Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

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Scott 2
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Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Scott 2 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:15 pm

I've always considered my home anti-ERE and assumed I'd downsize eventually.

Over the past few weeks, I got more serious about it. My 1600 sq. ft. 2 bedroom town home values in the 260-280k range. It has a 2 car garage and unfinished basement. The HOA adds a monthly fee of $250. We're in the least expensive model, in the least expensive area of our suburb. I've always though of it as luxurious.

I found a neighborhood about 10 miles away, with homes about 100k cheaper. The price drop means moving further from the city. Homes are older construction. Square footage drops. Yards are smaller. One car garages. No basements, Ethnic diversity. Etc. The most typical option is a 1000 sq. ft. ranch home built in the 60's, with an attached one car garage.

Online, it all looks very reasonable. Schools rate 7/10 instead of 9/10. Crime remains in the lowest tier. Living expenses reduce, as one might expect. I went to pick my new home. One was walking distance from the library, another had 3 fruit trees, a third minutes from the local park.

Visiting the area shattered my assumptions. I found houses in various states of disrepair. Trucks and dead cars filled both sides of the street. Overgrown landscaping. Half dead trees. Overhead power lines. Air pollution. Barking dogs. People everywhere. Flag poles in front yards. One vehicle had truck nuts and an "Obama swallows" bumper sticker.

The class divide hit me hard. The neighborhood made even the best homes unacceptable. So much for my ERE safety valve. I learned there is a financial floor to my comfort zone. Around here, it starts near $250k. Whether that goes into a luxury town home, or a moderate 3 bedroom house, what it buys is behavior. Even 2 bedroom condos are in the low 200's, after "class appropriate" considerations.

I am open minded, but not to this. I am surprised by the strong and decisive reaction. I need to re-plan.

Scott 2
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Scott 2 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:55 am

In polite conversation, I will say - "The neighborhood was not a good cultural fit."

I realize this is code I've seen in the past, but failed to parse. I related it to a lack of arts - small museums, no symphony, etc.

theanimal
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by theanimal » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:18 am

There aren't other neighborhoods you can look at? Around here there's the same type of folks you describe in certain neighborhoods. There are also others in the same bracket who aren't like that in other areas, like where I live. I don't think it's a matter of class. I think you just found the wrong neighborhood.

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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by jacob » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:34 am

But yes, cost does act as a cut-off point for certain behaviors. The cost is, however, not always paid in dollars. That's also something to be aware of. When we were looking at neighborhoods, one indicator we were looking for was the extend that people decorated their front lawns for various holidays as a proxy for community spirit. Low/non-existent crime rate ditto.

If you're in a poor neighborhood, like a mobile home park which seems to represent the very bottom of US class perceptions, with a sense of community, people will help each other out and look out for each other with the specific intent of strengthening bonds. E.g. the ambulance parks in front of a house? Five neighbors are instantly there see if there's anything they can do. You have a flat tire out front ... your neighbor will come out with their floor jack to get you up and going. In Agrestic the presumption would be that AAA would be arriving shortly, so why bother?

I find this list of class descriptions useful: https://web.archive.org/web/20151006183 ... n-the-u-s/ ... Note the shifted status between the E, G, and L ladders. That status is to a large degree sorted in dollars. I think the hardest part is shifting between ladders which might be what happened here. I must admit that I do find it harder to "connect" with the L-ladder than G and E, but I've worked in all three, so that makes it easier.

ZAFCorrection
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by ZAFCorrection » Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:09 pm

If one can live with knowingly hacking their "how cultural!" fargroup sensibilities, finding a livable place on the cheap should be fairly simple.

https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i ... -outgroup/

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Laura Ingalls » Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:45 pm

I hear you. The last house we owned we where the ones with the eclectic yard because we had veggies and didn’t beat every weed into chemical submission. Currently we have the tidiest yard because we have plants we lovingly water and weed and we don’t have dog doo in the yard. Honestly I am enough of a cultural chameleon that it doesn’t bother me much except for the barking dog thing.

