Author Topic: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?  (Read 1346 times)

Eastsider

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Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« on: September 16, 2020, 01:25:51 PM »
Hi Moustachians,

Would love to get your advice. Here's the deal: we (me, wife, 1 year old) currently rent, and we're exploring first time homebuying in LA. We're looking to buy a home primarily b/c our apartment isn't the ideal place we want our baby to grow up in. Little natural light, energy inefficient, 850 sq feet but poorly designed, no yard, etc. With Covid, wife currently works from home and may do so for another year. Caveat: we do pay well below market rent - $1450/mo.

Of course the LA market is insane, but w/ my wife's roots and my job in entertainment, we feel like we'll be here for a while and we'd love our daughter to grow up in a diverse, multicultural place. The region of LA we currently live in and where we're looking is Northeast LA: Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, etc. Ideally, we want a 3BR and a backyard where baby can get her hands dirty. Places we've seen, mostly online, that meet our criteria, range between $750k-$900k (I can see your heads explode in unison). Homes tend to go 10-ish percent above listing right now.

Financial picture below. Note too that based on my research, despite the insane price-rent ratio in LA, there don't seem to be many, if any, homes available to rent that match what we see on the sale listings. Those that do have rent similar to mortgage. Recent spin on NYT buy/rent calculator says it's better to buy based on "if you can find a similar home for $X" basis.

Here's where we are:

Me, 42. Wife: 38. 1 year old and possibly another but who knows?

Debt: $0

My retirement: $280k
Wife retirement: $60k
Wife CAL teacher pension: $55k
1 year old's 529: $4.5k

Liquid cash on hand: $80k (we know we'd need a buffer for emergency fund and closing costs of about $12k per a lender we spoke to). So realistically we have $60k down as of today.

Combined salary: $265k/yr. Both wife/I got new jobs within the last 4 months that pay us far more than before, so we're just now starting to aggressively save for a downpayment

Yearly expenses: We know we need to massively cut down on fancy groceries, take-out, booze (damn you Covid!) "stuff" from Amazon (everything from baby stuff to scissors, etc). Biggest non edible/material expense, other than our low rent, is our nanny ($21k/year). We anticipate preschool will be a bit cheaper, and we'll do either public or charter school once she's 5 ish.

We know we don't have enough for a big downpayment. And even with a purely moustachian life, it could take a while for us, even with aggressive savings plan, to reach 20% for a home in our area. (Note: we both love our jobs so we're not interested in pure FIRE, but we do want to be as FI as possible.) A lender said we could get approved today for a 30 year at $825k with 7% down at a 2.85% interest rate. That interest rate is the only thing making me think this could work. But Moustachians, tell me: is this nuts? Could it work? Do we prioritize recently-remodeled places with nice kitchens and HVAC systems (both very important to us), or get a better deal on a fixer-upper even though we're not the handiest people - especially me. Thanks so much in advance for any help you can provide.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 01:29:28 PM by Eastsider »

Retire-Canada

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2020, 03:07:27 PM »
So a calculator tells me $825K @ 2.85% for 30 years is ~$3,405/month. Next up you need to know what insurance, utilities, property taxes and likely maintenance costs are for houses of the type/age you can afford. Once you have all that you can at least understand what the monthly cost to live there is vs. where you live now and compared to other rental options you might consider that meet more of your needs.

red_pill

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2020, 03:39:43 PM »
Being over-extended also sucks.  There will 100% be surprises you haven't calculated for in any house purchase. Especially for a guy who wants a nice kitchen, HVAC, and has an Amazon issue.

At your current high income level and low rent expense, saving for a proper downpayment will not take long, and it will provide motivation for you to reign in your spending in other areas like you want to.   As you said, you can "massively" cut down on your expenses.  So do that first. 

And it's funny how you seem to have resigned yourself to the fact that a 20% downpayment isn't feasible, but have failed to set a goal of what a feasible downpayment is.  Instead, you did what every other schmuck does and that is go to the mortgage broker and find out what the most you can get approved for, and instead of focusing on the amount of debt or payment side, you focused on the low interest rate as your justification.

Don't give into the FOMO.  Low interest rates are going to be around for years.

