Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   United States (
-   -   Affordable housing in California???? (

pianogirl Oct 30th, 2004 07:31 PM

Affordable housing in California????
Sorry, this isn't exactly a travel question, although I guess moving is sort of cosidered traveling. We are cosidering a move from Tennessee to the San Francisco area. I realize housing costs are higher, but $700,000? How does anyone afford this? I looked at one house online that listed for 500,000 which would probably list for 40,000 here. I'm just looking for a little feedback on the housing situation. Is Redwood City a nice area?

Anonymous Oct 30th, 2004 07:51 PM

Yikes, good luck pianogirl, you've picked one of the few places where prices are crazier than here in Boston! Nothing at all under $300K, and nothing you'd want to live in, for under $400. The era of $40K homes is our parents' nostalgia.

Cathie Oct 30th, 2004 07:58 PM

I don't know about San Francisco area but we were just out in San Diego visiting family and were amazed at the cost of housing. My SIL just sold their 1700 sq.ft. home for $315,000 with no yard to speak of.
They bought a smaller home about an hour from San Diego and paid $300,000.
Another SIL has a home around 2600 sq. ft. and was valued at $650,000...
We live in Ky and out home there would be 5 times what we paid here.
Cannot even imagine having to move there.

LoveItaly Oct 30th, 2004 08:08 PM

pianogirl, the prices of real estate here in CA are insane. A house I purchased 2 years ago (a rental) has increased by at least $100,000.00 in 2 years.

The consensus is though that properties have hit the limits. If or when interest rates for mortgages go above 7% that prices will drop.

Already there are an abundance of houses for sale in N CA compared to the past years. Not on the market for a week but for 2 plus months. Prices not really going down but anticipation is that the increase will not be as it has been in these last years.

Redwood City a nice area? Yes. Are prices ridiculous? Absolutely.

Unless one was moving for job related reasons and ones income could cover the cost of real estate in CA I cannot imagine why anyone would even consider moving to CA.

Won't the CA Chamber of Commerce love me?

Family member bought a dump in Daly City about 3 years ago. $450,000.00. Today could sell it for at least $550,000.00. And I am talking about a dump that was built about 1946 or so.

If any of us in CA had any brains we would sell our properties and move somewhere where real estate was priced reasonably.

As a 3rd generation California I did not ever think I would say that. But if I didn't have children and roots here I would be gone tomorrow. Would sure have a lot more money to use for travelling.

Underhill Oct 30th, 2004 08:31 PM

Friends of ours recently bought a 750 sq. ft. house in Palo Alto for over $700,000. Houses in Palo Alto are highly prized and sell for astronomical prices--Redwood City used to be in the reasonable category, but no longer.

LoveItaly Oct 30th, 2004 10:28 PM

Underhill, YIKES, that is a worse story than my relatives that bought a house in Daly City!!!! Good grief.

Well, I rest my case.

LuccaBrazzi Oct 30th, 2004 11:34 PM

I grew up in San Diego...lived in San Francisco for 20-years, so I speak from experience when I say the following:


I believe the median homeprice in San Francisco is $ San Diego its $475K. What makes things worse in SF is that no matter how expensive the home is listed, count on getting outbid by $25K.

You ask how do people do it? Many don't. They leave! The only ones who can nowadays are high-tech, biotech and financial-district types (lawyers & doctors, too.) If you're not one of these, then forget about buying here in Cali. Places in "da hood" in SF are starting about $550k--and this is for "as-is" or fixer-uppers in a dangerous area.

fdecarlo Oct 31st, 2004 12:40 AM

Well, home ownership nationwide is near an all-time high, and the market here in CA is still competitive even at these insane prices. So I'm not sure who's buying all these homes. I do know, in my area of CA over half of new home sales are to Asian-Americans, and I think that has more to do with their culture (very hard working, a tendency to work for themselves instead of for others, etc) than anything else.

Still, when we finally go to buy a home it will definitely not be here in California. We'd much rather have a ranch home + a few acres of land somewhere else in the U.S., than a fixer-upper in a bad neighborhood.

pianogirl Oct 31st, 2004 03:47 AM

Thanks so much for the replies everyone. I was hoping to hear something good, but from what you all say it really is that bad. We are planning to move because of job reasons, but it doesn't have to be California. I know he would get a salary increase but it doesn't sound like it will be enough to get something in a nice neighborhood. Our house here in TN is very nice, 4 bdrms, 2 full baths with a big yard; but it would only sale for around 110,000. Thanks for the help!

