Sometimes I like to play a little game with myself, called, What If We Moved To....? While this involves many daydreaming aspects (seasons! other architecture! cities! farms!) it usually boils down to, What Could We Afford If We Lived Somewhere Else?* Don't get me wrong, I love it here in San Diego, but sometimes.... my mind wanders. Especially in relation to real estate prices. Let's look at San Diego first, shall we? If someone wanted to spend say $250,000 (ha) but stay relatively central in a sort of hip neighborhood (ha, ha), here is what you might afford(acually, this is literally the only option a quick craigslist search afforded me).

806 sf Heavy Fixer Craftsman home located on a full size lot and offers alley access. The home is in need of a major renovation but has tons of potential. Note the price wasn't actually given, and the neighborhood is one I would live in, but only just barely. A leeetle sketchy.

Now we have a base from which to compare all else. (If you are me)

Yesterday I was talking to Naurnie about Nashville (which got this round of the game going) and how much I might like to live there. She suggested I look at places in East Nasvhille. (Sounds fantastic.) Here is what I found:

$134900 / 3br - Incredibly cute brick cottage!!! Covered parking, great back yard with a huge deck for entertaining. Hardwoods and tile on main level. Two rooms upstairs allow for plenty of flexible use space. Concrete basement.

$105000 / 3br - CHARMING total renovation in Historic East Nashville! Vaulted ceilings-gorgeous hardwood floors- wonderful private fenced yard- open floorplan with vaulted ceilings.

$184900 / 4br - Surrounded by lush greenery! City life, neighborhood/community feel, convenient location, and privacy. PERFECT for musicians and a recording studio.**
Sigh. Honey, can we go? Think of the porches music.
*kind of like this game, for people with, uh, less moneys.
**ben, did you read that?


  1. josh and i play this game alllll the time.

  2. i feel you, girl.

    i. feel. you.

  3. ugh if you want the shittiest of all shitty 1 bed 1 bath no yard no waterfront homes that needs 100k in concrete spalling repairs you're looking at at LEAST 300k to be in key west. what the fuhhh

  4. If you want to feel less depressed about San Deigo, you should totally play it in San Francisco. We've spent a lot of time figuring out what kind of two bedroom we could get for $400K, and get this - we could get a falling apart one in a neighborhood totally controlled by gang violence!! Yay us!

    That said, it's still cheap here by NYC standards, so it's good we started there.

  5. This game annoys me. Houses are more expensive in places with bigger salaries. You move, you make less money.

  6. bullsh*t.

    if i moved to nashville my current job would pay about 20% less. (i know because i have a locality increase on a national set pay scale)

    the housing cost would go down by at least 50%.

    but ultimately if my career goes where i want it to i will be internet based & self employed, making the same wherever i go. (with lower overhead in cheaper cities)

  7. that's just crazy anyways. you think it's just as easy to get by in NYC on minimum wage as it is in nebraska? i mean, I know the ration changes, but not like you are saying.

  8. and duh meg/holli, that is why i only play the game with more affordable places. ;) i know SD could be worse.

  9. My problem is that I could never be so land-locked. It's so much cheaper to live further away from the ocean...but I know I would slowly lose my mind...

  10. Playing that game with cheaper places is probably a good idea. I always seem to pick more expensive places. I'll have to start playing for real with Houston pretty soon, but only because I'm being forced to move there. (No offense to Houston people, but having to move there when you're an Austin girl is painful.)

  11. @kristy bummer. but oh, i should do austin next! what neighborhood should i look in?

  12. Tell me about it. Vancouver is ridiculously expensive to live anywhere decent (most houses would be around $1m!)

    Come on, lottery!

  13. i play this game too. it is both exciting and depressing. why couldn't i just be a trust fund baby?!

  14. Central Austin is pretty great (Allandale, Bryker Woods, Brentwood, Hyde Park). A lot of the houses are older and some of the areas are a bit expensive, but it's a cool part of town. South-ish Austin is also very cool (Bouldin/Travis Heights (expensive but awesome)/Barton Heights), and East Austin is also getting popular. It's cheaper, for sure, but there are still some shady/dangerous areas. French Place would be a good East Austin neighbourhood.

