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Old 01-19-2011, 06:51 AM
 
2 posts, read 15,671 times
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Default How do you afford it? (Living in Seattle)

Ok, so my fiance and I have been thinking about moving out of Michigan, to the west coast.

Two of the places that popped into our minds was Seattle and San Fran.

I'm 26 years old, and a Computer Engineer. I make 72k/year which in Michigan is pretty good money for my age. It has enabled me to buy my first house a year ago, a nearly 3,000 sq ft home, for 180k. I have a 2009 car, that I bought brand new, and and able to pay for all of this on my salary and live comfortably.

I hopped on some real estate sites last night, to check what would be comparable places in Seattle. To my shock, for the same price that I paid for my huge house, I could maybe get a 450 sq ft house that looks like a dump in Seattle. I saw some places I could rent for a little more than I pay now, but I don't want to throw my money away renting, I like being a home-owner.

To get to anything that looked livable by my standards, were about a half million dollars.

So my question is, how? -- how do you people in Seattle afford to live there? Are you just happy living in a small bed room sized house? (I don't see how I could comfortably raise a family living in something like that). Do you just make that much money that you can afford those prices? Do people not really "live" in Seattle, but surrounding areas, where maybe prices/houses are more realistic? (For instance, if I meet someone out of state, I tell them I live in Detroit, but actually am like 30 min northeast of Detroit).

Please provide some insight and hope for us, it seems like our moving dreams were crushed upon finding out this information.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:19 AM
 
Location: Arvada, CO
8,461 posts, read 10,824,478 times
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Some ideas:

-supply and demand
-waterlockedness
-no personal state income tax
-lower property taxes (?)
-higher paying jobs
-more educated people
-DINKs
-trustafarians
-they bought their homes a long time ago, when prices were at earth-level
-they take out mortgages they really can't afford and eat a lot of top ramen

Prices don't get realistic until you're really far out, like when you get to Michigan or so.

You're living the Michigan Dream. I envy you. When you say you're thinking about moving to Seattle or SF, my heart crushes. Enjoy those six jobs you/fiance work when you get to Seattle!
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:50 AM
 
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If a 3,000 sq foot home, new cars, etc are what you need to be happy then you should stay put in Michigan. It sounds like you are doing really well there. But then, you would be living in Michigan. Not to knock the state, but it sounds like you don't like living there since you are looking to move. Cities that tend to draw people from other states/cities cost more because they offer something that other cities/states don't. And that comes at a price.

Personally I wouldn't want a 3000 sq foot house. I can't imagine the time it would take to clean and maintain a house of that size. And what do you really need all that space for?

Disclosure I don't live in Seattle, I live in NYC. Seattle seems down right cheap to me! And Michigan? I can't comprehend buying a house for 180K. You couldn't buy a studio apartment less than a 30-45 min subway ride to manhattan for that.
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:11 AM
 
7,972 posts, read 13,450,363 times
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1. It's not "throwing money away" by renting if home prices are dropping. In Seattle, a 400,000 dollar home will rent for about 1600 per month, but that same house with an FHA low down payment loan will run something like 2700 dollars in mortgage payments. And if a few years down the road, that same house can only sell for 300,000? Who's throwing money away?
2. Utilities cost a lot less in the Seattle area. Electricity is among the lowest cost in the US.
3. Seattle real estate is cheap compared to San Francisco. Cities on the West Coast (and Puget Sound) are expensive, as are plenty of places on the east coast.
4. There is far less shame in renting in places like New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco. People just accept that they'll have to rent, and to them it's just a tradeoff they have to make to get to live a place they want to be in.
5. House prices 45 minutes from Seattle can be far less expensive to buy. Not 180,000 dollars cheap, but there's some real nice places going for 275-300. For those people that choose to buy, they just accept that a higher percentage of their income is going to house payments.
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:20 AM
 
1,492 posts, read 1,886,795 times
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There are parts of the city that are more expensive then the suburbs, and to many, more desirable. The city has a lot of unique areas and restaurants and shops; the east side is more chains and strip malls. There's something for everyone.

Any move to the west coast is going to entail a significant downgrade in your lifestyle. 180K might get you a condo someplace on the west coast. San Francisco is a lot more expensive than Seattle.

People in the city generally don't need cars very often, they are often more hassle than they are worth, so the concept of four residents/four vehicles doesn't apply out here. That allows for a larger house payment.

I'm not sure I would have bought a house if you were looking to move so soon.

It seems unlikely that you would get any sizeable return on your house (or even the 180 K you paid), so if you want to buy on the west coast, I'd advise selling your house for what you can get, rent in SF or SEA until you can save 60K or so for a down payment, and then buy something. The market should be bottomed out and/or warming up; Seattle's real estate woes came later than the rest of the country and isn't as bad here as in Michigan.

Many people are very happy in 1,600 square foot older Seattle homes with three small bedrooms and 1.5 baths because they are in a neighborhood they love. Location, location, location.

If your expectation is to have a 3000 sq foot place, yah, half a million at least, probably more in a decent area. But you are young, so you have time to accrue assets. There is a significant tradeoff, though, for the prime west coast location.
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:38 AM
Status: "Sky watchin" (set 13 days ago)
 
Location: Under Mount Doom
8,858 posts, read 5,284,996 times
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I'll tell you how Seattleites afford it. Buy a house in San Jose, California in 1975 for $50k, sell in 1980 for $120k. Move to Seattle. Buy a house in Santa Barbara in 1985 for $250k, sell in 1990 for $500k. Move to Seattle. Buy a house in Marin for $300k in 1995, sell in 2003 for $1.2M. Move to Seattle. See a pattern? Get your time machine and you're set.