Set a savings goal, attack it with vigour, and when you reach it then re-evaluate.  Until then, realize that all you are doing is an exercise in justification.

dodojojo

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2020, 04:02:54 PM »
Pardon the slight detour here....I rented a one bedroom in a triplex in Glassell Park/Highland Park for $625/mo.  Was there for 3 years in the early 2000's and the landlord never raised my rent.  I only left because I was going away for school.

I liked living there and personally didn't have any safety problems, but I found a gutted cat on my doorstep, someone smashed the front of the car, and one evening, there was a shooting one street over.  From my kitchen and terrace I could see one body being loaded into an ambulance and another being covered with a sheet.   And many years before I went to middle school in the area too.  Plenty of gangster wannabes and some well on their way to being real ones. 

Wouldn't believe you if you told me housing prices would be where they are now.  And don't get me started on Boyle Heights.  Worked there when it had the highest gang rate per capita in LA.  Pretty soon all of LA will just be one giant gentrification region.  Come up with 7 figures or leave the county.

Eastsider

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2020, 04:15:22 PM »
Thanks @red_pill @dodojojo and @Retire-Canada. It's crazy how massive gentrification has changed things here, not just home prices. Crime is way, way down from when you lived in GP. It's still there, of course, but far safer than when gang wars were in full flux then. (My wife is from NE LA so she's seen the bad and the gentrified, and maybe has a special tie to the neighborhoods here as a result). FWIW, the lender said we could get approved for far more than what I listed, this is just his estimate on what we could "afford". Not the technically-most we could. 

dodojojo

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2020, 05:45:12 PM »
Are you concerned with education for your kids?  I assume you are as your wife is a teacher and she would know the schools best.  But when I was going to school there and later living in the area, the public schools were very low performing.

Eastsider

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2020, 06:06:07 PM »
Wife is a teacher and I need to trust her on it. One of the deals we have for embarking on this. I told her OK, as long as it's close to either our home or work.

Chrissy

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2020, 06:17:46 PM »
But Moustachians, tell me: is this nuts? Could it work? Do we prioritize recently-remodeled places with nice kitchens and HVAC systems (both very important to us), or get a better deal on a fixer-upper even though we're not the handiest people - especially me. Thanks so much in advance for any help you can provide.

Yes, dude, this is nuts!  We're in the worst crisis this country has seen in our 40-year lifetime.  You JUST started making the big bucks.  You have a super-cheap apartment.  Stop looking around and dreaming about how you can spend all your money!  Now is the time to HOARD. 

You need a 6-month emergency fund PLUS 20% down of a place at the top of your range, which sounds like $190k given that houses go for 10% over ask.  Although, I think $795k should be the top of your range:  3x your annual salary.  And, I'm generous, I believe most mustachians say 2x max.

Sibley

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2020, 07:46:11 PM »
But Moustachians, tell me: is this nuts? Could it work? Do we prioritize recently-remodeled places with nice kitchens and HVAC systems (both very important to us), or get a better deal on a fixer-upper even though we're not the handiest people - especially me. Thanks so much in advance for any help you can provide.

Yes, dude, this is nuts!  We're in the worst crisis this country has seen in our 40-year lifetime.  You JUST started making the big bucks.  You have a super-cheap apartment.  Stop looking around and dreaming about how you can spend all your money!  Now is the time to HOARD. 

You need a 6-month emergency fund PLUS 20% down of a place at the top of your range, which sounds like $190k given that houses go for 10% over ask.  Although, I think $795k should be the top of your range:  3x your annual salary.  And, I'm generous, I believe most mustachians say 2x max.

This. ^^^ And honestly, your kid is just fine and will be just fine. You have 4 years before you need to worry about school. Kids need love, and the niceness of your kitchen has nothing to do with it.

Plus, the west coast is currently on fire. And it's been on fire every year for years, and it's getting worse. Honestly, I don't know why people are staying there. I like to breath, breathing in smoke is NOT good for you. (and for the record - I used to live in Sacramento and traveled all over the state. Not dealing with annual wildfires is worth a lot.)

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2020, 11:36:35 PM »
A slight devil's advocate here.

