108 thoughts on “Tuesday open thread

  1. The article:

    Millions of people have spent far more time at home than they expected to this year. It’s made many of them daydream about what it might be like to live somewhere else, often while scrolling through listings on Zillow.

    “I go into neighborhoods that obviously I can’t afford as a college student and look at my ideal house and fantasize about when this is all over,” said Crystal Silva, 20, who lives in North Carolina. She spends hours at a time surfing the app, touring homes she’ll never buy.

    She’s likely not alone in that. Zillow usage has climbed since March, with online visitors to for-sale listings up more than 50 percent year-over-year in the early months of the pandemic.

    People bond over listings on Discord servers, group chats and “Zillow Twitter,” and their obsession has made many strange and obscure listings go viral. Curbed, a website covering city life, real estate and design, recently started a column called My Week in Zillow Saves, in which people (myself included) share the homes they’ve admired on the site.

    What many are contemplating when they browse Zillow and similar home buying sites — like Redfin, Trulia and Realtor.com — is not necessarily a purchase, but an alternate life. Zillow surfing has become a primary form of escapism for those who want to flee not just their homes but the reality of 2020.

    Ione Damasco, 45, an academic librarian in Ohio, said that she started to open up Zillow every day on her lunch break not long ago. “It’s a really personal thing,” she said. “It’s me daydreaming about what’s possible down the road. Right now I feel like the future is so uncertain, there’s something therapeutic about searching houses and starting to make plans for something with a positive outcome. It makes me think there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and someday I’ll be at my dream house.”

    The amount of data Zillow provides, some say, is key in aiding their fantasies. While platforms like Pinterest and Instagram offer an endless stream of beautiful interiors, Zillow provides images, data, video tours and highly detailed information on each house. It’s easier to picture your future when you have access to the floor plan of the space or know which school your children would attend if you lived there.

    Some will go to great lengths to find new and interesting houses. “I’ll see a house on Instagram then go to Google Maps to try to find the house using street view, then go to Zillow to look up what it’s currently worth, who bought it and historical price data,” said Kelsey Steele Cooper, 24, a hotel manager in Arkansas. “I’d like to think that hasn’t become my hobby, but I’ll use three different apps to take a look at this house that’s 1,000 miles away from me. That’s how much time we have on our hands in 2020.”

    The pandemic has also upended many people’s priorities when it comes to housing; even those who’d never thought about moving now dream of more space or a backyard. Jenny Xie, an editor at Curbed, said many people who weren’t previously looking for a home are now considering moving or have broadened their housing searches.

    “You hear about friends or friends of friends moving,” Ms. Xie said. “If your friend recently bought something it’s like, ‘Oh, let me see what I can get two hours outside of New York.’ Suddenly you’re exploring possibilities.” Houston, Dallas and Atlanta are now hot housing markets, according to data provided by Zillow. Traffic to listings in those cities has jumped 88 percent from last year.

    That said, most Zillow surfers simply enjoy the hunt.

    Tucker Boner, 27, began streaming Zillow hunts on Twitch nearly three years ago, and has seen a bump in interest since the pandemic. He said the majority of his viewers are young millennials or members of Gen Z, people who may never have the independent means to purchase a home. “This isn’t a 9-to-5-job-and-everyone-gets-a-home kind of economy,” he said.

    The sheer absurdity of listings also makes for engaging content. “It’s really fun to have a virtually unending supply of very interesting things to look at,” Mr. Boner said. “There’s always going to be someone with too much money and too much creativity that results in some Frankenstein of a home.”

    Zillow surfing is especially popular among teenagers. A TikTok meme over the summer consisted of users talking about knowing where the bathrooms were in their friend’s or crush’s house before ever visiting it because they had toured all of their classmates’ homes on Zillow. Many young people have extensive lists of saved homes and discuss and share listings with friends.

    “We don’t have control over where we live because most of us live in our parents’ home,” Ms. Silva said, “so being able to create this world where I pick where I live and what house I live in regardless of price is fun.”

    After Ariel Norling, 29, a designer in Oakland, made a name for herself on Zillow Twitter by identifying unique, enviable listings around the country, she started a weekly house-hunting newsletter on Substack called I Know A Spot. “I’ve always been a Zillow scroller,” she said, “but it’s been a big activity for me as a part of quarantine. I felt like I was running out of things to do, Zillow felt like a different kind of outlet.”

    Ali Zaidi, 40, an attorney in Boston, prefers Redfin over Zillow, and has made checking the site part of his morning routine, despite the fact that he has no plans to buy a house. “It’s part of my morning,” he said. “I log into my work email, check different media outlets, then one of the websites I open up is always Redfin.”

    He compared the serotonin rush of seeing beautifully staged homes to checking social media and seeing pictures of people’s private lives. “I get the same sort of joy from looking into Redfin as I do on Facebook or Instagram,” he said. “I find it interesting and almost voyeuristic.”

    What makes Zillow different from those social networks, though, is the absence of people, the writer Brian Feldman noted in his newsletter, BNet, this summer. “It has no engagement loop, no social interactions, no real network effects to speak of,” he wrote. “It is a giant canvas onto which people project their desires and insecurities, and a constantly evolving document not just of the housing market, but of how people lived.”

    Though the site hasn’t delved into social networking yet, many users have begged Zillow to add a comment section where surfers can connect and bond over listings.

    “I think for a lot of people, Zillow feels like the opposite of doomscrolling,” Ms. Norling said. “You’re stuck in your apartment, maybe you can’t move, but it’s easy to look at listings and imagine yourself in a different life. And maybe in that life Covid isn’t happening.”

  2. We’ve been watching a Santa Cruz property drop slowly from $10M to $6M. We keep planning what we’ll do with it when it drops to $1M. It’s a huge property, lots of stables and corrals and things for horses, and I’m not really a horse person. I like horses fine, but not enough to spend all my time taking care of them. There would also be a ton of work maintaining the buildings and the land.

    I haven’t seen it listed lately, so maybe it sold. Oh well. On to the next property.

