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Bartleby the Scrivener vegan27
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houses (what else?)
Sarah and I are at a point in our relationship where we're talking about moving in together. This is great for concepts like love, companionship, economy, and long-term life security, but figuring out *where* to move is complicated.

The most important factor is Sarah's job, which she loves, pays well, and takes years of training to do. My job is the opposite on all three points. Because she works in Birmingham, living somewhere in the Woodward corridor in Oakland County makes sense.* Young, modern people are supposed to believe in reducing automobile use.

(*I did give Sarah a brief tour of Fraser this weekend, but it was a definite no-go. I guess you have to have lived there to see the appeal.)

In *actually* looking at houses, I found that I normally focus so much on beautiful houses that I have been unaware that most houses out there are extremely ugly.

415 Silman Street, Ferndale. $139,900. (1949)

After Sarah's job, the second most important factor is that the house has to be handsome enough so that we actually feel good coming home. I am grateful to have the luxury of choice when it comes to housing, and I intend to take full advantage of it. Driving around the Woodward corridor in Oakland County and browsing real estate listings reveals a vast ocean of vinyl and aluminum siding, fake shutters, and unforgivably careless proportioning. Another depressing aspect is attempting to look up historic data on these subdivisions--not because they are lacking in information, but because one of the few things I can find are newspapers openly advertising them as "restricted".

Source: Detroit Free Press, 27 Sep 1914 p. 20

In case you are curious, Woodland Park is the area just north of downtown Ferndale, west of Woodward. The specifics don't matter, because "restricted" developments were extremely common--even for new developments inside of the city limits. As if to enhance this idea, while Sarah and I were driving around the area on Sunday, an episode of This American Life on the subject of pre-1968 government-enforced housing segregation came on the radio.

Finding an attractive Oakland County home within our budget is hard. The homes I'm able to find are usually a little on the small side for two adults, two cats, and a pitbull to share. This adorable little one-bedroom home is beautiful, but it's just 652 square feet and has no basement:

215 Detroit Avenue, Royal Oak. $129,900. (1930)

As difficult as it will be to find the right place, there *is* hope. There is a nice craftsman bungalow fixer-upper for sale in Pleasant Ridge, but they're asking $100,000 and it backs up to I-696. Some acquaintances of mine live on the same street and they're having a party next month. I'll have to sneak into the back yard and see how loud the freeway is. A more consistent source of hope is the southeast corner of Royal Oak, which seems to have a decent number of old, attractive homes. This one is a nice size, but it's on the upper extreme end of our budget:

219 S. Kenwood Avenue, Royal Oak. $180,000. (1922)

Finding a house is only one problem--having to sell my current home is another. First, how much would I get for it? $200K seems unrealistic, but $150K is probably barely enough to consider. The real price could be anything within that range. If I want to avoid real estate agent fees and sell it myself, I'd have to figure that out.

Second, I kind of don't want to sell. This is an exciting place to be. People are moving in, businesses are opening--you know, all that shit. It feels like I have a front row seat to a historic revival of a great American city. It's nice to look out of my dining room window and see skyscrapers, and walk across the street on Sunday morning and have a choice of *two* places to have a hot vegan brunch (gentrification lol). This house and the other buildings in this neighborhood are beautiful and full of character and history. I have no marketable career or academic skills, but researching local history as a hobby has made me into the next best thing to a neighborhood historian (I'm just lucky that there doesn't happen to be one already). When people email me questions about Corktown history, I feel like I am contributing something useful to society.

But on the other hand, when the Lager House is playing a show with their doors open in the summer, or on the rare occasion that Cary Brainard is having a sub-woofer party, I just want to light my house on fire and die. I hope that the southeast corner of Royal Oak is quiet and has some interesting history. Or something.

What about renting out your house for a hefty fee, and then renting a house in the 'burbs with the intention of eventually moving back to the city? Or buying a new house but renting out the bumblebee house?

