Deciding what to do for the next plague year
July 27, 2020 11:46 PM   Subscribe

I’m working for a company that has gone remote for the duration of the pandemic (and it sounds like possibly longer). Trying to decide what to actually do, seeing as we know we don’t need to be in our current city for at least a year.

My partner and I live in SF. We are a long haul drive away from both of our families, who we haven’t seen since last Christmas due to the pandemic (normally we would visit every 3-4 months). My partner’s job is mostly remote but not completely, so in the event that we leave he’d either have to negotiate a fully remote role (hmm) or just quit. No idea how likely it is that he could successfully negotiate a fully remote role even temporarily. I make more than him but he still contributes about 75% of our household income. The loss of his wages would outweigh the savings of rent, even though rent is insane here. If we left, we’d move into temporary lodging closer to our families. This could be an apartment or borrowing an RV from one of our families (they have offered). We’re both basically mole rat people who are fine with living in an RV, we’ve lived similar lifestyles in the past. We see basically no one here— we are very cautious and most of our friends out here aren’t even in the city, so partner sees 2-3 work people maybe once a month (for work) and that’s it. We’re OK with dealing with loneliness but it’s pretty aggressive isolation.

We came up with the following pros and cons:

* Save a bundle on rent
* See our families (including young nieces and nephews) before the next 2 years... ?
* Get out of a generally expensive city where we’ve felt trapped by our jobs (in niche markets) for awhile

* Moving back when everything is “over” (???) will be expensive (IMO moving is always expensive, I hate it)
* Upcoming cold winter means living in an RV might get expensive or difficult? I don’t know.
* Our families are not Corona truthers but they’re also not news addicts and aren’t taking every possible precaution, just following local guidelines, and we might feel more pressure to join in to activities we would consider irresponsible on our own.
* ... somewhat contradicting the above, there is ONE GUY in my family who is a bunghole about COVID so whenever he’s involved I would not feel safe being around, and if I avoid him I guess it could cause some conflict.
* Worse healthcare facilities in the event we did get COVID
* We have a “good deal” on rent currently, if/when we move back it might be a headache finding a place again. We’d probably move further out of the city if we did, which we’ve been considering for awhile pre-pandemic.
* We would spend more time in stores for groceries and such if we were elsewhere, we have community grocery delivery where we are. We are not in a high risk group.

I realize that seeing our families is not inherently safe, but seeing them even occasionally while taking precautions would be a huge improvement over literally not seeing them at all for years. I also realize that precautions have a tendency to “slip.” The list of cons is longer than the list of pros, but since we’re both close with our families and only considered moving so far away due to higher income which meant ability to visit often, I’m feeling very vexed.

We make decent money in SF, no complaints, but we are not at the top of the heap— still have credit card debt, wouldn’t be able to buy a house any time soon. So money is not a big issue but we’re not that insulated from medium financial shocks.

Basically my question is, if you’ve faced a similar dilemma, what did you choose and how did it work out? What would you advise?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Will it put you in a different tax jurisdiction? Your employer may not be ok with you working from different locations because of tax laws and other business constraints.
posted by bashing rocks together at 1:10 AM on July 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

Could a little bit of thinking outside the box help? You do not mention this as an alternative, but what about:
  • find a place maybe 3-4 hours out of SF, as cheap as possible
  • partner keeps job, does gruelling commute once / month
  • enjoy your mole rat existence in your temporary super cheap shack or motor home or whatever
After 6 months-year you can reassess your priorities and desires, sitting on a pile of $$$ aND DEBT FREE.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:47 AM on July 28, 2020 [8 favorites]

Could you use the RV space and his flexibility at work to try it out for a month and see what it's actually like?
posted by warriorqueen at 5:46 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

RVs are notoriously poorly insulated for winter weather. Unless the RVs in question have been specifically winterized, I would encourage you to be in an apartment by the time cold weather hits. Even then, it can be pretty miserable, depending on where you are. In addition to the cold issue, they'll physically rock from strong wind, which can be disconcerting.

RV bathrooms are also ... not great. They can be fussy and smelly. Depending on your tolerances, dealing with one long term may not be ideal.

