Improbability of Home Ownership

Yes, yes, I know I still have to write about the wedding (it was awesome) and the honeymoon (we loved it), but we are still waiting on the professional photos from the wedding, and quite frankly I want to talk about something else for a change.

Like home ownership. In the Boston area. Ha ha ha.

So, you've all heard about the housing bubble that burst back in 2008, right? Well, apparently, no one remembered to tell Boston about it. Not only did the housing prices in the greater Boston area neglect to drop, they actually continued to steadily climb in the most desirable neighborhoods. Which means that for the amount of money that can buy you a (deeply depreciated in price) 4,000 square foot McMansion in Florida, Arizona, or California, you can maybe purchase a run-down closet in Boston. Maybe.

But I didn't discover any of this until D and I recently started looking into the housing market in the area. We've talked about buying a house in the past, but it was more like discussing tentative plans in a far-away future. Now that we are married, we are considering the issue more seriously. (Not that we could afford a house right now, but it's good to be prepared in case we could buy something in a year or two.) In my usual fashion, I dove deep into research. So far, the results are none too encouraging.

Here is what happened. In my search for a potential house, I started with a few tentative criteria:
  • Urban environment (we are not big fans of the suburbs)
  • Good access to public transportation (this does not include the commuter rail)
  • Reasonable commute to work
  • At least three bedrooms
  • Around $300,000 price tag
  • Good schools

Right. Turns out I was kidding myself. First of all, some of these criteria appear to be mutually exclusive. A glance at the map of schools and their ratings shows that "urban" and "good schools" don't go together. As a former student of the public school system in an environment that is as urban as it gets (Brooklyn and Manhattan), I am completely baffled by this. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule called charter schools, but I haven't yet figured out what they are.

The next thing I discovered is that good schools and good neighborhoods go together. It's just that they don't go with urban environment or the $300,000 price tag. Alternatively, good neighborhoods go with urban environment, but not with good schools or the $300,000 price. And by the way, we are not even looking for a gem of a house. More like a diamond in the rough that we would be willing to fix up. Just considering the price tag alone, it turns out that all we could afford are crappy houses in crappy neighborhoods. That's a sound investment strategy, right? I was really hoping to stumble upon a rough-around-the-edges house in a good neighborhood, where it would worth investing time and effort (and money) to fix up the house. But those houses are being sold at around $400,000, even if they are foreclosures.

So, our tentative set of criteria is basically an impossible combination. In other words, something's gotta give!


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