Friday, April 22, 2016

Keeping Up With the Joneses - Part I

So, for the past few years, probably five or so, more and more of my friends and peers, and even people who report up to me at work (so, I'd consider them non-peers) have been buying homes at purchase price points ranging from $700,000 to a million.

I find this phenomenon strange, but also incredibly alluring.

Let's start with an analysis of these folks.   I will start with the ones who started this trend, and I do believe there is a somewhat contagious trend among friends that equates to keeping up with the Joneses.  The ones who started the trend, in my humble opinion, likely made smarter choices.

1.  It started with my friend Mary, all names changed to protect the innocent, and her husband George.  Back in 2011, they actually got a great deal and paid mid $500s for a home that is now likely worth close to $800,000.  They bought a 5000 square foot McMansion in a better school district, they have a small child, with 5 bedrooms, 4 baths in a new development.  Their family consists of 3 people and they do not plan to have any more children so this is a house bigger than they need.  Their real estate taxes are more than $8000.  They took out a $400,000 mortgage.  Five years later they are putting in a pool.  The house they sold they had owned since 2002 and they made about $50,000 profit when they sold it.  They were buying in a buyers market due to the 2008 real estate crash which means they were also selling in a buyers market.

Mary is in the same profession as I am, I assume she makes similar money to me.  Her husband is in law enforcement.  While he makes less money, he has a great pension that will be coming to him (and soon) such that their retirement savings is less crucial.  I have one other friend who will have a federal pension, but she cannot collect said pension until closer to traditional retirement age.  George will be able to start collecting his pension in less than 10 years and his pension is for life.  As a result, they don't have to save as much for retirement.

2.  Jennifer and Alan were next.  They are a dual income, professional, couple.  Both are in the same profession I am in.  They have three kids.

In 2012 they bought a 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 5000 square foot home.  It also has a 2000 square foot out building (with air conditioning) and a pool.  They bought the home for $775,000 (the prior owner had bought it for $800,000 so, again, it was likely a good buy) and it is likely worth close to a million now.  Taxes are $14,000 a year.  They took on a $620,000 mortgage.  Later they took on a $35,000 home equity loan.

They held onto their prior house for a couple of years, while the Florida real estate market improved (likely a smart move), and they later sold it in 2015 for a $265,000 profit.  I don't believe they took that profit and reduced or refinanced the mortgage on their current home, rather before they sold their prior home they put it into a trust and I assume the profits also went into that trust.    

They have engaged in a variety of real estate and trust maneuvers in the last few years.  This is probably because Alan also bought an office building and they are creating protection for their other assets.

Does it sound like I'm stalking my friends' personal business??  Well I guess I am.  All of this information, at least in Florida, is public record and readily accessible on line.  I also am learning from what they are doing, and that is both positive and negative (more on that later).


Stephanie said...

This is just crazy to me. We are in the process of buying a house. I didn't even ask about the maximum we would be approved for, but probably somewhere around $500,000-$600,000. That said, we are going to spend about $250,000 for one of the best school districts in the state.

No, it does not have custom cabinets and exotic stone counter tops, but it is in a great neighborhood. It will get the job done. And we can still spend lots on travel and retirement savings. No pressure. I don't see the need to impress other people with spending.

Sam said...

Where in Florida are you landing Stephanie? Some parts of Florida are reasonably priced, here in Palm Beach the prices are all over the place.

Wait for the next round, I started with the folks that I thought were actually pretty smart.

Stephanie said...

We are headed to the Orlando area.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. I find it very alluring too. We have a number of people downsizing in our neighborhood from these type neighborhoods, they bought their large homes prior to the real estate crash. I look forward to the sequel.


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