Author Topic: Reader Case Study - Need suggestions about purchasing a house in bay area  (Read 7675 times)

Rein1987

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Hey folks,

I came across this forum recently and I found the posts here really helpful. Most values on savings, early retirement and investment match mine well. So I came here asking for some help on my cases.

I got married early this year and moved to a condo that my husband purchased a few years ago. The condo is about 700 sqft. Because both my husband and I had purchased furnitures before our marriage, we found 700 sqft is not big enough for two sets of furnitures. We do not want to sell them because we think they will be useful in the future. In addition, we plan to have a couple of kids next few years, so we are considering buying a larger house to start the new family. I think 1500 sqft is a reasonable and "affordable" housing size for my family.

Unfortunately, we live in bay area, maybe one of the most expensive places in the world. The bidding war make things even worse. We have made 4 offers since our marriage. The first one listed as 920k, we offered 1M, the house sold for 1.25M. The second one we offered 1.1M, and sold for 1.25M. The third one we offered 1.25M, and sold for 1.4M. The 4th one we offered 1.4M, and sold for 1.55M. They were all approx. 1500sqft houses and all happened this year! three of them were sold for all cash.

We now stopped participating the bidding war as we feel it's not right to chase after the housing price. Actually, the last two offers I did not feel comfortable. It is very easy to write a number to offer, but I'm going to pay for it. So we are looking for other ways to solve our housing problems.

Option 1: forget about purchasing a house now. Sell the extra furnitures. Continue living in the tiny condo for a few more years while saving more money. There's some questions following this option.
a. My colleagues told me that I can continue contribute to after tax 401k and convert them to roth. Is it a good idea? How much should I put my dollors there?
b. How should we invest our down payment if we do not buy a house now?
c. I do think we need a larger house in at most 3 years. Is it better to buy now or wait for a better chance to come in 3 years? I'm a little bit worried that we will never catch up with the housing price. For example, our 4 offers all happened in this year, and the housing price went from 1.25M to 1.55M, which is 300k. The price increasing speed is much faster than our saving rate. I'm not positive the housing price will go down in the near future.

Option 2: Lower our requirement for the house to purchase. Previously we were looking for a single family house close to work and shops, safe and quiet, with good elementary school and not require too much requirement. Maybe we can consider townhouse without good schools. A christian private school only costs about 15k a year, while good school houses cost 200k-400k more. My question is:
a. I do want my new house to keep the value or increase, at least not fall down too much. Our agent told us to avoid townhouse, because it does not have land, and we need to pay HOA. The house can only gets older and older so it does not maintain the value. Is it a good idea to spend 1M on a nice townhouse?
b. If we choose this option, we thought we still imagine one day that we can afford a single family house. If so, is it necessary to buy a townhouse now?

Option 3: Rent a larger one when we actually have kids. My parents and my husband's parents strongly discourage we do so. They said we are helping others pay their mortgage without building our own equity. Also, the rental price also went crazy these days. My friend's 1000 sqft 2b apartment cost him 3k per month!

Option 4: any suggestions?

A few notes on our house hunting tour. Our current condo is at a very good location, close to both working places, walking to parks, grocery stores. We will not make any decisions to downgrade our life by spending more money for a worse house. For example, we will not consider any houses with much longer commute time.

Here's our basic financial status:

Age: I'm 26 and my husband is 35. No kids yet but plan to have a few soon.
retirement goal: 15 years? 20 years?

Income:
My base is 100k and my husband's is 150k. We also have unpredictable bonus and stock (50k - 150k).
Regular take home pay is about 10k monthly (after maximizing pre-tax 401k, my husband's ESPP, insurance).

Monthly expense:
Housing and utility: 2300 (including mortgage, HOA, utility, tax)
Piano lessons & piano rental: 350 (Both my husband and I really love piano, but we couldn't afford to learn piano when we were small....I know this sounds not right to mustachian, but we believe the early we learn the more we can enjoy it.)
Car: 800 (including a car loan, gas, insurance.)
Grocery: 150
Dining out: 100 (After piano lessons, I do not have time to prepare dinner, so my husband and I go on date after every piano lesson.)
Charity donation: 2000
Phone: 40
No cabled TV.
Others: < 300
Travel: Budget is 10k annually from bonus...but maybe only 5k will actually be used this year (for honeymoon).
Support for my parents: 10k annually, also from bonus. (some background: my parents did very successful business and 'retired' before 40. Then they moved to Asia and became full time missionaries and donated all their money. They do not have any savings for retirement as they believe God will provide them. Fortunately, I now have enough money to support them.)

