Home is where the price is

I haven't quite lost sleep over this, but I've been invested lately in where to invest in a home.

(Insert panic and rhetorical questions here.)

Based on the time of year (low buyer competition) and the "buyer's market" (low interest rates, high volume of relatively low-priced homes) I recently decided to enlist a realtor and lender and spend too much time searching for homes (condos, really).

First, I kept my search to the ideal Seattle neighborhood -- Ballard -- as well as neighboring hoods -- Fremont and Wallingford. As the NY Times reported in October, this area of Seattle is basically the shit. But along with that comes a price, which is a little higher than I think I can afford right now.

So, I expanded my search to Capitol Hill, the U-district, First Hill, West Seattle and Beacon Hill. These locations are less favorable in terms of commute, lifestyle, etc., AND most of these homes are still too expensive, but at least more homes are in my price range.

So, I expanded my search even further to the suburbs. But the commutes are terrible and, at heart, I'm a city kid.

So, I looked to the nearest true city, Tacoma.

Now, before you absolutely dismiss the Tac, consider the following:
  • The price of a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1,500 square foot house on a 5,000 square foot lot in Tacoma is the price of a 1 bedroom, 1 bath 700 square foot condo (with $200-$400 homeowners dues) in Seattle.
  • Basically the nicest neighborhoods (North Tacoma, Proctor District, Point Defiance) in Tacoma cost as much as the worst neighborhoods (Central District, Beacon Hill, White Center) in Seattle.
Related to work:
  • The Sounder stops across the street from my office.
  • My employer pays the annual fare to commute on the Sounder ($1,800 value).
  • The Sounder has WiFi, so I could technically be working when I hop on the train at 7:30 or 8 a.m. I can leave the office promptly at 5 p.m. most days and still be online and working until 6 p.m. and home before 6:30 p.m. (The commute is one-hour each way.)
  • The above scenario doesn't really change my regular working hours because I'd be working during my commute rather than bullshitting with Scott on the phone about how bad the ski weather is this year.
  • Public transportation in and out of Seattle is only getting better via light rail, and Highway 99 is going down per yesterday's news, which will make Seattle commutes a nightmare in the interim.

As you can see, I'm really trying to convince myself why Tacoma is a logical choice. I don't need to list all the reasons to stay in Seattle. There are plenty. I'm looking at dollars and sense (pun intended) and where I see long-term value.

The problem is that I haven't exactly outgrown Seattle. That's hard to do. I enjoy my lifestyle in Seattle and, while it has a lot of similar qualities to offer, Tacoma doesn't have the same culture.

The question is whether I should pay the price to benefit from the Seattle lifestyle or save some significant cash, get more space to grow into and try something a little different.

*I really refers to "we" because Amanda is totally a part of this desicion, though I'll be purchasing on my own.