If there's one point of growing frustration for us, it's the fact that we don't have a house. Well, we do, but it's about 2,500 miles away. Financially, owning a house is a tricky proposition these days. Sure, it's a buyer's market, but it will tie you down. Houses aren't investments anymore, they're lifestyle choices.
We still miss it. I wish we could paint stuff, and even getting near a Home Depot makes me want to do some kind of project. I'm not a house project guy, so that's weird. We also miss having parties, and it sucks not having a yard that Simon can run around in.
While we're in no position to buy a house, we still think about houses a lot. The cost of housing is pretty wild. Pretty much everything around us now in Seattle is somewhere between $160 and $210 per square foot, and on a lot not much bigger than the house. On the other hand, go to the Cleveland suburbs and find stuff for under $90 per square foot on a huge lot. Get out toward the Atlantic, and you're back up around $200 (not counting Central Florida, and the coasts vary widely).
Granted, I've learned a lot about quality, too. There are definitely two classes of exteriors. Ditto for interiors in terms of flooring and kitchens. But even crappy places out here are expensive. We were watching House Hunters on HGTV yesterday, and saw some places that were virtually mansions for pretty reasonable prices, on a per square foor basis. Even quality doesn't always have the impact you'd expect.
It's weird how the different parts of an economy play off of each other. I mean are houses more expensive because people make more money, or do people make more money because houses are expensive? Actually, I don't even care what the answer is, but it leads me to an interesting thought. In an ideal world, where I was young and stupid, I think I'd try to work somewhere that the income was high, bank as much as I could, then buy a house in a place where the housing was cheap. Pretty smart, eh? Like I said, young and stupid.
But getting back to the lifestyle thing, the thing I've learned from ten years of home ownership is that even an "affordable" house payment is too much. It's so completely strange how my stance on that has changed over and over. I'm just at a point now where I realize how relatively inexpensive it is to live outside of a big mortgage. While I can't do the young and stupid plan anymore, if I were to make a big move again, I'd like to do figure out how to stockpile cash ahead of it, and keep that mortgage low. Folks spending nearly $3k here is insane.