Considering we already maximizing 401k, ESPP, the saving rate is more than 50%
My husband and I have a monthly financial planning meeting. We check all the bills of the last month, put all saved money into mutual fund, discuss on large item purchase (e.g., house or any thing costs more than $100).

Liability:
A new car loan $20k @ 0.9%APR ( My husband previous car was 18 years old with 160k miles...we were tired running to repair shop often so we bought a new car)
Mortgage $200k @ 2.8% APR 15 year fix

Asset:
House equity 300k (Our neighbor with the same floor plan recently sold for more than 550k, so we think we have around 300k equity. We plan to sell this one if we bought a new house. )
401k: mine 60k. my husband's 90k.
Cash: 200k (This is planned for new house downpayment, so it's cash staying in the saving account).
Investment: 150k (mostly stock index, REIT)

Insurance:
I have 300k term life insurance (As stated above, for my missionary parents...).

Krnten

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I would stay in your current place as long as possible.  If it's truly a great place to live in every other respect (location, etc) stick it out through at least one kid.  They don't take up much space in the beginning, and ease/convenience becomes all the more important when you add a kid to the mix.  If you don't want to sell one set of furniture, I suppose you could store it, although that's very anti mmm.  Just sell it.  Buy what you need in the future. 

And staying allows you to keep saving money at a great pace.  You're doing well so far.  The 401ks seem low to me given your income, but maybe you haven't had this income for very long.  Your food budget is very good for a hcol area. 

My husband and I live in a small co-op in NYC with a baby on exactly the same income, lower shelter costs.  It's been a huge benefit to stay in terms of our savings. 

I think your colleague might be referring to the "backdoor Roth"?  You contribute to a traditional Ira and then convert to a Roth.  It's for when you're over the Roth income threshold.  I absolutely would not convert from a 401k to a Roth in your position because you're in a high tax bracket.  Just google backdoor Roth.

I have no idea what the future holds for Bay Area real estate.  It does seem insane now.  I do know that lots of people felt the same pressure to buy that you're feeling...right before the last crash.   

mxt0133

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I would not commit to a house until after the first kid arrives.  It seems like both of you need to keep working to be able to afford a 1.5M dollar house.  You haven't stated whether either one of you wanted to be a SAHP but your feelings might change when the baby arrives.  A lot harder to make that decision with a large mortgage.  Unless both of you are absolutely sure that you will keep working after kids then I would not commit to such a large mortgage now.

Have you done the rent vs buy calculations?  Even if rent is crazy right now do the actual math and see if it makes sense in your scenario.  Remember you are incurring unnecessary expenses right now with a larger house for a "need" that is out in the future, so consider that in your calculations.  Larger space means higher utilities, taxes, furniture, and maintenance.

My wife and I came to the same crossroads in 2010 in SF.  We started looking for a house because we wanted to start a family and wanted my wife to be a SAHP.  So we looked for houses that was in the range of what we could afford on my income alone.  We never found a house we liked.  We were in a 650sf one bedroom apartment then and two kids later we are still in the same one bedroom apartment.  We love the no maintenance aspect of renting and the flexibility of just being able to get up and go.  The small space has allowed us to avoid accruing too much stuff as there is literally no place to put them.  Initially we just assumed that you had to have a bigger place when you have kids, but now we know better.


Chrissy

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I vote for Option 1:  staying put and selling the extra furniture.  In 3 years, you may buy a house, or decide for Option 3:  renting a larger space.

I want to point out that you support 2 missionaries at $10,000/yr AND contribute $24,000/yr ($2,000/mo) to charity.  While you're trying to save, I'd cut the charitable donation.  $24,000 x 3 years = $72,000. 

All I can think of to do with the $200,000 and the money you continue to save for a down payment is put it in CDs.  You can get 1% or maybe a little better. 