  3. The WSJ has thoughts about the housing market too.

    _____________________________
    When the Coronavirus Pandemic Settles Down, so Will Homeowners

    Usually housing gets hammered in recessions, but during this downturn it has flourished. Desperate for outdoor space, many families decamped from cities for the suburbs’ greener pastures. The ability to work remotely led to a surge in demand for second homes in vacation areas such as Cape Cod and Aspen. And historically low interest rates fueled the buying.

    That has led to a surge in demand, and prices, particularly in towns, suburbs and exurbs near major cities. Redfin, an online real estate platform, reports that median home prices were up 14.2% nationwide in October compared with a year ago. In Bridgeport, Conn., an area within commuting distance of New York City, median prices were 39.4% higher.

    But just as the housing market has roared amid the coronavirus pandemic, it could cool with its passing—at least temporarily.

    The vaccines that were announced this month look as if they may become widely available by next spring and summer. That matters for the housing market because those seasons are historically when the most homes get sold: Data from the National Association of Realtors shows that about 40% of sales contracts for previously owned homes are signed over the four months starting in March.

    Vaccination could alter the calculus for city dwellers considering moves to the suburbs. If schools look as if they will go back to being in person next fall, the need for extra space becomes a bit less pressing. Moreover, this year’s spikes in home sales may have pulled forward housing activity that otherwise might have taken a few years to play out. Some urban couples who would normally have put off a suburban move until they had school-age children already have bitten the bullet.

    Still, there will be long-term effects that could affect not just the housing market, but the overall economy.

    Having proven their ability to work remotely during the pandemic, more people will be able to work away from the office at least some of the time when the crisis is over. That makes the prospect of longer commutes to the office a little less onerous, increasing the appeal of living in the suburbs and exurbs.

    Owning a vacation home may now make more economic sense, too. The ability to work remotely for several weeks during school summer holidays, for example, makes a condo on the beach or bungalow in the mountains that much more enticing. By the same token, it may be easier to generate income renting to families looking for a similar remote work experience, which could be a win for home share platforms such as Airbnb and Expedia Group’s Vrbo.

    Companies’ experience with remote work during the pandemic also could embolden more of them to establish satellite offices in places where young workers are eager to live and where lower living costs make it possible to pay those workers less. That could be boon for cities such as Boulder, Colo., and Bend, Ore.

    The resulting changes in the housing market could have major effects on the economy. Fewer people commuting to work on any given day would reduce premiums on office space while taking a bite out of the sales of restaurants and retailers in business districts. Even slight sales losses could be a death sentence for businesses with low margins.

    Lower tax revenues for cities losing population could pinch their finances, prompting them to raise taxes and reduce services, making them less attractive places to live. Municipalities on the receiving end of population shifts could boom, but will have to provide services and infrastructure to handle an influx of new residents.

    _____________________________

  4. DH and I are guilty of zillow and vrbo scrolling. We mainly look at mountain properties. Lately I’ve been running in neighborhoods/cities that aren’t my own. This has led me to see some amazing unique houses, and when I get home I zillow them to try to find out details about them – when they were built, if there is a famous architect associated with them, etc. (TCM – Highland Park neighborhood has been fun).

  5. SIL and her husband just bought a huge lake house – about 3,500 sqft plus a separate bunk house. They figured since his working from home and the kids are doing remote school for now, they might as well stay on a lake. The irony is they have to get a smaller boat, because their current one is too big for this lake.

  6. NYtimes has a great series called The Hunt. Every week they profile someone looking to upgrade their apartment or house. They present the constraints and the options, and then let readers vote on which one. The final part is the reveal – which one was chosen?
    Some people profiled are more constrained than others – looking for a studio, for example, and some like these guys have fewer constraints

  7. We’ve gotten some of those cards from real estate agents bragging about the houses they’ve recently sold in the neighborhood, and the prices. Everything is selling within a few days, and usually for a bit over asking. But “asking” has still not shown any great appreciation over the past decade. Not that it should, just commenting that, in our market, any recent enthusiasm ought to be tempered.

    Rhett – for some people, like DD’s family, this has been the motivation to buy the second house. For others, they’re not in the second home category, but now may be willing to live farther from their jobs if teleworking, even part time, is an option, and/or they want more space with kids home, or their anticipated need for more space has been accelerated by a few years.

  8. Here is another one, this time a more “normal” person – single mom looking in Inwood.

  9. We have enough space, even with everyone at home. However our house needs to be reconfigured to work better for the future. It’s not the square footage but the layout and the purpose of various rooms.

    My DD, is one of the Tik Tokers who design their living spaces in their head or on Pinterest. The parental home has been found to be inadequate.

  10. MM – I like playing the guessing game on The Hunt. But mostly I get it wrong because they invariably leave out crucial details about the various options, like distance to subway station or noisy construction next door. The other game I like is guessing the asking prices in the “Homes for Sale” section in the Sunday Times. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

  11. “My DD, is one of the Tik Tokers who design their living spaces in their head or on Pinterest.”

    I used to spend hours doing that as a kid. But I only had pencil and paper.

  12. Hahahaha, DH and I have been Zillow house hunters since we met, for YEARS. Before it was cool! ;) Actually that is how we found L’Abbey, DH was trolling real estate listings and came across it. We weren’t even looking to move at the time and we knew nothing about the town, just the house! We tend to look at stuff in places we want to move – so lake houses, houses near where we go in the summer, etc. DH branches that out to Hawaii and NYC but I have more limited interest in good views with no land and white boxes in the sky than he does. :)

  13. Lemon Tree – I should do what you are doing and check out other neighborhoods to. It is fun to mix it up. DH and I like to drive around and look at houses in different neighborhoods. We haven’t done that for awhile. I love looking at real estate listings and seeing how people decorate.

    I commented to DH that we could move to his hometown in rural Iowa and buy a house for $30,000 and be making bank while working remotely. He responded that there is nothing to do there and that he’d kill himself if he had to live there, so I guess we aren’t moving :)

    Covid has made me appreciate my house and location even more. It is the right size for us now and will still be comfortable when the kids move out. I like our current location too, even though my brother who lives in the exurbs tells me that my city is so dangerous that I can’t even go outside (eye roll).

