The Bay Area Lifestyle.
Many of you that may be reading this are considering a move to the Bay Area. A few of you may be second guessing the move, as I did over 20 years ago. I am originally from the Midwest and was recruited here when I worked in the International Advertising Agency business. My 5 bedroom, 5 bath home on a 20,000 sq.ft. lot in a great school district there was a tough place to leave. But like everyone else who gets recruited to the Bay Area, the money was too good to pass up. So, I left my 3,500 sq.ft. home. We moved into a 3bed/2 bath 1,700 sq.ft. home that was half the size and triple the cost, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I soon realized I didn’t really need a big house in the Bay Area. The only reason it was necessary in the Midwest is that we spent a big portion of our time in the home to shelter ourselves against the weather elements – too cold in the winter and too hot and humid in the summer. In addition, as a result of the extreme weather conditions, we had high heating and cooling bills. Back in the 90’s those bills were averaging nearly $400 a month. In today’s dollars the utilities for a 3,500 sq ft home would be in excess of $650 a month. Contrast those costs with my utility bills here in the Bay Area. We have never exceed $180, and average just under $90 a month.
Another big change is that our vacation budget decreased three-fold. We discovered that the Bay Area offers so much to do, and our vacations became stay-cations. Back in the Midwest, with a family of five, we would routinely escape the harsh winter weather and vacation in Florida. Each of those trips would cost us $6,000-$8,000 including Air, Hotels, Meals and Entertainment. Our first four years here, we went on mini-getaways to the City, Monterey, Yosemite, Napa, and short drives to the beach. Trips that used to cost us thousands barely cost us anything at all. After more than 20 years here in the Bay Area, we still haven’t seen everything California has to offer. It’s a huge state with so many diverse opportunities.
But, the biggest difference was that the entire quality of life for my family dramatically increased. We spent more times outdoors, which led to a healthier environment for my kids and an excuse to move my exercise routine outdoors as well. The weather here is great for the soul and is a big stress reliever. Imagine having no rain for 5 straight months. It sure makes it easier to plan picnics, outings and outdoor entertainment.
I still get those sneers from my friends and family back home when they ask why I would live in an area that is so expensive, but when you do the numbers, it is actually far more financially beneficial in the long term. In the Midwest the house I bought in 1989 is only worth $50,000 more today that the day I bought it over 30 years ago. The house here in the Bay Area that I lived in since 2000 is worth over $1.2 million more than my purchase price. There aren’t many areas of the country where your house has the ability to become a huge portion of your retirement income.
Overall, the Bay Area offers a diverse, safe, and robust environment that has something for everyone, no matter where they are moving from. In fact, many will find as a transplant that they will have a lot of company, since most tech firms do recruit from all around the world.