Informational graphics (and some housing information)

by WCE

Why the Great Divide Is Growing Between Affordable and Expensive U.S. Cities

Given my abstract interest in demographics and my practical interest in moderate cost of living areas, I enjoyed this article on how housing prices have changed since 1980. I especially enjoyed the graphic below.

Did anything in the article surprise or trouble you, or is it all “old news”? What do you like or dislike about the graphic, which I’ve also pasted below?

20160422.TotebagWSJCitiesGreatDivide

 

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136 thoughts on “Informational graphics (and some housing information)

  1. I love graphs like this where so much information is communicated in just one picture. I feel silly asking this, but shouldn’t San Francisco be on here somewhere?

  2. Ada – per the article SF/SJ seem to be combined. Seems funny/silly to me having grown up in the East Bay, all of us natives know the two are completely different. (Realistically, if SF we alone on the chart, it’d probably be 2-3x above SJ. IMO.)

  3. It seems to be common sense to me. Cities with less room to grow will have higher increases because land is at a premium. If there’s more room to grow, land is more affordable so prices won’t rise as much.

  4. WCE,

    I’m not really sure I understand their point. As I’ve mentioned before, the price of a home in a nice neighborhood 5 miles from downtown Houston is about the same as the price of a home in a nice neighborhood 5 miles from downtown Boston. If the San Francisco annexed everything out to Stockton, the average home price in SF would be much lower. But, it wouldn’t really change the fact that living where people actually want to live is going to be expensive.

  5. Is this really a question of room to grow or is it a question of choosing to expand? I think a lot of the cities that could expand, didn’t. For example, I suspect that San Diego and Portland both have unincorporated areas that try could have annexed during this time period.

  6. In the past two years or so, in my area in addition to single family homes, a ton of apartments have been added. Town homes have also been built. This was a gap that I think has been filled in terms of affordability. This area has most certainly grown outward. However, what the city hopes to avoid is everyone having to commute into a downtown area. That is why they try to build at intervals schools, shopping, dining, medical facilities etc. to serve new developments. The same with offices. People try to be within reasonable commuting distance from where they or if possible work from home.

  7. Home prices where we are still have not recovered from the housing market crash of 2008/2009, but previous to that it was a very, very hot market due to geography.

  8. We see this IRL with my parents, who are planning to retire around here next year. They are currently struggling with the fact that anything they deem “nice” is at least $1M and more like $2M, and they will only get $500K from their current place. If you took their house and lot and plonked it down near our house, it would be worth $3-4M easy.

  9. Louise: It seems that growth is being smartly managed in your city.

    What I like about my city is that there is a variety of price points and amenities for homes, depending on what people want. If you’re willing to commute, you can buy a really nice house for ~$300K. If you want to live close to town, the same house will easily cost $1M+.

  10. L: My in laws ran into the same problem. They ended up renting an apartment, which was more affordable and had the added benefit of no upkeep.

  11. Rhett – I agree that housing prices close to downtown in the southern cities are still pretty expensive but if you go 20+ miles out it’s very affordable. The same can’t be said for Boston and NY.

  12. Ada, the graph is based on metropolitan area, just named for the primary city. And I agree with Rhett’s point. I have affordable housing, and in return DH commutes an hour each way in a vanpool. If he wanted a 5 minute drive to work, I’m not even sure we could find something. Last time we looked down there a nearby $1.2M home was marketed as a tear-down.

    I was like looking at the size of our county the other day to try to give perspective to relatives who were concerned about weather in the Houston area. Our county is 1777 sq miles, which is equal to about 1.5 times Rhode Island. So developers will continue to expand because there is demand and plenty of room.

    I also like graphs that show a lot of info like this

  13. Is this really a question of room to grow or is it a question of choosing to expand? I think a lot of the cities that could expand, didn’t. For example, I suspect that San Diego and Portland both have unincorporated areas that try could have annexed during this time period.

    They don’t say how they define “developed residential area”. Are they talking about cities actually annexing land? I don’t think much of that is happening. Or are they referring to the metro area growth? They group SF and San Jose together, so it seems that they are talking metro area, not city limits. And are they talking about increasing residential development in previously industrial areas and growth like that?

  14. Houston – very sensible! My parents won’t rent, that is a non-starter for them unfortunately. I have been trying to encourage them to buy something that is not so nice and fix it up – costs for renovation are cheaper than buying a place that is already fixed. To my dismay, their latest idea is to buy land and build a house, which will bring the cost WAY up. Rrrgh.

