We're betting you've heard the news: New York City is expensive. Oh, make that crazy expensive. There's been a lot of talk about the city becoming a playground for the wealthiest few (the New York Times recently called it " Dubai with blizzards") and the exodus of its middle class. Heck, we've got a mayor, Bill de Blasio, who's made it a priority to keep the working and middle classes here, but that's a tough row to hoe. Though there was a 74.1% increase in permits for new dwelling units from 2012 to 2013, the fourth consecutive year it rose, and completed housing units rose 34.1% in 2013, the number of affordable units fell.
Many New Yorkers -- myself included -- can't shake the desire for the American dream but know we just can't achieve it here. Fear not: Realtor.com is here to help! We bring you the premiere of Escape From New York, in which we interview real New Yorkers who want to get out, and help them find their dream homes in their dream cities and towns. We hope.
Here's how it works: I ask you some basic questions -- who you are, where you live, what you love and hate about it -- and then pick a city that I think best suits your needs, with a series of home listings that fulfill your dreams. The only thing we don't do is find you jobs and hire a moving van.
Though I've got a list of volunteers, I begin with me, because this topic has consumed me for the past three years. I'm a senior editor at realtor.com, married, two kids, with an elderly cat, and a dream of dog ownership. I live in Brooklyn in an 1,100-square-foot, railroad-style fourth-floor walk-up, near the train and the park.
I love the community, the walkability, the wonderful people, the culture, and the food. I hate the schools, the competition for everything, especially parking spots (ignore the walkability line for a sec). And, of course, I hate how expensive it is. And I really, really want a house.
I am crazy for bungalows and American Foursquare or Prairie-style houses. Ideally, I'd have three bedrooms plus a finished attic to use as a writing room. While I'm dreaming, a finished basement with a little guest area and that thing called a rec room that I've heard about. A yard that's less than one-third of an acre -- we want to play catch and plant herbs, but we don't want anything that feels suburban. We hope to pay less than $3,000 a month in mortgage and taxes.
Where is this magical land? You might think Denver (the schools should be great with all that pot money!) or Portland (the '90s are alive and American Foursquare houses are in vast supply), but it's going to be Pittsburgh, which has a strong job market, a decent walk score of 60, and an educated constituency. The cost of living is low, the schools are pretty good, a typical mortgage is $1,466 a month, and the average listing price is $235,200.
The downside: a depressing 59 days of sunshine a year. Jeez. But the houses are pretty nice. Here are my choices:
Who said anything about Gothic? Not me, but on the other hand vertical siding and a steeply pitched roof have always been alluring. This one has five bedrooms and three baths (this is jaw-dropping to a New Yorker). It's on the more expensive side, but, heck, it's got almost 9 acres! Never mind that whole thing about not wanting a big yard. It's got a pool, and a pool table, and a beautiful kitchen with pink accents. Packing. Bags. Now.
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Wait, who said anything about a Mid-Century Modern? Not me, again, but this was just too cool to pass up. It has four bedrooms and five baths plus two half-baths! I have only one. What would I do with all those bathrooms? Who knows, but some of them have sun tunnels (whatever those are) and those wonderful windows in the living room. It's Dwell-ready, once the carpet comes out.
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I'm guessing some architects gutted this Queen Anne-ish Victorian, and are responsible for the open floor plan and the glass garage door that leads to the deck. It seems like a nifty place to be a kid, and I look forward to my writing studio in the attic, where no one else will be allowed to enter.
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Oh, hi, you're a little cutie folk Victorian with scalloped siding, and I like your all-garden backyard and the french doors in the kitchen. Also: I like your price.
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Excuse me while I do a double-triple-quadruple take -- the price (and the interior) is nice. And it's extremely Foursquare-ish! This beauty has five bedrooms and 2.5 baths (which are renovated and lovely), a porch (!), and that great combination of period details and modern updates. Everything around it is inexpensive, likely because there are high-crime pockets nearby.
Admittedly, I am not yet packing my bags. A few years ago, Pittsburgh had an initiative to recruit Gen Xers in the tech fields (does writer count?), but without the lure of a great job, I'm not sure I'm ready to pack up and go. But, hey, anybody got a good job offer?