  14. DH and I have been discussing where we want to live when we return to the home country. I LOVE my hometown, but now that I’ve experienced weather like this the thought of 90% humidity for 11 months of the year makes me sad. We’ve proved we can work remotely with our jobs so there’s really no geographic constraint. So I’ve started hunting around on Zillow, but haven’t found a place I’m 100% sold on.

  15. My pet theory is that folks who end up working from indefinitely are going to gravitate to places that have a lot to offer. Part of this is because by not having to commute they will have more hours in the day to do stuff. The other part is because being stuck at home all day they will want some interaction. So I would say demand for lake, beach and mountain homes increases. And demand for urban areas with a lot of activities also increases. I think that would come at the expense of commuter belt suburbs.

    I was doing some googling and only about 1/3 of new home buyers have minor children at home. I also read that COVID has resulted in quite the baby bust. It’s interesting to think how events impact the arc of one’s life. A kid today will be applying to colleges when there are at least 500k fewer kids competing for slots and when its time to get a job the same will be true.

  16. I think some people that left the city are going to hate the burbs when things return to normal. I am someone that still gets a happy surge when I am in cities like NY, London, DC, Chicago etc. There are lots of cliches and books, TV, movies about the suburbs for a reason. It isn’t for everyone and I think people don’t know what they really bought into because everyone is still hiding in their rural or suburban homes. Just wait a year or two when things return to normal for school and they meet their neighbors and see what the kids/schools and parents are like in their new towns. There are others that won’t have buyers remorse, but most of these new homeowners haven’t spent a winter in the new place yet. The endless repairs, and hassle of dealign with snow and cold. Also, I hope they researched the people because the twins and villages are very different. I lives miles from Mooshi, but our schools and neighbors are very different.

    I would NEVER buy the home that I live in now if I was a first time homebuyer coming from the city. We knew so little even though we had some help from friends and relatives that lived in nearby areas for decades. Little things can have a big impact. I would give anything to be Ivy and have a second chance, but there is no way that I can ever convince DH at this point in our lives. It will have to wait until DD is almost done/done with college until we can make our move.

  17. Yeah, this is definitely me. DH and I were seriously looking at upgrading in Taos the week before everything shut down. There’s a unit in our complex for sale at a price that suggests that ours is worth a lot more than we thought, so we wanted to see if we could upgrade to a 3 Br place for maybe another $100K. But when we started thinking about the stuff we want longer-term — like some sort of shop space for DH, room for a hot tub, etc. — it became pretty clear that we’re talking SFH, and the delta for the areas/character/space we like is more like $250-$300K, and that just doesn’t make sense. Also, Taos town has now outlawed short-term rentals, supposedly per COVID, but it’s something there’s been political support for before. Given that our plan was to shift to short-term rentals and just block out the times we wanted, it doesn’t make sense to more than double our investment there before we know if that will even be an option.

    I’ve also been trolling Maine listings since I got DH up there this summer, because BOY I’d like to avoid more MD summers. But I think DH is more toying with me on that as a possibility — or, at least, isn’t willing to settle for the kind of shack I am drawn to to get a reasonable price range, and neither of us is willing to spend more.

  18. My aunt’s house sold and closed in 30 days in the NY metro area. She thought the buyer would be from NYC looking to get out, but it was a fairly local family who could finally afford a home.

    I’m confident our house would sell quickly to a family from the Boston area. We are on the T now, and with remote work, it’s a perfect location. But we’re not moving. :)

    I have looked at real estate listings and “zillow house hunted” before zillow was a thing. I also used to design homes I’d like to live in. I still do. The design for our addition is 90% me and 10% architects. This whole mess has made me appreciate our area – it’s convenient to everything and there’s stuff to do. Did you know there’s an area of RI that has zero cell service? I found it this weekend. It was a fun walk/rock climb too! :)

  19. From what I have read of NYC real estate it’s probably demand pulled forward for the suburbs. There will be a bunch of people who would always want to live in the city but at the same time there are others who would have wanted more space and would have eventually moved.

    There is a baby bust but there will also be a baby boomlet when the pandemic wanes. I know couples who have had courthouse weddings this year and will be ready to have kids in the near future.

  20. “So I would say demand for lake, beach and mountain homes increases. And demand for urban areas with a lot of activities also increases. I think that would come at the expense of commuter belt suburbs.”

    I’ve thought of this also, which could mean my commuter suburb home could lose some of its appeal. However, the market niche of more space with a backyard yet 30 minutes from the city could endure, as opposed to the 2-hour drive to the city. Here’s a couple who went “full suburb”.

    “Going from a small apartment, I didn’t want a marginal upgrade,” Mr. Cruz said. “I wanted to go full suburb.” That meant a big kitchen, home-office space and parking for three cars.

  21. JM – how would you describe the weather/climate where you are now?

    Lauren – knowing what you know now, where would you have moved instead of your current town?

  22. And Lauren – not looking for a specific answer (specific town) – but more just wondering what criteria or considerations you would have taken into account. Like bigger or more walkable or bigger school district…. Or maybe you would have stayed in the City?

  23. I would NEVER buy the home that I live in now if I was a first time homebuyer coming from the city. We knew so little even though we had some help from friends and relatives that lived in nearby areas for decades. Little things can have a big impact.

    Can you say some more about what you don’t like about your home/location?

  24. One of the three units in our complex offered for sale hasn’t sold yet. It had an offer but they backed out over some settling in the foundation and a easily patched crack. The realtor should be able to work that out. He kept delaying putting it on the market to begin with. It is all profit to the seller, an older lady who moved into a retirement village. So there is often a window of opportunity.

  25. We have a one car garage and the opening for the car is narrow. Many of our neighbors never use their garage, but we do like to park our car in the garage because it means that we can just drive right out in bad weather. This isn’t possible since we have a one car garage. Also, we can’t park on the street overnight from December 1 to March 15 in our Town. This is every street in our Town due to snow removal. This means that we always have to clear off one car to even move the other car out of the garage. So, minor thing, but a hassle. It will be even a bigger headache once DD gets her car because two cars barely fit on our driveway. Same thing, I would never get a home with a short driveway in a Town that doesn’t allow overnight parking for a chunk of the year.