  15. Here, they have tried to make downtown more like downtown in large metro areas but people are not choosing to live among the office buildings. What has been more successful is coverting the old vacant industrial lots on the outskirts of downtown into residential neighborhoods with light rail access, so you don’t need a car to get to work. You can take the train or bus if you are close enough walk or bike.

  16. completely off topic…this headline on Yahoo! Finance

    “Shocking: Priceline CEO resigns after illicit affair”

    Well, no, I’m not really shocked, but why do they use the word “illicit”. Are there really that many affairs which are “licit (real word), allowed, aboveboard, permissible”? I guess if he were French everyone would expect him to have someone on the side.

  17. L – could your parents buy a small condo with $500k ? It seems like Meme has a good setup in a close in, walkable area, well designed for aging in place.

  18. Portland has plenty of land to expand geographically, but zoning laws from the early ’70’s mean that buildable land is expensive and in limited supply. With a given amount of buildable land, the best thing to do is to allow multifamily, rather than single family, housing to be built. I think that’s becoming more common.

    When I see the statistics on the increased size of single family homes, I think, “Of course no one is going to buy a $300,000 lot and put a $150,000 house on it.” Where land is less expensive (due to zoning, not availability), there are more small, single family homes.

  19. Louise – they definitely could, especially since we are moving farther out of the city to a less expensive area. But my mom is also against condos – I think it’s because she doesn’t want neighbors so close, but she usually says it’s because she doesn’t like the architecture. ;)

  20. I don’t know. They’re building a ton of condos and townhomes around us, and while they fill a gap, demand remains very high for a single family home. I saw $800K for an 800 square foot, one bedroom condo recently. Anyone who wants kids is looking for more space and commuting. Either that, or the Bay Area is soon going to fill with double and triple-occupancy units….

    What’s killing me here is that our schools are just about at capacity. We have no new land, and what does come available is bought by developers, not school districts. So they’re adding housing units on top of housing units, but the assumption seem to be that exactly ZERO of those people will have children who attend the public schools. I really wish the school district planning was included in city planning, but so far no luck.

  21. ” I have been trying to encourage them to buy something that is not so nice and fix it up – costs for renovation are cheaper than buying a place that is already fixed.”

    You need to get them to watch the Property Brothers.

  22. Either that, or the Bay Area is soon going to fill with double and triple-occupancy units….

    If SF was as dense as Manhattan it would have a population of 3.6 million vs. it’s current population 850k. Those 800k one bedroom condos are the market’s way of telling an area it has to get a lot denser.

  23. “the graph is based on metropolitan area, just named for the primary city.”

    In which case I’m skeptical.

    I’ve seen the greater San Jose area grow tremendously during that time frame, gobbling up neighboring towns and cities until they merged into one huge metro area, without the breaks between towns/cities that had been there before. E.g., heading south from SJ, there used to be a distinct end of the SJ metro before hitting Morgan Hill, and now that area’s been built up and Morgan Hill has been absorbed into greater SJ metro.

    While the city of SJ didn’t have much, if any, room to expand due to borders with neighboring towns/cities, greater SJ metro has expanded tremendously.

    Similarly, in San Diego county, heading out toward Escondido there were definite undeveloped areas separating towns, and now greater SD has pretty much gobbled up everything at least until Escondido.

  24. “What’s killing me here is that our schools are just about at capacity. We have no new land, and what does come available is bought by developers, not school districts. ”

    I recall a school district in SC County had seen enrollment drop as its population aged, so it closed schools and sold them. Those school sites were then developed with housing, mostly sold to young couples and families. And of course, when those families’ kids got old enough for school, there were no neighborhood schools in those neighborhoods, and other schools in the district became overcrowded.

  25. Our school district does a demographic survey every 10 years or so to figure out where the population growth will be.

  26. I think Lauren had mentioned the trailers – oops – mobile classrooms she saw at the schools here. They puzzle me since, even the newest schools have them and these schools have lots of land to build bigger and avoid trailers from Day 1. But no, they must be present taking up a bit of the playground.

  27. “Mr. Romem said ideally cities would relax regulations and build upward rather than outward. But, he said, promoting development on empty fields is more politically feasible than building apartment towers in single-family neighborhoods, and thus likely to ease affordability pressures more quickly.”

    Urban planners are all about building upward rather than outward, but how many families with school-age kids actually want to live in those apartment towers?

  28. how many families with school-age kids actually want to live in those apartment towers?

    Do the children of the affluent really while away countless hours playing in the yard? If they are going to be inside or at an organized activity anyway, wouldn’t it be easier if everything you needed was in a three block radius?

