When I first moved out to California, I made tongue-in-cheek references to my “VDAP,” a vaguely-defined action plan. It went something like this:
- Take up tugrik on his offer of crash space.
- Get a great job that would shower with me money.
- Find a place to live like where I’d been back in Tampa.
Wouldn’t you know it, though, step two turned out to be non-trivial. And as it turns out, step three isn’t so easy, either; my old apartment out there now rents for about $800 a month, about half what a comparable apartment most places in the SF Bay area would run. (Before locals object: 800 square foot one-bedroom place with A/C, walk-in closets, full-sized washer and dryer, dishwasher, kitchen with pantry and breakfast bar, in a complex with a good fitness center and swimming pool, built within the last 10-15 years. Sure you can get one comparable for under $1500?)
So the upshot is that I’ve stayed put.
And this isn’t a bad thing. My housemates (in addition to tugrik, they include revar, bigtig, susandeer, and five cats) have pretty much been great, it’s a nice enough house that’s just filled with cool stuff thanks to Tugrik’s gadget fetishes, and the shared rent is phenomenally low — far below market rate for the area. So I’ve liked where I’m living, and I couldn’t have afforded to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area if I’d been most anywhere else.
But you know, it’s been five years.
My current job, despite being “independent contracting,” is about as permanent as a normal position would be. My debt is, as of a week ago, completely gone. My credit isn’t excellent but it’s good. And since I don’t think the tumble that’s started in the housing market is going to get better soon, rent is likely to climb even faster as people get squeezed out of homes or decide not to run the mortgage gauntlet just yet. And, I’ve recently learned that the principals of the little company I’m at would like to move the office to San Mateo next year. My commute is already a little grating; it would get, well, more grating at that point.
I’ve looked around at all sorts of crazy places; apartment hunting has been an idle hobby more than an actual plan. I’d somewhat settled on the idea that if I did move, I’d likely end up either in the East Bay or possibly in Belmont for cost reasons: Belmont’s a town on the peninsula filled with older apartment complexes, and the East Bay is, well, cheaper. Some places in the East Bay are a lot nicer than friends in the South Bay seem to imagine; Alameda is a cool area, as is the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland (yes, really), and some of the places on the “680 corridor” are really pretty. Pretty enough and cheap enough to justify an 80-minute commute between Mountain View or San Mateo and San Ramon or Alameda, though? Hmm.
So the upshot is that I’ve still stayed put. I don’t like the idea of moving, really; it’s a hassle and a half, and I’ll have to buy furniture, and blah blah blah. You can fill in all the potential complaints yourself. It’s sort of comfortable to have this as a hobby. I can collect lots of apartment complex brochures without doing anything more than frustrating leasing agents.
However, now there’s an opportunity contingent on someone else’s opportunity; a friend may end up getting a job around the Redwood City area, and if I am willing to move into a “just one housemate” situation, the possibility of a 2BR/2BA place on the peninsula opens up. A nice place. Nice enough that, frankly, my rent and utilities would still double — even by San Mateo area standards, some of these apartments aren’t cheap — but near (or even in) downtown and with top-notch amenities. Throw in the usual caveats about apartments showing better than they are in practice, I know. But even so.
The thing is, now I’m actively nervous. If the stars line up just so (as of yet, they have not), I’d have to make a decision about moving soon. Before the end of the month. (Just in time for the holidays because you know that’s always when you want major life upheaval.) Do I really want to move? I’ve been assuming if I did move, I’d move into a place of my own (as much as an apartment can be “yours”); do I want to change that assumption?