    Our home doesn’t have access to a bathroom go up/down stairs. We have a bathroom in our basement and we have a bathroom on the first floor. In order to get to the first floor, there are a lot of steps to get into my home. The basement has no stairs to enter through the garage, but there are two steps to get into the part of the basement with the bathroom. This all seems unimportant until your grandparents and eventually parents can’t even navigate one step. A wheel chair, walker, cane etc etc – every old person stopped coming to our home even before Covid.

    We have forced air for A/C and heat. We made the offer in June and moved closed in September. We didn’t ask for a year of electricity bills. We asked for the average cost. DUMB!!!! We came from apartments and homes with radiators and/or base board heat. We had NO idea that forced air is not so great when it comes to heat.

    Little things, but I would never move to a house in a cold climate with such a small garage. We need more garage space for our cars and for other stuff like our bikes. The heat means that we are constantly looking to spray insulation in walls whenever we do construction and we try to make the house warmer by upgrading windows and doors. A very large expense when you include all of the windows, labor and need for new window treatments.

  26. Also, I wouldn’t live in such small school district.There is one elementary, MS and HS. This means that kids are together for 13 years, and usually 16 if you include preschool because there are only handful of preschools. Very few people move in/out because this isn’t a transient place even though we are close to a major city. There are other communities in the county that have 4 or 5 elementary schools and 1 or 2 middle schools before everyone meets in HS. I think this is healthier for social reasons. There is usually a lot more economic diversity too. My kid happens to fit in, but it is very hard if you make a mistake or don’t fit socially. Labels stick and everyone knows everyone. All jokes aside about Naviance, but if I see one kid that got into a certain school – I can probably figure out who it is even if it was years ago.

  27. Lauren, I understand the shortcomings you described. Neighbors with short or one-lane driveways have similar problems. We can park cars side by side in our driveway. While we don’t have snow removal restrictions, we have very limited street parking that sometimes is a problem when we have guests. Also, I kick myself every time I remember we only enlarged our garage to one and half size instead of a full two-car garage back when we did our major renovation. At the time it was one of those “one more thing” costs that was substantial because it would have required backhoeing part of our yard and moving a stone retaining wall. We’ve also had issues with elderly guests climbing up the stairs to our front door. Sometimes we’ve had them go through the backyard and enter from there because there are not steps that way. These are all things to think about.

  28. Interesting. We have a standalone garage which has never been used as a garage. We just park both cars in the driveway, which means fun in the morning moving cars in and out. We also can’t park overnight on the street and we also can’t park for more than 4 hours on the street during the day.
    I like our house a lot, but 1) we had rented a house I truly despised in MA, so I had a long list of what I did not want in a house (no septic system and no well, ever, ever, ever). And then we did the addition which meant we got to customize a lot of things in the house. Maybe you should consider doing that?

  29. https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/59-Pondhills-Ct_Pleasant-Valley_NY_12569_M37293-94590

    You want space so you move out of the city and pay top dollar for something in the country. No worries everyone will be working home indefinitely. Then in 2-3 years you lose your job or a new VP comes in and says everyone needs to be back in the office and you’re 2 hours from NYC. That won’t work so you try and sell. Oh, the market has declined since the covid surge and if you want out of the house you’re going to need to bring $100k to the closing. Oh, you don’t have $100k? Well..that there is a problem now isn’t it.

    That senario doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar. But I guess that could be a function of people who are staying put not being featured in the NYTimes.

  30. Since it’s an open thread, I have to share my tongue-biting amusement. Remember my comment the other day about how DD has totally rejected the one study abroad program because I suggested it? Well, her study abroad advisor set her up to talk to the guy who runs that trip anyway, and she had like a half-hour call with him yesterday, and she came in *raving* about him and talking about how much easier it would make her course plan to do this trip instead of the other and complaining about how now she’s all torn about which option to take.

    Having learned my lesson (at least to some small degree), I said *nothing* (except “mmm-hmmm” and “wow” and “yeah”). ;-)

  31. My parents almost never used their garage when I was a kid, and neither did DH’s parents, so we are just not garage people. In MA, we had a garage, and a driveway that slope upwards so much that I would feel like I was in a rocket getting ready for takeoff when I got into my car. In the winter, my Subaru was the only car that could make it up the driveway so DH had to park in the street, and then his car would get buried by the snowplows. Did I ever mention how much snow we had there? Winters were an endless slog of digging out cars from 2 feet of snow. We also had no trash pickup so we had to contract with some Mafioso hauler to come get our garbage every week. God, I hated that place.

  32. “ I like our current location too, even though my brother who lives in the exurbs tells me that my city is so dangerous that I can’t even go outside (eye roll).”

    @TCM – Oh we get that too. Meh. And if I’m guessing correctly, my neighborhood is a bit more urban than yours. (That’s not a euphemism – I mean we are very close to downtown and there is more is a mix of housing vs lots of SFH.)

    I never really look at houses in other places – except when I click on links here & then start getting ads for houses in Annapolis or Seattle! We have never really had any serious interest in moving to the suburbs. Ask me again next spring when I am stressed about HS selection though.

    The people I see moving to the burbs now are mostly like someone unthread said – 30-somethings who were always going to move. Maybe it’s accelerating, I don’t know. I don’t know too many people who have made drastic moves, although the previous owners of our new house moved to a neighboring state to be closer to their parents. They were 30-somethings with kids approaching school age though, and the husband already worked remotely. So maybe they always planned on that.

    I am off this whole week and deep into the Thanksgiving prep. Maybe I should have just ordered everything from one of the restaurants…

  33. I’m fine with not using my garage in California; everyone parks on the driveway because it never snows. But after three years in Chicago I was all “As God as my witness, I will never scrape my windshield again”. So we have a big garage in Denver. Of course then I worked at a place with no covered parking so I scraped my windshield all the time for years.

  34. Our humidity…*sigh*. I have curly/frizzy hair, too. However, I’m saving a fortune in moisturizer–my friends from drier climates look 5+ years older than I do.

    I love our neighborhood and DH doesn’t want to leave, so we’re here for a while longer.

