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Old 08-25-2009, 08:40 PM
 
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Default Confused about the million dollar+ houses and the supposed "upper-middle" class factor associated with it

We have been doing quite a bit of real estate Internet search in the Boston area over the past couple of weeks and there is one thing that just doesn't add up for me. Or it does, but just wanted a confirmation in this regard.

I have read many posts on this forum referring to towns like Newton, Lexington, Andover, Weston, Concord, etc as relatively "pricey" places where upper-middle class professionals live. These are all considered to have very good school districts and the whole nine yards. Exactly who are these "upper-middle" class professionals supposed to be?
Well, doctors, lawyers, college professors, CEO-s and other types with graduate degrees - I read.

Both my husband and I have graduate degrees - one PhD and 3 Master's degrees between the two of us (one of the Masters coming from an Ivy League institution). One of us works in the financial services sector, the other is a college professor. My husband is looking at a roughly 100,000 dollars salary for the position that will take us there (I know, nothing to write home about in the NE, but better than laid off in the south). And assuming that I would be able to obtain an academic position there, we might count on adding another 60,000 - 70,000 to the family income by the time we are ready to buy.
That would make a total of 170,000 dollars maximum gross family income (and this would be in an ideal world, where I would manage to line something up too).

Now, with this money, professionals like us (grad degrees and all the jazz) would not even dream of thinking about towns such as the ones mentioned above. I do understand that professionals like doctors and lawyers make more money than "the likes of us". However, do all college professors in those areas have spouses making hundreds of dollars a year?
Because the starting salary for a college professor/lecturer in the Northeast is only slightly higher than same in the South or elsewhere. It is not that in the South I was making 50,000 a year and in the Northeast, I would be making 200,000.

So the question would be: how can people who work for a living (meaning they have "salaries" instead of being independently wealthy) live in million dollar plus houses? Because this is pretty much all I see in those towns. The few houses I saw at 500,000 and below, something we could conceivably squeeze in with me having a job too, were the kind of houses that would require fierce snobbery to put up with the ugly, petty, run down factor in exchange for getting into an "It" town.

Is it possible that these are mainly people who put some heavy family inheritance as down payment and then mortgage the rest of the cost?

Unfortunately, we are the kind of professionals that cannot count on any "family grants" for hefty down payments.

All in all, I just wonder where college professors and professionals that are NOT doctors/lawyers/CEO-s and who DO NOT have wealthy families - live?

Last edited by syracusa; 08-25-2009 at 08:56 PM..
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Old 08-26-2009, 07:43 AM
 
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There are a variety of scenarios: they bought when prices were more affordable, they scrimped and saved for years to have a big enough down payment to make the home affordable,they invested wisely, they bought a home that was a fixer upper and turned it into a palace, they bought "the kind of houses that would require fierce snobbery to put up with the ugly, petty, run down factor in exchange for getting into an "It" town", fixed it up and sold for a big profit and bought their dream home...... The latter happened frequently up until the real estate bust. Selling a house for 3 or 4X what you paid for it 10-15 years earlier was not unusual.



Bottom line: many professional, well educated people live in homes that might be beneath those that counterparts would live in, in less expensive areas of the country. I find it mindboggling that well educated people would judge a counterpart on their home without considering cost of living but maybe living in MA all my life gives me a different perspective. Living in a desirable town is good enough for some. For some the impetus is status, for others, it is about services and education.


There are places where you can get a nice home for $500,000. You have to decide if you want a great house in a less desirable location or a less desirable house in a great location.

The reality is, you might have to settle. Good luck.
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Old 08-26-2009, 08:09 AM
 
Location: Boston
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Beachcomber covered a lot of it. All the people I know who live in Newton either bought when it was much cheaper (say, 30 years ago), or used inherited wealth. There are lots of other interesting and vibrant communities in the $300,000 to $500,000 price range. They may not appear outwardly as nice as Newton, they may have schools rated lower than Newton's, etc. But they are still good places with community spirit, shopping, dining, and good schools. If you need to have the very best, then Newton is a good choice, a choice that will cost you. If you are willing to instead "settle" for very good, you can spend quite a bit less.
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Old 08-26-2009, 08:22 AM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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syracusa, you'll drive yourself crazy if focus on an idea that professionals only live in certain towns, in certain areas. They live all over. The reality is that any town you decide to settle in will have some kind of mixture of all different professions.