From the figures you posted, you've already been priced out of the market--think about how insane that is with your income!--housing prices have gone parabolic along with rents, and houses continue to be bought with cash.  These circumstances cannot continue.  A certain percentage of the population leaves with a significant earthquake, so keep your eyes peeled.  This may be the start a reversal that could give you the break you need.

hexdexorex

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I am dealing with the same issue in SF. Did the calculations on where we live (peninsula) and it still makes way more sense to rent than to buy. Our studio is 500sq feet and we make significantly less than you. You have a great salary but you your NW while good is well below what it should be your combined income. I would cut expenses a ton to increase your NW so you feel comfortable buying a overpriced house. I am not going to touch the support the parents fund but your piano lessons are pretty pricey. Maybe youtube?

Before buying I would take a look at your jobs and see if they are stable enough to actually handle not moving around. Once you get a house you are committing to 10% fee (purchase/selling fees) etc. You are doing a great job with what you have and I wouldn't stress about living the normal american dream. Kids are great - but if you want a ton of them - it sounds like you have to increase your commute.....somewhere in the east bay.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2014, 11:26:50 PM by hexdexorex »

Dicey

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I live in the Bay area, but in the comparatively less expensive East Bay. In January of 2013, we bought a house on a short sale. The bank only wanted to see the best offer, so we had to outbid twelve other people. Then we had to wait while the bank dicked everyone around for eight months. We ended up paying 928k for a house that was listed for 800k. Fortunately, we also sold two homes to buy this one and both sold quickly for good prices. We had to buy so we could move MIL and her pal Al Z. Heimer in with us. Plus this house is three tenths of a mile from DH's work. In your case, I wouldn't buy anything for a year or two at least. This market is on fire and that's not when you get your best deals. Put your down payment in very safe accounts. No stock market speculation for you with your DP money. You're in the market with your retirement accounts, so you're not missing out on all that much. Better to be safe.

As to the furniture, my vote is to get rid of it. When you do buy a house, the furniture may not fit in it anyway. DH and I (we're newlyweds) both had completely furnished houses and almost none of it worked in this house. We sold almost all of the big pieces and started over once we were finally in the new place. We shopped consignment and CL. We love our new look and don't miss the old stuff. We didn't break the bank in the process. If you're really determined to hang onto it, I might consider putting it in storage, but only of it's really high quality. It's cheaper to do that than buy a house at the top of the roller coaster just to store your furniture.

Next tip, when you make any offer offer, always submit a cover letter along with a pre-qual letter from your lender. Tell them why you're the perfect buyers and include photos where you look really happy. This shit works. People want to imagine that by letting you be the one to pay a buttload of money for their house they are helping you live happily ever after.

Last thoughts: Your condo sounds like a sweet situation. Get rid of stuff until it starts to feel roomy again. Read Apartment Therapy and everything you can about small space living. For SF, 700 sf in a good neighborhood for $2300 is a screamin' deal. Stay there, keep saving and wait for the market to settle down. DO NOT buy in a crappy area just to get something bigger. Where your kids go to school is just a fraction of the quality of life equation. Remind yourselves (or ask your parents) that after the Loma Prieta Quake, nobody wanted to buy SF real estate. Those who bought after LP are looking like geniuses all these years later. The current market won't stay this hot forever.

Rein1987

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Thanks for all the great response. It seems the best option is to live in the current place as long as possible, at least till the first kid arrives.

To respond to the low NW, I was just out of graduate school last year, so my 401k is 2 years old with max contribution plus company match plus capital gain. I had tuition waive and stipend in graduate school, but it's much less than current income. I only managed to save about 25k during graduate school. My husband worked 5 years in Asia, and then spent most if not all of his savings for a master degree in the US. He only worked in the US for 5 years.

I'm thinking of contribute after tax 401k and then convert to roth401k to avoid tax on capital gains. I'm not sure which one is better, just invest on taxable account or a roth retirement account. For my 2 year old 401k account, already about 15% is capital gain, so I imagine the capital gain could be maybe over 80% at the time of retirement. The tax benefit sounds attractive to me.

As for cutting expense, I want to keep the charity bill. There's tax benefit, and our companies match our contribution. For piano I do not think I will have time after we get kids, so I do want to keep the lessons until then. For others we tried hard to make life simple, but we do not want to be cheap. Instead of cutting expense, I'm thinking of making more money. For example, I started to read books on economics for better investment choices. I'm also learning a 3rd language which might be useful in the job market in the future.

Our current plan is that both of us will keep working until we retire together. But it's really a good point that we might want to change our mind with kids. I guess if we become single income, we'd like to keep mortgage under 600k, which seems too hard in bay area, unless there is another crash...

