My first person view of gentrification

gentrification-frogs-featured

Earlier this week I walked out the kitchen door and down the sidewalk destined for the neighborhood Food Lion grocery store.  It’s a quick five minute walk to the shopping center and proves uneventful on most trips.

This day was a little different for a number of reasons.  Half a block away from home, I bumped into a new neighbor.  We started chatting about the neighborhood, the fancy downtown magnet school both of our children attend, and his most recent acquisition: oboe reeds.  This guy had a different vibe than many other neighbors that moved here over the past several years.  He’s completely white and fluent in English for starters.  Solidly middle class.  After doing some cybersleuthing later in the day, I realized he paid about 50% more for his house than what his neighbors did a few years earlier.

We shake hands and part ways after exchanging contact info to stay in touch (we’re neighborly like that down here in the South). I proceed to the grocery store in no particular rush (I’m retired after all).  I enter the shopping center through the short cut by the dumpsters.  And lo and behold there’s a homeless looking gentleman laid out on the sidewalk in the sun chugging a half gallon jug of whole milk.  Not my first choice of mid-day beverage, but it was warm that day so I guess 64 fluid ounces of ice cold milk hit the spot, right?

Upon entering the store, the weird continued.  The first customer I encountered was a lady cruising around in the store’s mobility-aid cart.  She was yelling to her friend about WIC cheese.  If you know who Fat Albert is, then read the following in that voice.  Otherwise, read it in a very deep, throaty voice.

“Where da WIC cheese at? Hey, where da WIC cheese at?  Ain’t nobody got no WIC cheese up in here.  Where it at?”

“It ova heah” her friend suggests.

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP, she backs up the motorized cart.

“Where it at? Oh dat ain’t what I want.  What else dey got? Where da WIC cheese at?”

A few more moments perusing the shelves.

“Dey ain’t got no WIC chedduh?”

At that point, I had to leave or else I might have lost it.  Laughter, tears, anger; I wasn’t sure what emotion would come next.  Look, I just wanted some string cheese for my kids (and I’m not gonna lie, for me too, because that stuff is deceptively good).  It was on sale for a buck fifty for a 12 ounce package which is darn cheap for mozzarella, let alone mozzarella shaped and individually wrapped in portable one ounce snack sticks.  But I couldn’t get to it because of the circus going on in the dairy aisle.

Lest I appear overly classist here, I genuinely feel for people that have to jump through those hoops to get a free block of cheese, and I have to assume there’s a better way to administer a governmental program to get nutrition (“nutrition”??) to people that need it.  Our household has the option to apply for WIC, even though we clearly don’t need it.  But there is no way I’d waste time on that given the hassles involved (at least in our state).

I don’t know if the lady in the go-cart got her WIC qualified cheddar cheese, but I did see her later.  She was holding up the extremely long check out aisle, presumably with WIC related issues.  I smartly chose to head to a different check out aisle, since I knew it would take quite a while to unravel her shopping basket mysteries at the cash register.  Disaster averted.

In the meantime, I had the fortune to stand behind someone who appeared to be suffering from heroin or meth withdrawal.  Either that or she was a really bad erratic dancer, twitching and swaying about to some unmusic heard only in her own head.  At least it didn’t take long to ring up her hot dogs ($0.99), bologna ($0.99), white loaf bread ($0.78), Ho Ho’s ($0.89), bar-be-que sauce ($1.29), and sliced American cheese food product ($1.68).  I’ve never had BBQ sauce on bologna or hot dogs, but it does sound like an interesting combo.

Fun times in the grocery store.

You’d think it was time to move given how sketchy the neighborhood grocery store is.  But you would be wrong.  It’s time for the “good” people to move near me.  It’s time for GENTRIFICATION!

What's that? Oh, just a couple of Celtic fiddlers at our community Halloween festival that don't fit the typical mold.  Stereotypes are pretty worthless so many times.  This is what I like about our neighborhood.

What’s that? Oh, just a couple of Celtic fiddlers at our community Halloween festival that don’t fit the typical mold. Stereotypes are pretty worthless so many times. This is what I like about our neighborhood.

