City vs. Suburbs vs. exurbs

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Submitted by poorgradstudent on March 15, 2010 - 6:52pm

I'm sure there will be as many opinions on this topic as there are posters, but I'm curious how people who have bought homes have dealt with the issue of choosing between a nicer home in a "less desirable" area vs. a smaller, less nice home in a "more desirable" area.

Our price range is $400-550K based on salary and expected down payment. Currently we rent in 92116, a nice little 2 br/1 ba house in a nice neighborhood. We plan to have 1-2 kids in <5 years, so this place is far too small for anything beyond a newborn.

In the nice parts of 92116, $500k will apparently get you a smallish 3/1. That same $500k will get you a pretty nice house in San Carlos or Santee, both of which are close enough to the City we could still easily meet our friends who live in Hillcrest and South Park for drinks or dinner. If you're willing to live in Escondido, that $500k will practically get you a McMansion.

We really like being able to walk to coffee shops, restraunts and bars, but it's clear we could get a lot more house for the money in the inner suburbs as compared to North Park.

Obviously the City vs. Suburb debate is an old one and there are tons of online articles about it, but I'm curious about the decisions people in a similar situation in San Diego have come to.

Submitted by NotCranky on March 15, 2010 - 9:07pm.

I guess I like the extremes. I lived in many places in Normal Heights and Talmadge since the early 80's. I owned two houses in Normal Heights.We moved from a 1600 sq. foot house in Normal Heights that I had for many years before I got married. It was a very comfortable size but as soon as I had kids I wanted to get away from the density.

I don't like cookie cutter suburbs but can see the location advantages of some. I like San Carlos a lot for a suburban choice. We have friends there and we go watch fire works down by Lake Murray every couple of years... sometimes we go trick-or-treating there. It always feels great to be there.

I moved to the foot hills in Jamul.Price and land space had plenty to do with it. We choose a vacant lot to build on.It's 20 acres in a rural suburb...or maybe the boonies? Wanting to build had a big impact on our choices of locations.

Now the old hood is too hectic for me, especially with the kids... I think it is a great place for many things. We still have a lot of ties to people and places in the neighborhood, but I would move to a lot of places before moving back there.

The other most important factor is that we wanted a school that was calm for the kids. Not as worried about it having an amazing rating. Still we are happy with the school,teachers, my kid's classmates and the parents we meet. Still managed to put our kids in dual language immersion, which we wanted very much. The high school looks pretty good.

The area has nice sports fields and a YMCA is going in on our commute path.Our kids are almost always signed up for something... so if you plan on that you might consider what kind of environment you will find yourself in on many nights and weekends. Of course, from the city it is easy to join leagues in other communities. You won't have consistency with the other kids and parents like you do when you participate in your own community.

Submitted by garysears on March 15, 2010 - 9:10pm.

This is personality dependent. What is desirable to most is not desirable to me. I tend to be antisocial. I really don't like people so you can have the city, shops, restaurants, and bars.

For me, the choice is between bottom end in the ghetto to reduce overall cost of living, or pay extra for a little less ghetto.

I might be in escrow soon. With my current offer I opted for a big lot with options (house plus granny flat, could actually be 3 units). The only place you can get 1/2 acre or more is the boonies (35 minute commute each way).

I look at that big yard with all the trees and just see a lot of work that I am not anxious to do. My wife looks at it and sees a play paradise for our 19 month old. As active as my kid is, I have to agree with the wife. Time to get a dog and cut the kid loose to run around.

If I pull the trigger I fully expect to be a long term landlord as I see the downside risk. But it is cheaper than renting. Having followed the market seriously since 2004 I am at a loss as to what lies ahead. Common sense seems to say price declines are still possible but with 20% down, at the offer price I should be able to comfortable cash flow the property as a rental (plus several hundred dollars of rent decrease buffer) if I have to move. Not that 2007 prices are any indicator, but 55% off 2007 prices probably has a lot of the downside beat out of it.

I mostly analyze based on total cost and downside risk and don't care so much about location.

Submitted by CA renter on March 16, 2010 - 12:45am.

Sounds like a decent find, garysears.