Roses

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Thanks for all the great response. It seems the best option is to live in the current place as long as possible, at least till the first kid arrives.

As for cutting expense, I want to keep the charity bill. There's tax benefit, and our companies match our contribution. For piano I do not think I will have time after we get kids, so I do want to keep the lessons until then. For others we tried hard to make life simple, but we do not want to be cheap. Instead of cutting expense, I'm thinking of making more money. For example, I started to read books on economics for better investment choices. I'm also learning a 3rd language which might be useful in the job market in the future.

Our current plan is that both of us will keep working until we retire together. But it's really a good point that we might want to change our mind with kids. I guess if we become single income, we'd like to keep mortgage under 600k, which seems too hard in bay area, unless there is another crash...
Sounds like you got good advice.  I agree it's best to sell all the extra furniture and stay put.  It's true that babies don't take up much space - especially mustachian ones :)  Your net worth isn't high enough yet for that kind of purchase and some of your expenses are pretty high.  Do you have specific financial goals for retirement and do you know how long it will take you to get there?  Factor all that in before buying such an expensive house in the next few years.  While your salaries are high, I don't know that they're high enough for a 1M house.  There are other areas where you can earn that much and live a little cheaper.  But if you're close to family there, that's a consideration.

The piano lessons stood out to me in particular.  I own a piano that we purchased for $350 a few years ago.  And you're paying that per month!  It's a great piano with a good sound - my mother is a musician and helped us find a good one but there are plenty of good pianos to be had for cheaper.  You don't need to be renting one.  As for the lessons, not sure what you're paying per hour but as you progress you can cut down to a couple of lessons an month and practice a lot in between.  In fact, you could do away with them all together and try an at-home method.

Good luck with the baby plans!

RapmasterD

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It's always been crazy expensive in the Bay Area. Now is a particularly frothy time. But the mid to late 90s were virtually the same. Excite.com -- anyone?

We lived here for seven years before buying. And yes, prices went up considerably during that time period. So what? Buy when the time is right for you. That may or may not be now.

alsoknownasDean

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Reader Case Study - Need suggestions about purchasing a house in bay area
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2014, 06:30:59 AM »
Would you consider moving to a lower COL area later down the track? I'd imagine that for the price of a Bay Area house, you could buy in a cheaper area and have enough left over to be near-FI.

Eric

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I'm thinking of contribute after tax 401k and then convert to roth401k to avoid tax on capital gains. I'm not sure which one is better, just invest on taxable account or a roth retirement account. For my 2 year old 401k account, already about 15% is capital gain, so I imagine the capital gain could be maybe over 80% at the time of retirement. The tax benefit sounds attractive to me.

That's not how 401k (or Traditional IRA) accounts work.  They're not taxed at the capital gains rate, they're taxed as regular income upon withdrawal.  So by using pre-tax money to fund these, you're reducing your current taxable income and deferring it to the future.  At that time, you'll almost certainly be in a lower tax bracket, saving you money now and in the future.

http://www.madfientist.com/traditional-ira-vs-roth-ira/



Scandium

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You make about twice what we do, and looking at houses 3-4 times the cost of ours? Ouch. I thought our mortgage was high. And you already spend our mortgage payment in charity alone.
I don't know. Move?

Dicey

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Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, as I mentioned above, I/we actually live in the Bay Area. We live here because it's beautiful. We live here because we have families here. We live here because we have friends here. We live here for the amazing job opportunities here. We live here for the myriad of cultural opportunities here. We live here for the crazy number of things to do for free or super cheap once you're not working for a paycheck here. Did I mention sports? Active and passive, available year-round. Yes, you can water ski and snow ski on the same day if you really want to. And you never have to shovel snow unless you go visit it somewhere else. Black ice? Not a whole lot of that here either. Did I mention that our property taxes average about 1.25% of assessed value and have tiny annual increase caps? Nice.

Despite what "bankers" say, it is entirely possible to live a good life here with a >25% of income mortgage payment (which does not apply in OP's case at the moment). In fact, it's a lot easier to do if you are a high income earner, because there are still a good number of soldiers left to order around after you've made your mortgage payment each month. You might even find yourself able to RE because you've still managed, despite your high mortgage payment, to save a shitload of money.

