Houses

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $110,000

If you paid $1.1 million for something that didn’t have a waterfall, you’re a chump.

---

Millennials and Tiny Houses: A Match Made in Heaven

What does it mean when the top mortgage salesman in the US can’t convince his own daughter to buy a house?

“We would drive around neighborhoods and he would point out houses,” chattering about curb appeal and prices, Sara said. “I’ve heard about this my whole life. In my head, I always figured at the age of 27 or 28 I’d buy.” She can, but hasn’t. She’s a legislative aide to Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat. Her fiancé, Dan Nee, is a software developer. Their jobs are steady and their combined income is $107,500. The car is paid for and dad is ready to help with a down payment. … [but] “A house is a five- to 10-year commitment,” Sara said. “I’m hesitant about diving in and feeling like I’m not financially ready.”

She and other millennials — the generation born beginning in the early 1980s — started coming of age just as housing collapsed. Sara was just out of college in 2009 when President Barack Obama put her dad in charge of the Federal Housing Administration. Part of his job was to lobby Congress not to dismantle the financial architecture that had made it possible for generations of Americans — including himself — to buy homes. He also was juggling pleas from family and friends who couldn’t pay their adjustable-rate mortgages or sell their devalued houses.

It means she’s a bloody genius, that’s what it means.

---

As New Hosts on AirBnB, My Husband and I Sort of Break Even

My husband’s dream of moving his band’s weekly practices from a high-rent industrial building to the cottage crumpled, and we realized that in order to avoid financial ruin we would have to use it as a source of extra income. Since we still wanted to banish certain out-of-town company to the cottage, we decided to furnish the space and offer it for short-term rental on AirBnB.

---

Cars, Houses, And other Millennial Milestones

Millennial milestones! We hit them, sometimes, just differently than our parents did. For example, Nicole of the Toast bought a car — over email:

Figure out exactly what car you want to buy. Do this online. Do not walk into a dealership. The internet is literally stuffed with rankings and reviews and Best Mid-Price Blue Sedans lists. “Shouldn’t I test drive some cars?” No. Can you drive a car? You’re set. … Say “Hi! I’ll be doing this over email. I would like to purchase a 2014 Model X with the extra-fire package. What is your best price on that?” At this point, I received a very rapid response from each of my two dealers. Dealer One said: “That model is retailing for Money, I can offer you a discount which will bring it down to Money – $1000.” Dealer Two said: “I would have to order that in for you special, so it would probably cost Money.” NOW THE DANCE BEGINS.

Her full account, festooned with pictures of American hero Kathy Bates in various cinematic guises, is charming, full of advice about how to both spend as little money as possible AND how to avoid having condescending car-selling dudes mansplain financing to you, in part by eschewing phone conversations altogether. Bonus: she bought this vehicle with money earned from being a misandrist ladyblogger. What’s more millennial than that?

Oh, I don’t know, how about buying your first house with your friends?

---

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get for $250K

Oh boy! It’s time for another installment of GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations, a Billfold corrective to the New York Times’ weekly feature, “Great Homes & Destinations: What You Get For … [obscene amount of money].” This time around, the NYT is excited to tell and show us what you — except not you, that would be hilarious, more like a Russian oligarch — could get for $2,500,000. Choice quote:

The kitchen was designed by Nate Berkus, a regular guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The room has stainless-steel appliances and paneling and cabinets of cherry. The backsplash is Balinese tile. A granite-topped island separates the kitchen from the family room, which has a wall of cherry cabinets and a broad marble fireplace. Sliding glass doors open to a Brazilian wood deck with partial shade.

Amazing. Herewith, what you, actual you, could get for the more reasonable price of $250,000:

3 BR, 2.5 BA Tudor in Pittsburgh, PA, for $245,000, via Trulia. Fireplace for the winter, central air for the summers. “Exemplary” public school district. Pittsburgh, guys! It’s on the up and up

---

Who Lives In All Those Fancy Condos? Human Props & Nobody

One of the fun things about living in New York City is peering into the faces of the people you pass and asking yourself, “Are you a millionaire? Are you, sir, with the mustache and tattoos and mustache tattoos? Are you, angry biking lady?” It’s sort of like the grown-up version of Are You My Mother? but whereas the little bird in that famous children’s book has only one mother, NYC overflows with rich people. They’re everywhere, hiding among us. They have to be. After all, who else could afford to buy those massive luxury condos growing up everywhere like weeds?