Are prices increasing at all? It might be worth buying now at $800K and paying whatever extra for a smaller downpayment, rather than waiting a year or two to get the downpayment only to have prices at $950K-1M by then.

Just saying that from one expensive housing market to another :)

I started looking in late 2018 and the first place I saw was almost perfect except for one issue. A year and a half later I finally bought a place (which does meet all of the criteria), but the place I ended up buying was almost $100K more than what that previous place sold for.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2020, 03:33:14 AM »
There is far more to home ownership than just the mortgage. If that was all there was to it then you could be home free. Make a list of every darn thing you can think of where you will spend money. Insurance may be a biggie with fires or floods. People near brooks have floods too and basements get full of water. Then there is landscaping or should I say mowing the grass. Who is going to do that? You? If so, you will need all kinds of lawn equipment. You will find something new you need every year. Hedge trimmers, wheel barrows, grass seed, lawn tractor repair, oil, gas for the mower. Weed whackers, shovels. The list goes on an on. If your dad had a house full of this stuff, it didn't magically appear. He had to buy it. I live on the east coast and sometimes we have vicious storms here and big branches break off trees or whole trees are damaged so bad we have to have tree people come in and cut them down. Insurance does not cover that or at least my policy doesn't. We also have a well with a pump in it. Over the years the pump got hit by lightening, another time it just conked out. We had to replace the pump several times and that is pricey. We also have a septic system. that has to be pumped every few years. If our septic fails, it will cost us thousands and thousands of dollars. Let's not forget the driveway. If your driveway starts to fall apart, you will need to replace it. That is costly. If you buy an older house, things always need repair. Plumbing issues, HVAC issues. We have a boiler for hot water and heating. That needs maintenance and we get it tuned up each year. We also have to buy about 800 gallons of oil for it each year. A few years back we replaced the boiler and that was thousands of dollars.

There is always some appliance that breaks and needs replacing or repair.

I forgot to mention if you have a lawn service that will cost you too. I am not sure if you would need monthly pest control but if so, add that to your list of expenses.

Not trying to burst your bubble, but home ownership is much more than the mortgage payment and taxes. It is a never ending expense. It is so nice to have your own home and a yard but your kid is very young and you can take trips to a park every day at this point. I would save more money and not be concerned about where you live for a while longer.

You need to be very, very concerned about this pandemic. What if you get sick and can't work? What if your wife gets sick and can't work? What if one of you loses your job? These things happen.

Right now, we have a broken lawn tractor. We happen to have a 'spare' but we have no idea on the cost of the repair and it could be a thousand or more. Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised and it will be far less. We also have some trees that are a bit hazardous and they need cutting down. We are waiting for the tree guy because he has a list of customers a mile long. We have no idea on the cost of that because we have not had an estimate yet. Home ownership is a surprise package and you never know from one day to the next what you will get!

Good luck on whatever you decide!

Greystache

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2020, 09:16:32 AM »
LA house prices tend to experience big swings. I was fortunate to buy near the bottom of the cycle in 1994. My home's value more than doubled before the market crashed in 2008 and it went down 40%.  Home prices have been going up for ten years. We are now at or near the peak of the cycle. I'm not smart enough to tell you when this latest bubble will burst. Maybe low interest rates and high demand will keep it going for years to come, but I would be very nervous buying right now.  If your financial and emotional situation is such that you could stomach a significant drop in your new home's value and being underwater on your mortgage, then go for it.

socaso

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2020, 11:35:34 AM »
In 2011 we almost bought a house in Highland Park for $325k. 2 bed single family home with detached 1 bed rental unit. It was the bottom of the market. There were multiple problems with the house and we couldn't reach an agreement with the owner so the deal fell through. The market started swinging back up and the owner sold for over $100k less than 6 months after we backed off the deal. Sometimes I wish we had bought it because it's probably worth $800k now but we were first time homebuyers and it needed so much more work than we were comfortable with at that point.

JetBlast

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2020, 11:39:38 AM »
Combined salary: $265k/yr. Both wife/I got new jobs within the last 4 months that pay us far more than before, so we're just now starting to aggressively save for a downpayment
What's the monthly combined take-home pay after taxes and deductions?  Because some back of the envelope math leads me to believe you'd be looking at around $4400 monthly payment for P&I, PMI, Property Tax, and Mortgage Insurance on an $825,000 home. 