 

Very Humble Beginnings

Gentrification is already well underway in my neighborhood today.  But that’s a recent development from the past couple of years.

We moved in 13 years ago when things didn’t look so rosy.  It wasn’t the worst area of Raleigh by any stretch.  But it wasn’t the best either.  And there are plenty of sketchy communities scattered outside the perimeter of the neighborhood which don’t help our zip code’s demographics at all.

The neighborhood elementary school was in steady decline year after year, at one point becoming the worst school in the district based on poverty level of students at the school and test scores.  We sent our kids there anyway.  We took a gamble and it paid off (or perhaps our active involvement and promotion helped the school turn around?).  The county school system decided to reboot the school, fire 80% of the faculty and staff, and start from scratch while dumping tons of financial resources into the school.  Mission accomplished – there’s a waitlist now and plenty of applicants get turned away.

We encounter one of the enigmas of gentrification here.  One of chicken and egg proportions.  Did the vast improvement of the school (in spite of difficult socioeconomics still present today) fuel the gentrification, or at least remove one impediment to solid young middle class households relocating here?  Or did the improving socioeconomics of households moving to our neighborhood lead to a higher quality of student at the elementary school?

After moving into our house, we realized one neighbor was going to be a problem.  Three loud, angry pit bulls roamed his yard and stalked our fence line whenever we were in the backyard.  The owners rarely paid them any attention, so their only option was to bark.  And bark.  And bark.  Day and night.  Incessantly.

That was a relatively peaceful time before the drive by shooting.  To make a long story short, a 14 year old shot a 17 year old after their respective gangs were beefing at school.  One of the gangs just so happened to attend a birthday party thrown by the family next door.  The other gang decided it was time to retaliate.  We got to see people running and jumping through our yard as the bullets flew and a huge puddle of blood in the street once the ambulance hauled the injured boy away.

Fortunately things have a way of working themselves out.  The lady of the house apparently left.  The man of the house remained, but appeared not to be working much (and I don’t think he was early retired, if you know what I’m saying).  Not long after the shooting, the Rent-A-Center trucks showed up to repossess all their weekly rental items (TVs, stereos, computers, who knows?).  Then the mortgage company foreclosed on the property and these bad neighbors became someone else’s bad neighbors.  The guy that bought the house (and repaired all the damage and neglect) still lives next door and has two very quiet tiny indoor dogs.  All quiet on the eastern front.

edit: I wanted to point out that 4,697 of the roughly 4,700 days that we have lived in this neighborhood have been rather boring and uneventful from a crime standpoint.  And we have never been the victims of any kind of crime while we’ve lived here.  We live on a lake, there’s tons of wildlife, and we frequently walk to the park, school, and library and don’t worry about crime given its inherently random nature.  Life has treated us pretty well here, but there have been a couple of bumpy moments.  

 

The wealthy are coming! The wealthy are coming!

The latest crop of new residents in our neighborhood all seem to be youngish, hip looking folks holding down solid middle or upper middle class jobs.  That’s who used to live here a couple of decades ago.  Former owners of my house include a local politician/lawyer/lobbyist and a successful small business owner.

However, over the last couple of decades the property prices lagged and this opened the doors to the great unwashed masses who couldn’t afford the pricier new homes going up elsewhere in town (or didn’t want to add an extra 20-30 minutes to their commute!).

Good or bad, I don’t know.  It brought a lot of diversity to the neighborhood and most of the residents are totally awesome.  But it also let in people like my former next door neighbor, Mr. Drive By Gang Shooting.  Those kind of people seem to take care of themselves, and now there’s a whole new crop of buyers looking to escape the ridiculously priced, sometimes crappy accommodations in the really exclusive part of town and move a couple miles north or east to scoop up large yards, old trees and extra square footage at a fraction of the price.

Thanks to their money, our neighborhood real estate market is on fire.  It’s common to see sales at asking price within a day of listing assuming the price isn’t crazy.

