Poll

Where do you live?

Suburbs
18 (17.3%)
Semiburbs (in between actual suburbs but not dense enough to be a true part of the core)
7 (6.7%)
Surrounding neighborhoods - easy access in and out of the city but still residential
31 (29.8%)
Downtown or immediately surrounding
40 (38.5%)
Rural
8 (7.7%)

Total Members Voted: 102

Author Topic: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?  (Read 6886 times)

Ricky

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I decided to start a more specific thread continuing the topic of "how much is too much for housing".

I think what I was really getting at but didn't realize at the time is the title of this thread.

The closer to the core of a popular city (Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Austin, SF, NY, etc...) the more costly housing is since more people would rather be near culture and free things going on all the time versus traffic, sprawl, and strip malls. This is obvious of course. Let's also assume that you want to be in a good neighborhood.

Are the amenities of living closer to the core of your city (generally near where you will work anyway) worth the costs? Take Austin, you're looking at well above $400k to live in a coveted neighborhood that's close to the city if you don't want to live in a more sketchy part of town. And that's still cheap by popular, hip city standards. Again, are these amenities worth the costs or is it just another form of consumerism? Or does access to free things, culture, great well-being, bike-ability more than make up for the costs? I'm not even saying living downtown - just in quiet surrounding neighborhoods.

I'm asking because there are some amazing neighborhoods I've visited while here. Namely South Austin and Old Enfield. Both are ridiculously expensive but I can see having access to so many things that are free and great make the cost look more feasible. The only problem is most of the houses there are huge wastes. I wouldn't want anything over 1000 sqft.

I've added a poll just for the heck.

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: April 24, 2015, 08:51:02 PM by Ricky »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2015, 04:35:41 AM »
Only thing that matters is your savings rate. Paying a lot of money to live in the coolest part of a relatively low-salary city with good public transportation like Philadelphia would be very stupid.

But if you can live in downtown Austin, walk to work, and that's what you want to do, then go for it. The only thing that really matters from an independence perspective is your savings rate.

Jack

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2015, 05:29:11 AM »
It's not clear to me which poll option is which. Between "semiburbs" and "surrounding neighborhoods," which is closer to the core?

Let's also assume that you want to be in a good neighborhood.

No, let's not, because that's not a valid assumption. In fact, I think making such an assumption eliminates the best strategy for Mustachians.

In my opinion, If you want to live well inexpensively in a city, you should move to a central, walkable, just-starting-to-gentrify neighborhood and accept that it isn't perfect yet. Unless you're really in what real-estate investors call a "war zone" (which is not the kind of neighborhood I'm talking about), fears of crime are really overblown. Think about the issue rationally and you'll realize the actual increase in risk is insignificant.

In a city like Atlanta (or presumably, Austin, Portland OR, or anywhere other than the Bay Area, NYC or DC), I think $150-$200K should be plenty to be able to afford a house close to the core but not in the proverbial 'hood. This is especially true since, as a Mustachian, you should be buying a fixer-upper, not paying for somebody else's overimprovements.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2015, 05:31:21 AM »
You also didn't put "small town" on your list, which has a lot of advantages if you can get paid - you can live in a walkable community without the expense OR the corner drug dealers.

BlueMR2

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2015, 05:37:29 AM »
You also didn't put "small town" on your list, which has a lot of advantages if you can get paid - you can live in a walkable community without the expense OR the corner drug dealers.

I'd have to say this would be my preferred choice.  I'm a suburb living person, but it's similar to a small town so I would have chosen that.  I have lots within walking distance and the cost of living is tons lower than if I lived in the city core.  Living in a city core may be good for sustainability, but seems a poor choice for saving money.  Rent for small apartments in the core of the city (in dangerous neighborhoods) are 2x-3x what my mortgage was for a nice house (and the house is paid off now so it's even cheaper) in a nice area.  If I lived in the city core, I'd still need my car as my job is in another suburb (and then I'd have to pay the ridiculous city parking fees).  Taxes are also higher in the city.  In my area, living *in* a city is the quick route to the poorhouse.

alice76

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2015, 06:17:08 AM »
It is possible to be Mustachian anywhere with a Hugh savings rate, as others have noted. My family of 3 (soon to be 4), lives in a below market junior four (900 sq ft with one big bedroom and one modest) on Manhattan's UES. We walk to Central Park, museums, my well-compensated-for job, my son's great school. No car needed. In August, we are strongly leaning towards my husband becoming a SAHD, which will increase our happiness and decrease expenses (it's true, given how expensive daycare, after school care, and hub's commuting expenses would be).