Beachcomber4 is right in saying that if you bought and sold several times during the real estate boom years and work your way into a million dollar home. I know people that have done that. I also know people who are over their head in debt, too.
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:00 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaseyB View Post
syracusa, you'll drive yourself crazy if focus on an idea that professionals only live in certain towns, in certain areas. They live all over.

I also know people who are over their head in debt, too.
GREAT points Casey. I think that is part of what makes MA great. You have highly educated, professionals living in the same neighborhoods as successful contractors.

Being house poor was a sad but true situation for many and now people are losing their homes.
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:57 AM
 
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Got it. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beachcomber4 View Post
I find it mindboggling that well educated people would judge a counterpart on their home without considering cost of living but maybe living in MA all my life gives me a different perspective.
Now, about the above...I do understand this in theory and there is certainly no degree of "judgement" towards any particular person except the structures/houses themselves. The reality is that the houses I have seen at 500,000-600,000 or below in those highly desirable neighborhoods look problematic.
And I believe they ARE problematic after reading many posts from MA people about how many such houses require tons of repairs all the time and give the owner an endless amount of trouble, which they are so sick of they're ready to head elsewhere.

And yet, some people choose those structures nevertheless. Hey, we may end up doing the same, which scares me.

Those people probably come to believe that having the kids in those desirable school districts is worth all the house-related trouble. I just cannot make myself come to terms with how much house-related sacrifice a mainstream professional has to make over there in order to get "the upper-hand" in terms of kids' education. And then again, I often thought that in the future, such a choice may backfire anyway; when the kids have a BDay party or you name it and want to invite the "million dollar babies" over, then ouch. Adults can reach a certain level of wisdom about such things, but kids typically can't. Not in a rat-race
society where everything seems to boil down to external indicators of success.

Before husband was laid off, we were looking at buying a not-too-shabby house in a high-school district that is ranked 100th in the nation. A major outlier, very atypical for the state of Georgia, so we were happy with that. Now we are looking at getting, WITH LUCK, 20 times less house in school districts that are all ranked below that particular HS in GA we were looking at.

<<Beachcomber4 is right in saying that if you bought and sold several times during the real estate boom years and work your way into a million dollar home. I know people that have done that.>>

So I hear mainly "family inheritance" or "historical luck".
As for "saving for years", how much can one save over how many years, with kids, from mainstream professional salaries, to make it far along on the way to a million + dollar house. This one is a little shaky. Once again, this confirms my definition of "the economy".

"The economy is the social institution that operates in such ways that our family NEVER catches a break". :-)

Last edited by syracusa; 08-26-2009 at 10:42 AM..
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:38 AM
 
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Default Related question, about schools compared at the national level

To be honest, we are still a little confused about the HS in Georgia we were looking at before being forced to move out of state.

We know that overall, MA has a fabulous reputation for the public school system whereas GA has a pretty bad reputation. Yet, we heard many people here talking about one particular HS in GA as being very good. I never knew how rankings on sites such as greatschools.net are really done, but it seems that schools are typically compared to those in the same state, not nationally.

So I always thought that this HS was one of the best in GA, but given GA's overall low spot in national rankings for public education, I didn't think it would be anything "great", nationally speaking.

Until I saw a US News national report and this GA HS was indeed listed the 100th in the nation, which is much more than ANY of the high schools I have seen in desirable towns of MA, including Newton, Lexington, Andover - and which are considered to have great school districts.

This was quite a surprise.

How would you explain this? My guess is that it has to do with the complete lack of diversity in that particular GA school district, which can bring the standardized scores all the way up, but may make the schools less desirable for those who value "diversity", however people define it.

Thanks a lot again.
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:43 AM
 
Location: Winnetka, IL & Rolling Hills, CA
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This is not unique to Massachusetts. This is common in most suburban areas across America.
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:45 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by US-Traveller View Post
This is not unique to Massachusetts. This is common in most suburban areas across America.
This? ...Meaning what exactly?
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:46 AM
 
Location: Boston
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syracusa View Post
Until I saw a US News national report and this GA HS was indeed listed the 100th in the nation, which is much more than ANY of the high schools I have seen in desirable towns of MA, including Newton, Lexington, Andover - and which are considered to have great school districts.
That's not at all surprising. In many cases, the wealthier suburbs do not have the very best schools (not to say they aren't good) in terms of this kind of rating. Lots of the best students in Andover, for example, probably go to private school. Here's an article from the US News rankings about two high schools in Boston that are among the very best in the nation:

The First-Class State - US News and World Report

These are both public schools, and you cannot do better than Boston Latin.
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