East Coast Vs. West Coast: Houses
It’s been a long time since my grizzled fingertips danced across the keyboard, creating magic with my words for all the world to read. Over four years, in fact. But hey, it’s not like anything interesting happened during that time, right?
Well, one interesting thing happened. After 20 years on the West coast I packed up my family and moved back East. Not back to Maryland, where I’m originally from, but to North Carolina. So we’re officially the Carolina Prathers. (See what I did there? I took the name of the football team, the Carolina Panthers, and replaced “Panther” with “Prather” because I am so very clever.)
I’ve been here in North Carolina for just under two years now which means that I’m the definitive expert on well, let’s be honest, everything. That allows me to capably, comfortably, and convincingly compare and contrast Carolina and California. As such, I’m writing a series of posts breaking down the East vs West coast beef and see who comes out on top.
Keep in mind that, when I say “North Carolina”, I’m really referring to the coastal city of Wilmington where we live. When I reference SoCal, I’m primarily referring to the greater Los Angeles area where we lived previously.
Let me also acknowledge the obvious — -anywhere that I live is, by default, the best place because I am there and, even if it were the worst place ever, my presence would instantly make it the best place. So, to all the people who live in proximity to me, you’re welcome.
Aside of the above defining attribute, in a battle of locations, which spot is the Jay-Z and which one is the Ja Rule? Which city founded Roc-A-Fella, married Beyonce, then became a billionaire and which city created the Fyre Festival? To find out, let’s begin by looking at houses.
I lived in SoCal from 2000 until 2020, but didn’t purchase a house until 2017. When I did buy that house, it was conveniently located in Wilmington, North Carolina, a continent away. Now, why would I buy a house 2,500 miles from where I was living at the time?
It’s simple. Houses in SoCal cost, on average, $2 billion dollars for a 2 bedroom, 1 bath ̶d̶u̶m̶p̶ handyman special in a ̶g̶u̶a̶r̶a̶n̶t̶e̶e̶d̶ ̶m̶u̶r̶d̶e̶r̶ up-and-coming neighborhood. Comparatively, houses in NC are free.
Look at the facts — - In Los Angeles county last month, the median home listing price was $985,000 and the median home selling price was $1,000,000 . If you want a “normal” house in SoCal you need to spend about a MILLION DOLLARS.
The median home listing price in New Hanover County (where I live now) is roughly $420,000 and the typical home sale price is $370,000. So if you want a normal house here you need to spend NOT A MILLION DOLLARS.
I live in a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath single family home on just over 1/2 an acre (.6 acre to be exact). We’re on a nice, tree lined street in a quiet neighborhood less than 10 minutes from historic downtown Wilmington and Riverwalk. Our backyard sits up against a creek where we can kayak to the Cape Fear River if we want to get eaten by an alligator and all the way to the ocean if we have the energy to get eaten by a Great White Shark (Once Bitten, Twice Shy baby). And we’re only 10 miles from multiple beaches. Lots of beaches. So many hot, beautiful beaches. It’s also worth noting that I have never been murdered in my neighborhood.
Not one. single. time.
For giggles, because who doesn’t like to giggle, I ran a home search in the greater Los Angeles area . Using the basic details of my house (minus the creek and proximity to the beach) I found four houses ranging from $1.6 million to $2.995 million. A few had 3 baths rather than 2.5 (meaning that a full 3 people can be pooping at the same time vs my 2.5 concurrent poopers), so you’d have to take those things into account when you look at that cheapest $1.6 million asking price.
I don’t know exactly what my house is worth but I know that you can buy my house, plus the houses on both sides of mine, put a pool in all three back yards, plus a Tesla in each driveway, and still have enough left of that $1.6 million to contribute to one of those annoying birthday fundraisers a Facebook friend posts to virtue signal. (I’ve known you since middle school and suddenly you want me to believe you give a shit about Himalayan Feral Cat Rescue? Now you’re not even getting a “Happy Birthday” post. It’s “HBD” for you a-hole.)
The last house we rented in SoCal was similar in size and scope to our NC house. It was in a beautiful neighborhood at the foot of the mountains in a fantastic school district and we paid $3,050 per month. However, we were deep in the vast SoCal desert (it’s all a desert, fyi), summer temperatures made it feel similar to living directly on the surface of the sun, so the electric bill was astronomical on top of the rent. Thanks a lot air conditioning.
Here in NC our mortgage, health insurance for a family of three, and private school combined add up to LESS than the rent we were paying in SoCal. You’re reading that correctly — -our rent in SoCal cost more than our NC home, healthcare, and school all added together. If the public school system here were able to teach kids to do advanced tasks such as reading and writing we’d be in even better shape. Alas, they ain’t can’t done it so we pay for our sons education.
Since we purchased this NC house in 2017 the home prices have increased dramatically but LA, not to be outdone, has still outpaced us. Comparable homes here were running about 1/3 of their West Coast counterparts but are now closer to 1/4 of the cost. And that’s with the astronomical price increases here!
But hey, it’s all just words now isn’t it. What fun is house hunting without at least seeing pics for reference. Let’s look — -
Above is the last house we rented in CA. It’s estimated to be worth just over a million dollars and is currently for rent at $3,500 per month. Granted, it’s in a beautiful neighborhood of a great city with fantastic schools, but it’s nothing special. And keep in mind, it’s 50 miles inland from Los Angeles so your average commute time if you work in LA is 2–3 hours in each direction. So for just under $40k per year (not including utilities!) you can spend 20–30 hours per week driving back and forth to your job. But wait, there’s an alternative that is both closer to Los Angeles and far more budget friendly.
This isn’t a joke. At $450,000 asking price this sub 1500 square foot home in LA offers 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, boasts earthquake and water damage, plus hastily boarded up windows. Act now because, and I’m not making this up, they have multiple offers.
But first, check out the other pics of your new palace!
Bet you can imagine your kids playing in that gorgeous yard. Playing classic hide and seek ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶m̶e̶t̶h̶, the always fun ̶D̶e̶a̶d̶ Red Rover, and a local favorite, ̶C̶r̶a̶c̶k̶s̶ Jacks!
If that’s just too much house for you, head down the street, around the corner, and across the nation to the state where flying was invented (first by birds, then their idea was stolen by the Wright Brothers) — -North Carolina. If you want everything that LA has to offer, subtropical climate, lots of beaches, and even the movie industry, but at 75% off your home price, try Wilmington!
Here’s what we got. Please note that it looks larger than it actually is but our yard is huge (it’s a grower, not a show-er).
That’s a wrap. If you have a cool million you can maybe get lucky and win a bidding war on an average house in the Los Angeles area-ish. If you have a cool less-than-half-a-million you can score a nice crib in Wilmington. Jay-Z or Ja Rule, you decide!
Since one of the big perks of living in SoCal and coastal NC is the beaches, that’ll be my next post.
In the meantime, please support eco-friendly, sustainable small business by getting rid of your current toothbrush and buying one from www.ToothbrushMe.com so I can one day buy a studio apartment in a bad neighborhood near Los Angeles or a luxurious compound in North Carolina.