From Zillow:

raleigh-housing-appreciation-2016

Jan 2015 Oct 2016 % Change
Root of Good House $163,000 $185,000 13.5%
Northeast Raleigh $149,000 $166,000 11.4%
Raleigh $190,000 $210,000 10.5%

In numerical terms, our house, and our neighborhood overall has slightly outperformed the rest of the zip code and Raleigh as a whole by a few percent.  I don’t think this fully reflects the limited supply and speed of sales in our neighborhood, but maybe it’s a larger phenomenon than I think.

A few years ago there were plenty of fixer uppers in the $100,000 price range with renovated houses selling for $150,000.  In what seems like an overnight shift, it’s hard to find any houses asking less than $150,000 while most houses are asking in the $180,000 to $220,000 range (and selling at those levels quickly).

Anyone want to drop $220,000 on my buddy's 2,400 square foot 5 bedroom, 2.5 bath with two car detached garage?

Anyone want to drop $220,000 on my buddy’s 2,400 square foot 5 bedroom, 2.5 bath with two car detached garage?

These kind of upward price movements probably don’t seem like a big deal to folks in high priced and fast appreciating cities like New York or San Francisco/Silicon Valley.  But for a place like Raleigh where house prices barely kept up with inflation for the past decade or two, this is a big deal.

I’m obviously the worst real estate investor ever for not buying up all the $100,000-120,000 houses I could get my hands on, renting them for several years at a nicely positive cash flow, then flipping them for $200,000 a few years later.  Maybe next real estate cycle I’ll have more time on my hands and a clearer crystal ball.

What I don’t know is how long this trend will continue.  I’m still carrying my house at a value of $140,000 in Personal Capital because I’m not sure it’s actually worth the $185,000 projected by Zillow  – they don’t know we have a partially “vintage” 1972 kitchen – and I would only get around 94% of the sales price if I sold through a realtor.  Eventually I’ll bump up the carrying value if these higher prices stick around.  I have no plans to sell even if the value went up another $50,000, so for now it’s just a somewhat arbitrary number on a screen.  And in terms of our $1.6 million-ish net worth, what’s an extra $50,000 in an illiquid asset that I can’t live in if I sell it?  Though at some point we would be foolish not to evaluate a scenario where we sell our house and move somewhere less expensive in this city or elsewhere in the nation or world.  Since we aren’t hurting for money, the payoff would have to be rather great to make it a worthwhile move (<– see what I did there?).

Thanks to this gentrification, I’ve grown a little wealthier (even if I haven’t fully recognized it on my balance sheet).  Our streets might get a little safer.  And our neighborhood will have just a bit more clout in City Council when it comes to doling out government funny money for pet projects (like that multimillion dollar park upgrade coming our way).

Some complain about higher property taxes after their area undergoes gentrification, but that won’t be an issue for us for at least seven more years since the county reassesses all home values every eight years and 2016 was the most recent reassessment (our home value inexplicably went down by seven thousand dollars).  Since our property taxes are already low at $1,500 per year for a fairly average house in the neighborhood, a doubling of property taxes wouldn’t be a huge hardship for most.

As the gentrification proceeds, I expect it will be a virtuous feedback loop of increasing values making home renovations and improvements more sensible investments, which makes the neighborhood look nicer, leading to more price appreciation.

If things keep improving, eventually we’ll have the tear down phenomenon seen elsewhere in Raleigh.  Someone might purchase my house for $200,000 or $250,000 with the intent to bulldoze the house and building a McMansion from the ground up.  In essence, they are paying a large sum of money for the land underneath my house.  Some folks REALLY hate this phenomenon because “it destroys the aesthetic quality of the neighborhood”.  In our case, it’s predominantly 1960’s and 1970’s split levels and ranches, so I’ll be interested to hear the objections I am sure many neighbors will lodge against tear downs with rebuilds.

In the meantime, the new folks moving in are classing up the block with their chicken coops.  Why go to Whole Foods for your free range eggs when you can raise them yourself in your backyard?  I’ve already spotted several Subarus sprouting up in driveways.  Next I expect they will request bike lanes painted on our neighborhood streets.