  35. We had a one car garage in MA with a longish driveway. We parked one car in the garage and one outside but our driveway still had to be cleared when it snowed to get the cars out. It was a major PITA especially with two small kids.
    A two car garage was a priority for me when we moved. We are one of few families, that actually park their cars in the garage. Most garages are either used as workshops or filled with stuff since we don’t have basements here.

  36. “We are one of few families, that actually park their cars in the garage. ”

    One of your many exemplary attributes.

  37. For us we learned a lot about what we wanted in a house the second time around. It was our starter home and the time had come to move and with it make choices on where we wanted to live. I spent a lot of time on City data forums because we knew nothing about the areas of the country we were looking to move to.

  38. Seattle – The best thing about the weather here is that they actually have four seasons. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The difference in the length of days between summer and winter is several hours. It goes from being daylight at 10:00 pm in the summer to getting dark at 5:00 pm in the winter. It’s gets cold, but not too cold. I think it only got below freezing a few times last year. It rarely snows. The biggest difference for me is the lack of humidity.

    Houston – I went to a Dr. appointment a few weeks ago and the lady didn’t believe I was the patient because she didn’t believe my age!! She couldn’t believe I was as old as I really am. It must be the humidity that has preserved my face. That and the fact that I haven’t been smoking a pack a day for the last 20 years.

  39. JM – that sounds a little bit like Seattle :-)

    Our house has worked out really well for us. It was the first house we looked at and we made an offer right away. We’ve been in for almost 25 years. However, it is not a good house for aging in place – lots of stairs. Both to get into the house and then once you’re inside. So I anticipate us looking for a different house when we are in our early/mid 60s. I don’t want to wait until we’re in our 70s.

  40. We park our cars in the garage as do the vast majority of the neighbors. As Lauren mentioned we have the seasonal no street parking (Nov 15-Apr 1 in our town). Now that we’re back down to 2 cars except when we’ve got visiting kids there’s no scraping/brushing before we can get rolling in the morning…not that we’re commuting.

    We had this house built for us 30yrs ago. Amazingly we have found very few things we wish we had done differently:
    – should have dual-zoned the HVAC to have the second story separate from the rest of the house.
    – should have scrapped the jacuzzi in the master bath for a more standalone tub. The jacuzzi was fun for the kids when they were young, but the number of baths, with the jets pumping or not, that we have taken certainly averages <1/yr. A more standalone tub would have made it possible to have a larger shower vs the current 30"x54" one. Which is big enough.

  41. Our house has worked out really well for us. It was the first house we looked at and we made an offer right away. We’ve been in for almost 25 years. However, it is not a good house for aging in place – lots of stairs. Both to get into the house and then once you’re inside.

    This is the exact same for us, aside from the first house we looked at part. We’ve been here 20 years and it’s been great. But it’s a tri-level so lots of going up and down stairs.

    We’ve always parked both cars in the garage. I wish it was about 5-10 feet wider, though. But I refuse to scrape my car in the winter. The kids get to do their cars :)

    The town where I grew up in NJ had no overnight parking on the street year round. Our driveway was wide enough for two cars so not a problem until my brother and I got cars then there was a lot of juggling.

    I agree with Lauren about the small school districts. Ours wasn’t quite as small – two elementary schools feeding to one junior high, then we joined with two other towns for HS – but similar social issues. If you didn’t fit in it stuck with you forever and there was never a possibility to reinvent yourself.

  42. We love our house (bought in August). We are at the top of the ridge and the wind blows and shakes everything (and I remind myself that if it hasn’t fallen down in the last 20 years, it is unlikely to now.) I have never lived in a place with such violent weather. Other places I have lived have had very cold, very hot, very grey, very deep snow, but not the violence. We get 100km winds. About once a month we get severe weather warnings, and then get 2 or 3 inches of rain in a few hours. Lots of flooding (fortunately not for our exposed house on the slope).

    It’s been quite the saga trying to get the carpets replaced. We had the floors measure and material ordered before we moved in. They then insisted they couldn’t do anything till we had new cabinets, because they can’t lay flooring under cabinets (and we were going to get new cabinets after). But everyone is so busy! We now have some new cabinets, torn up tile and wall to wall carpeting. Our vinyl plank is still waiting to be installed. I had hoped before Thanksgiving, but our builder just checked and they said that they might fit us in January. Definitely some version of Island Time. (And pent up demand for home improvement – everyone seems to have reallocated their travel budget to cabinets and granite counters).

  43. In a tangential, but related story, I identified a boarding school that I am hoping to send the eldest to in a year. We have only one local high school choice and I don’t think it will suit her well (nor me!). However, there is a very big (1500), state run 5-year high school about 90 minutes away. About 10% board, mostly people from communities like ours. If you are accepted to the boarding facility, then you suddenly live in-zone for the school and there is no charge for tuition. I think it provides a wide variety of opportunity (japanese! musical theater! printmaking! touch rugby AND tackle rugby) that the local school can’t, as well as a higher likelihood my weird kid can find some other weird kids.

    If she goes there and loves it, we may stay in small town much longer. We could even consider buying the adjacent property and building the dream house of glass and steel and concrete. There’s one vacant lot left on our street and it is next to, and a bit downhill from us, with access across our lower edge. Lots of potential.

  44. In our neighborhood some people put in pools during the pandemic. There was also more landscaping going on. Neighbors bought portable fire pits. There is one remodeled home that is not selling because the price is too high but other than that there was the usual turnover. A few families with young kids moved in, increasing our little kid count dramatically.

  45. Oh, the crazy thing about the school – the application is: fill out this one page form, ask your teacher to fill out this one page form, send us your most recent school comment (which is like a report card, but there are no grades). No essay, no test. It’s totally unclear how selective it is or how the selection is done.

  46. Ivy – yeah, our neighborhood is “urban” for around here but would be very suburban for larger cities.

    We have a single car garage built in 1925. I barely could fit my Honda Civic in it. Now it has mostly kid stuff and bikes stored in there. We could park in our driveway in the alley, but it is really hard to back out in the winter if there is any snow. We park on the street in front of our house. After 19 years of living here, I’m used to scraping my car off.

