I could probably also title this post “What I value about where I live.” We bought our first and only house in May 2008, probably at the height of the Seattle housing bubble, before early retirement was a potential future in our minds. But even after a refi in 2011, we still spend about 40% of our total expenses on mortgage interest and real estate taxes.
If we sold our house, we would definitely take a loss, since even with the recovering housing market, our house isn’t worth what we paid for it (still pretty far off, actually). We have considered moving somewhere cheaper within the Seattle area, and have considered metros/states other than Seattle, but haven’t looked very hard, honestly.
What I love about my house/neighborhood/city:
1. My house is within walking or easy biking distance (2 miles or less, but hilly) from:
- two public libraries (most important!)
- major grocery stores (Safeway, Fred Meyer, Trader Joe’s)
- fancy special grocery stores (PCC) and farmer’s markets
- community center
- Lake Union, Green Lake, Lake Washington Ship Canal
- numerous gyms, a few yoga/pilates and martial arts studios, a couple of Crossfit boxes
- good public schools
- hospital, clinics, pharmacies
- restaurants, pubs, cafes, dessert stores, banks, interesting retail stores
2. My neighborhood is close to downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, with theaters, museums, music venues, ethnic markets, etc, Also close to Puget Sound and a variety of other interesting and unique neighborhoods.
3. Mr. LL can bike to work, and we are in a particular neighborhood that makes my 18.5 mile commute as fast and sometimes faster than my old 6 mile commute. There is plenty of public transportation (like to the airport via the light rail). Though I wouldn’t want to do it for my commute, as that would triple to quadruple my current commute time in my car.
4. As an Asian American, and seeing as how my kids would be interracial if I had them, I like not being a rarity (particularly having lived in places where this was the case). As an ESL teacher and language nerd, I like how many immigrants and speakers of other languages live here. I also like that Seattle is a welcoming place for LGBT folks, and that we have marriage equality in Washington. I love that there are so many kinds of people here, because it also means there are so many more options and interesting things to do and learn about. And if you are not so left-leaning in terms of your politics (a majority in Seattle), there are others like you here, too.
5. Seattle’s outdoor recreation culture is thriving. We have 3 ski resorts that are relatively close, along with many state parks, a few national parks, and lots of hiking opportunities. The REI flagship store is here! Lots of people bike, row, run, and take advantage of outdoor activities.
It would be hard for me to leave my house in my neighborhood in Seattle and go to some other neighborhood in Seattle, and I wouldn’t save as much money as if we left Seattle for a place with a lower cost of living, like Spokane. That would be even harder! We could retire earlier, though, if we could reduce our housing expenses and thereby increase our savings rate. The question, I suppose, is how many more years are we willing to work in order to be able to stay in our house in early retirement? We’re not sure, but we’re mulling it over.