Yesterday my morning started, as weekends often do, with a little writing, some coffee, and then a conversation with my wife. Usually I bore her a bit with the topics which have sprung to mind as I write and then we turn to discussions of family, friends, finances, and our plans for the weekend. Yesterday Liz had an article from the New York Times she wanted to read for me; it was about Mt Kisco, New York.
We know Mt Kisco particularly well since that is where LuLu often spends weekends with her dad. It’s a great little town with a lot of interesting shops, places to eat, a movie theater, and a much more diverse population than one might expect in Westchester County. The New York Times agrees:
Affordable? I am so out of touch. The couple highlighted in the piece managed to find a nice little home for $455,000. Affordable. Assuming a 20% down payment, meaning they had stashed away around $100,000 in free cash, they will only need to pay about $1,600 a month on the mortgage and say $700 a month in property taxes, add a few hundred for insurance, and that’s almost $3,000 as your ante. I get that Mt Kisco connects to the best job market in the United States via commuter rail and that the salary scale is beyond my ability to comprehend, but it just seems that everything in life would need to chug along almost perfectly for 30 years in order for this to turn out ok.
As a high school teacher I’ve got a pretty steady gig, and it wouldn’t surprise me if inflation were to diminish the purchasing power of my income over the next ten years. As unlikely as it is for me to lose my job, it’s not like there aren’t hundreds of jobs, even thousands, in my field that pay at least close to the amount I now make. The people finding Mt Kisco affordable must have jobs paying in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in jobs which require really specialized skill sets and whose existence depends on creating lots of real value in the market place month after month. I would think that those positions are few and far between and that finding a new one on the same salary scale if a position were lost would be quite a challenge.
I’m a mediocre person with mediocre financial needs and mediocre expectations. I kind of like that. At one point a few years ago students at my high school watched a series of people engaging in “extreme activities”; living life to the fullest. I remember offering that some people are drawn to that, and if that is your calling then, by all means, have at it. If, however, doing the equivalent of jumping from a moving van off a bridge in some sort of bungee related rapid descent thing wasn’t your style, not to sweat it; life can be pretty engaging and entertaining without skydiving or hang-gliding.
A different news item I came across during the week discussed how home buying overall was slowing, but not for Hispanics. The article went on to note that this was occurring despite the fact that many Hispanics live in areas with overheated and overpriced housing markets. Another dark cloud was the issue of immigration. Needless to say, neither the concern over high prices nor those regarding citizenship obtain around here. I wasn’t able to find specifics on Springfield in the piece, but a perusal of home purchases from just this week showed over half of the single family and multi family home purchases in the city were to people with Hispanic surnames. All of them were well under $200,000 and a few were less than half that amount. For most of these people the mortgage, property taxes, and insurance won’t add up to $1,000 a month. There aren’t a lot of jobs that won’t cover that.
The abundance of high quality single and multi family homes at affordable prices will, I hope, give the city some stability and some resilience when the hard times do arrive. The bar is set pretty low here. Let’s hear it for humble aspirations, and limited expectations.