You can make Mustachian city living work if you are savvy and don't care about the Jones.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2015, 06:19:20 AM »
In a city like Atlanta (or presumably, Austin, Portland OR, or anywhere other than the Bay Area, NYC or DC), I think $150-$200K should be plenty to be able to afford a house close to the core but not in the proverbial 'hood. This is especially true since, as a Mustachian, you should be buying a fixer-upper, not paying for somebody else's overimprovements.

I can speak to Portland- I would say $200k-250k for that type of option, BUT, competition is fierce. Still relatively cheap, but in very high demand in that price range.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2015, 07:34:00 AM »
That's depending on the person and their stage of life.

For me, I'm in an older inner suburb of Melbourne. The advantages of that are that there's good public transport, the supermarket is within walking distance, and I can ride my bike to work (decent bike infrastructure too). It's not cheap (nowhere in Melbourne is really), but there's other areas which are more expensive.

I really don't want to live in an area where driving is the only viable option to go anywhere beyond my front gate. One of the deal breakers when looking for my place was to be close to regular public transport.

Of course, I'm single, and renting, and there's a tradeoff between price/size (and if it gets to the stage that I'm no longer single and no longer happy renting, I'd need to make a different choice). I'm in a small one bedroom apartment, where for similar money (whether renting or buying), I could get a two bedroom unit/apartment further out, or a house (much) further out still.

I don't know if a lot of what applies to American cities applies here, either. Most of the city or surrounding suburbs have already been gentrified (or at least are expensive).

If you base it on a pure dollars perspective, it's probably cheaper for me to live in the outer suburbs near a train station and take a train in to work everyday. But, I'm happy where I am, even if it's a bit more expensive.

MoneyCat

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2015, 08:37:56 AM »
Everyone has decided at the same time that they want to live in the core of cities within walkable distance of their local cupcake bakery.  That is making it not as good of a deal for Mustachians as it was in the past.  If you live near a major city, suburbs are basically just as good as long as you live near a major city with a good public transportation network.  I live in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City and I can easily get anywhere I want by train or bus, but I am also able to ride my bicycle to most local places I want to go.  Meanwhile, I pay a fraction of the housing/food/other essentials costs of someone living anywhere in the five boroughs of New York City.

Davids

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2015, 08:47:20 AM »
I live in the suburbs, my job is in a nearby suburb, where I live public transportation is basically non existent but that is fine by me since that is not a requirement for me and if public transportation is a requirement then you would not live where I am.

Clean Shaven

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2015, 08:53:16 AM »
Another point of view: (mine)

I work downtown in a midsize western city. Downtown is office buildings and not much else. Walkable housing near work is in bad neighborhoods (bad in sense of crime and school districts). There are good neighborhoods within easy bike distance, but generally speaking, older construction on smaller lots (1960-1970 houses, 1/4-1/8 acre).  Just not to my liking.

We choose to commute instead. It's an easy 25-mile cruise along the highway to work, rarely any traffic slowdowns. For that tradeoff, we get to live in a quiet neighborhood with large lots (1-2 acre), next to national forest land (hiking and biking out the door). Instead of worrying about crime living downtown, we worry about deer eating the garden, and the occasional bear. Housing costs are a little higher than if we lived in those bikeable neighborhoods closer to downtown (and obviously gas costs), but it's a worthwhile tradeoff for us.

Ricky

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2015, 09:43:54 AM »
Quote from: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp
Only thing that matters is your savings rate
Quote from: alice76
It is possible to be Mustachian anywhere with a Hugh savings rate, as others have noted.

Savings rate is truly only a part of being Mustachian. For example, you could drive a F350, take monthly vacations by truck, and frequently eat out and get a ritual Starbucks every morning and still have a 90% savings rate with the correct income. Does that still make you Mustachian? I’m trying to figure out if wanting to be close to the core where all the amenities are is just another form of "sucka" consumerism. So far I haven’t received clear answers?

