Buying a house across the country
April 12, 2021 7:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning to move from Michigan to the western US to live closer to my kids. The increases in real estate prices where they live are freaking me out, and I'm wondering whether it would be better to move my plans up and buy something there right away rather than renting for a while. Would love to hear from people who have done that.

I've got one kid in the Salt Lake City area and one in the Bay Area. The Bay Area itself is out of my price range, but Sacramento looks like a possibility, and there may be other small cities in northern California that would work (I'm trying to stay under $400K for a condo). I've been looking at real estate in both places for a while, and the prices seem to keep going up. Plus I don't know if people are paying way above the asking prices anyway. And I have to deal with selling my house, which is also pretty overwhelming. I had originally planned to wait until the COVID situation gets better, but I don't even know if that's a good idea anymore. My job is mobile, so that's not an issue.

I'd appreciate thoughts on moving and on real estate prices in general. And suggestions for any steps I can take now (call a real estate agent?).
posted by FencingGal to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What I've vaguely heard is that during covid, prices outside of big cities went up, while prices in big cities were relatively unchanged, with low volumes. Now, the impression I've heard is thatpeople are starting to move back into big cities, so big cities prices are starting to go up instead. Of course, a lot is undecided WRT people actually returning to big cities. I think it will depend on the city and why people are there. Are people there for work primarily? Or are people living there for the amazing culture, social scene, etc? I think cities that are busy during work days, and quiet on nights and weekends, will be hurt a LOT MORE than cities that have a busy nightlife.

I'm not sure how I would rate that dynamic for the cities you listed.

For my own fear of housing prices, I personally am hoping to avoid buying until the variability is over, but if you are selling at the same time, the price change won't have a huge impact vs staying where you were if the housing market crashed or doubled or something.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:19 AM on April 12, 2021

prices and rents are crazy where I am 75+ miles south of sacramento, multiple offers on everything, but you can definitely get a condo here for that price range, in this not-highly-rated place to live. My younger coworkers are moving towards the bay area for city life. Between here and sacramento there is a wide variety of communities and prices, not as much variety towards the bay. I'm a fan of SLC and have family in that area, and so i'd go for living close enough to SLC so that a flight to the bay area is an easy trip.
posted by th3ph17 at 8:25 AM on April 12, 2021

Best answer: One thing to think about is how you envision day-to-day life if you move closer. For example, if you choose Sacramento, and you fly Sacramento to SLC, it may be about the same as flying from Michigan (ie, part of a day vs most of a day), and you may still be 1.5 hours (in traffic) from your Bay Area kid. So it's not like you'll be popping over for dinner. Also, is either kid likely to up and move to Austin or Seattle or something? Maybe pick the location with the "more rooted" kid. It might make sense to live in the same town as one kid and fly to the other one. On the other hand, do you have a good vs less good relationship with one or the other kid (or their in-town in-laws, etc)? That could help the thinking vs just price alone. It would suck to move to see your kids and end up seeing them about as often as you do now, you know?
posted by everythings_interrelated at 8:45 AM on April 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I see real estate prices going up everywhere, so your current house will likely appreciate in step with anything out west, at least anything under $400k. I'd take my time and figure out where I really wanted to live, there's a lot of variety out there.

For that price I think you're looking at Reno and points along I-80, unless you want to head into the woods north of Sonoma county or maybe Chico, or a double-wide in the Bay Area in a 55+ community. Depends on how much driving you want to do, and where you want to do it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2021

If it were me, I'd entertain the idea of a small RV / van conversion so that I could live in either place, while I decide which place works better for me for the purposes of home-buying. Once I decided, I'd sell my house, buy a home in the locale I prefer, and use the van for visits to whichever kid is further away.

A love of small living spaces and a tolerance for long drives would be required, of course.
posted by vitout at 10:00 AM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I also drive back and forth between california and utah all the time--it is an easy 11+ hour drive to SLC, or a 1.5 hour flight, that is why I mention airport proximity. Harder to drive in winter when I do more trips for family--the high sierras weather closes the interstate highways on occasion--Some of the more scenic passes don't open until late spring.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:24 AM on April 12, 2021

At least selling your house should be easy, if the market is anything like the rest of the country, where houses are often selling the same day with multiple offers. That part may be less overwhelming than you fear.
posted by pinochiette at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2021

Best answer: One thing I recommend doing is looking at the "market insights" section of Redfin (when you're doing a search in a specific area, it'll be on the top right). This will show you what houses in a specific area actually went for, which is very, very helpful. I am looking in Seattle and had been horrified hearing that it was standard for houses to go for 100K over asking. Well, upon doing some more research, it turned out that the kind of house I'm looking for, in the neighborhoods I'm interested in, were only going for 5-10% above asking, sometimes less. Even if you learn that it truly is as competitive as you fear, this will be helpful in making decisions.

You can also talk to a realtor about this, but if you're still in the idle research phase and not certain where you want to be, Redfin searches might be more helpful.
posted by lunasol at 11:17 AM on April 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I am especially grateful for learning about Redfin - which is amazing and kept me busy for far too long yesterday.
posted by FencingGal at 6:55 AM on April 13, 2021

If your kid in SLC is pretty settled and would welcome you nearby, I'd really recommend moving there for the reasons discussed above. Are you trying to do the parent thing of compromise? Moving all that way and living in a new place where neither one is sounds like no fun.

As for west coast prices: certainly house prices are going up in many west coast cities. However, I don't think that's a reason to rush into buying. Renting is a bit cheaper in some places right now, so take advantage of that. Make sure you have a city and neighborhood you live in and explore for a while before you commit to buying. Things will shift again as the pandemic shifts, and I don't think we're going to see this real estate frenzy continue unabated.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:37 PM on April 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

If this isn't out of range, Sacramento and Provo are both amazing and quasi affordable.

It's come a long way and it's a great state, but I have no inclination to spend lengths of time in Michigan, or even visit, really. I do hope it continues to do really well.
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:41 PM on February 6

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