Then you have higher utility bills every month.  Home maintenance expenses will likely be higher than you expect since you are a first time homeowner.  There's just so much you don't think of if you haven't maintained a home before.  Everyone knows big items like a furnace can break or a pipe can burst.  It's the nickel-and-dime expenses that fly under the radar, unnoticed, and leave you wondering where your money went.

$30 for a couple bags of lawn fertilizer every year. 
$40 worth of bug spray every year to keep the bugs outside.
$20 worth of drip irrigation parts to replace the ones that have cracked due to aging or become clogged.
$15 for fertilizer for the flowers.
$20 a year for random hardware to fix things in the home.
And on, and on, and on........
 
Then there's all the stuff you'll probably buy within the first year or two of moving in.  More nickel-and-diming but on a larger scale.  Ladder, shovel, rake, garden tools, buckets, screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets, power drill and drill bits, etc...  Replacing carpet?  Painting?  Changing any fixtures like lighting, towel bars, toilet paper holders, shower heads?

Oh, the furniture of an $850 sq. ft. apartment doesn't fill a 3/2 home so what are you going to want in the extra space?  Tables, chairs, lamps, bookshelves, decorations for the extra counter and table space, and more decorations for the huge increase in wall space.  It's not necessary to live in the home but empty rooms are depressing to most people so they spend the money to make it feel homey.  I know we're mustachians, but we're also human so I'd expect at least some of this and budget accordingly.

       

Being over-extended also sucks.  There will 100% be surprises you haven't calculated for in any house purchase.

This x 1000000. 

 






Samuel

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2020, 01:36:24 PM »
The thought of a $265k income with $1450 a month housing costs gives me a tingle in my naughty bits. A couple years of truly mustachian living and you'd have all kinds of options.

mm1970

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2020, 04:21:19 PM »
I can't speak for the Los Angeles housing market, but Santa Barbara's is legit nuts right now.  As tiny as our house is, and as much as I'd like to trade up - it ain't happening.  We bought this thing near the peak, not going there again, nope.

Don't do it.  Save up until the kid is bigger.

Eastsider

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2020, 04:23:56 PM »
Thanks for the responses, everyone. I'll be sure to update my original post once there's more clarity (and hopefully more down payment!)

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2020, 06:53:41 AM »
Hmmm, Iím in a similar situation as you, but in another country and as a single guy. Itís a weird time. On one hand, a great time to buy property, but also a scary time to spend that money. Iíd like to encourage you to do this, but Iím held back by the information youíve provided. It seems you both have recently come into big money and now you want to do big spending. Thatís natural but also dangerous. And the truth is, you donít need to pull this trigger right now. Youíve got probably 3-5 more years before you need to move because of the kid. I think the advice of save as much as you can with your super cheap rent now is good advice, especially if your goal is FI. Develop the discipline of having this income without feeling the need to splurge. Survive this pandemic with more money in your pocket, not less. Read through all of MMMís articles and really take them in. You probably wonít get another chance like this to have so much income with so little expenses (and thatís with a nanny). Maximize this. You donít need 20% deposit. Iíd get to 10%, have your emergency money and put the rest in Vanguard. Checkout this article: http://www.innovativeadvisors.net/files/10reasonsforMortgage.pdf

clarkfan1979

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2020, 05:52:57 PM »
Being over-extended also sucks.  There will 100% be surprises you haven't calculated for in any house purchase. Especially for a guy who wants a nice kitchen, HVAC, and has an Amazon issue.

At your current high income level and low rent expense, saving for a proper downpayment will not take long, and it will provide motivation for you to reign in your spending in other areas like you want to.   As you said, you can "massively" cut down on your expenses.  So do that first. 

And it's funny how you seem to have resigned yourself to the fact that a 20% downpayment isn't feasible, but have failed to set a goal of what a feasible downpayment is.  Instead, you did what every other schmuck does and that is go to the mortgage broker and find out what the most you can get approved for, and instead of focusing on the amount of debt or payment side, you focused on the low interest rate as your justification.