Quote from: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp
You also didn't put "small town" on your list, which has a lot of advantages if you can get paid - you can live in a walkable community without the expense OR the corner drug dealers.

If your small town has a downtown that’s bike-able and has good transit and many other amenities, you should choose “downtown” on the list. The poll is generic. The question I’m asking is specific.

Quote from: Jack
It's not clear to me which poll option is which. Between "semiburbs" and "surrounding neighborhoods," which is closer to the core?

The poll options move from farther out to closer. Then rural if you can't categorize your area as any of those.

Surrounding neighborhoods would be closer to the core (immediately surrounding). I’m calling semiburbs that because they aren’t really a town and generally don’t have good access to transportation, bike lanes, or many amenities except shopping and strip malls. I would consider these to be the least desirable.

Quote from: Jack
In my opinion, If you want to live well inexpensively in a city, you should move to a central, walkable, just-starting-to-gentrify neighborhood and accept that it isn't perfect yet. Unless you're really in what real-estate investors call a "war zone" (which is not the kind of neighborhood I'm talking about), fears of crime are really overblown. Think about the issue rationally and you'll realize the actual increase in risk is insignificant.

I agree with you. If you can find a good deal in a neighborhood that is starting to gentrify, and you like the location, I think you should definitely pursue this option. Sometimes that isn't always possible. Also sometimes buying an already reno'd house is as cheap as buying one that needs work and doing it yourself. In general though, even these neighborhoods will be more expensive than living further out so I think the question still stands.

Quote from: Clean Shaven
Another point of view: (mine)

I work downtown in a midsize western city. Downtown is office buildings and not much else. Walkable housing near work is in bad neighborhoods (bad in sense of crime and school districts). There are good neighborhoods within easy bike distance, but generally speaking, older construction on smaller lots (1960-1970 houses, 1/4-1/8 acre).  Just not to my liking.

We choose to commute instead. It's an easy 25-mile cruise along the highway to work, rarely any traffic slowdowns. For that tradeoff, we get to live in a quiet neighborhood with large lots (1-2 acre), next to national forest land (hiking and biking out the door). Instead of worrying about crime living downtown, we worry about deer eating the garden, and the occasional bear. Housing costs are a little higher than if we lived in those bikeable neighborhoods closer to downtown (and obviously gas costs), but it's a worthwhile tradeoff for us.

Thanks for the POV. It definitely sounds like you’re in an awesome spot for your situation. It doesn’t sound like you’re in a very popular city though with many reasons to live downtown.

————————————————————————————

I guess I made this thread because after seeing a little bit of Austin I have decided that it wouldn’t be worth it to move here unless you could live close to the core in the immediately surrounding neighborhoods. There are basically zero transportation options other than a car until you live inside the core. Once you get between downtown and true suburbia, it’s just highways and shopping centers. I couldn’t live like that, but just wanted to know if paying a LOT more in general to be closer is just another form of consumerism, even if you can afford it?
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 10:28:51 AM by Ricky »

Zikoris

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2015, 10:06:54 AM »
In places like Vancouver, living downtown is by far the most practical thing to do if you work downtown. You basically eliminate transportation costs because is it so walkable - you can walk to work, to many grocery stores, to several libraries including the MASSIVE central branch, and to whatever entertainment you use - parks, beaches, theaters, restaurants, whatever. Not to mention the time you save in getting around - as someone who's lived all over the city, it just doesn't make much sense to live elsewhere.

bacchi

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2015, 10:34:38 AM »
It's hard to be a Mustachian if you're driving everywhere because you live so far away from your regular activities. A lot of suburbs (or exurbs) live miles from a grocery store and no where close to jobs. You'd have to love biking because the 20+ mile commute would be long (especially in a Texas summer).

Want to see music? Drive. Want to go to free museum day? Drive. Take the dog to a park? Drive.

In Austin, you have to look in 78702 for the lowest prices. Enfield has always been expensive.

Finally, you could always get a 2/3 bedroom and get a roommate.

stlbrah

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2015, 12:07:26 PM »
Some luxuries are worth it to some, but living in the city is not one of them for me. I prefer a good hardcore lifting gym and they cannot be found in cosmopolitan areas, but more of the blue/gray collar suburbs in most cities.