A little charcuterie setting so we'll fit in. Don't worry, all the Spanish chorizo, pine nut hummus, ciabatta bread, marinated artichokes, olives, and imported piave cheese were purchased from the clearance section. The olive oil sadly was not.

A little charcuterie setting so we’ll fit in. Don’t worry, the Spanish chorizo, pine nut hummus, ciabatta bread, marinated artichokes, olives, and imported piave cheese were purchased from the clearance section. The olive oil sadly was not.  Just need a snotty microbrew to complete the experience.

 

The downside of gentrification

All this new money flowing into the neighborhood isn’t all positive.  Over time, lower income residents will move on to other neighborhoods and be replaced by more homogeneous middle and upper middle income residents.  No longer will the smell of the tamales and garlic rich dishes wafting out of the open kitchen windows tickle my nose as I stroll down the block.  Kale smoothies don’t really have much of an odor.  Hearing only one language at the neighborhood park will leave me wondering “where did all my former neighbors go?”.

I used to recommend my neighborhood to everyone that would listen.  Cheap, large houses on large lots just a few miles from the city center in an up and coming neighborhood.  As the prices keep rising, I’m afraid I can’t make such a strong recommendation any longer.  If this trend continues, it will be hard for friends relocating to this city to move to my neighborhood.  In another ten or fifteen years when my kids are in the market for their first house, they might have to look elsewhere instead of buying in this area like we did for our first permanent house.

This past weekend we met up with some friends at the neighborhood park to play some tennis (a notably middle class or wealthy sport).  We are usually the only ones using the two courts.  Very rarely will another party use the second court.  This time, we had to squeeze our whole party onto one court to make room for another pair.  Then another family approached to play.  And another.  Gentrification means crowded tennis courts for us.  Now I know how the folks competing for the basketball courts and the fútbol fields feel since that’s what is usually jam packed on nights and weekends.

We are contributing to the tennis court overcrowding problem.

We are contributing to the tennis court overcrowding problem.

Perhaps the worst part of gentrification, should it continue, will be the loss of all the ethnic grocery stores and restaurants.  What will life be like without the panaderías, tortillerías, Latino, Asian and African groceries, and restaurants from all over the world?  Who would want to give all that up for organic coffee bars, hot yoga studios, a skinny jeans shop, a cronut shop, and a boutique oil dispensary?  Maybe some of those ethnic places will survive the cultural shift and stick around.  I wouldn’t mind most of the tattoo parlors, hair salons, nail salons, and pawn shops disappearing though.  And please don’t convert my Walmart to a Target.

Or maybe this whole home price increase is a flash in the pan and gentrification won’t actually stick to my neighborhood.

 

Lessons Learned

Gentrification can take a looooong time.  Get ready to be patient and make sure you can live in a less than perfect setting long term.

Embrace the good and the bad of your situation and make the most of it because it might be a while before it changes.  Enjoy the cultural differences to the extent possible.  People that are different from you rarely bite, and those that do often get the boot as Mr. Drive By Gang Shooting did.  Instead of flying half way around the world to experience a different culture, you might encounter it next door instead.  From that point of view, moving into an “up and coming” neighborhood can be a great experience if you’re open to it.

Don’t count on gentrification to make you rich.  The timing of gentrification is uncertain, and it may not happen at all.  Investments in your property might not pay off if gentrification never comes to pass.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about gentrification.  I don’t mind sharing my neighborhood with the poor (even the homeless), minorities, those of a lower social class, recent immigrants that might not speak English (yet), those of low educational attainment, or other societal outcasts that didn’t quite make it all the way out to the suburbs.  Mrs. Root of Good and I both have some of those groupings in our recent family history.  Those people are probably more fun than a lot of upper middle class people anyway.  We count many of them as friends.  Many times these people value education, wealth, success, and achievement as much as the upper classes, but come from disadvantaged backgrounds and never had the resources or motivation to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