  47. Ada,

    Is that boarding school setup common in NZ or is this one somewhat unique?

    Every part of your story sounds like such an adventure. You’re a very good writer. Have you thought about keeping a journal or some notes for when you have more time? I bet a “Year in Provence” style book about your NZ adventure would be a big bit.

  48. “I’m fine with not using my garage in California; everyone parks on the driveway because it never snows.”

    In all the time I lived there, I always had a garage or carport, and used it for my car.

    But it was in CA that I heard the question, ‘why do people park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?”

  49. “JM – that sounds a little bit like Seattle “

    Seattle latitude 47.6062° N
    Paris latitude 48.8566° N

  50. “I’m confident our house would sell quickly to a family from the Boston area. We are on the T now, and with remote work, it’s a perfect location. But we’re not moving. :)”

    OTOH, if you or your DH want to change jobs, perhaps your search area could go out to Boston now.

  51. “It’s been quite the saga trying to get the carpets replaced. We had the floors measure and material ordered before we moved in. They then insisted they couldn’t do anything till we had new cabinets, because they can’t lay flooring under cabinets (and we were going to get new cabinets after). “

    When we had our kitchen remodeled, the cabinets went in before the flooring, with the flooring only extending up to the cabinets. When I remodeled our bathrooms, I discovered the same thing there. Since our flooring is/was still in good condition, we kept it, and I had to fit the cabinets into the existing openings in the flooring.

    I would not want to install cabinets on top of carpeting. That would make it harder to level them.

    Also, which do you think will last longer, the cabinets or the carpeting? With cabinets installed first, you could replace either without replacing the other.

    OTOH, if you go online, you’ll find there’s no consensus of whether cabinets should or shouldn’t be installed on flooring.

  52. “However, it is not a good house for aging in place – lots of stairs. “

    IMO, a house with stairs is better for aging in place, until you can no longer negotiate them, due to the regular exercise of walking up and down the stairs multiple time each day.

    When we bought this house, we thought MIL might eventually live with us. So we looked into stair lifts, and it looked like we could install one. We also identified a potential elevator location.

    We didn’t really think much about us needing something like that, but as we get older it’s good to know those options exist.

  53. “Neighbors with short or one-lane driveways have similar problems. “

    Personal pet peeve– in this neighborhood, a lot of houses have short driveways, but people will park in them anyway, blocking the sidewalks.

    That leads a lot of people to just walk on the street instead of the sidewalk. And now, with so many people walking these days, when people walking in opposite directions approach each other, a lot of people end up walking in the middle of the street.

  54. “only about 1/3 of new home buyers have minor children at home.”

    Does ‘new home buyers’ refer to buyers of new homes, or first-time homebuyers?

    I usually see articles referring to the latter using that wording, which is less ambiguous.

  55. “It will have to wait until DD is almost done/done with college until we can make our move.”

    That’s not a long time from now, and it’s not too early to start investigating/preparing for such a move.

    E.g., you might take extended vacation/remote work trips to potential move locations. Businesses like AirBnB and VRBO make it easy to rent places in residential areas so you can get a feel for what it would be like to live there.

  56. “If you didn’t fit in it stuck with you forever and there was never a possibility to reinvent yourself.”

    Is it possible to attend a school in another district?

    BITD, even though the entire state is a single district, it was common to have the same school cohort for 13 years. But kids who didn’t fit in would sometimes change schools. There were kids who changed elementary schools that we’d suddenly see again in HS, and sometimes those kids by then had grown out of some of what made them not fit in, IOW, the transfer had given them a fresh start.

  57. Is it possible to attend a school in another district?

    Not unless you paid tuition. And my HS was the one that some out of district families paid tuition to attend because it was the best, at about $10k a year over 30 years ago.

  58. Colorado has full school choice – you can go to any school in the state provided there is room and you provide your own transportation. Schools here are primarily funded by the state. When I grew up in NJ, the primary funding (and perhaps only funding, I really don’t know) was at the local level.

  59. I can’t speak for other places, but it isn’t possible to attend another district here or in northern NJ unless you pay tuition. There are other similar counties in other states such as Fairfax county that have one school district for the county. Bergen, Westchester and other large, similar counties in the NY metro area do not have one school district. They all have micro/mid sized school districts with their own budgets. These budgets are set by the District and taxpayers in those districts pay for the schools so you can’t just switch if you don’t like your zoned school district. We have a friend in my district with a junior. Her daughter didn’t like our district HS and and she is attending a district about ten miles north. Her parents pay $24,000 per year for her to attend another public school district. She “tuitions in” as an out of district public HS student. The only “free” item would be transportation since she lives in a district that provides busing.

    The exception might be a student with special needs that can’t be educated by the home district. In that case, a district would pay another school district to take the student and educate the student. The reason would be if they don’t have the services that are necessary for that child. I have seen this with a kid in a wheelchair in a building that has no elevators. Also, some severely autistic kids. Some dyslexic students will be able to attend private or public schools out of district if they can prove that their home district can’t educate them in their own schools.

  60. “Colorado has full school choice – you can go to any school in the state provided there is room and you provide your own transportation. Schools here are primarily funded by the state.”

    So does that mean it’s a state decision to set teacher pay so low that the rural schools you mentioned earlier have such a hard time attracting teachers?

  61. “Reddit recently got rid of COL adjustments, so employees are now paid the same whether they live in San Francisco or Des Moines.”

    I wonder if this creates a bunch of extra HR work, when employees decide to work in states in which Reddit previously had no employees. Besides taxes, some benefits might not transfer easily. When I moved, I had to change medical plan because the plan I was in wasn’t offered to residents of this state.

  62. “Then in 2-3 years you lose your job or a new VP comes in and says everyone needs to be back in the office and you’re 2 hours from NYC.”

    I’d guess that VP would have some difficulty retaining employees, especially his best employees who would have options elsewhere.

  63. “My parents almost never used their garage when I was a kid, and neither did DH’s parents”

    So did their garages just sit empty most of the time?

    Around here, most garages get heavy use, although in many cases not for cars.