DH said something about preferring a neighborhood with mostly college graduates while me in laws were visiting . Glad he said it not me :lol: . MIL seemed offended but I think it’s true despite the most enduring friendship in our previous house being with a non college grad.
Last edited by Laura Ingalls on Mon Sep 09, 2019 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Peanut
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Peanut » Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:50 pm

You’d no doubt have better luck moving states to find a comparable level of culture to what you have now, but for 100k less.

What you described, beyond the obvious drawbacks, also suggests that this is an area that isn’t maintained well by the city’s services. Those costs either get shifted onto you or the environment degrades. Not a good situation.

Scott 2
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Scott 2 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 2:01 pm

@theanimal - I arrived at the target neighborhoods by searching against price in my local region. There are few non-rental options. Family and medical priorities constrain me to a roughly 10 mile radius. We're near a major city and there's a lot of wealth. Even in the areas I rejected, gentrification is happening. Foreclosed homes are scooped up by investors, gilded with granite counter tops and hardwood floors, then sell for $180k+. Families with 2-4 cars cram into these small homes, creating a population density that contributes to the culture problem.


@ZAFCorrection - Framing my search failure as outgroup intolerance is fair. Some homes I rejected probably have friendly neighbors, who look out for one another. The biggest employer was the local school district. There must be some community.


I like the class system in Jacob's article. I would probably be a G2 or G3. I've had opportunity to join E4 over the years, but always balked due to the values conflict. I avoid the E's at work. Despite that, even now my career trends towards E. It make me uncomfortable and relates to my FIRE interest. I switched gyms to get away from the E's. My parents made the leap from L to G while I was young. I grew up with a strong family bias against E culture.

My exposure to the L ladder is limited to L1's or L2's. Typically, I've hired an L2 or meet a G co-worker's L1 spouse at a party. Any contact with an L3 or below is scripted and incidental. When it moves beyond that, I am at a loss for how to interact, even more awkward than usual.

While I think of myself as open minded - it's indifference to another G3's skin color or religion. I don't see myself as elitist, because I respect an L2's professional skill or an L1's business acumen. Intellectually, I want good things for all classes. In person, I am only comfortable within a narrow band.

The downsizing search makes this glaringly obvious. I already live around L1's and L2's, near the boundary of my class comfort. There are some G's, but they tend to be starting off in life or retiring. Most of my G2 and G3 peers live in $400k+ homes. Were I to maximize my housing investment, mortgaged into my 60's, calculators place me in an $800k mansion. I don't want that, it surrounds me with E's.

Frita
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Frita » Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:41 pm

It seems that there are differently prioritized features of housing options. Sometimes one can overlook less important ones for others. It seems individualized. ERE or downsizing isn’t always about just finding the cheapest option as there are other values. What one finds acceptable or not can change. Also, neighborhoods change as well. It sounds like you have a better idea of what you want now.

Scott 2
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Scott 2 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:26 pm

I do have a much better perspective. As peanut alludes, meeting my original financial criteria would require a long distance move.

I share because I was both very confident and very wrong. I might not be the only one with unfounded assumptions, based entirely upon online resources.

Sclass
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Sclass » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:48 pm

Some random thoughts.

I’ve always run into this problem when I try to blanket search an area by cost. Cheap housing attracts people who cannot pay for expensive housing. Not won’t pay, cannot pay. There is a big difference.

Anyhow, the way I’ve gotten around it is I look for a sweetheart deal in a good neighborhood. I always live in a neighborhood that raises eyebrows when people ask where I live. (It’s Kind of insulting like, “eh Sclass how do YOU afford that area?). Then they see my ramshackle place surrounded by Mac Mansions. I did the same with rentals in college.

I don’t do a computerized search or RE search for what I want to pay. That just puts me smack dab in the slums. I search for that corner case. I use friends.

You basically have to find that off market special. If you just blanket search, you get market returns.

Good luck.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by classical_Liberal » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:48 pm

That class system is one of the more useful concepts I've come across. I read the article at least annually as it helps me place people and circumstances.

