both of us would have longer drives…and all of which are, I believe, LAUSD.
This is one of the top reasons we have even considered leaving Los Angeles in the long run. That $550K that would get us a 3 bedroom, restored Craftsman in the outer L.A. suburbs, would get us a 3 bedroom in metropolitan Seattle. Not necessarily in a downtown-adjacent neighborhood like Queen Anne or Capitol Hill, but still in one of the northern or southern neighborhoods in the city itself. It would get us a 4 bedroom house in a similar metro radius of Portland. And both Seattle and Portland have working school districts where we could send the kids, as well as public transit that would make getting to and from the downtown core easier than getting to and from Beverly Hills. $550K would get us a higher-end 4 bedroom house in a nice neighborhood with good schools in Philadelphia, too – which also ranked high on the list of Cities We Could Live With. I’m sure it would get us something ridiculously high end in any number of US cities, but those are the top three cities that met our criteria. Which was:
Criteria For Future Potential Relocation:
1) Must have employment for both of us. That means an industrial sector big enough to have R&D in chemistry, in Paul’s specific areas of work. It also means a commercial sector big enough to have interactive advertising agencies that will hire me. This immediately ruled out our own home cities, as well as most of the medium-sized cities in America. This is why staying in L.A. is actually an option – we’re both comfortable with our jobs here, and both of us are specialized enough that finding perfect fits for work would be difficult.
2) Closer to our families…and the regions we’re originally from. Being in Seattle or Portland puts us within five to seven hours drive time of my parents (counting ferries), and puts us back in the Pacific Northwest that I miss so much. Paul is less attached to Pennsylvania, but Philadelphia would put us five hours from his parents and extended family in Pittsburgh, and eight hours or so (or a short flight) from my sister in Toronto. Being on the East Coast would make it easy enough to pack up the kids for a holiday weekend to visit any number of relations, or for them to visit us.
3) NOT INSANE real estate pricing. This would rule out L.A., if we weren’t already here. It also rules out the Bay Area…and even Vancouver (if Vancouver has work for us, which it doesn’t). Seattle is borderline. I know that the American standard of having a house with a yard for everyone is unrealistic, but I’m still conforming to it.
4) Preferably no extreme weather – no Toronto winters, no Atlanta summers. If we had to, I’d adjust, but I’d rather not. Especially since I get heat exhaustion in anything over 95F.
There is, of course, no telling what will happen in the next few years, or what we will eventually do with ourselves when we do have to leave our current apartment. Maybe we’ll find a way to make staying in L.A. long term work so we can stay with our jobs & all my friends here. Maybe we’ll move out of here to a different part of the country, where it would be financially easier on us, and where we wouldn’t have to put up with L.A.’s more negative aspects. As much as I’d like to, I’ve long since learned that I can’t plan too far in the future, because everything always changes. But I do like looking at what’s out there, so at least, when it comes time to make the decisions with my husband, for our own small family unit, we’ll have had the time to do the research and think about what it is that is best for us in our grownup existence.