Don't give into the FOMO.  Low interest rates are going to be around for years.

Set a savings goal, attack it with vigour, and when you reach it then re-evaluate.  Until then, realize that all you are doing is an exercise in justification.

As of right now, don't do it. You don't have a big enough savings cushion. To echo what others have said, I would wait until you have 20% down. However, this would probably take 5 years of savings.

As a compromise, at the very least, I would put 10% down and have 50K of savings. I'm assuming you will spend 10K on small fixes and furniture when you move in, so you are left with 40K of savings. You can make this happen in 18 months.

I'm going to run my numbers with a purchase price of 850K, 10% down at 3% interest rate. I'm not actually sure you can get a 3% loan with a balance of 765,000 because I think that puts in you jumbo loan territory, but I will try to be optimistic and go ahead with 3%.

PI: $3225
PMI: $300
Taxes: $900
Insurance: $150

Total Payment: $4575

Your utilities will probably be at least $125 more than the apartment. Add another $100/month for general maintenance if you are handy and do everything yourself. If you hire things out, add $300/month for maintenance.

Your new housing cost will be $4700-$4900/month, depending on how much maintenance you do yourself. This is $3250-$3450/month more than your current housing cost. If you can save $3500/month for the next 18 months, this will be an additional $63,000 to your savings for a total of $143,000. The magic of saving $3500/month will be simulating your new extra housing cost.

After the 10% down payment of $85,000, you might have around $8,000 of closing costs for a total of $93,000. This leaves you with 50,000. As previously stated, you will probably spend 10,000 on small fixes that need immediate attention and furniture. This leaves you with 40,000 in savings.

I would also try to buy a 4 bedroom, even if it costs an extra $50,000. If shit hits the fan, you could rent out a bedroom to a family member or friend for $1,000/month (utilities included).



Fish Sweet

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #19 on: September 19, 2020, 05:30:15 PM »
From one Angeleno who loves living in this city to another: Do Not.

You are looking to buy a house practically double your net worth, with a mortgage that will likely triple your current housing costs.  You currently don't have enough in savings to slam down a hefty down payment. You JUST landed these fancy new jobs, and there is a pandemic going on.  You say you recognize the actions you need to take to save and trim the fat-- but you haven't started taking them yet, you're not feeling the 'pinch' of deprivation.  I completely understand feeling huge amounts of backyard/nice house envy right now (I say, from my tiny apartment with three roommates and a balcony the size of a teacup), but the material benefits a ~nice~ house would bring to your lives will also clip your wings and dramatically limit your options and freedoms in the coming years.  Your kid will not care for the first few years of their life what kind of environment they grow up in, so long as they're loved and cared for.

My recommendation is this: save up AS IF you were trying to put together a nice fat down payment for a house.  You guys are getting an amazing deal in housing right now, you have really great incomes -- do all those things you say you're going to do.  Trim the fat, stop getting those daily Amazon packages, exercise the frugality muscles you'd need if you're actually going to achieve the house of your dreams.  If you're able to stick this out another two+ years, you'll have saved buckets in the mortgage you're not paying (and imagine that $$$ compounded), from your well paying jobs, and from your efforts at trimming the fat.  Maybe then consider a house purchase-- but doing it right will have no incremental value to your child's happiness, and will over leverage you in a way that could do you a lot of damage if something goes sour in your current jobs, if the economy is further impacted by the pandemic, or hell, if one of you gets injured and can't make $$ for a bit.

The other thing is-- maybe put some real thought into (relatively) cheap actions you could take to make your current apartment more hospitable for you both.  Maybe you need more lighting to brighten the place up?  A paint refresh, more shelves, some decluttering to free up more space?  Can you rearrange your furniture in a more aesthetically pleasing and/or functional way?  You may be limited by the space itself, but dropping $500 in living space updates to improve your quality of life might not be a bad idea right now.