Wrt housing, I think the problem you are going to run into is the G4's (ie lower on your social ladder) tend to rent. These are the neighborhoods I look for with housing, because it tends to provide cheap rent with pretty cool neighbors. On the L ladder, I think ownership vs rental makes a BIG difference wrt how the neighborhood looks. In my experience L3/2's who rent don't really care about the neighborhood. Whereas those who own do. So if you are willing to live around L3/2's socio-culturally, look for areas that have a low percentages of rental vs own. This is my secondary target when I look for when moving, which I do a lot of. Lastly I look for L3/2 neighborhoods with a high population of recent immigrants. They tend to be upwardly mobile and friendly. I also agree with Jacob the L-ladder tends to be the most helpful neighbors wrt social capital in a DYI way. Maybe, if you can stretch your comfort zone, you'd find it better than you think?

I had to google truck nuts... evidently there is a thing called bike balls as well.

Seppia
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Seppia » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:52 am

The class article was fantastic. I wonder why it was removed from the internet.
Having moved a lot, I can say I basically follow c_L suggestions on what to look for.
I'm probably somewhere around G2, and almost always end up in a G4 area (because I rent, and G4's tend to rent).

Scott 2
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Scott 2 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:10 am

I had not made the full rental connection. My original target is peppered with available units - 3 bedroom homes starting at $1500. It is also surrounded by warehouses. Maybe aspiring flippers find they cannot sell, or landlords target the foreclosures. There's been some pressure in my HOA to ban renting entirely. The idea feels overly restrictive, but if that's the impact rentals have on a neighborhood, stopping them is in my interest.

My limited perspective on renting is based on my time as a G4 - first surrounded by college students, then professionals commuting to the city. The buildings were old, but rent was cheap with easy neighbors. Outside of poor maintenance, a music student practicing in her apartment was my biggest annoyance.

Using the article's lens, I can see that last rental I lived in was more class diverse. That building did have social problems. A meddling neighbor had my wife's car towed. Another harassed her in the laundry room. Domestic disputes spilled into the hallway a couple times. It wasn't great.

I could live around G4's again. It's an interesting data point in the rent vs. buy discussion. I fully dismissed renting in my future housing strategy, but maybe there comes a time for it.


@Sclass - the unicorn house in a good neighborhood sounds great. I don't understand though - why would they sell to you below market? How does that avoid upscale carrying costs like property taxes or insurance? My original strategy included trying to buy a distressed property with cash during the winter. But without downsizing, I don't see that monthly cash flow demands reduce.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Sep 11, 2019 6:21 am

@ZAFCorrection:

Interesting article. It is very much like the debate or conflict between High Church and Low Church in Trollope's time:
"Wars about trifles," said he, "are always bitter, especially among neighbours. When the differences are great, an the parties comparative strangers, men quarrel with courtesy. What combatants are ever so eager as two brothers?"

"But do not such contentions bring scandal on the church?"

"More scandal would fall on the church if there were no such contentions. We have but one way to avoid them- by that of acknowledging a common head of our church, whose word on all points of doctrine shall be authoritative. Such a termination of our difficulties is alluring enough. It has charms which are irresistible to many, and all but irresistible, I own, to me."

From my lunch-table hopping in purple state perspective, I think the situation is more complex than that, and will become increasingly so with rising generation born after 2000. Think about what Trollope's quarreling clergymen never imagined would happen.

@Scott 2:

You are going to eventually die. Aren't you at all curious to explore how other people live before then? It's like you are at the amusement park and you are using every ticket on the same ride they installed exactly 5 years ago. Boring.

Scott 2
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Scott 2 » Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:46 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 6:21 am
You are going to eventually die. Aren't you at all curious to explore how other people live before then? It's like you are at the amusement park and you are using every ticket on the same ride they installed exactly 5 years ago. Boring.
You write boring like it's a bad thing. My priority is a tranquil life.

I would ride once, then give away all my tickets, having confirmed the park is too busy and the rides too exciting. Which I knew before going, but decided to ignore, probably at someone else's request.

My ideal is doing the same things every week, the activities I like most. Occasionally, I'll try a small deviation, to see if normal can be even better. It's rare I find a worthwhile change.

daylen
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by daylen » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:11 pm

@Scott 2 She is enneagram 7 (wannabe 5). Being deprived of exploration is her greatest fear. :P

Sclass
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Sclass » Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:36 am

Scott 2 wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:10 am
@Sclass - the unicorn house in a good neighborhood sounds great. I don't understand though - why would they sell to you below market? How does that avoid upscale carrying costs like property taxes or insurance? My original strategy included trying to buy a distressed property with cash during the winter. But without downsizing, I don't see that monthly cash flow demands reduce.
Yes, this is the hard part. Some social capital is needed. I never bought a home. I only rent. But my rentals have been quirky.