    E.g., neither of my neighbors uses their garages for cars. One neighbor has it filled with rows of shelves for storage. The other uses it as a workshop.

    A lot of people also use garages as living space.

  64. “My DD, is one of the Tik Tokers ”

    I’m curious as to the pronunciation of ‘Tik Tokers,’ or whether it should actually be spelled, ‘Tik Tokkers.’

    ‘Tokers’ by itself may have a different meaning and pronunciation. Or is there some overlap?

  65. “about $10k a year over 30 years ago.”

    “Her parents pay $24,000 per year for her to attend another public school district.”

    Are/were there no better private school options at those price points?

    17 years ago, DS’ tuition was about $12k (and the other top local private was about $11k). Last year, DD’s tuition was about $25k.

    Wow, typing that just made me realize that with DD being home this semester, college only costed slightly more than HS. If she attended in person, the big cost difference would be room, board, and travel.

  66. Finn, there are two private schools that are within the same part of the county. One is $59,575 for HS per year without other fees. The other is $50,500. There are very few private schools in the county. It is very competitive to get into the few privates that exist and the as you can see from the cost – public school is a much cheaper option. In addition, most of the private schools around here are college prep and they would never accept this kid. She is a B student.

  67. Independent private schools on the West Coast are $40k. Hawaii has a weirdly cheap private school culture.

  68. So does that mean it’s a state decision to set teacher pay so low that the rural schools you mentioned earlier have such a hard time attracting teachers?

    The funding is per pupil. Rural districts have few students which equates to low state funding. The urban and suburban districts supplement with local funding and the rural districts generally are unable to.

  69. Lauren, thanks. That makes sense.

    I asked because I didn’t know, and that seems a lot to pay for public school.

  70. “ it’s not too early to start investigating/preparing for such a move.

    E.g., you might take extended vacation/remote work trips to potential move locations. ”

    My parents’ initial move to Florida was very easy for them, because they had taken a week’s vacation there every year, just the two of them, for maybe 2 decades. They stayed in various towns between Clearwater and Naples.

  71. Question for those whose kids are going to school in person: are the windows open? Covid regulations here say schools must air out classrooms frequently, so windows are often open during instruction. They aren’t always open, but at least 50% of the time they’re in class, the windows are wide open. We just got an email from the principal complaining that students are wearing denim jackets and—the horror—hoodies! during class. They plan to send kids who do this home. Temps are around 40.

  72. I’d guess that VP would have some difficulty retaining employees

    In many cases that’s the goal. It’s a way to reduce headcount without having to lay anyone off.

  73. “It’s a way to reduce headcount without having to lay anyone off.”

    The problem with that is those who leave tend to be the ones with options, and the ones who are left are the ones who can’t find anything better.

  74. SM – my kids are doing in person school. The windows are not open. The HVAC was updated though. They have lunch outside. Lunch time is getting cold now. My DD was mentioning that some kids bring blankets. They wear the school uniform and always have a uniform hoodie sweatshirt on hand. They are wearing masks the whole day except lunch so that’s another bit of whole day discomfort.,The temps are in the 50s/60s. This is the South with a low tolerance for cold. The teachers rather the kids be comfortable and learning than cold and distracted.

  75. This is not political – whatever measures my kids school is taking seem to be working. We have been in a high Covid area – never below 5%. They have to report every Covid case in their school community. All the cases are where the kids or staff have contracted it outside the school. There has been quarantine of kids deemed to be in close contact but there has so far not been transmission within the school. Parents sent their kids but thought it wouldn’t last two weeks, other parents kept their kids home because of health concerns but it has chugged along so and every day that passes is encouraging. Not yet half way through the school year but will be there by mid January.

  76. SM – it’s a ordinary sweatshirt with a hoodie but with the school logo in the front like the picture below

  77. Louise, your kids’ school’s precautions sound similar to mine’s. They wear masks all day, are expected to stay with their grade level during breaks, sit apart from each other in the classrooms, have lunch outside, and classrooms are ventilated frequently (in his case by opening windows). Someone in his school had a younger sibling in primary who got Covid early on; that entire family immediately had to isolate until they all had negative test results. It is a small school, with about 2 dozen at my son’s grade level, and somewhat larger classes in lower grades before the IB diploma starts. Still, I think they are doing pretty well. Part of what makes this possible is probably that most of his classmates’ parents are apparently quite wealthy, so they can entirely avoid public transit if they wish (although some are still on it daily with my son) and have plenty of room to spread out at home.

  78. Thanks Louise! I don’t know how a hoodie could be fancier, but I was hoping it might somehow come closer to the principal’s ideal of “smart” school clothes. Have I mentioned how very stupid I think this attention to fashion is in the middle of a pandemic? I’ve got my kid wearing a full suit of Uniqlo ultra-warm heat tech underneath his school uniform. It’s like getting dressed twice every morning, plus sweater, jacket, gloves on top. And the mask!

  79. “Question for those whose kids are going to school in person: are the windows open? ”

    DH is still keeping windows open in his classroom. His school is an old building with poor ventilation. The school gave him an air purifier, but he also keeps windows open. He has communicated with parents that he will be doing this, and that kids should come to school with adequate jackets and other cold-weather gear. The usual rule that you can’t wear hats in the classroom has been suspended.

    My kids (who are in a different district from DH) tell me that some but not all of their teachers are currently opening windows. Both kids are in more modern buildings with better HVAC systems than what’s in place at DH’s school, so I think their buildings are inherently safer than DH’s.

  80. My DD’s school is the same, but some kids got sick when they attended parties. They went to school with their cohort before they knew they were positive. and then over 300 people had to quarantine. The good news is that NONE of the kids or teachers in school got the virus in school. I had to sit in DD’s room for the first time on Monday because we had someone cleaning our ducts. It was the first time that I “heard” her school experience this year. The difference between this year and Spring 2020 is night and day. It sounded like she was in a regular class except she was sitting in her room. There are two classes that just don’t seem to work on remote. One class is gym because they don’t have to do any physical activity when they are remote. The other dud is AP Bio labs.The students watch the teacher and they have to write up the labs on the weekend.