As to moving some place to see your family, to an extent, that's what is being discouraged. If you move to a tiny town where there's no covid and isolate long enough to show that you haven't interested it into the environment, then it's safe to see people. Until someone screws up and brings it into the environment and then you get dozens of cases because of asymptomatic spreading and people being careless because up until then it's been fine.
posted by Candleman at 7:23 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Speaking from a rent perspective, with all the unemployment and people moving to suburbs and further away, rents will fall. So I would worry about you potentially losing a good rent forever, there will be others, I promise
posted by moiraine at 7:55 AM on July 28, 2020

If your partner wasn't able to negotiate a fully remote arrangement and he quit, would you need to return to the bay "after this is all over" for him to find work again?

If I were making this decision, it would really hinge on whether my partner could go remote full-time. If he couldn't, *and* you were tethered to the bay for niche job reasons, I would stay in the city.

I like Meatbomb's thinking though. Why not keep the job and deal with a hellish once-a-month commute?

(I too think rents will fall, especially in SFbay, within the next year or so.)
posted by codhavereturned at 1:23 PM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Hello, fellow San Franciscans mulling over the thought of leaving. My work is not connected to the city at all and, for years, my rote thought was that all I need to be able to work from anywhere is a solid internet connection and an airport. In the last year, my no-longer-minors stepkids fledged the nest, I went through a gross divorce from their other dad, and I started taking stock. I love my house and my neighborhood and access to all of the beauty of NorCal, but I also recognize that living here on a single income takes some of the shine away from life in a dual income arrangement. "Is this worth it?" is a thought that I've woken up with every day for months. Add in the pandemic, and take out the work travel that used to have me exhausted and away from home half the year, and... I'm really not sure that it's worth it. I was considering a (short term? long term? IDK?) move to the UK right before the pandemic set in, facilitated by my employer (I helped on of my kids move across the pond last November and would really like to be able to spend time with him and the friends I've gotten very close to over years of routine work there). That's still on my radar, as is--like you--the desire to be closer to my parents where I grew up in the rural south. Decisions.

It's hard to read the tea leaves, but I think it's reasonably certain that it will likely become easier to get a place at equal or lesser rent in the near-term future. People aren't necessarily flooding out of the Bay Area, but they're definitely leaving. Leases are being broken, AirBNBs are going back on the rental market, investment homes are being sold to free up cash, and families are deciding the hassles aren't worth it when the benefits of this city are locked down. I'm stunned at how many homes are suddenly for sale in my neighborhood. For the first time in my life here, I've stopped getting those flyers from real estate agents begging me to "let my agents sell your home for $$$!" Housing costs aren't just stagnating, they're actually down for the first time in decades. That's something the dot com bust, earthquakes, and fires haven't been able to do. And here's the thing: we're still just at the beginning of this process. There is so much ambiguity about what comes next, especially in terms of economics, that it's next to impossible to plan beyond a few months with any level of certainty. When I called the bank to ask about my mortgage--I have a few months to decide if I want to buy my ex out of my house or put it on the market--the agent I spoke with sounded frazzled. I asked him, what's your bank's outlook on lending in the next few months, would I be able to qualify for a home loan on my own to buy this place? His response, verbatim, was, "Man, who knows." That's unsettling to hear from the one institution in the city that finances homes like mine. I get the unsettling sense that it's borne out of a recognition within financial institutions that the unpredictability of the future more than 3-6 months out means that things are really unpredictable further out than that. So, maybe the answer here is: go and take this plunge now while there's enough stability around to support it.

I wouldn't worry about the quality of medical care outside of the Bay. Honestly, you can get better healthcare outside of megacities--assuming you're not paying for cadillac care here--and hospitals/physicians/nurses across the country are not the main demographic for American crazy. It can't hurt to position yourself where you know you're in reach of a hospital, but if you're insured you're not going to have a hard time (barring the ever-present possibility of an ICU overload, which is just as possible here as anywhere).

In short, I think you should focus on your list of pros--which are intangible things that you value--versus your list of cons. It's hard to say no to a desire like "I want to see my family now that we're almost five months into an indefinite pandemic that's locked us up in a city that makes us feel trapped." Follow your heart, be as safe as possible along the way (really, be exemplars of precaution and care if you're going to venture out), and learn the ins and outs of RV accommodations in the process. You'll have a good story to tell in the future and pick up some skills and experiences in the process.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:42 PM on July 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

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