Anonymous Oct 31st, 2004 04:03 AM

For future reference: You can go to and enter any community, and it will list all the available homes for you, to give you an idea about home prices. There is even an option to include nearby towns, to you can spot places that are cheaper!

nytraveler Oct 31st, 2004 04:10 AM

I don;t know what all you Californians are complaining about! The average apartment price in Manhattan is now over $1 million. For $500,000 you might luck out with a modest one bedroom.

Just remember, the reason real estate costs are so high in California and NY is that everyone wants to live there - ithe prices are only really low in places where no one else wants to be.

happytourist Oct 31st, 2004 07:54 PM

Use the salary calculator at to see how much more you would have to make in SF compared to what you are now making. Remember that many people in expensive housing markets only pay the interest on their mortgages and never any principal, so they never get any equity. They're just counting on the market always going up to get them out of debt.

travelinwifey Nov 1st, 2004 07:07 AM

SIL is currently on a waiting list for a new 750k 2 bedroom home near San Mateo, a few miles from Redwood City. The waiting list is 4600 for 100 homes. There will be a raffle as to who will get the housing!

J_Correa Nov 1st, 2004 08:10 AM

Housing is tight here in the Bay Area, but it's not absolutely horrible. I guess it's a matter of perspective. My husband and I just bought a starter house in SJ. It can be done. We could have moved out of the area and bought a bigger, nicer house, but we don't want to live anywhere else. So we bought here. People keep saying the bubble with burst, but they have been saying that as long as I can remember. The reality is that people still want to live here and in the Bay Area at least, we are pretty much out of land. Unlike the central valley, where there are affordable homes, there isn't a lot of spare land.

GoTravel Nov 1st, 2004 08:40 AM

A friend of my husband's sold his house in the LA area. He turned around and bought a 10,000 square foot house on Hilton Head Island in Wexford a couple doors down from Micheal Jordan. He paid half of what he sold his 2500 square foot house for.

rex_skidmore Nov 1st, 2004 11:27 AM

Your title is a misnomer. Should have said in/around SF. There is affordable housing in CA. Anybody remember Bob Hope? Bob Hope made more money in real estate than in entertainment. He bought homes at the end of the cities and watched it fill in and appreciate.

There are many cities where a person could buy affordably in CA. Excluding an ocean view and a short commute, it is possible.

How does anyone afford this? By taking an interest only loan at a very low rate and making a voluntary principal payment on that same loan. As the homes have appreciated, even if a person made I/O pmts only, the increase in equity earns "income" at the time of sale of the home.

How does anyone afford this? A person buys a townhouse or condo first in the larger cities such as SF. As this property appreciates, a person upgrades to a SFR (house).

SF, NYC, Boston, Hawaii, etc. are all leaders. The best thing is that you're not buying into a declining area. Some people's homes earn more money than they do. Look at LoveItaly's accurate examples.

Seize this and use it to your advantage.

PamSF Nov 1st, 2004 12:11 PM

The muost succinct answet to your question,piano girl is: There is no such thing!

Ann41 Nov 1st, 2004 12:40 PM

My brother lives in Pleasanton (if I remember correctly, it's about an hour from SF) and delights in sending me real estate listings of shacks selling for $1,000,000+. Friends of his were moving back to Pleasanton after several years abroad and had a budget of $700k. They couldn't find anything in their price range in the town, and had to move further out.

Until last year, I lived in the DC area and thought it was insane that you had to spend $600k to get a basic 3-bed, 2-bath in North Arlington. The SF area puts a whole new spin on things.

rex_skidmore Nov 1st, 2004 12:49 PM

Anyway, PamSF, the high prices keep the undesirables out.
Higher education, higher salaries, high tech companies, higher home prices. They are all "cars on the same train".

suze Nov 1st, 2004 01:02 PM

The people I know who've moved to the Bay Area (from Seattle which is expensive itself) in the past few years, all live quite aways outside of the city and commute to work on the BART. And still I doubt it's what you'd consider "affordable" if you're comparing it to housing in Tennessee.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:00 AM.