Yes, I think it depends very much on where one is in life. If you're young and single/childless (or married and childless), the city is the place to be. It's fun to be able to walk to any number of bars or coffee shops, and not have to worry about driving home, etc. If you live in an apartment, condo, or smaller home, there is less maintenance, etc. I also think this is a great situation for older couples whose kids have moved away, as they can reclaim their own lives and become more socially active again.

Kids change your life. There is no other way to put it. They require a lot more room than adults (both lot and house, IMHO), and most parents want to live in a safer, calmer area with good schools. This means they are more likely to prefer the suburbs over city life.

It really depends on each person's personality and family/living situation, IMHO.

Submitted by 4plexowner on March 16, 2010 - 7:55am.

"close enough to the City we could still easily meet our friends who live in Hillcrest and South Park for drinks or dinner"

it's easy to say this - are you really going to spend an hour in the car on a weeknight? - same with the beach - it is easy to say, "we're only 30 minutes from the beach", but are you really going to get in the car and drive there?

I lived in Rancho Penasquitos for awhile and felt isolated from what I consider to be the City

something else to consider: if you move to Santee or San Carlos, what are you going to do when you start Jones'n for a fix at the Chicken Pie Shop?

Submitted by sdduuuude on March 16, 2010 - 8:04am.

After "safe to walk the streets at night" - it's all about the commute and lot size for me. Willing to give up a little house square-footage for a bigger lot.

Clairemont/UC/Tierrasanta/Bay Ho/Bay Park are my favorite areas that are not too expensive.

Anything north of the 56 is too far north for me.

I think tastes and lifestyle choices change with age. Younger people prefer a more social, higher-density atmosphere (PB, OB, Hillcrest, Downtown), which makes sense given they are single, on the prowl, and not able to spend alot. I lived in Normal Heights and near Morley field when I was younger and really fancied downtown - before it was cool.

Submitted by EconProf on March 16, 2010 - 9:08am.

Try near downtown La Mesa, a really overlooked area. Some of the ambience and walkability of Normal Heights, but with a bit of history and accessability to freeways too.

Submitted by NotCranky on March 16, 2010 - 9:10am.

It's pretty inconvenient to shop craigslist if you live too far out.That's one thing I hate.

Submitted by poorgradstudent on March 16, 2010 - 10:11am.

4plexowner wrote:
it's easy to say this - are you really going to spend an hour in the car on a weeknight? - same with the beach - it is easy to say, "we're only 30 minutes from the beach", but are you really going to get in the car and drive there

My first year of living in San Diego I went to the beach a LOT. But now, I rarely go. Certainly not during the week. On the weekends? If the weather is crappy, what's the point? If it's nice, there's traffic, parking, and tourists. Most of the beach areas the time it takes to get off the 5 and get parked is probably more time than it takes to drive there.

Our friends just bought a place in Santee, and barring bad traffic, door-to-door from our current place it's about 20 minutes. It's comparable to our current commutes. We actually DO drive out to Mission Trails on a pretty regular basis. I'd actually rather live <5 minutes from Mission Trails than the beach.

There are some nice houses for cheap in Escondido, but yeah, distance and isolation would really concern me there, along with dealing with the 15 south. We haven't completely ruled it out, but the big selling point there is definitely niceness/affordability.

Submitted by 4plexowner on March 16, 2010 - 10:24am.

getting into the beach areas and parking on the weekends isn't too bad BEFORE 10 AM - after 10 you have to really want to go to the beach to put up with the traffic and parking issues

what do you mean, "what's the point?" - watching the dogs at Dog Beach, walking the OB Pier and Newport Ave, walking/skating the boardwalk along Mission Beach - I saw dolphins surfing the waves in MB last year - quite a sight - no question but what they were just doing it for fun - they'd ride a wave in and then swim back out to the line up - I watched them surf for 15 minutes before continuing my walk

Submitted by sdrealtor on March 16, 2010 - 10:54am.

There in lies part of the appeal of NCC. Its the suburbs and I live 2 miles from the beach. I can drive there in 5 minutes no matter what traffic is like, find a parking spot in 5 minutes or less and be on my beach chair within 10 to 15 minutes of walking out the door.

Submitted by UCGal on March 16, 2010 - 11:45am.

I'm with sddude (that seems to be happening a lot lately) - Clairemont, UC, Tierrasanta seem to offer a good match between affordable and close in. I'd toss in Mira Mesa as well.