Cheyn and I are at the point where I spend the whole weekend at his place and take my cat with me, so we're probably close too...BUT he owns a house in Melvindale and I just...I don't think I can do it. And he eventually hopes to live in Plymouth. and I can't stop thinking that if I move in, when it eventually doesn't work out I'll have given up the cheapest one bedroom apartment in the neighborhood I love and I'll never be able to find something similar when I want to move back.

I think it would be a mistake to sell now, is what i'm saying. That house is awesome and in a really desirable area, I think its worth will go up much more.

also, reverse commuting isn't that bad, and you OWN that house! think of the piles of money you guys could stack up if you just both lived there!

One thing that I forgot to write about was her idea of moving into this house with me for 1-2 years so that she can save up for a nice down payment on a house. But then that would give her a 40 minute commute each way and her mom would have a total conniption if she moved into the city.

Of course, *I* like that option, but it would be selfish because I would totally not be giving up anything. The ideal move would involve a compromise on both sides. Maybe I could emphasize the "temporary" nature of the arrangement and it would give me time to stall and see if this Detroit revival thing is for real. :)

Also, added-layer-of-life-complication aspect of renting out a big house and not just living in it was the reason I moved in in the first place. I feel compelled to be consistent, meaning if I move out again, I should just sell it and let it be over with.

Well, it WAS silly to rent in the same neighborhood that you owned a house in, but i think it's reasonable to revisit the idea with the plan that you'll move out of the city! You were also not getting the rental worth from the house, you could charge much much more if you rented to non-friends.

Obviously you guys have to work out your own compromise, but i'd neeeeeeever ask cheyn to sell his house in order to live with me, especially without living together for a while first and knowing it was a good thing. Which is no knock on Sarah, she's super awesome, but if you sell the house, buy another one, and it doesn't work out...where are you? I know you can't obsess about the end of a relationship, BUT it's okay to consider. you OWN your home right now. you'd have to get a mortgage on a new one. no good!

I agree with this! houses are hard to sell and even harder to get back once you sell them. you've put a laaaaahaaat of work (blood, sweat and tears) into the one you have now, so at least rent it out if you won't be occupying it.

plus, remember this: her decision to live where she wants is hers, not her mother's.

Of course we both know it's not her mom's decision, but you know how contagious parental stress can be...

Just to make sure that no one thinks this, she isn't trying to get me to sell the house. Her suggestions included moving in with me for awhile and renting out the house. My own line of reasoning has sort of pushed me towards selling and buying new because it seems less complicated. And if I can get a lot of money for my house (that I only owe $35K on) and get a good deal on a new house, we could own it out right or only owe a similarly small amount of money on.

Mostly I feel bad about her commute, especially since her current drive is like five minutes. I'd feel like a jerk driving five minutes to my job and complain about how much accounting sucks, while she drives 40 minutes to her job that she loves and spent years studying for.

I think you're right about it making more sense to rent out the Bumble Bee house if I live far away, and to charge more money (especially now that it's been improved even more).

I don't think you have the last cheap rental in your area. They'll get harder to FIND, but they'll still be there, ha ha.

If she's up for it, staying in your house for a couple of years and then re-evaluating sounds like a great plan. You guys could aggressively pay off the bumblebee house while the market gets even better--and then if you do decide to move you could rent it out, and all of that $ would be extra income. That way you could look for a job in the burbs and perhaps accept something that pays a little less but still be financially just fine.

This is my favorite plan because I want to come over and drink bourbon with Sarah and cuddle her puppy, and I think in two years or so we could totally sucker her into wanting to stay. :)

My rent is the cheapest in my building, because Larry loves me and hasn't ever raised my rent even though he has raised the rents of all the others when they have turned over. I'm still paying less than $600/month for that beautiful place! I could find somewhere cheaper, but not without splitting rent with a roommate! Hey, maybe I should move in with you guys in the bumblebee house! HAHAHAHAHA.