    And if you decide you want to see a cool neighbourhood that's probably totally out of your price range, just for the hell of it, Tarrytown is always nice. My dad has built a few houses there, and it's a lovely area. Lots of shady trees.

  15. Jamie - we moved from NYC to Austin are relishing the fact that we essentially HALVED our rent, and got 100 more sf, a backyard, 2 decks (although we're in a duplex, but a super quiet neighbour). We actually looked for something under 200k when were moving here and the options were: nada or or in a tear down/total gut reno state. of course we have a strong preference to be close to downtown and currently LOVE living in Bouldin Creek (right next to South Congress, Zilker, Travis Heights). East Austin is cheap, but it really depends where you're located. Our current hood is awesome. You might be able to get something for 250 but it's probably better to be in the 250-300 range. Also, south austin, just south of Ben White or 270 has a lot of semi-retro 70s houses that could probably be pretty cool, but its bit more removed...

    Regardless, life here is calmer, nicer, cheaper, and sunnier than NYC.

    Also Meg - that fact about SF made the decision about me: grad school, him: working very easy when it was between Boston-SF-Austin. Easy choice, at least, if we didn't want to be starving students for the next five years.

  16. Exactly what Kristy said - except I'd highly recommend South Austin. Traffic is just less hectic than Hyde Park/Allandale, etc.

  17. but Liz, how much did your income reduce due to the move (or his, since you are in school)??!!? (someone, coughcough me, is obv still reeling to prove esb wrong)

  18. Liz makes a good point about the traffic. Austin has terrible traffic considering how (relatively) small it is.

    And Liz, I'm so glad you love Austin! I grew up there (currently living in Fort Worth, which is a surprisingly cool town), so I'm biased about it; but I always love hearing people from far away say they are glad they moved.

  19. I hate to say it ladies... but you can't just look at housing prices and salaries - there's a lot more that goes into making a place financially livable. In fact, almost all reports on the issue have suggested that it's food/entertainment not housing that is most of where our money goes these days. (hello, SF folks) Also... Yes, salaries might go down in cities where the housing goes down but I would still argue that they're not completely tied together in terms of percentage. Like - looking at middle income wage jobs for joe shmo - teachers, engineers, etc etc ... those people can't buy good homes in places like NY and San Fran. But they can afford nice places in cities like Portland, Austin, Philly, etc etc. I don't think the folks in the later column are better at saving or being frugal per say - they just have to spend a lot less percent of their income to housing because the market isn't as inflated even after you take the 'lower' salary into account. If ESB were correct - there would be the same demographic of people buying property with the same desirability in every city - and that's just not so. (sorry ESB)

  20. This game is both thrilling and depressing.... Rg and I play it quite often with Costa Rica....the cost of a farm located a bicycle ride from the beach .... ample sun, water and fresh air: Ouch and Ooooh

  21. shelly! costa rica is THE BEST place to play the game with. And you guys could totally work from there, RIGHT???? DO IT. PS I am READY for our walk!

  22. Yeah..WOW! That second home in East Nashville is AMAZING! We are from Chicago and now live in Denton, Texas (Super quaint, cute and still badass little town outside of Dallas) and houses here are less than half as expensive as in Chi-town. A friend of ours just bought a 4-bedroom, beautiful 2-story house for $115K and our jaws dropped...that will buy you maybe a decent apartment or very small house in a somewhat sketchy suburb of Chicago..

    Good luck with your dreams, hopefully you'll find something that's too tempting to pass up :)

  23. house prices are ridiculous, eh?

    I shouldn't complain because $250,000 where I live can get you a super rad old mansion, but cool and well paying jobs are hard to come by here unless you work at the university or hospital.

  24. sorry esb, but statistically speaking, destination/vacation spot real estate is higher and median income is lower

    keep looking though, jamie! there are secret spots all over, it's just a matter of whether your career can follow you there!