I lived in University Heights and Normal Heights and love the neighborhoods - but the schools are not so good. There are some really nice pockets with medium size houses (2000sf ish) on bigger lots, on the canyons... but they're priced accordingly - too expensive.

My friend who lives in Kensington sends her daughter to a charter school to get around the less than wonderful schools.

I also agree with the downtown La Mesa suggestion. I have a couple of friends that are in that area - you can find a nice balance between lot size, neighborhood infrastructure, and price.

One pet peeve of me of mine regarding some exurbs/suburbs... Sidewalks. If a neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, I'm not living there. I want to be able to walk the 'hood and not be in the lanes of traffic. But that is just a personal preference.

Submitted by sdrealtor on March 16, 2010 - 11:48am.

We have sidewalks but we roll them up at 9 oclock in the suburbs.

Submitted by 4plexowner on March 16, 2010 - 12:42pm.

for me the type of commute makes a huge difference - a 30 minute commute at freeway speeds might be OK (20 minutes was my limit) but 30 minutes of heavy traffic / stop-and-go / assholes playing the 'no you aren't getting in front of me' game / etc would not be OK

that factor would keep me out of La Mesa / San Carlos / etc if I had to commute I-8 east between 4 and 6 PM everyday

I've never seen I-15 north NOT be like that north of Mira Mesa Blvd regardless of the time of day so any housing north of there is of zero interest to me - likewise for I-5 north of the merge

life is too short to sit in traffic

Submitted by garysears on March 16, 2010 - 1:47pm.

I totally agree that life is too short so sit in traffic. The 8 East commute is OK as long as you can do it around 3:00 to 3:30. I've lived in Lakeside/El Cajon/San Carlos for the last several years (working at 32nd Street and North Island). You have to be able to leave work before the rush if you want to enjoy life.

I'd rather drive for 45 minutes with no traffic than sit in stop and go traffic for 20 minutes. This is a BIG issue for me.

Submitted by sdduuuude on March 16, 2010 - 4:48pm.

Another thought - regarding Poway/Escondido or anything else to the east.

It's too hot. You lose two of the main benefits of paying dearly to live in San Diego - weather and beach. Like 4plex said - if you live that far, you will rarely go. And, there's the commute.

For the same price house, I'd rather live in Phoenix or Tucson than Poway/Escondido. Lower state taxes, lower cost of living, live closer to work.

Submitted by poorgradstudent on March 16, 2010 - 5:25pm.

4plexowner wrote:
that factor would keep me out of La Mesa / San Carlos / etc if I had to commute I-8 east between 4 and 6 PM everyday

I've never seen I-15 north NOT be like that north of Mira Mesa Blvd regardless of the time of day so any housing north of there is of zero interest to me - likewise for I-5 north of the merge

life is too short to sit in traffic


There are people who get to leave work before 5:30? Lucky! :)

Definitely want to avoid I-15, hence the lack of excitement about Escondido.

Submitted by desmond on March 16, 2010 - 5:57pm.

"We really like being able to walk to coffee shops, restraunts and bars"

Don't worry as soon as you have the kids that won't be a problem no matter where you move, especially the bars. Just see the post by FLU on the kid's b-day party and all the response that it got.

Submitted by NotCranky on March 16, 2010 - 6:29pm.

Average daily high temperatures for July.

92117- 80
91901- 89 (no June gloom).
Phoenix-107(no June gloom).

Submitted by Eugene on March 16, 2010 - 7:27pm.

poorgradstudent wrote:
Definitely want to avoid I-15, hence the lack of excitement about Escondido.

In my experience, I-15 is not too bad any more. Could be because of new carpool lanes, could be because of the recession. I'll take I-15 over I-805 any time.

Submitted by FormerSanDiegan on March 16, 2010 - 9:14pm.

We've always favored smaller houses (for the money) in older neighborhoods, close to work and fun (beach/downtown). When we lived in San Diego we were within 10-15 minutes of everything in the Clairemont, Bay Park and Point Loma areas (at various different times over the years renting and owning). Even with kids we avoided the newer 'burbs, in favor of post-war 'burbs.