On the other hand, with gentrification comes changing social expectations and peer groups.  I think we fit in better with the low to moderate income households in terms of visible spending, and feel more peer pressure to keep up with the Joneses when mingling with the comfortably middle class or upper class like those that seem to be moving in to our neighborhood.  I doubt we’ll actually spend more money as a result, but it’s a tricky spot to be in.  For example, do we prevent our kids from participating in expensive activities that all the other kids are into just because the activity is a horrible value (but one we could easily afford?).  Do we still bring $3-5 bottles of wine to neighborhood parties when everyone else brings $20 bottles?  Will neighbors still attend our house parties if we’re the last house on the block sporting an original 1972 kitchen?  It’s probably much ado about nothing, as most of these newly minted neighbors appear to be of the live and let live variety, but one never knows what it’ll be like in another five or ten years.

We’re very fortunate to have the luxury of wealth such that we don’t really care if our house price drops by $50,000 or goes up by $50,000 because it won’t materially impact our daily lives and spending decisions.  We lose more than that in a day sometimes so it’s no biggie.  Instead, we enjoy living in a convenient location that’s close to things we value like a variety of budget shopping and dining choices, parks, schools, libraries, and entertainment options.  When we bought our house, the low price combined with these other features made it the right choice for us.  We liked the neighborhood well enough, warts and all.  Over time it looks like it’s improving from a price appreciation standpoint, and with that comes a change in demographics and socioeconomics.

 

 

Have you ever experienced gentrification first hand?  Are you trying to find the next “up and coming” neighborhood before it gets discovered?  How do you do that?

 

 

117 comments

  • This is a great read Justin! I think many people would have had the “For Sale” sign out when that drive-by happened. We haven’t experienced gentrification but we have had people move onto our block who have left the “fancy” developments. We live in a 1960’s split level house on a dead end street with about 40 houses. We have an in-ground pool, big old trees and a 23 acre public park in our backyard. But there is a development a 1/4 mile away with new “cookie cutter” houses that start around $75,000 more than ours. They have ZERO trees and when they go out their back doors, they can see every single neighbor down the lane and have ZERO privacy. So they have to put up the white vinyl fences to block each other’s view of backyards. (Interesting note – we also notice what I’d call the “no deck” phenomena in the new developments. Where people buy new houses but either can’t afford the deck out back or think they will have a grand plan to build some amazing deck/pool and never do. These houses have a 2 x 4 across the sliders out back for years sometimes!)
    These folks move onto our street and do a few upgrades to their 1960’s houses and realize what value they have and what an awesome neighborhood we live in. No keeping up with the “Joneses” here – just great neighbors willing to help in anyway possible. Interesting read Justin – thanks for letting me share here!

    • Sounds a lot like our neighborhood (without the +$75k houses around the corner – not yet anyway – but there’s a small parcel that might see 10-12 units go up if prices keep rising). We are fortunate that we can’t hardly see any neighbors looking straight out the back because of the lake and all the trees. In winter it clears up some and we can see many houses from afar. But those new neighborhoods – you’re right there in your neighbor’s backyard!

      That “no deck” thing is funny. Seems like a lot of these “fancy” houses end up being a pretty facade from the street and inside the kitchen (granite! stainless!), then cheapo in most other regards. Like the brick panels and architectural trim on the front while the other 3 sides of the house is plain vanilla builder’s grade vinyl siding.