  25. income: we're on half the income, I suppose as we're both architects (me: now grad student), and he's making a play at starting his own firm. (i'm happy to market away...)

    rachel is right - however, we still find (in comparison to NYC) that food and entertainment is much cheaper, as is the fact we own a car, have access to the outdoors, etc. groceries are waaaay cheaper, you can get a full breakfast for two for under the price of one breakfast in nyc, yadda yadda yadda.

    so let's play a hypothetical game: we were living on, let's "pretend" 120k/year in nyc. we didn't go out much, we saved a bundle (so wrong, I know, but we had a wedding, a move, and grad school ahead of us). we realized that we could hack it, without any savings in Austin on half of that. 80k would make us comfortable, with savings, with 401k, and travel. however, consider if you two already own car(s) (we dont, so we had to buy) which adds a chunk to the monthly costs.

    however, i'm not sure that 60 or 80 is enough to save to buy a house. I think we priced it out as being able to afford the 1500-1800 mortgage payment on a 200k house - and that price meant that my lovely husband needed to take home about 60k on his own.

    SO MUCH EASIER IF TWO ARE MAKING AN INCOME. or if you're not two (self-employed) architects.

    however, it is much much much much more feasible to live here, in the long term, on very little, than it was in nyc. much.

    Kristy - we have friends in Houston and they have the cutest little cottages near/in university heights and I almost stopped the car when a friend pointed out what/which houses would go for high 200s. think 4 bedroom, early 1900s gorgeous.

    there are deals/awesome opportunities to be had. good luck!

    (oh jamie - architecture salaries are lower here, but I'm not sure what they are in SD. it also depends on what firm you work for, obviously.)

  26. is everyone playing this game in their heads??? we're moving out of nyc next month for all these reasons... sure, you don't make as much money, but the dollar certainly goes farther. i can't wait for a HOUSE!!!, a garden, a car, something to call my own... and on top of that, i get to take part in an upstart creative community. :) i really feel like self-employeds and artists are really considering these sorts of things much more willingly lately.

  27. various projects: I think I one of my top treasured items of my life outside NYC was the fact that deoderant no longer cost $6 from the Rite Aid. In Harlem. Now we're talking $2.50 at a local big box store. Yeah, I shouldn't be shopping there, but whatevs.

    A garden, backyard, and a car for outdoor travel are all pretty incredible.

  28. We spent a week in Portland OR this summer and have been playing the move-out-of-LA game ever since. With many empty lots in some great neighborhoods, the fantasy is not to just buy a bungalow, but design / build our own. One thing to check is property taxes.....Oregon's are sky high. No state sales tax helps a little, but.

  29. Heh - my husband, D, is from Nashville (we live in Portland, Oregon, my hometown - although I was BORN in Denton, Texas which makes this comment thread sort of hilarious for me). We were just watching a House Hunters episode and we were blown away by how affordable the real estate was there. D got really nostalgic and I think might be playing this game in his head a lot, now. (I don't comment much so sorry if this seems like it is coming from a totally random stranger).

  30. Why do those first houses all have scary chain-link fences?

    I live in the Netherlands, where house prices tend to highness. Anything un-terraced (no contact noise, heaven) is very dear, unless it needs tons of work. Like ours does.

    I was amazed to see this home in PA for sale for such a low price:
    especially as it's like immediately moveable-inable and gorgeous..
    I asked my husband if he was willing to apply for jobs in Philadelphia, but no luck.:-)

  31. I don't play this game because it makes me cry.

    We were briefly deluded enough to think that we might be able to afford something, but after we terrified our real estate agent by convincing him to show us several crack dens that we could just barely afford, we realized that we were outpriced.

    I'm okay with renting, although I sometimes have house lust. I think that renting is particularly painful for architects. D desperately wants to own something and go crazy on it.

    I do like to play the game where I look at NYC apartment rents and feel blessed by comparison.

  32. Anonymous11:32 AM

    Check out Louisville - great music -check. affordable housing - check.