  29. “I think Lauren had mentioned the trailers – oops – mobile classrooms she saw at the schools here. They puzzle me since, even the newest schools have them and these schools have lots of land to build bigger and avoid trailers from Day 1. But no, they must be present taking up a bit of the playground.”

    In California, it is state law that a certain percentage of classrooms must be temporary. Apparently, once upon a time, there were too many classrooms and not enough students.

  30. “Do the children of the affluent really while away countless hours playing in the yard?”

    I certainly can’t speak for the affluent, but my kids are in the yard all the time, even when I’m annoyed by it. We get home, I want them to eat, shower, and get to bed, and they’re running through the woods. It’s like their decompressing place.

  31. In San Francisco there is such a level of NIMBY-ism from both sides of the spectrum. The mayor tried recently to implement a plan where builders could build a little bit higher if they increased their percentage of middle or low income housing. Say if the height limit is 3 stories you could go to 4 or 5. His idea was to use land that is currently vacant, or something like a parking lot or a gas station.

    Affordable housing advocates complained that he is trying to gentrify and drive out more low income people. Those who live in the less dense neighborhoods on the west side of the city don’t want anymore housing built. So nothing gets done.

    There are people who will try to stop any housing being built that isn’t affordable. Even with 20 or 25 percent dedicated to affordable housing the builders get held up with their plans for years or until they give up and sell, or raise that percentage even higher.

    Some people I’ve talked to just don’t want anymore people to move here – they want to keep it as a 750,000 or 800,000 person city forever. And there was just a report in the paper that a good percentage want new people to live further out (past the current suburbs) rather than build new housing, but they also don’t want more cars on the road. Very much of a “I’ve got mine, so too bad for you” attitude.

  32. In my greater neighborhood, a few miles from Flagship U (and its 40k students), there are lots of single family houses filled with students. The community would likely be served better if those students were in high rises (which are slowly growing upwards) and the houses were left for families. I think the students would likely prefer that.

    In areas where housing is tight, a lot of non-families might not live in a single family house if they had attractive/affordable/convenient options. (L’s parents notwithstanding).

  33. A more grass-roots solutions (or rip-out-the-grass-roots solution) is to encourage in-fill development in yards. Our city has made it pretty painless to get permits for backyard cottages, which can be rentals, housing for family members, etc. A lot of people are choosing to give up their yard in order to increase their density on a micro level.

  34. Rhett – Those are always humorous in aerial photographs, and I agree with you that many residents probably never use the yards, but I could see a good percentage of the kids (or at least my kids) using them. My niece and nephew are a little older, and live much closer in, and they’re often out in the small yard with the cat.

    Ada – That’s a great idea. But in a lot of areas, I think you would have to make it so that the municipal law overrides any HOA restrictions, just like they do for satellite dishes and solar panels.

  35. “Those who live in the less dense neighborhoods on the west side of the city don’t want anymore housing built.”

    The resistance to increasing density may be because of the corresponding increase in problems, which is a reasonable point of view. For example, those cute backyard cottages may create increased traffic, parking problems, and strain on school systems. IME, municipal officials often make decisions blinded by the anticipation a short-term increase of tax revenue without serious consideration of problems down the road.

  36. If the projection of enrollment shows a peak when the school opens, followed by a decline, then temporary classrooms when the school opens would make sense, assuming they are less costly than permanent classrooms and/or they would be repurposed elsewhere at a lower cost than building.

    OTOH, a local media personality has made the observation, “there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary classroom.” E.g., the last time I drove by my childhood ES, the same portables from my day were still there.

  37. “the municipal law overrides any HOA restrictions, just like they do for satellite dishes and solar panels.”

    Our state passed a “right to dry” bill several years ago. It overrode HOA restrictions on solar clothes dryers.

    IME, it is much easier getting a state law passed to override HOA restrictions than to change those HOA restrictions.

  38. “If they are going to be inside or at an organized activity anyway, wouldn’t it be easier if everything you needed was in a three block radius?”

    Maybe, but the trend in our (former) northern Virginia area was infill developments with giant new homes on tiny odd-shaped lots. Not much of a yard, to be sure, but townhomes and high-rise apartments don’t seem to appeal to UMC families who can afford a SFH. No matter how much sense it might make to build up instead of out, especially for busy families with two parental jobs and multiple kid activities, the market isn’t buying it. Why share walls and floors and elevators and garage space with virtual strangers if you don’t have to?

  39. San Fran doesn’t have the public transportation that other cities have to handle the density. A young cousin is moving there this summer to work in the peninsula. He’s 22 so he wants to live in San Fran and commute. BART isn’t exactly the NYC subway. You can’t go to many places, and adding more and more cars isn’t great.