  • Hmmm….Not many folks can claim to have made $50K by accident…LOL. I have done a bit of real estate in my life and the key phrase IS “location…location….location….”. I have experienced “gentrification” or in RE investor terms…”rising waters raise all ships”. I guess the most recent and stunning example is where we live now. We have been here over 30 years and it is a nice home….a bit dated but that’s fine. It has “good bones”….solid neighborhood….good schools….Great place to raise kids….BUT our kids are grown. It seems our area has become “Richestan”… About a tenth of a mile from our house, large new homes are being built on small lots for $700-800K….and they are selling…quickly…very quickly. BUT now we have become “urban”…less country and congestion is unbelievable…Some call this progress….I’m not a fan. The house next to us sold in a day for right around $350K 3 years ago…To a nice couple with 2 kids…we’ll call them Yuppies and it seems this is the future of our neighborhood…I own the lot my home sits on and the vacant building lots on either side of me. My thought is/was to sell our little gem as well as the lots…take the $500K tax exclusion and buy a “dump” further out that needed some work with the net proceeds and send the rest of the $ to the fine folks at TIAA-CREF. Or even finance the new place as these rates are just nuts. I can borrow money at 2% on a 10 year note from the CU…CRAZY… And last Winter I even found some steals within 35 minutes of where we live now…Homes that needed work…had promise…and were pretty interesting….BUT DW says…no dice….yet. If I were you I would look around….for the next “up and coming” neighborhood.

    • I bet you could make a mint on your house and those 2 lots. When you see rapid price appreciation, it’s usually the land that’s really going up in price and not the structure.

      Where we are, every mile closer to the “nice” part of town gets you about $50k increase in lot value. Our lot’s tax value is around $50k. Go over a mile or so and it’s $100k. Go to the next neighborhood adjacent to the nice neighborhood and it’s $140k. Then go to the nice neighborhood and it’s $190k. I think a lot of people who are relocating to Raleigh are realizing they can buy the $50k lot w/ house for a lot less than the $190k lot w/ house and take the $140k savings and do a heck of a lot of upgrades and still have lots of money left over (not to mention the lower carrying costs long term from lower mortgage and taxes).

      • Justin, I seem to recall a large influx of folks moving South…NC included…to take advantage of the mild climate and “cheap livin'”. This may explain some of your appreciation. You take a guy who sells his place in DC, Baltimore, Philly, NY for a boatload of cash in preparation for retirement. And he becomes “giddy” when he sees what $200K will buy in NC….

        • That’s definitely a thing. Buy a house up north 10 years ago, watch it go up by several hundred thousand. If you weren’t stupid and didn’t cash out refi it, you can sell, take the several hundred thousand as tax free profit and buy a nice 2500-4000 sf house outright here in Raleigh or in one of the suburbs. Or buy a monster $500k+ house with a modest mortgage using your several hundred thousand as a sizable down payment. Mrs. Root of Good saw this a lot when folks moved to Raleigh from NYC when her company opened up its offices here and moved over 1000 jobs down here. People sold craptacular 2 BR half of duplexes for a half million and bought 5 BR houses on huge lots with the proceeds and then wondered what to do with all the money they had left over.

          • This is our retirement plan. Myself and the wife work in the NYC area (Queens to be exact), and 4.5 years ago we purchased a 1600sqft co-op for $230k. To be fair, we put about $45k worth of renovations into it for a total cost of about $275k. Today, 4 years later it appraises for *at least* $375k… A neighbor who has the exact same layout as our co-op was offered $400k cash and told, “We don’t even want to see inside…” Since we’ve been aggressively paying the mortgage down, we only owe $70k outstanding on the house and can’t wait until we finally pull the plug and sell to move down south somewhere… Or maybe we won’t sell and just rent it out? I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

  • You had me a “Drive By Gang Shooting”! Kudos to you for sticking through some rough times in the neighborhood. You did well buying low, any consideration to “sell high” anytime soon and perhaps move out to lower priced suburbs or elsewhere?

    Personally, I don’t really look at my house as much of an investment per se, since I will always need a place to live and won’t really ever consider selling it to liquidate or take advantage of market price increases.

    A quick check on Zillow though and based on that value my house has gone up 4% per year in the four years I’ve owned it. Not too shabby.

    • Fortunately that drive by gang shooting was a one time occurrence and the bad neighbor moved out shortly thereafter. It did give us pause to consider whether we should stick around here long term.