Some were friend deals where I was very close to the landlord prior to moving in. Another was I became close friends with the landlord by staying ten years and they never raised the rent thus making it cheap. Tax was overcome by the landlords being very old and the state having rent stabilization (CA). This is how a young person can make prop 13 work for them beside buying a home like everyone else. Rent from an old person with a paid off mortgage who just wants a no nonsense tenant.

My last Bay Area rental was an old guy. The house was really messed up when I moved in. Several people looked at it at the same time as we did and just left. It stunk like dog pee. Apparently the prior tenant didn’t take no pets seriously. They had abandoned a dog in the garage and had the neighbor throw it food for two months . I waited as they dropped the rent. The weeds grew waist high. I then signed and sprayed the garage with enzymatic cleaner. Smell gone. My guess is the landlord powerwashed the poop away but never got rid of the smell. Enzymes dude. Super cheap rent. I befriended the owner over the next few years and he didn’t raise the rent much. I lived there twelve years. Then he got a property manager who convinced him he could get double the rent from me. I had to move but it was a good run. A multi million dollar home rented for $1500 a month.

My latest place is owned by some older people with prop 13 rights. They just want reliable income with no headaches. They screened us hard and when I finally inked the deal they said it was impossible to get tenants with good credit. I guess in this neighborhood if you have enough money to live here you don’t rent. Doctors, VPs and Lawyers for neighbors. Prior tenants were posers. When I moved in I noticed a lot of things were broken. Electrical. Appliance. Water heater. Furnace. Garage door. They coyly asked how that stuff worked. I told them 1) the range had a dirty flame sensor that I swabbed with alcohol and now it works. 2) I replaced the flaky light switches for $1 each. 3) I got free price pfister cartridges for the plumbing and fixed the drips. 4) I repaired the faulty electronic boards in the furnaces (yes 2 furnaces) with $0.10 components I already own. 5) I traced the poor low water flow to a pebble in the hot water pipe that I removed. 6) I fixed their 1980s garage door opener by reheating it’s cold solder joints. Now it’s nice to live here and they know my calls won’t destroy their profits. Given the look of the fixes I think these issues were there a long time. Prior tenants seemed to stay two years average based on the junk mail. I’ve been here four years and the rent hasn’t gone up a penny. Landlady recently told me how grateful she is that I don’t destroy her profit with $300 service calls.

So my last buyer sweet deal story was from the Bay Area. One night my dearest cousin came over and said “Sclass Sclass I need to borrow some serious money from you, I am being offered this house for $x.” It was 25% under market. This was in an exclusive Bay Area neighborhood that commonly sold for 15% over asking price. WTF! Then he tells me a friend is giving him a deal. I am incredulous till I realize this is my dearest cousin. He’s an super cool guy. Serious social capital levels. And I like him so much, I cut him a check so he can secure the deal. That’s just who he is.

I know, not easy, but I’m saying if you want market beating returns, you need to come in with an angle. Im not the best at this but it has been worth the effort to avoid want ad rentals for me.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Sep 12, 2019 10:25 am

Scott 2 wrote:My ideal is doing the same things every week, the activities I like most. Occasionally, I'll try a small deviation, to see if normal can be even better. It's rare I find a worthwhile change.
Interesting. Sorry if I came off as rude with "boring" remark. I am in high prickly defense mode in anticipation of bringing my Trump voting BF as plus-one to my DD28's wedding which is going to be a 3 day event. So, I took your reaction to your recent real estate shopping trip as pessimistic indication of all that could possibly go wrong. I love debate, but I absolutely dread social discord.

Scott 2
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Re: Downsizing Obstacle - Crossing the Class Barrier

Post by Scott 2 » Thu Sep 12, 2019 10:40 am

Thanks Sclass, the approach makes sense now. Great way to leverage your human capital and think outside of the rent vs. buy calculators.

@7Wannabe5, no offense taken. I know my preferred lifestyle would be torture to some people.

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