On my grand tour of Fraser on Sunday, I pointed out the Roseville condo where we were roommates. I introduced it with the words, "WOULD YOU BELIEVE...."

I should mention that her mom is already afraid of the idea that she might move to *Ferndale*. Her mom even tried to suggest **Bloomfield Hills**, but she cautiously agreed that Royal Oak might not be too dangerous. I genuinely fear her mom's reaction if she decided to move to Corktown. I don't want to give an innocent woman a stroke.

But if somehwo that does turn out to be what we do, then we will for sure have a bourbon-drinking and dog-cuddling party. And 1-2 years later when we move to Birmingham, you and Joe can rent the house!

even MY dad was against me moving to Detroit, but now he tries to talk me into moving into the condo so HE can move to Detroit. Parents worry, but they get over it eventually. Plus what about YOUR mom and her hobby of buying you bumblebee things! think how sad she'd be if she had to stop!

It turns out I don't live well with anyone, and also really needed to be medicated at that time. AH, THE GOOD OLD DAYS.


You should definitely first list your house for 175K at least. Corktown is so ridiculously hot right now, I honestly wouldn't shy away from that 200K. (gentrification lol)

It all depends on how FAST you want to sell. You could list it for $150K, but I think it would get sold so fast that you'd be kicking yourself.

I am ridiculously sad that I can't buy your house because of the following things: Dogs deserve backyards and I don't have that kind of cash flow. However, I predict that it's gonna sell super quick. You've done an incredible job with an incredible house.

Re: !!!

For some reason I no longer associate dogs with yards. Lola couldn't be trusted to be left alone, so when I had her I just walked her at least three times a day. Sarah does the same with Gander. At least we are supposed to get a dog park soon! :)

Re: !!!

We are not that responsible of pet owners. Drake likes freedom. We like contained freedom, and being warm. =)

reverse commute...

When Alex and I moved in together, my extremely strong desire to be able to bike to work led us to pick a place close to my job and far from his. He drives round trip to Ann Arbor every day. The worst part of it is actually getting *into* AA. Reverse commute up Woodward or I-75 to Birmingham sounds like a piece of cake. Well, Troy can be busy. But still.

Plus, the reverse commute is an "easy" sell. He spends 40 min getting to work. If we lived "halfway" in between he would spend 20 minutes and I would spend...35 to 40 depending on the time of day. The net amount of time spent by both parties should be part of the math.

It is really really convenient to live close to one person's job instead of in the middle of the two. I can come home in the middle of the day to meet the cable guy (or whatever weird mid-day-only person is coming over). If she's out doing all this driving, you can pick up the slack in other ways - like making dinner, doing the laundry, etc, etc...stuff she can't get done in that time she spends driving.

If she's willing to move into a house you already own and is okay with having the slightly longer drive "for now", take her up on it. Her mom will get over it. Alex's mom was very worried for him (even though I had lived here the entire 3 years we'd dated up to that point) - but now she's in the position to defend Detroit to even more close-minded individuals.

Re: reverse commute...

The commute might not even be 40 minutes. I estimated that based on when I had to drive up to Van Dyke and 14 Mile, but that's not as direct as 16 and Woodward. And I'd totally be willing to cook dinner and finally learn what kinds of clothes women don't want to go in the dryer. :D

Even though people would think I'm weird for this, I've actually gotten to like Birmingham from walking around it with Sarah and Gander regularly since June. I would be okay moving there if, you know, the cheapest livable house wasn't $200,000...

So when are you guys moving to Minnesota again?

Re: reverse commute...

I don't think liking Birmingham is weird at all. It's the most walkable/livable community in the state. There's a reason some of those houses are over a million dollars. All the more reason to move into your house together for a while so you can save up the down payment on the $200,000 (or $300,000) house in Birmingham. Why move to Royal Oak if that's not where you really want to be?

We're leaving "in April" sometime after the wedding. Available housing within biking distance of downtown was a major factor in deciding to go. I'm resisting the urge to pull up a listing to show you...