    I don’t think some of these cities have the infrastructure to handle these huge apt buildings. Toronto is another example where there is some public transit, but the population grew ” up” into those towers that developers kept building. Traffic is a mess.

    I drove to Brooklyn for the first time in decades to go to the concert. I go to Brooklyn all of the time via subway. Driving there was torture. The development in Brooklyn in the last decade has been insane, but there are subways to support some of this growth.

  40. Not much of a yard, to be sure, but townhomes and high-rise apartments don’t seem to appeal to UMC families who can afford a SFH.

    What makes you think they can afford it? The main impediment to living in a downtown high rise is the cost. At least around here, it’s the cost per square foot and the need for private school.

  41. San Fran doesn’t have the public transportation that other cities have to handle the density.

    Then build it.

  42. I’ve thought about urban planning in high cost areas, because that’s where jobs tend to be. A problem of democracy is that current residents have 100% of the decision making power and future residents (to the extent they are not the same people) have 0%. I’ve heard similar arguments lead to the conclusion that children, at least, should have voting privileges. I wouldn’t go there, but lack of a future voice is a problem of democracy.

  43. Rhett, I almost choked because Inwas laughing so hard. I walked down 2nd Ave today because I was on the upper east side. They’ve been talking about a second ave subway for my entire life. A few stations will open soon, but it took decades. I have no idea how long it took LA to build a train, but you’re taking about decades from now.

  44. you’re taking about decades from now.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. “We” decided to put a lot of veto points into the process of getting something built. “We” could decide to reduce the number of veto points to speed up development.

  45. Having lived through the metro expansion over the last 10 years, building public transportation is very difficult, time-consuming and expensive. And it brings a lot of crime to the area. We just moved to one of the houses that Scarlett describes. I wouldn’t be up for spending the same amount of money on a condo in DC.

  46. I like what he said about Cruz, ” I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” No, tell us what you really think.

  47. You couldn’t pay me to live in Georgetown. Ugh. I don’t even like going there to eat lunch. It is a total cluster.

  48. Traffic (it is so bad), students, DC govt, no metro, hard to run errands.

    If I am spending that much money, depending on where I worked, I would buy in Chevy Chase Village, McLean or North Arlington. People I know with kids who spent that much on housing in DC have done exclusively on big houses – Wesley Heights and Spring Valley (although Spring Valley has its own issues since they have buried munitions).

  49. Everywhere. Not the residential streets, but anywhere you want to walk to go somewhere. And it is a PITA with a stroller or litte kids. Brick everywhere, lots of stairs, rude students. Can you tell that I hate it?

  50. hard to run errands.

    Isn’t pretty much anything you’d need: groceries, haircut, doctor, dentist, clothes, etc. on M street, which is two blocks away?

  51. There are lots of hair places. Some clothing, but not much that is geared toward my age group. Definitely targeting the students. There is a Dean and Deluca but no read grocery store. Some docs and dentists, but I have never gone to any of them even when I lived around there.

  52. I’ve mentioned trees before but here I saw something interesting. In an older area with few blocks of build able land, developers are filling in any open plots available but first to hide the big hole in the ground and all the construction they plant trees around the property, so everything is hidden and voila one day the whole set of houses is ready, trees are taller and everything blends nicely into the existing neighborhood built at the turn of the century ie the year 2000.

  53. Louise – that seems like a great idea – no naked yard! Are they able to stay away from the trees (roots and branches) during the building process?

  54. Ssk – they try to keep what trees they can around the property or as I said start putting in trees as soon as they can. I have often thought that clock towers or cupolas or some weird feature doesn’t make sense but lo and behold it is all hidden soon by trees.

  55. I have often thought that clock towers or cupolas or some weird feature doesn’t make sense but lo and behold it is all hidden soon by trees.

    “The doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

  56. I agree with Kate on Georgetown. Not at all user-friendly, lousy public schools, and a miserable car trip to most of the private school options. No Metro either. And even if you have a garage, there is no place for your friends to park when they come to your house.
    It IS a nice place to walk around early on Sunday morning though.

  57. Do the children of the affluent really while away countless hours playing in the yard? If they are going to be inside or at an organized activity anyway, wouldn’t it be easier if everything you needed was in a three block radius?

    The affluent have no desire to live in a two-bedroom apartment. The inside space is as big of a reason as the outside space for why people prefer to live in houses when they have kids.

  58. The affluent have no desire to live in a two-bedroom apartmen

    That explains why London, Paris, Zurich, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Sydney and Seoul are so cheap.