      “any consideration to “sell high” anytime soon and perhaps move out to lower priced suburbs or elsewhere?” I doubt I’ll ever want to live further out of town than we already do. I put a big premium on convenience and proximity to local destinations and would hate to have to drive longer to get places (or not be able to walk places). We might move elsewhere if it made a lot of sense financially, but it would have to offer similar amenities. I’d love to move within walking distance of an indoor city pool, for example, but not at the expense of being several miles from everything else.

  • You should check out the McMansion Hell blog. It’s hilarious and spells out everything wrong with what I call “mushroom houses”. I don’t mind gentrification since I’m one that would benefit from it, but I know it’s hit cities like Nashville pretty hard. When you’re a struggling artist, the ‘rough’ areas of town might be all you can afford. Where do they go when prices go up? Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer as you get a lot “NIMBY’s” or Not In My Back Yard. They want there to be affordable housing – just not anywhere near enough to impact their precious property values. If everyone was less fussed about losing $50k like you, that would make things a lot easier on everyone.

    • I’ve seen that Mcmansion hell blog. Very funny stuff and such a valid criticism of these huge palaces dedicated to the art of consumption.

      NIMBYism is alive and well all over. In Raleigh there’s an effort to allow backyard “cottages” in areas where density makes sense and having affordable housing is important. Of course many are fighting the regulations because they don’t want it in their backyard (or their neighbor’s). And then they wonder why there’s no affordable housing (which they want, just not near them).

      I guess I get it – if I had a $500k net worth and a house worth $750k with a mortgage, I might be highly protective of my leveraged asset too. Not a good position to be in IMHO.

      I’m not sure where the struggling artists go. Rent a room from someone in one of those huge houses? Allow development of small-ish studio apartments that are nice and cheap? Our free market economy doesn’t always accommodate those that don’t produce a lot of value in the economic sense.

  • Interesting to stay in the neighborhood long enough to see it change first hand. I move around too much to experience gentrification. I grew up in a rural area that is still rural today. Then after college moved to a ritzy suburb of a mid-sized city where I’m sure kale smoothies were drank all over my block (in a 100 year old house that cost a bundle to heat). Then I moved to Manhattan into a neighborhood that I was told had just gentrified in the past 5 to 10 years – so I missed it. Now I’m in a small city in the Midwest. Maybe I’ll stick around long enough to see it change.

    • Yeah, it is weird to live here as long as we have. Can’t believe it’s been 13 years in fact! Even more amazing is the fact that there are tons of neighbors in their 70’s and 80’s that bought houses here back in the 1960’s and 1970’s and still live here going on 60 years later!

      • You neighbors sound a lot likes ours. We bout a house in 2011 for 200,000 prices have since rebounded to the point that zillow tells me its 360000. When we bought its was mostly older people that bought the house but the neighbors on both sides of us have bought within the last 5 years too. Our neighborhood is pricing out lots of people and its kind of sad.

  • We live in a low to middle class neighborhood and really love it. Most of my friends fall in the $20-$40k a year income, which is right where spend. And those with higher incomes are still paying back a ton of student loans, so it kind of evens out. It’s great when other people spend the amount we enjoy spending on activities $0-$5. It’s nice not to have to drop a ton of cash, just to spend time with people.

    • Yeah, that’s one of the huge hidden benefits of living here. In general, we have had zero problems finding free or dirt cheap activities that other kids and their parents are into. Whereas I see spendy facebook friends (and some more well to do local neighbors) spending $$$ on all kinds of stuff. I kind of shrug and wonder why they go so far out of their way to spend time and money doing the things they do, but assume it brings them more fulfillment compared to cheap/free local options.

      Maybe they look at our family and shrug at our 3-8 week vacations and consider that wasteful spending. 🙂

  • I have to be honest. I struggled with the WIC scene in the beginning. But I’m glad I stuck it out. My parents moved me to an affluent suburb in elementary school. In the past few years, we’ve seen the impact of gentrification in a different way. With so many housing projects in Chicago shuttering and other areas of The City going through gentrification, subsidized housing is cropping up all throughout this ‘burb. I actually think it makes it less of a bubble now (it’s still very Stepford in many ways), and that is a really, really good thing. However, I will say that it is one of the biggest challenges the city’s policy makers and schools are facing. Thanks for the interesting food for thought this morning!