I think living downtown in Austin is insane. $2000+ for rent, and the city is extremely tiny. However living in the city where I live (st louis) is cheap at around 1000-1500/month for the foo foo buildings so pretty much anyone with 40k/yr or more can 'afford' it

okits

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2015, 12:26:35 PM »
Mustachianism is also about reclaiming your life and time from wastefulness.  Time and money saved by being able to quickly bike, transit, or walk everywhere can be significant.

Regarding being near core amenities, it depends on if they're a priority for you and if you would do these things regardless of where you live in relation to them. 

I chatted with a lady at a lecture I attended, who complained of the expense of attending events.  I looked at her a bit funny (other than the ticket it costs me round-trip bus fare to attend.) Well, she lives in an exurb, so long drive or train ride in, dinner out, hotel expense for the night, breakfast and trip home.  So her housing costs may technically be lower than mine, but there are time and money costs associated if she wants the same cultural activities I do.

GreenPen

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2015, 12:45:25 PM »
Interesting to read everybody's thoughts on this thread so far.

My wife and I have this discussion every-so-often. We pay a ridiculously-high rent near downtown in a HCL city. The location makes it easy to not own a car, not pay for a commute, and we get free entertainment by just walking/biking around the city. But these things still don't offset what we pay in rent in the long term.

For us, the deciding factor is time. We are still a long way off from FI, but our time is at more of a premium right now than the money we would save on rent. Adding a commute would mean less time together or less time hanging out with friends... and less time for hobbies.

morning owl

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2015, 12:58:06 PM »
Does that still make you Mustachian? I’m trying to figure out if wanting to be close to the core where all the amenities are is just another form of "sucka" consumerism. So far I haven’t received clear answers?

As far as I understand it, "sucka" consumerism happens when people get sucked into buying things they don't truly value, or that don't truly benefit their lives at all, just because everyone else is doing it, and without really questioning it. If someone values living downtown and all the benefits that come with that (having everything be walkable distance, no need for car commuting, etc) then for them, it's Mustachian to live downtown. They are appreciating the value of living that way, and choosing to pay more for the benefits of downtown living. It's not an extravagance if it's a conscious decision weighed against other decisions, like having a car, a commute, and suburban life. Maybe it even means delaying FIRE for a few years. But it can still be a valid choice.

Personally I choose to pay more and live more centrally in a large city. I get to enjoy city life, and have access to everything I need, within walking distance -- parks, markets, libraries, work. I only see myself living rurally or in a small town once I'm ERed, and even then, I plan to travel back and forth between country and (central) city living.

It basically comes down to personal preference. There's no one Mustachian way vs. "sucka" way.

Clean Shaven

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2015, 02:48:43 PM »


<snip>
It basically comes down to personal preference. There's no one Mustachian way vs. "sucka" way.

Very well said. I agree completely.

ender

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2015, 05:08:04 PM »
You also didn't put "small town" on your list, which has a lot of advantages if you can get paid - you can live in a walkable community without the expense OR the corner drug dealers.

+1

OP must live in a big city and forget how many people live in 50k or 5k population towns. Though some would say a 60k town IS rural... :)

aspiringnomad

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2015, 05:31:48 PM »
You can demonstrate Mustachian principles in the city by making efficient use of space and being content with the space you have even while peers trade up into bigger, more expensive homes. That's been my tactic, anyway. I live very comfortably with my SO in 750 sq ft. If you offered to straight up trade me a 3,000 sq ft McMansion in the burbs (and told me that I could not monetize the trade) I wouldn't do it.

louloulou

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2015, 06:15:35 PM »
You also didn't put "small town" on your list, which has a lot of advantages if you can get paid - you can live in a walkable community without the expense OR the corner drug dealers.

+1

OP must live in a big city and forget how many people live in 50k or 5k population towns. Though some would say a 60k town IS rural... :)

+2

I have lived rural/small town, suburbs and big city/inner city. For me, I doubt I could ever live in the suburbs again. Enjoyed city living but was not how I wanted to raise my kids, hence we now live small town/rural.

Davin

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2015, 06:29:24 PM »

Quote from: ShoulderThingThatGoesUp
You also didn't put "small town" on your list, which has a lot of advantages if you can get paid - you can live in a walkable community without the expense OR the corner drug dealers.

