Tag: real estate

How to Explore More This Summer

Whistler BC
Photo by Coby Degroot/Pixabay

The world is coming back to life just in time to make the most of what summer has to offer. One of my favorite pastimes is adding to my ever-evolving “bucket list” of places to explore. My criteria for the list includes the following:

  • The destination has to be somewhere I’ve never visited previously.
  • There has to be something in nature to do at said destination (even if that’s not the main purpose for visiting).
  • The destination must include the availability of an activity that I’ve never done before (i.e., when I went to Fairbanks, Alaska, I went dog mushing).
  • There must be at least one type of cuisine at the destination that I have never sampled before.

Neighbors to the North

Living so near to Canada, pre-pandemic I visited the country every few months to see art exhibits at Vancouver galleries, stock up on my favorite tea (only sold there) and explore new places around British Columbia. 

One area that’s quite popular with my friends who love to ski, is Whistler. Seeing their Instagram photos of beautiful snowy vistas has always made me want to go, but the more I research it, the more I think I’d actually like to experience it first in the summertime. 

So, does it qualify as a Bucket List destination?

It is somewhere I’ve never visited previously, so that’s one requirement met. But what about the other variables?

Recreational Opportunities in Nature

Of course, as I mentioned above, skiing is the no. 1 activity in the region, but as I did my homework, I realized there are several things I would enjoy in the great outdoors there:

I hike regularly at home, so a great trek in the Canadian countryside sounds ideal. I’d especially like this jaunt.

I was delighted to see that like Seattle, they have their own Green Lake.

If I really want to be part of the snow, I could also take a glacier tour.

A Unique Adventure

An activity that I’ve never done, but would love to do is zip lining and that appears to be an option readily available in Whistler:

I love the eco vibe of this group.

Admittedly, this also looks exhilarating.

A Taste of Whistler

Something I’ve heard a lot about are Whistler Jeggs—a savory pancake that I think I would definitely enjoy, if they’re all presented as extravagantly as this.

So yeah … every Bucket List requirement is met. But what about the vibe?

Real Estate Reality

A great way to tell if an area is thriving is by browsing homes and values in nearby areas. Looking at the beautiful properties here, it appears Whistler is going strong. Check out the real estate for sale in Whistler.

When the border is open—hopefully next month or the month after—I may have to make Whistler, BC, one of my first excursions

Renting vs. Buying … The Inequality Real Estate Issues Sparked by Covid

As I continue to research whether it makes more sense to rent or buy in the current landscape, I find more and more evidence that the pandemic adversely affected rent prices for those not in affluent areas and also possibly drove up housing prices in the process. As if it isn’t already hard enough to catch a break in this economic climate …

For example, in King County where I live in the Seattle area, the median income is approximately $103k — and rents actually decreased (though I can sadly say, mine personally did not). Compare that to Pierce County, which is further south, where the median income is around $79k. They saw a 21% average rent increase, which leads me to believe something is clearly wrong with our system. The more rural and suburban areas seem to be getting punished for their hardships.

Historically the fluctuation in rents has not been directly correlated to the geographies aligned with specific income levels. More often it appears the trends follow the economy of the area (i.e. when Amazon thrived in Seattle and several wealthy tech professionals moved in, everything skyrocketed).

Now, seeing headlines about the local housing market being “on steroids,” I can’t help but think this is an awful time for a first-time buyer who doesn’t have $800k readily available to consider even looking for a property. There is also an urgency to lock in the rates us renters currently have, if possible, because increases are on the horizon for just about everyone despite trending down in my county during the outbreak of the virus.

In a bigger picture sense, I think the markets are upside down in many locations because the coronavirus changed the way so many people work. Some who had never telecommuted before became masters of their home offices and realized how productive they were when not confronted with constant interruptions or on-site office distractions. Now, they don’t want to go back. Alternatively, companies realized how much money they could save from office space and commuter reimbursements and how much less damage they could do to the environment for allowing their teams to go remote. If anything positive came out of the disaster of a year that 2020 was, it was these revelations.

I made the switch to telecommuting in a hybrid way back in 2016, then took on a new role at a startup to work exclusively from home the following year. Every job I’ve had since, including the one I have (and love) now has been 100% remote with only occasional travel (which I also love) required. The beauty of it is that if I want to pick up and go to another city, or even another country, I truly could. I already juggle multiple time zones, so really life wouldn’t change much.

Those with families are finding they may prefer their children and pets having a yard to play in vs. a busy city street, or are simply tired of the fast pace of life near where they work. They’ve discovered that they now have the freedom to choose where to live without risking job loss—and so they’re selling (at a great price) and perhaps even upsizing (at an even better price) in a less populated city or state.

I’ll be curious to see in five years what the trends look like once everyone is settled. Hopefully our collective mental health will improve, the environment will get cleaner, the system will right its wrongs with regard to inequality … and the housing prices will come back down for those of us who hope to someday own vs. rent.

To Buy or Not to Buy: Is Now the Right Time?

Since I arrived in Seattle in the summer of 1999, I’ve contemplated whether or not to continue life as a renter or take a big leap in life to purchase property. When my career was just getting off the ground, there was no way I could afford anything in the neighborhood I was renting in at the time (a suburb just north of the city), but as my salary grew, I began to consider home ownership more seriously. In the summer of 2019, I thought I may be in a financially stable enough place to begin looking … and then we all know what happened: The pandemic arrived. Now, I just have to research, calculate and breathe to make a determination either way.

Pros and Cons

Every time I prepare for a big life decision, I make a list of the pros and cons of whatever outcome I expect from said decision. Considering a home purchase, my list looks something like this:

Pros

  • It’s a potential wealth-builder.
  • Paying a mortgage on time regularly could boost my credit score.
  • I could paint the walls whatever color I want (this is something I’ve desired since I moved out of my parents’ house at age 17).
  • It would feel good to put down some permanent roots.
  • I wouldn’t need to ask someone’s permission to install a satellite dish or knock out a wall to increase the size of a room.
  • I would feel like an adult (finally, in my 40s).

Cons

  • The upfront cost is significant.
  • If something breaks or needs replacing, that’s on me.
  • Property taxes are high in my area.
  • If I marry or remote work is no longer an option in my career, I can’t just “pick up and move.”
  • Covid-19 has increased the prices of homes.

My Financial Reality

Though I survived a spell of unemployment and ultimately re-shaped my career for the better during the pandemic, like many Americans, I’m still nervous about what the future may hold. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected and learn to adapt to whatever the world may throw our way. Though there are places like Freddie Mac that have increased the flexibility for buying during these trying times, I still have to consider the impacts to my life if I begin taking on a big mortgage payment and also prepare for unknown costs like repairs if they should arise.

Solving the Equation

As someone who excels in language, I’m unfortunately not great at math of any sort. Thankfully, there’s a helpful website that specializes in mortgage calculators that doesn’t require any number gymnastics to get the answers I need about buying a home for the first time. 

I used the Mortgage Qualification Calculator to help determine what salary I need to make to realistically afford the type of home that I’d want to buy and preserve the quality of life that I have as a renter. There I can take an amount from one of the listings I’m interested in and plug it in along with my current debts and budget details to have an accurate scope of what I’m truly capable of owning.

The Outlook

So what have I decided to do? Unfortunately there are still too many unknowns for me to make a final decision. Like one of those classic Magic 8-balls, my reply will be to “Ask Again Later …”

© 2021 Tassoula

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