  59. It’s strange that no affluent people want to live in a two bedroom yet this place rents for $42k a month….

  60. Comedian Jim Gaffigan lives (or lived) in a two bedroom apartment with 5 kids. In his book Dad is Fat he goes through the nightly bedtime ritual (with drawings) of how he and his wife spend their evenings shifting the kids and themselves between the various bedrooms.

  61. I imagine that there are a ton of affluent people who want to live in two bedroom apartments. But the vast majority of affluent people in DC who have children do not.

  62. Rhett, I like the bathroom. I think a Baby Bjorn potty chair would add just the right touch, and with those windows, all the neighbors could admire us.

  63. all the neighbors could admire us.

    The nearest neighbors would appear to be office workers in the Emprie State Building two miles away. I doubt they can see in.

  64. Plus it’s bound to be one-way glass. WCE, it’s a status symbol thing, to be the highest level in the highest building, having privacy and quiet in the middle of a huge city, and literally showing that you’ve made it to the top.

  65. I like it, though. Much more light and bright. And not nearly as many wind tunnels.

  66. There are high rises in Bethesda and Ballston and Tyson’s but very few school aged kids in any of them.

  67. Rosslyn, too. When we were looking for our first house (before we had kids), we looked at a few. They were very pretty but tiny. Can’t imagine having even one kid in one. Plus, I was sure how I would take the dog out at night with a (future) baby when my husband was gone.

  68. In the category of things you didn’t know you should be thankful for – I am thankful that my spouse and I do not live in a 2-bedroom apartment with 5 kids. Oh my,

    (And my favorite entry in that category remains my undying gratitude that I was not the poor woman who had 2 sets of twins in under 12 months.)

  69. Rhett – You know I’m with you 100% on this, but people love the suburbs. I know we are outliers on this. I don’t put as much value on living in a SFH, but most of our suburban friends seem appalled that we are still in a city condo with no desire to have “a basement and a yard”. It’s a signifier of adulthood too somehow I think in people’s minds.

    I also agree with Lauren. My kid loves wasting time outside, but he does it at the many fantastic city parks in our immediate neighborhood that we don’t have to maintain.

  70. FWIW, I don’t understand Georgetown the neighborhood either. There’s practically no public transit, and it’s not walking/biking distance to much either really, is it? Why would you want to live there as a family? I’d think there are many more DC-proper neighborhood that are more desirable plus there’s always Arlington/Alexandria.

  71. People with kids tend to prefer to live places where their kids can play basketball in their rooms without disturbing the neighbors below.

  72. Relatives of mine, live in the same city as Ivy (I think). They have a 3 story city house around 5,000 sq. ft. There are no parks near by. The house overlooks a parking lot in the front, across the street. The climate, is such that they are indoors at home or at activities for much of the year. Their upstairs terrace and two bedrooms/baths never get used. The basement is used by the kids but what gets the most use is the open kitchen/family room. The outdoor area attached to family room does get used for summer BBQs. When I visited for two weeks in the winter, I started to feel very hemmed in. The city scape around the house is not inviting at all. Safe, but no cute shops or restaurants. The kids watched a lot of TV and played video games, you couldn’t really say “go outside”.

  73. When my brother was a single 20-something and I was in college, he owned a 2-BR high-rise condo in Midtown in one of the affordable cities praised by the graphic in the OP. It was spacious, had great views, a swimming pool, a fitness center, and (most importantly) an attached parking garage where he owned two spots: one for his Jeep and one for his 911.

    Needless to say, I was impressed. I could be fine living there in a 3-BR with older kids (but the garage is an absolute must-have). DW and I have mentioned the possibility that if we ever have our lake house, we could also keep a small condo in a city, somewhere we can go, especially in the winter, for good restaurants and that sort of thing. But when my parents were looking for a second place and I mentioned the possibility of a waterfront condo with amenities and a boat slip, they had no interest whatsoever, and I suspect that L’s parents are the same way. It’s a little bit generational, and also like Ivy’s friends, where no matter how many slideshows you produce of $40,000,000 apartments, multi-unit living is always going to be a step down.

  74. , multi-unit living is always going to be a step down.

    If that we true, it would be cheaper rather than much more expensive.

  75. I think the American Dream of living in a SFH with your own yard is alive and well, as you can see by all these responses!

    Milo, I am looking forward to telling the kids to “go outside” and not constantly checking that they aren’t going into the front yard next to the street. :)

  76. Rhett – My Dad grew up in an urban duplex, reared by parents who were always saving to someday buy a single-family home out in the country. They did this–bought their state-of-the-art raised ranch in Rockland County with a big yard, a two-car garage, and even a trash compactor!–only after he went to college.