Submitted by jameswenn on March 16, 2010 - 9:18pm.

poorgradstudent wrote:
4plexowner wrote:
that factor would keep me out of La Mesa / San Carlos / etc if I had to commute I-8 east between 4 and 6 PM everyday

I've never seen I-15 north NOT be like that north of Mira Mesa Blvd regardless of the time of day so any housing north of there is of zero interest to me - likewise for I-5 north of the merge

life is too short to sit in traffic


There are people who get to leave work before 5:30? Lucky! :)

Government jobs, that's practically half the workforce in San Diego

Submitted by FormerOwner on March 16, 2010 - 9:56pm.

Convenience and a short commute are #1 for me. And no, I don't have kids. Right now I live and work in Mission Valley and I *walk* to work most days. I used to live in Temecula but got REALLY tired and bored living in the exurbs. Plus, living there my career options were a lot more limited. I would take an apartment in Mission Valley over a McMansion in the exurbs any day. Maybe that would be different if I had kids though.

Submitted by svelte on March 17, 2010 - 12:03pm.

Having bought several homes, I can tell you what I've slowly discovered are my priority when picking a neighborhood:

Proximity:
- 1 hour or less to downtown SD
- 30 min or less to my office
- 10 min or less to freeway entrance
- 10 min or less to nearest grocery store, restaurant, gym

Feel:
- Nice homes between home and freeway
- Nice wide streets
- 20 feet or more setback of homes from sidewalk
- Surrounding properties are kept up
- "open feel" to area

Safety:
- Lack of bars on windows
- Lack of dilapidated vehicles
- Average crime rate or better

If it doesn't pass those tests, we don't bother even stopping.

Then we get down to the home itself and price. We're big on "bang for the buck" which narrows down neighborhoods even more...

Submitted by an on March 17, 2010 - 12:28pm.

svelte wrote:

If it doesn't pass those tests, we don't bother even stopping.

Then we get down to the home itself and price. We're big on "bang for the buck" which narrows down neighborhoods even more...


We're the same way. We have our list of criteria and big on "bang for your buck" too. Our list is just slightly different thank yours, with more emphasis on proximity and school.
-40 min or less to downtown/airport
-20 min or less to work (door to door)
-5 min or less to nearest grocery store
-10 min or less to Asian supermarket

Submitted by Eugene on March 22, 2010 - 6:27pm.

To illustrate inland traffic conditions. This evening I left UTC at 5:55 PM. I was on I-15 at 6:05 and I got off the freeway at Via Rancho Parkway exit at 6:15.

Submitted by sdrealtor on March 22, 2010 - 6:30pm.

And it is that way everyday?

Submitted by Scarlett on March 22, 2010 - 6:57pm.

Eugene wrote:
To illustrate inland traffic conditions. This evening I left UTC at 5:55 PM. I was on I-15 at 6:05 and I got off the freeway at Via Rancho Parkway exit at 6:15.

Wow, that's quick. How do you get to I-15 from UTC? I used to live around there - the West Bernardo/Pomerado exit, I was going 5 to 56 to 15 from UCSD, and it was at least twice that long in the evening . But that was 4 years ago.

Submitted by Eugene on March 22, 2010 - 7:02pm.

Scarlett wrote:

Wow, that's quick. How do you get to I-15 from UTC? I used to live around there - the West Bernardo/Pomerado exit, I was going 5 to 56 to 15 from UCSD, and it was at least twice that long in the evening . But that was 4 years ago.

I take Miramar. If I were to take 805/5 to 56, that would add 5-10 minutes.

Quote:
And it is that way everyday?

Unless it rains. It may take a little longer if I leave at ~5, because there's more traffic near the east end of Miramar. I'm not very familiar with conditions earlier than that.

Submitted by Scarlett on March 22, 2010 - 8:51pm.

Eugene wrote:
To illustrate inland traffic conditions. This evening I left UTC at 5:55 PM. I was on I-15 at 6:05 and I got off the freeway at Via Rancho Parkway exit at 6:15.

Still it's impressive, though Mondays are lighter. I bet Thursdays are worse.

1.Do you use the commuter lanes?
2. In order to get from Miramar to Via Rancho Pkwy exit in 10' you have to drive 75-80 mph. That's at least 13 miles in 10'. That's why I assume you are using the commuter lanes, true?

Submitted by Eugene on March 22, 2010 - 9:19pm.

I went 75 on cruise control most of the way. Regular lanes. You can't even get into commuter lanes at Miramar. The nearest entrance is at 56.

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