If your small town has a downtown that’s bike-able and has good transit and many other amenities, you should choose “downtown” on the list. The poll is generic. The question I’m asking is specific.


I think ShoulderThingThatGoesUp is right. I live in a small town (<30,000) it is the county seat of a mostly rural county. It does have a downtown with multi-storried buildings, but that is not the part of town I live in. The whole town is pretty bike-able, fairly walkable and there are multiple bus lines, most of the basic amenities are around, even a few corner drug dealers. There is no way that I would check downtown on the list, it is a couple miles from here, but this is no suburb either, I can walk to the post office, bank, drugstore, neighborhood bar, bike shop, florist, thrift store, barber or a few restaurants in less than 5 short blocks. That is the way many small towns like this tend to be laid out. It may not be the ideal mustachian location, but it is actually pretty decent. Small towns at least deserve to be recognized as a category distinct from your downtowns, suburbs, etc.

Jack

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2015, 09:41:14 PM »
Quote from: Jack
In my opinion, If you want to live well inexpensively in a city, you should move to a central, walkable, just-starting-to-gentrify neighborhood and accept that it isn't perfect yet. Unless you're really in what real-estate investors call a "war zone" (which is not the kind of neighborhood I'm talking about), fears of crime are really overblown. Think about the issue rationally and you'll realize the actual increase in risk is insignificant.

I agree with you. If you can find a good deal in a neighborhood that is starting to gentrify, and you like the location, I think you should definitely pursue this option. Sometimes that isn't always possible. Also sometimes buying an already reno'd house is as cheap as buying one that needs work and doing it yourself. In general though, even these neighborhoods will be more expensive than living further out so I think the question still stands.

I live less than 4 miles from the Georgia State Capitol building, in a 1500 ft^2 3-bedroom house that's worth about $150K-$200K or so. Within that four-mile radius, I could buy a house like mine for any price between about $25,000 and $500,000, depending on the neighborhood. (I realize those two listings are probably not comparable in condition, but they are at least both livable, as proven by the fact that the cheaper one allegedly has a tenant currently living in it).

I have a friend who bought a house similar in size to mine out in the suburbs (between Marietta, GA and Roswell, GA). Zillow thinks his house is worth about $170K.

My wife's parents' old house, which is also similar but in a completely different suburb even farther out (near Snellville, GA), is worth about $130K according to Zillow.

Basically, the point I'm trying to make is that in Metro Atlanta, house prices are much more correlated to crime and school quality than they are to distance from downtown.

I should also point out, however, that living near downtown also has an advantage in ROI. My friend and I bought our houses at about the same time, in 2009. My house's value has more than doubled in the last 5 years, while his house's value has stayed the same. (At least, according to the Zillow prices for both houses... I believe the trend is correct, but the difference is less extreme than Zillow thinks). Picking the urban core over the suburbs is (in my opinion) much more likely to pay off as a speculative investment.

The reason there is such a wide choice in house prices near downtown Atlanta is that there's been a wave of gentrification traveling clockwise around the city for the last 30 years.... I suppose that in another 30, when it makes it the rest of the way around, then living near downtown will stop being affordable.

LeRainDrop

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Re: Is living near the core of a popular city considered Mustachian?
« Reply #24 on: April 25, 2015, 10:53:00 PM »
Mustachianism is also about reclaiming your life and time from wastefulness.  Time and money saved by being able to quickly bike, transit, or walk everywhere can be significant.

Yes, this is exactly it for me!  I live in the core of my city and love being able to walk to so many places -- to work (just a couple blocks away), the park (which I walk or bike in very frequently), the gym, the library, many restaurants, various shops, some theater and arts, etc.  As someone who is expected to work a ton of hours, including staying very late in the office with some regularity, there is nothing better than having such a short commute.  You know when you are beat from an exhausting work day?  Well, I love being home and changing into PJs in a matter of minutes.  I'm also a night owl, so being able to sleep in later than most people in order to get to the office at the same time as them is wonderful.  Finally, I'm a single lady, so there really is no use for me to have space any larger than my condo.  This keeps utilities, cleaning, and maintenance to a minimum.  All that said, I think that having a husband and kids would have a major impact on my analysis of where to live that would lead to a very different outcome from where I am now.