  81. “The exception might be a student with special needs that can’t be educated by the home district. In that case, a district would pay another school district to take the student and educate the student.”

    Our local school district used to generate extra revenue by offering special ed programs that other districts would pay to have their students attend. This became a problem after local student population growth caused overcrowding in the buildings, which lead to a reconsideration of the policy of bringing in students from other districts. Local voters were reluctant to approve bond issues that would relieve overcrowding but raise taxes. A consideration was whether any new facilities would be needed in the future given demographic trends. We had already had instances where school buildings had become obsolete and unneeded due to drops in student enrollments.

  82. A few years ago we had a huge school millage pass specifically to update all the schools, including HVAC improvements. Windows did not need to be open, but if they were it wouldn’t be a problem. This year no lockers, so the students carry their jackets around all day. Most older kids don’t wear jackets anyway. But alas, we back to virtual learning.

  83. “The difference between this year and Spring 2020 is night and day. It sounded like she was in a regular class except she was sitting in her room.”

    This has been our experience, too.

  84. Everyone on FB has been posting the famous clip from WKRP in Cincinnati from the Thanksgiving episode. We’ve watched the whole episode with the kids a few times, and they complained it wasn’t funny, so we watched a couple of other episodes with them so they could understand the characters and such. We were all struck by how racist and sexist many of the jokes are. DW mentioned that on FB. BIL’s wife posted this in reply:

    “Unfortunately, (the kids) have no historical perspective and could not possibly understand that the show’s central humor revolves around how deeply marginalized each character is and to what extent each character goes to set their own boundaries.”

  85. “’The difference between this year and Spring 2020 is night and day. It sounded like she was in a regular class except she was sitting in her room.’

    This has been our experience, too.”

    Ditto.

    DS came the other day to tell me that he now can’t play his online games every other weekend. ??? Then he says that the friend he played with got a D in math, and so his dad doesn’t let him play any more on the weekends he’s at the dad’s house. Then DS rolled his eyes and said I don’t know how you’d even do that, it’s so easy. I had to remind him that not everyone gets math as quickly as he does, and a lot of people find online school a lot harder than he does as well.

    This is my kid: he’s telling me the other day about how he found this program online that helps him manage his work, that it’s not a calendar or to-do list, but you can put things in all these different categories, and then block out what time you’re going to do what. We talk a little more, and I discover: it’s a project management system. That people who do project management as a profession use. And which my 15-yr-old has discovered is wonderful for keeping track of online school.

    How this is my kid I have *no* idea. I mean, seriously, going for the Golden Totebag, and he’s not even old enough to drive?

  86. One class is gym because they don’t have to do any physical activity when they are remote.

    DD is student-assist for a gym class, and the teacher has the kids working out during class. DD’s job is to track who is doing the exercises and who isn’t, because the teacher is doing them as well.

  87. how deeply marginalized each character is

    Really? Herb is marginalized? Andy is marginalized? Hm.

    70s sitcoms are pretty horrifying in terms of racism and sexism. We’ve been watching a few episodes of the old British sitcom “Good Neighbors” (British title: “The Good Life”), and Britbox even has to toss up “Viewer discretion is advised” for some episodes.

  88. “70s sitcoms are pretty horrifying in terms of racism and sexism.”
    Commercials were terrible too. The Vermont Country Store catalogue came to our house and DH was showing the kids that they carried 70’s shampoo – Lemon Up and Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific. I told the kids that the TV ads consisted of women getting into elevators and having random dudes lean in, breath in, and say “Gee, your hair smells terrific” while she smiles. They were grossed out.

  89. HFN – Then there was the ad for Enjoli (spelling?) perfume where the woman signs the jingle about, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never ever let you forget you’re a man!!” The message being something like, “sure, Little Miss, go out and be a career girl, but just make sure you’re still a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom, like you’re supposed to be!”

  90. SINGS the jingle. She did not sign it in ASL. Although that would have been impressive.

  91. We watched some episodes of Emergency, from the early 70’s. The rampant, in-your-face sexism was amazing. That was an era when people were strongly debating whether women could work outside the home, and if they did, whether they could do any job outside of nurse and teacher. There were many episodes of that show in which the EMTs (all guys) disparagingly referred to “lady reporters”, “lady doctors” and so on.

  92. NoB, are you sure there isn’t an ASL message included in the dance she does? I don’t think I understood that commercial at all at the time—the sex part went over my head, and without that, the “never let you forget you’re a man” and “I’m a woman” parts are meaningless. But when I did understand it later, it was in the “empowering” way that it’s ok to have a job.

    My son and I mention the rampant racism and sexism of my youth, and how it’s just quieter today, frequently. Most recently, while watching a football game, I casually referred to playing “Smeer the Queer”. He was horrified, appropriately.

  93. ““The difference between this year and Spring 2020 is night and day. It sounded like she was in a regular class except she was sitting in her room.”

    Same here too. Remote school is going well. They DO have to exercise in PE, which has caused some complaints from other parents because a kid jumping around at 10am can be pretty disruptive in a city multi-unit building setting.

    I am also horrified at the sexism in old TV shows. I didn’t notice it as a kid, I suppose because it was so prevalent everywhere at the time.

    @LfB – That is pretty awesome and also kind of funny. Is it sad that I started wondering which tool he was using & thinking of all the annoyances of each one? And I’m not even a PM, just PM-adjacent.

  94. A lot of us boomer women get frustrated with the following generations because we lived as teens and adults under that regime and were taught that sexism and racism were not only normal, but normative. That it is still debated (other page please) whether the isms have a basis in biology and/or ideal societal construction/religion, or are supported by statistical analysis is a source of sorrowful amazement to us. Eternal vigilance!

  95. @Ivy — right there with you. All I could think was “DH would be so proud. If he weren’t wondering why I’m so surprised that a 15-yr-old kid would do that, because of course what else would his kid do?” ;-)

  96. I wish our HS was taking PE seriously like some of your kid’s schools about because DD isn’t getting much exercise due to WFH.

  97. Rocky: you assume I was actually listening. I mostly smile and nod as he babbles on about whatever it is he is thinking about (today is the minutiae of how he is approaching his 3D modeling project for his engineering class).

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