However, I must add, does a 26 year old really need a 3000 sf house to be happy? I suspect 1500 sf would be fine. Do you have 5 kids? Small is beautiful dude (delivered with self-satisfied eco-righteous west coast tone)!

Just ribbin you. Best of luck!
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:34 PM
 
Location: Bothell, Washington
2,113 posts, read 1,847,558 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ira500 View Post
5. House prices 45 minutes from Seattle can be far less expensive to buy. Not 180,000 dollars cheap, but there's some real nice places going for 275-300. For those people that choose to buy, they just accept that a higher percentage of their income is going to house payments.
Good point! And you don't even have to go that far out- we are in Lynnwood- just 16 or 17 miles north on I-5 from downtown Seattle, and we just bought a brand new home a year ago for $235K. It's not huge at 1300 square feet, but it's big enough for us, has the typical 2 car garage, small yard, etc. I would guess there are several parts to this- many of us who don't make much money live in the outer areas like I do, and others may just rent. However this is an area where a LOT of people earn GOOD money, so they can afford the prices that you see in the city.
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:34 PM
 
Location: Guangzhou, China
7,887 posts, read 5,639,136 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiddlehead View Post
I'll tell you how Seattleites afford it. Buy a house in San Jose, California in 1975 for $50k, sell in 1980 for $120k. Move to Seattle. Buy a house in Santa Barbara in 1985 for $250k, sell in 1990 for $500k. Move to Seattle. Buy a house in Marin for $300k in 1995, sell in 2003 for $1.2M. Move to Seattle. See a pattern? Get your time machine and you're set.
Ugh... beat that dead horse, why don't you

Quote:
However, I must add, does a 26 year old really need a 3000 sf house to be happy? I suspect 1500 sf would be fine. Do you have 5 kids? Small is beautiful dude (delivered with self-satisfied eco-righteous west coast tone)!
Exactly!

My family had a 3,000 sq/ft house in Seattle when I was a kid. We've all agreed that the 2,000 sq/ft early 19th century farmhouse they now live in back in Massachusetts is much, much more pleasant. But then, we also had a 1963 Volvo sedan alongside our Vanagon, back in the 90's... we made countless six-hour drives to Oregon as a family of four in a small 60's sedan, where nowadays most people wouldn't consider doing anything of the sort in anything less than a Suburban.

I'm sure that you've always heard that it's "not size that matters" in a variety of different topics. This is one of them.

When I moved back to San Francisco, my family up in Snohomish County (north of Seattle) all told me that I was nuts, and one of the reasons was that for the monthly payment of a 1-bedroom apartment in an okay area of San Francisco, I could easily afford the mortgage on a three-bedroom with some land up there. All of which would have been great if I wanted to live in Snohomish County! To live in San Francisco requires you to drop your dream of a 2-story house with a yard in a decent area unless you can comfortably drop at least $3 million; upwards of $10m if you want to live in a really nice area.

...or you could always rent one of the old officer's houses on the Presidio for $10k/mo...

A lot of the houses I'm sure you see that are remotely within your price range in Seattle are mid-century or early craftsman bungalows that have a LOT more charm than a newly-constructed McMansion. And again, OP, you have to ask yourself: what is it that attracts you to Seattle or San Francisco versus Michigan?

Last edited by 415_s2k; 01-19-2011 at 01:24 PM..
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Old 01-19-2011, 12:41 PM
 
2 posts, read 15,671 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 415_s2k View Post
And again, OP, you have to ask yourself: what is it that attracts you to Seattle or San Francisco versus Michigan?
The climate/topography. Change in general. I was born and raised in Michigan, and have roots here, but it's the only thing I know. I know the old phrase "The grass is always greener on the other side." -- but a lot of times I find myself questioning does living in the MI make me as happy as I can be? ...and I can't answer that question definitively, which makes me think maybe I should try and move out somewhere and see how life is.

It seems like for the majority of people on this forum, from Seattle are pretty happy with where they live and lifestyle, where as in MI, if you talk to people, most aren't as satisfied.

At any rate, I appreciate all the comments/advice.
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Old 01-19-2011, 01:26 PM
 
Location: Guangzhou, China
7,887 posts, read 5,639,136 times
Reputation: 8094
Quote:
Originally Posted by Er0si0n View Post
The climate/topography. Change in general. I was born and raised in Michigan, and have roots here, but it's the only thing I know. I know the old phrase "The grass is always greener on the other side." -- but a lot of times I find myself questioning does living in the MI make me as happy as I can be? ...and I can't answer that question definitively, which makes me think maybe I should try and move out somewhere and see how life is.

It seems like for the majority of people on this forum, from Seattle are pretty happy with where they live and lifestyle, where as in MI, if you talk to people, most aren't as satisfied.

At any rate, I appreciate all the comments/advice.
If that's the case, then I'd suggest renting for the first year or two that you're there before committing to purchase. If you've never lived anywhere else before, your first move can be a really huge one, and you may find that it's just not the right place for you and want to move back, or try somewhere else.
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