The Puzzonis are moving back to 216 (well, technically 330)

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 26, 2011, 9:07 AM | comments: 2

The rumors are true. We're moving back to Cleveland after about two years in Seattle. I've got a job there, a house I couldn't sell, and a long-ass drive ahead of me.

How did this happen? Almost by accident, really. When we were back in Cleveland last month for the GKTW fundraiser, we had another whirlwind tour of seeing people. When we got back home to Seattle, we both kind of ignored the elephant in the room. We missed our friends, and we hated catching up with people for an hour, once a year. We pretended this wasn't the case for the first day or so back, but when Diana brought it up, we agreed that it was wearing on us. There were definitely two issues we struggled with.

Missing the friends was the first issue. While we certainly do have friends out here, and they're awesome, it's not quite the same. Many of my friends, for example, have been in my life through marriage, divorce, lay-offs, marriage again, and many good and bad times in between. Diana's closest friends are also there. In both cases, we're having this amazing adventure with a child, and it's odd that our closest friends aren't sharing in that. Honestly, it would even be easier if we were at least in the same time zone.

The second issue is the housing situation. I've banked a ton of cash to pay for the negative equity in my house, if I could sell it. Every six months I still own it, I sink $10k in the mortgage, utilities and insane insurance. We miss having a house, particularly with Simon now being so active. To get into a similar house here, at best, it would cost $450k. Getting the down payment would take at least three years even if I sold my house today, and then I'd be looking at a mortgage over $2k, because that's just how it goes out here. We can't pause Simon in that time. Here's a more staggering way to look at it: If I sold it today just $5k under what it was listed for, I would have spent more than $60k on it in the last two years. Now add the $10k for every six months it isn't sold. Conversely, I move back, and I have cash in the bank while paying for just one place.

Let me make it clear that it isn't that we dislike Seattle, or Microsoft, or anything like that. Yeah, I bitch and moan about the weather, and work gets on my nerves at times, but really that's going to be the case anywhere. The truth is, everything that I hate about Ohio I will still hate about Ohio. However, it happens to be where the people are, and a home I already have. There's a lot of give and take, but the net result is positive.

Given those two big "situations," we started to think it through a bit. The first thing to consider was the job market. That's the reason we left in the first place. It was bad two years ago. I fired up my network and started to talk to people. The general consensus was that it had improved, but qualified people bailed from Cleveland en masse, creating a high demand situation. Judging by the volume of attention and phone interviews, my impression was that it's a real condition. A fellow alumnus mentioned a gig on our Facebook group, and two weeks after we decided to explore this endeavor, I had an offer. I even had offers to decline. I haven't had that luxury since 2006.

There's a lot of give and take for this move, but overall it's a long-term win that addresses our two pain points. I honestly believe that we'll end up in Central Florida eventually, because there are so many reasons it makes sense. Obviously I have to take a pay cut (a bigger one, once I found out my review numbers with the very public R&D raises you've read about), but adjusted for cost of living, it's mostly a lateral move. It's like, yes, I'll have state and local taxes, but sales tax will be lower (and zero again for!). The difference right off the bat is less than the cost of renting the house in Snoqualmie while still having the house in Brunswick. From a cash flow perspective, it will be about the same, meaning we'll have the same amount left over at the end of each month. Our quality of life stays the same, only it's in our own house, where Simon can run around in the yard.

There are some bigger wins that weren't immediately obvious. While some of that stash I was saving to sell the house has to pay for the move, there will be a ton left over. I don't want to spend it all, but it's a unique opportunity to improve the house, and make it ours. That means cleaning up the train wreck landscaping, lots of paint, new light fixtures, etc. We may price a deck expansion as well, and maybe even put something on that deck that holds about 425 gallons of water.

We'll also be closer to Cedar Point, obviously, which has been a social hub for us from the start (I think our second or third date was there). In fact, we'll be driving distance to about a dozen amusement parks. I've spent a lot of time pretending since we moved that I don't care about going to the parks, but I'm done with that denial. I miss it in the worst way, and I want it to be a part of Simon's life, too. Frankly, it's better for the business of CoasterBuzz if I live in the EST.

Diana can get back into tennis, and I want to learn as well. It's too expensive out here to join a club. I have the hope that I can get back into volleyball as well, which turned out to be a frustrating joke here. Not sure if I can dive into coaching this winter, but I'll look into it, maybe do some officiating or something.

We'll definitely be losing in some ways. I love that Simon is a mile from his youngest cousins, and Diana from her brother. That's a hard issue that bordered on a deal breaker for me. The families from the PEPS group have in fact been good friends, and wonderful people to get to know. I've made some great friends at work. And of course, I'll be leaving the world's largest software company. No more mountain views, ferry rides and snow-free winters. Like I said, there's a lot of give and take in this transaction.

In terms of career, people keep asking me if Microsoft pissed in my Cheerios or something. It's not about the company at all. Well, maybe my indifference toward leaving it kind of makes it about that, but it's not really a core issue. I truly do have a love-hate relationship with the company, but it's more love than hate. I honestly can't name any other place that I've worked that I respect as much. The benefits are insane, the pay is stupid-high, and come on, it makes the Xbox. I definitely have a lot of opinions and thoughts about the company while departing it, and there's a big blog post around it forthcoming, but those thoughts don't really drive this move. I will say that I'm bummed about missing the big company meeting at Safeco by about two weeks. Would've liked to have seen Steve Ballmer chest bump an intern again.

Sure, going to a new job has its stress points and excitement. I'll be working for a Web marketing company. I'll be trading in the Redmond campus for the trendy Warehouse District of Cleveland. While there is great sadness in the departure, at least we don't have to worry about where we'll live at our destination, or how to get around.

Living in Seattle has been an adventure, and I'm still quite fond of the place. I've learned so much from the experience of moving here, and working at Microsoft, that those are definitely subjects I'll write more about. For now though, I've got two weeks left before I turn in my Storm Trooper uniform, then two weeks of "vacation," followed by the week of moving and driving. Maybe I'll finally start doing that touristy stuff here.



September 14, 2011, 3:48 PM #

Good luck with your Cleveland home trip. Microsoft and Redmond campus will be missing about you!


September 14, 2011, 8:52 PM #

Congrats on the move back east. I've been in AZ for 5 years after being born and raised in Western NY. As a .net developer and a coasterbuzz listener good luck, and it sounds like you are making the right choice for you and your family!

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