  77. A question for all you savvy techies: If you left your wallet at home and only have your iPhone, can you pay for stuff? Can you get cash? Can you set up your phone with an app of some kind? (Assume you don’t a credit card linked to iTunes because you hate iTunes.) Asking for a friend.

  78. CofC,

    You can pay for Starbucks and Uber of course. You can also use ApplePay, but you have to set it up which would require having the card number, the code on the back, etc. And, not every place is set up to use Apple or Android Pay.

  79. Thanks, Rhett! Too bad the Uber driver can’t give cash back. :) I may be able to get the credit card info to my “friend”. There seems to be a way to set up Apple Pay by manually inputting card info.

  80. The kindness of NYC strangers: Some random person overheard my friend’s plight and gave him $12.

  81. On second thought, instead of the city condo-as-cosmopolitan-refuge-from-the-lake, I think I’d rather have the sort of coastal cruising trawler I’ve shared on here, and it could still be docked in or close enough to the city.

  82. ““We” decided to put a lot of veto points into the process of getting something built. “We” could decide to reduce the number of veto points to speed up development.”

    True. But that “we” is the collective “we” — not just residents of SF, but residents of CA, and residents of the other 49 states as well. Most restrictions are not local — they are state and federal. So if I live in SF, I may care so much about traffic that I am willing to create variances from, say, historical preservation standards, or environmental impact assessments, or hoops to get federal transportation funding/issue bonds/get state budget approval, or whatever. But if I live in TX or MD or ID or AZ, I’m much more likely to care about preserving history or making sure environmental impacts are evaluated properly than about expediting a new subway that has nothing to do with my life.

    This is also one reason why it is easier to add new requirements than streamline existing ones: democracy means you can add new requirements when more people enjoy the benefits than suffer the consequences. Which means the universe of sufferers has to expand dramatically before you have critical mass to revoke that requirement once it is in place.

  83. That houseboat barge reminds me of Sleepless in Seattle. I love that kid in the movie.

  84. Once the kids are grown, I would love to live in a fancy apartment in a city. I like high density living. But, with kids, it is so nice to have a yard where they can go without me and a basement where they can run around when the weather isn’t nice. And a garage to store all of their bikes and scooters and balls and the stroller. And no one living below to complain when they have a jumping contest 20x/day.

  85. Totally off-topic, I am having way too much fun with DS’s research project. He has already chosen a house (he wants warmer and near the beach but where he could find something less than $300K and get a job, so he chose Charleston suburbs), a car (Maserati convertible — we saw one two years ago parked outside a restaurant, and he has been transfixed ever since — but I found him a deal on a used one. :-) ), a vacation (2-week Caribbean cruise), and college funds (he has flat-out decided on Harvey Mudd, so that was easy). And he still has $250K-ish left. So I have been playing on realtor.com looking for multi-family units in the Charleston suburbs for him. :-) He, of course, just rolls his eyes.

  86. Renting an apartment sounds appealing to me as an older person. However, I am sensitive to neighbors’ noises, so I would want something very well insulated.

    Related to our GPS/navigation post earlier this week, a local wildlife preserve is having an orienteering event this weekend. Supposedly orienteering is “is a fast-growing outdoor activity”, spurred on in popularity by the TV show “Amazing Race”.

  87. “So I have been playing on realtor.com looking for multi-family units in the Charleston suburbs for him. :-) ”

    Get multi-family in the city in the rapidly gentrifying area well north of College of Charleston before it’s too late. Rent it to college students’ parents and med students/nurses/residents at the multiple hospitals.

  88. “Maserati convertible — we saw one two years ago parked outside a restaurant, and he has been transfixed ever since — but I found him a deal on a used one. :-) ”

    That was what my brother did for the Carrera 4 convertible. Then he realized that it’s really not a great daily driver in the city, especially with a very heavy clutch, so a used Cherokee with leather and all the features came next and lowered his total insurance bill considerably.

  89. Very nice LfB. DS loves Bugattis for some reason. He is always talking about his fictional Bugatti.
    On yards….my kids use not only our yards but our neighbor’s yards and their swings, ziplines, balance lines plus their garages and outdoor porches. In the summer the parents keep their fridges stocked with Popsicles.

  90. This boat is nice. And “trailerable” probably means an F-350 diesel dually, but still. You can trailer that out to Lake Tahoe and live aboard for a couple months.

    I just looked to see if you could get a jake brake on an F-350 super duty diesel and you can! That’s reason enough just on its own!