For fuck's sake, for once can the chorus stop with the "move" answer? It may one option, but it sure isn't the only one. It's so far down the list that there are plenty of other budgetary line items that can be maximized first. End of rant, thankyouverymuch.


Scandium

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I said move because it's the only good option I see. You could do expensive cultural activities every fucking day and still save more money than you could with $1.5 million parked in a overpriced house. That's why. I just don't see why it's worth so much to live in that city. And yes I've been there. If you don't think so, fine.

I believe MMM is about making serious changes for dramatic results (like moving away from a place where 300 sqft rent for $6k), not just inflating your tires more to save $2 on gas..

And from what I can see OP would be looking at a ~5,700/month mortgage, or almost 60% of take home. Yeah..

RapmasterD

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I think you should move, if only so that Diane C can stage another rant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpaOy8b8X6A
« Last Edit: August 28, 2014, 02:25:08 PM by RapmasterD »

$_gone_amok

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Hold off on buying until your first kid is 2 to 3 years old. In the meantime, research different neighborhoods and find a few that you like. Then be patient and wait for the right house to come on the market. You can set alerts on on houses within your price range in certain neighborhoods on Redfin.com.

Townhouses/condos are fine but single family house with a yard is better for families with kids.

The key of buying a house in the Bay Area is to treat houses as investment vehicles. Buy the cheapest house you could find in a neighborhood. Borrow as much as possible with lowest interest rate you could possible qualify. And to qualify for the lowest possible interest rate, you should reduce your other recurring expenses.  Sell your house as soon as it apprises in value, do this repeatedly and you will eventually build equity.

seattlecyclone

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I'm thinking of contribute after tax 401k and then convert to roth401k to avoid tax on capital gains. I'm not sure which one is better, just invest on taxable account or a roth retirement account. For my 2 year old 401k account, already about 15% is capital gain, so I imagine the capital gain could be maybe over 80% at the time of retirement. The tax benefit sounds attractive to me.

That's not how 401k (or Traditional IRA) accounts work.  They're not taxed at the capital gains rate, they're taxed as regular income upon withdrawal.  So by using pre-tax money to fund these, you're reducing your current taxable income and deferring it to the future.  At that time, you'll almost certainly be in a lower tax bracket, saving you money now and in the future.

http://www.madfientist.com/traditional-ira-vs-roth-ira/

I believe the OP was talking about converting non-Roth after-tax contributions. This strategy has also been called the "Mega Backdoor Roth", because it can allow you to put much more than the standard $5.5k limit into your Roth IRA every year.

hexdexorex

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Did I mention that our property taxes average about 1.25% of assessed value and have tiny annual increase caps? Nice.

One of the main reasons I dislike CA. First come first serve policies are everywhere in this state. Prop 13 is ruining the tax structure and schools.

Eric

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I'm thinking of contribute after tax 401k and then convert to roth401k to avoid tax on capital gains. I'm not sure which one is better, just invest on taxable account or a roth retirement account. For my 2 year old 401k account, already about 15% is capital gain, so I imagine the capital gain could be maybe over 80% at the time of retirement. The tax benefit sounds attractive to me.

That's not how 401k (or Traditional IRA) accounts work.  They're not taxed at the capital gains rate, they're taxed as regular income upon withdrawal.  So by using pre-tax money to fund these, you're reducing your current taxable income and deferring it to the future.  At that time, you'll almost certainly be in a lower tax bracket, saving you money now and in the future.

http://www.madfientist.com/traditional-ira-vs-roth-ira/

I believe the OP was talking about converting non-Roth after-tax contributions. This strategy has also been called the "Mega Backdoor Roth", because it can allow you to put much more than the standard $5.5k limit into your Roth IRA every year.

After re-reading, I think you're right.  Sorry Rein.

Rein1987

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I'm thinking of contribute after tax 401k and then convert to roth401k to avoid tax on capital gains. I'm not sure which one is better, just invest on taxable account or a roth retirement account. For my 2 year old 401k account, already about 15% is capital gain, so I imagine the capital gain could be maybe over 80% at the time of retirement. The tax benefit sounds attractive to me.