I am probably going to have to adjust to architectural differences though. There seem to be a LOT of ranches with vinyl siding. I may have to just tell myself that you CAN replace siding if the structure is good and it's in the right spot. Location, location, location, right?

Re: reverse commute...

You can totally replace siding anywhere. It's just extra work, that's all. Some of the old houses that I find (including a 1920s bunaglow in Birmingham that's $200,000) have vinyl siding, which I would totally replace with hardiplank, which paints and looks just like cedar siding. Actually, a lot of those old houses probably just have their original wood siding underneath the vinyl, and repainting is something I know how to do.

Birmingham really is walkable. Most of it was platted in the 1910s and 1920s and the lots are "small", but rich people have mostly knocked down the old houses and build what I consider to be mansions on the small lots, which has ended up making it dense by Michigan standards. The architecture is slightly weird sometimes, but mostly the exteriors are crisp, painted hardiplank or cedar siding and the garages are nicely hidden behind the houses. People might say that Birminghamians are snotty, but really every human alive is snotty and think that their group is the best, so I may as well pick a place to live that's clean and quiet.

There is no need to resist showing me real estate listings! I look at those all the time for *fun*! :D And regarding ranch housing, those will be considered "historic" in our lifetime, or at the very least hiply ironic. Decorating a ranch house with 1960s kitch could probably create a rewarding living space.

I don't *not* want to be in Royal Oak. The houses in the area I'm talking about are only a 15 minute walk from Inn Season Cafe, which is a huge selling point. I can definitely pick hundreds of cities I for sure don't want to move to. Sarah has similar ideas to me regarding walkability and architectural taste.

Re: reverse commute...

Re: reverse commute...

I vote for the one on 14th Avenue! Of course they all have awesome interior details. Also, when you move, be sure to tell whiners in Michigan that our winters here aren't so bad and could be much worse. :D

I think you should move forward with getting a house with Sarah. You are already doing that instinctively. Driving is torture. Plus a house you choose together is a symbol of the life inside.

The four people who replied to this before you are all Detroit residents, so I consider you to be an objective Ferndaler. :) (Ferndalian?) When I resist the idea of moving out of my house, I do notice an sense of clinging to the past and being afraid of change. Or maybe I'm over-Buddhist-izing it.

So is there a part of Ferndale where all of the lame, quiet, old people live?

You know, Paul and I moved from Detroit to Ferndale five years ago. He lived in Detroit for ten years. It just wasn't convenient to live there for us. We wanted a shorter drive to civilization. I wanted to be able to take a walk and feel safe.

I have lived in Nashville, Portland, and Detroit, and I can say comparatively, if you have to live in Michigan, then Ferndale is the place to live. The city is easily accessible. The houses here are cute and taken care of. Things are getting better here every single time I look around. There are new businesses and cool developments. For instance, our library is outstanding. We have bid, old trees everywhere. I once saw a deer across the street--sad for the deer--but evidence that Ferndale is a peaceful alternative to the big "city." I call Ferndale "Little Portland."

So, I think you may gain a certain amount of liberty living here. There is a freedom to convenience and safety that make for an easy lifestyle.

I also remembered another reason for Sarah *not* to move here--Detroit's insane 2.5% income tax. She'd be taking a 2.5% pay cut in exchange for ...... street cred? Maybe this should all just be folded into an equation calculating the economic pros and cons of living in Detroit.

I want to pretend that I feel safe here, but truthfully if I go for a long walk late at night, I leave my wallet and phone at home.

Sarah likes Ferndale in particular and has thought about living there for years. I just want to be extra careful about not living in an area inhabited by males in their early 20s who go "woo".

If she works outside the city but lives here it's only 1.25%. "only".

BTW, what street did you live on in Detroit?

Forest, right across from The Forest Arms that burned down. It wad WAY louder there than it is here, knock on wood.