  91. we have to have a yard for DS, he is too wild to be cooped up indoors, and too loud for apartment neighbors

  92. there is a giveaway for an ARC of a certain anticipated 2nd novel on Goodreads right now…

  93. “DS loves Bugattis for some reason. He is always talking about his fictional Bugatti.”

    Wow — now there’s an order of magnitude difference! I love them too, but I can find a Maserati for five figures.

    @Milo — I was debating whether to make him price out insurance and gas, too. :-) Once he got the basics done and was debating what else to buy, he said “I guess I could get a second car.” And I said, “you can get another Maserati, for your loving mother.” He said, “No. You already have the Mustang.” So if he does go pro in something, I apparently shouldn’t get my hopes up too high. . . .

    I also really like the idea of the city condo for part of the year and then a second place in a scenic area (for us, Taos). That’s our plan, at least — whenever I think of selling the house, though, I kind of panic and clench up, so we’ll see.

  94. “He said, “No. You already have the Mustang.” ”

    Can’t argue with practicality.

    Thinking about coastal recreational trawlers and comparing it to the Chevy Volt, I’m wondering what Finn and WCE think about the possibility of them going to electric drive propulsion in 20 years. Recall that (at least the original) Chevy Volt was a totally electrically driven car that just happened to have a small gasoline-powered generator onboard that could keep the batteries charged if necessary. Right now trawlers have a 400 hp diesel engine, plus maybe an 8kW onboard generator. So wouldn’t it be kind of neat to instead have a Li battery bank that can maybe get you 10-20 miles of electric cruising before the generator (your only engine) fires up to charge the batteries and/or drive the motor? And if you’re economical about it, you could do most of your recharging at night hooked up to the marina’s shore power.

    Keep in mind that diesel locomotives have been purely electric-drive for 40? 50? years.

  95. whenever I think of selling the house, though, I kind of panic

    As you poor kids drag you kicking and screaming to assisted living, only to have you call two weeks later wondering why you waited so long.

  96. Busy yesterday. I lived in a SfH from 0 to 3 years of age and twice for temp 3 mo stints as an adult. Mom and I lived in flat apts. As a parent I lived in town homes or up and down duplexes. Post kids a large flat, remarried a large townhome. As long as stairs are not an issue, I find sharing a single well sound proofed wall to be the ideal in price per square ft and home like privacy. We did make one tradeoff to get everything we need in location public transit walkability Sq footage price. That was outdoor parking, which has turned out to be much less of a hassle than expected. We needed space for the grand piano, but it turns out that our space also ensures a welcome steady stream of family visitors, so the small two bedroom flat would have been a poor choice.

    L’s parents are pretty young, IIRC. Out in the area where she is moving, they would do best to get a small 3br 1 bath house soundly maintained but dated, and do a TV style Reno with an open plan efficient modern kitchen family room, and a master suite out of two of the existing small bedrooms. Failing that, find a newish construction end townhouse with a garage in a nice complex. They won’t need the space for visitors because the homestead will be nearby.

  97. does anyone here have a patio home? aren’t they basically houses with no yard, right next to each other? they seem to be popular with older folks around here (not much yard to upkeep)

  98. wine – I’ve seen some neighborhoods that are “single-family condominiums.” SFHs with very small yards, but legally structured that all yards are commonly owned space. Some have a tiny cement slab off the kitchen where you can fit a grill, and it’s aggressively fenced in. That part is strange to me, but it keeps you from doing any yard maintenance or sharing walls.

  99. There are lots of patio home communities here — they call them “villas” — and we have friends living there. Some are all seniors, others have families with kids past the backyard swingset age. Because the outdoor space is commonly maintained, there is a certain Stepford-like sameness to the landscaping that I find offputting. Plus, it is VERY difficult to tell the houses apart. But the higher-end communities are very appealing, and I could see living there when I can’t manage to do much yardwork but still want a private outdoor living space.

  100. Some of my older neighbors who had moved to my neighborhood in retirement realized that although the homes were one level, they were very big for two people and the yards too large for upkeep. They have moved to town homes or condos. The town homes with patios and space for plants. The town home communities here feel more open than rigidly fenced in.

  101. There are a few exurban communities nearby with sf condos and that would be an ideal compromise. There were none that met my public transit requirements when we were looking. We have very nice landscaping in our 21 unit complex, and there is variety in the shape of the kitchen bay, partial brick front versus all frame, and because it is on a hill whether the basement is walkout or not. but of course the personalization is on the interior. Since it is not a SFH, there is no expectation that cookie cutter can be avoided. If I lived today in the DC area, I would have ample choice of equivalent townhouses including a garage with metro access at the same price point.