Well, turns out that the secret ingredient is salt foreign capital.

According to data compiled by the firm PropertyShark, since 2008, roughly 30 percent of condo sales in large-scale Manhattan developments have been to purchasers who either listed an overseas address or bought through an entity like a limited-liability corporation, a tactic rarely employed by local homebuyers but favored by foreign investors. Similarly, the firm Corcoran Sunshine, which markets luxury buildings, estimates that 35 percent of its sales since 2013 have been to international buyers, half from Asia, with the remainder roughly evenly split among Latin America, Europe, and the rest of the world. “The global elite,” says developer Michael Stern, “is basically looking for a safe-deposit box.” … But much of the foreign money is coming in at lower price points, closer to the median for a Manhattan condo ($1.3 million and rising). In fact, if you’ve recently been outdone by an outrageous all-cash bid for an apartment, there’s a decent chance that, behind a generic corporate name, there’s a foreign buyer and an offshore bank account.

Don’t sweat it, normal Americans! We still have options. We can be HUMAN PROPS

---

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get for $125K

Though the rest of us patriotic, good-hearted Americans took off July 4th, the Gray Lady carried on. Personally I like to think of her as a society matron out of Edith Wharton: stately, imperious, immovable. Anyway, she presented us on Independence Day, in her weekly Great Homes & Destinations update, with “What You Get For $1.2 Million.” The round up included this Seattle mansion, of which she says, “The house has both a backyard and a private courtyard surrounded by lush landscaping. Large palm trees shading the courtyard were about six inches tall when planted by the house’s original owner.” Who was, no doubt, Thurston Howell III.

So then, as promised, here are my picks for the Billfold’s companion feature, GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Can Get for $125,000.

A 2 BR, 2 BA condo in Las Vegas, NV, via Redfin. $112,450. 1000+ square feet, comes with ceiling fans, A/C, and access to the community pool because, duh, Vegas. Have you read The Goldfinch or We Are Called to Rise? You’ll spend 40% of the year up your chin in water in order to stay sane. 

---

The Burrower, Part II

With your sleeping bag, travel-sized pillow and airplane blankets, you now have a bedroom that can be assembled in less than five minutes and stored away in your bottom desk drawer.

---

The Burrower: Part I

The days that you begin to relax are the days when you get caught, but not in the way you had feared, because nobody has the imagination to assume you’re a squatter.

---

GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations

Every week, the NYT’s “Great Homes and Destinations” subsection puts up a list and slideshow of three estates under the heading, “What You Get For … [obscene amount of money].” Since real estate porn is my favorite kind of porn, I always click through, even though the “homes” start at like $1,000,000. Actual sample quote: “The billiards room is adjacent to the family room.” For Manhattan, maybe, that makes sense, billiards rooms being mandatory in Manhattan, but outside of the city’s costliest borough, who needs to spend that much on a place to live?

As a corrective, I’d like to offer a Billfold take, “Good Enough Homes & Destinations.” Today, What you get for $200,000:

---

Are You My Landlord?

I was living in New England and my landlord had an apartment above me. He would text me and say things like, “There’s a tin of muffins on the bannister.” Pretty halcyon, right? But it made sense for my small New England town where properties were rented on a handshake and a one-page month-to-month sublease. I’d never accept muffins from this landlord for fear of poison.

---

College Is Expensive and the NY Times is ON IT

Yes, even the Gray Lady has seen fit to write about how soaring student loan debt makes it hard to get housing in New York City.

It would be easy to dismiss the whole exercise, especially because it refers to “real estate maturity” as a state of existence to which human beings should aspire, and because it reports both the breed and name of a frustrated apartment-seeker’s dog. However, for a piece of non-news reported by the New York Times, the article paints a refreshingly varied portrait of post-collegiate financial distress. After first introducing us to Tierney Cooke, the dog owner who finds living with roommates intolerable (“I couldn’t take it. They were all in college.”), the Times also presents the tales of a mother of a two-year-old and a marvelously disillusioned chemist.

There is truly nothing surprising in the fact that housing in one of the most expensive cities in the country is hard to get in the midst of long-term economic trends that send personal debt up and wages down. But the chemist, Joseph Trout, a former foster kid from Philly who made good, is a font of excellent financial advice for an era of scarcity.

---