That's not how 401k (or Traditional IRA) accounts work.  They're not taxed at the capital gains rate, they're taxed as regular income upon withdrawal.  So by using pre-tax money to fund these, you're reducing your current taxable income and deferring it to the future.  At that time, you'll almost certainly be in a lower tax bracket, saving you money now and in the future.

http://www.madfientist.com/traditional-ira-vs-roth-ira/

I believe the OP was talking about converting non-Roth after-tax contributions. This strategy has also been called the "Mega Backdoor Roth", because it can allow you to put much more than the standard $5.5k limit into your Roth IRA every year.

After re-reading, I think you're right.  Sorry Rein.

Yes, I meant converting non-roth after-tax contribution to roth. I think I'll defer this choice for now and manage savings in taxable account..

Rein1987

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I said move because it's the only good option I see. You could do expensive cultural activities every fucking day and still save more money than you could with $1.5 million parked in a overpriced house. That's why. I just don't see why it's worth so much to live in that city. And yes I've been there. If you don't think so, fine.

I believe MMM is about making serious changes for dramatic results (like moving away from a place where 300 sqft rent for $6k), not just inflating your tires more to save $2 on gas..

And from what I can see OP would be looking at a ~5,700/month mortgage, or almost 60% of take home. Yeah..

Well, I may consider move, but not now...More opportunity and high income here is still attractive to me. If my pay is going to reduce by half, no matter how much I save I cannot save more than now. I think if I live here for 5 more years, maybe I can reach FI in low cost place. (current nw is 150k 401k + 200K cash + 150k mutual fund + 300k home equity = 800k; 1.25M should be more than enough for my family in most places on earth)

Also, both my company and my husband's company offer great paid maternity and paternity leave (22 weeks & 13 weeks). As far as I know, very few companies can beat this. We want to take advantage of this benefit as we are planning babies...

Dicey

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Did I mention that our property taxes average about 1.25% of assessed value and have tiny annual increase caps? Nice.

One of the main reasons I dislike CA. First come first serve policies are everywhere in this state. Prop 13 is ruining the tax structure and schools.

Hmm, the things you dislike are hardly unique to California. How about New Jersey for $1000 please, Alex?

Dicey

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I think you should move, if only so that Diane C can stage another rant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpaOy8b8X6A
So that means you liked it, right? Ha!

Okay RapmasterD, I get what you were referring to now, but I'm gonna cut you all the slack, outta respect for your momma, may she rest in peace in heaven. Good luck to you in this next phase of your life's journey.

Roses

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I said move because it's the only good option I see. You could do expensive cultural activities every fucking day and still save more money than you could with $1.5 million parked in a overpriced house. That's why. I just don't see why it's worth so much to live in that city. And yes I've been there. If you don't think so, fine.

I believe MMM is about making serious changes for dramatic results (like moving away from a place where 300 sqft rent for $6k), not just inflating your tires more to save $2 on gas..

And from what I can see OP would be looking at a ~5,700/month mortgage, or almost 60% of take home. Yeah..

Well, I may consider move, but not now...More opportunity and high income here is still attractive to me. If my pay is going to reduce by half, no matter how much I save I cannot save more than now. I think if I live here for 5 more years, maybe I can reach FI in low cost place. (current nw is 150k 401k + 200K cash + 150k mutual fund + 300k home equity = 800k; 1.25M should be more than enough for my family in most places on earth)

Also, both my company and my husband's company offer great paid maternity and paternity leave (22 weeks & 13 weeks). As far as I know, very few companies can beat this. We want to take advantage of this benefit as we are planning babies...

22 weeks, PAID?!  Where, oh where, do you work? :) 

Ok, I know everyone's job situation is different.  But here in Seattle my family earns the same as you but we pay less for housing.  It's still expensive, just not that expensive (6-700K for a 3-4 bedroom house with yard in a nice, walkable neighborhood, close to big employers & good schools).  We've turned down two opportunities in your area because even though the salaries were higher they weren't high enough to justify the ridiculous housing prices.  We figured out based on numbers alone that we can reach FI here quicker than in SF.  And if we do what you're talking about - move to a cheaper area after FI - even better.

That said, there are lots of other reasons to pick a city (as Diane C so vehemently articulated).  If you have family in the area that's huge.  Especially when a baby comes.

thedayisbrave

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You've received a lot of great suggestions here! I don't envy anyone trying to deal with the west coast housing market right now.  But I just wanted to commend you on having a monthly financial planning meeting with your SO... that's something that I've never thought about, but it is a great plan to make sure you are on the same page! Definitely something I want to implement in the future....