  102. “‘whenever I think of selling the house, though, I kind of panic’

    As you poor kids drag you kicking and screaming to assisted living, only to have you call two weeks later wondering why you waited so long.”

    Hey, family traditions are important.

  103. My parents moved yesterday out the house they have lived in for 43 years! They decided to sell it a few months too late (oil prices were starting to drop), but it did sell within a month, and they are moving to an apartment. It isn’t a retirement community, just a nice complex where they have a parking garage that will take them to their 4th floor apt. I am so thrilled that they decided to downsize while still pretty healthy. They are a few miles closer in towards downtown, probably halfway between where my siblings live and their golf club.

  104. For me, I want to be in a city, not an exurb, because I think it is likely to keep me going and active longer. Because (a) I will be able to walk to the shops/services/public transport, which is healthier than driving everywhere; (b) being in a city would make getting the car out and driving a hassle, so I would be less tempted to do so; and (c) I will likely be able to walk longer than I can drive, so having services/transport in walking distance will keep me independent longer.

  105. A lot of high rises have cement floors/ceilings. You can’t hear a thing from above. Next to you – depends on the layout/materials. Sometimes hallway noise is the biggest issue when it comes to neighbors. And most high rises have locked storage lockers. But yes – shared parking lots (inside) with an assigned spot.

    It’s part of the house shopping research.

  106. “I will likely be able to walk longer than I can drive”

    People say this, but I just don’t buy it. You may be able to walk short distances, but that’s quite a bit different from actually walking from home to the grocery store and carrying or wheeling a bunch of groceries on the way back.

    There are a Hell of a lot of old people in this country who still manage to drive (in daylight), but require handicapped parking spaces because they can only manage short distances walking (and Grandpa might just stay in the car to “relax.”) My grandparents in their later years fell into this category.

    Yet Totebaggers so often think they’re going to be different and will somehow lose the ability to operate a car and wisely give up driving, but will simultaneously be able to maintain the ability to walk many blocks to their appointments and carry home all their groceries and household needs.

  107. I agree with Milo. And after having experienced a period of disability that affected my ability to walk, I imagine it would be hell to try to get around public transportation in a city. I’d much rather have my car and handicap parking sticker.

  108. @Milo: Ok, let me rephrase that: I adore driving, as fun/sport/hobby. Which means I detest driving in traffic, with a gazillion other people in my way. And I hate living somewhere where I *have* to drive to get anything. I could likely stay in my general area, where I have restaurants/shops/libraries/etc. within a few blocks, and groceries/doctors/hospitals within a mile or two, but I will not want to maintain the house and property. A city like Manhattan/DC, with restaurants/shops and a Metro station within a block or two, gives me the same free access to get where I need to go without having to whip the car out.

    I also know I’m lazy. If the closest services are a half-mile away, I am gonna get in my car and go there. And that will be my habit and then will become automatic, even if I am physically capable of walking it (hell, from 15-40+, I walked to the HS every single time; now I drive it every single time, because DH defaults to driving everywhere, and I let that become our habit). OTOH, if I have a coffee shop or bodega two blocks away, I’m gonna walk there, even if I’m 85. And making myself get up out of the house for tea or a quart of milk is, I think, going to be better for me in the long run.

    It’s not that I think that I will be exempt from the physical frailties of old age. It’s more that I am acutely aware of my existing mental frailties (a/k/a lazy-ass creature of habit). So I want to put myself in an environment that encourages the behaviors that I think will keep me healthier and more active longer. Obviously, if the body fails first, I reassess.

  109. I gotcha. It’s personal preference then, which makes sense.

    But also keep in mind that plenty of old people are keeping their health up with a little bit of gardening, leaf raking, patio sweeping, lawn mowing, etc.

    It’s not you, but there’s this narrative among a lot of young’ish people that the key to health and independence in old age is ditching the house (because all the work I mentioned above is useless and limiting, apparently) and living downtown where you can simply walk to everything you need until you’re 95.

  110. “little bit of gardening, leaf raking, patio sweeping, lawn mowing, etc.”

    I’d rather walk :)

  111. My street has several couples and a widow in their 70’s or hitting 80 who maintain their 5+ acre yards. It’s a lifestyle choice, like Milo said. I don’t know everyone’s history, but I know one woman grew up on a ranch in Arizona, where she rode her horse for miles from breakfast till supper. Coffee shops aren’t high on her “to-do” list, though she does participate in a local exercise class for seniors.

  112. “what Finn and WCE think about the possibility of them going to electric drive propulsion in 20 years. ”

    I’m thinking you know a lot more about this than I.

    But aren’t subs with this sort of propulsion systems a big concern of the Navy?

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