TrMama

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #20 on: September 23, 2020, 11:10:21 AM »
Lots of good advice here. I especially like the idea of making cost effective improvements to your apartment to make it more hospitable in the meantime. If it's dark, see if you can add more or brighter lights. This can be as simple as putting in some higher wattage bulbs. Or swapping an existing fixture to one with more bulbs. If that doesn't cut it, paint the walls a lighter color and make sure the ceilings are bright white (like plain white from the can, no tint at all). I'm planning on doing a minor reno to our very poorly lit basement suite and this is the extent of the changes I'll make (plus new light colored flooring b/c the carpet is shot).

While you continue to save, look into whether a townhouse would be a better option for you. Some townhouse complexes here are set up for families with nice playgrounds set in the center. I think something like that would be fabulous for you. You'd get a nice amenity and a bunch of built in playmates for your son.

Abe

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2020, 09:50:48 PM »
Agree with all the above. We're moving out of LA but waited for a few years to have sizable savings. Housing prices hadn't changed too much in the 3 years we've been here so you have time on your side. Another minor point: see how much earthquake and wildfire insurance is for your area (a few thousand a year combined).

soccerluvof4

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #22 on: Today at 04:01:05 AM »
I look at it like this-

You just started making a larger income

You have cheap rent

You have a 1 year old

Were in the middle of a Pandemic that know one really knows where this is headed

I absolutely would be thinking about your future plans and learn the market and so on but with the above things you have time to stash and save, wait so your not house poor, and with a one year old you have time. Unless something comes along thats to good to be true deal, Hammer away $$$$ and buy when your 1 year old is ready for pre-k or Kindergarten.

ChpBstrd

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Re: Am I nuts for buying a home in LA?
« Reply #23 on: Today at 09:04:53 AM »
You have ~$400k in net worth.
You should have the ability to save ~$200k per year while these great jobs hold out.
A little napkin math assuming 0% investment returns puts you at millionaire status in just 3 years.
You'd hit a FIRE number for LCOL areas in a little over 4 years.
Work another 6-10 months and you could pay cash (no mortgage) for a nice remodeled house double the size of your apartment with a nice back yard in about 60% of the U.S.
Speaking from experience, the next 5 years of your life will pass in a blur. Might as well get financially strong.

Maybe living in a nice Wisconsin or Tennessee suburb is not your thing. That's cool. But acknowledge exactly what it is that you want:

A specific (too specific?) vision for your child's upbringing with more outdoor time?
A more luxurious lifestyle, but while not becoming a driveway-to-TV suburbanites who accumulates manufactured stuff in their 2 car garage to cope with feelings of despair, anxiety, and boredom?
A cultured lifestyle involving things like arts, food and entertainment traditions from other cultures, economic opportunities, and world-renowned educational centers?
Relief from the boredom/depression of living in an apartment with 3 windows and surrounded by pavement?
Neighbors you like and befriend?
Connections with specific local friends and family members?

This analysis should reveal additional options to obtain what you actually want, rather than the shiny object of current obsession.

For example, if the apartment is depressing, consider asking if you can change some things at your own expense, such as window treatments, paint, lighting, or even flooring. Could you upgrade apartments and get more natural light and proximity to parks?

If the imagined future state is more about being able to connect with friends, family, and neighbors, what else could you do right now to make such things happen? Social distanced coffee meet ups on Sunday mornings? Organized hikes?

If you are afraid your child's childhood is being diminished, I wouldn't worry too much. Kids can adapt to or be miserable in any circumstances. Do more field trips to parks and trails.

If FOMO is the problem, consider doing some Zillow searches to see what you could buy outright for $150k in every state. This will put some perspective on the decision to go hundreds of thousands into debt betting on a housing market that is already beyond most people's affordability.

Finally, if FIREing to the Midwest seems like a solution only slightly better than going to prison, take an actual look at the cultural activities that are available in cities like Dayton, Nashville, Kansas City, Hershey, Greenville, or San Antonio. It's visually guaranteed to be more than you can consume. Most of these sorts of cities will have revitalized inner cities or arts districts where you could buy your dream house outright for less than a year's work in LA.
Lazily-gathered examples:
https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2850-S-Holt-Rd-Indianapolis-IN-46241/167300314_zpid/
https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/909-E-79th-Ter-Kansas-City-MO-64131/2425367_zpid/
https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/238-Oak-St-Dayton-OH-45410/35082034_zpid/