    • Ha ha, I knew I was pushing it with that WIC encounter. 🙂 I HATE getting behind someone in the checkout line using WIC vouchers but wow, what if I had to rely on those to get food for my kids under age 5?

      I don’t really have a problem with the subsidized housing being spread around the city. Much better than the alternative – concentrated pockets of high poverty like Cabrini Green in Chicago (which wiki tells me was torn down in recent history; fun times getting lost in the middle of Cabrini Green the one time I drove through Chicago doing a little sightseeing 🙂 ). Even better is establishing zoning and housing regulations that encourage low(er) cost, flexible housing arrangements provided by the free market (with occasional subsidies to support construction/operation). Too often it’s a city’s own policymakers that shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to affordable housing policy (see, for example, every city that makes it really difficult for new build single family and multifamily).

  • Raleigh is changing Fast! We live in the only remaining five figure neighborhood in the belt line and we see houses being leveled and rebuilt for $300+ and those are only half a mile away. Most of our neighbors have owned their house for decades, so we will have slow gentrification, but it’s coming.

    • That area you are in is another one ripe for gentrification. The great wall of wealth is moving east! Now that I’m downtown a lot, I can see the clear dividing line between the exclusive wealthy area and the really bad rough part of town 2 blocks away. My guess is the wealth keeps squeezing eastward.

  • I used to live in Raleigh and it has a lot of great things going for it – I think your housing investment there will continue to pay off.

    I’m an urban planner and now live in DC, where I’ve been for 10 years. Gentrification was already in full swing when I moved here but I’ve seen it continue to skyrocket over the past few years. It’s making D.C. a world class city but at the same time it’s pushing lower income people further out to the periphery – in spatial, economic and social terms. I am concerned that if cities can not be inclusive places we are threatening our collective success as a society.

    But back to gentrification in DC. Those who bought in to housing in the district decades ago are filthy rich today. Housing is entirely unaffordable here for people just starting out – $200,000 will get you an old, dingy studio apartment in a bad part of town. You can still live relatively cheaply here though, if you make certain choices. For example I don’t have a car and get by perfectly fine – and have probably saved tens of thousands over the years because of it.

    • I know the DC area is crazy when it comes to housing. I think renting is a good strategy to avoid being pushed way out into the suburbs. I’ve also see people do well with short sales and buying fixer uppers near a metro stop but not in DC proper (see, for example, my law school classmate that is on the path to FIRE too).

    • I was wondering if I’d see a fellow DC-area commenter! Wife and I bought our house just northeast of town for a hair over $200k in 2010; by every estimate we can find, and compared to recent sales prices around our block, it’d go for about $350-$365k now. We can walk to three grocery stores and there’s a Whole Foods opening next year five blocks away. We’ve made dozens of good friends within a half mile of our house.

      And the area remains 1/4 white, 1/4 black, 1/4 Latino, and 1/4 other.

      It’s kinda magnificent.

  • Very interesting read! Not selling the house after the drive-by shooting was a gutsy move! A little bit like not selling equities after the Brexit or China devaluation. In the end, it worked out beautifully because it could only get better after hitting rock bottom.
    Also Kudos to you for being cautious about writing up your home value. If you sell the house you’d have to buy another house somewhere else at a presumably higher price. It’s not really a gain you can monetize so easily.

    • Yeah, the drive by shooting was fortunately a one time occurrence on our block, and the problem quickly fixed itself. I’d say somewhere around 95-98% of the neighbors, even in the worst times soon after we moved in, would be unlikely to have gang battles in their front yard. It just wasn’t that rough of a neighborhood. Now in other communities within a mile or two? Yeah, it could happen there more often. Still a very rare event all over the greater Raleigh area, so just a freak coincidence that it happened in the house next door.

      People get violently murdered all across the socioeconomic spectrum with alarming regularity, and the geographic dispersion of these incidents are hard to predict because it’s largely random. A good family could have a bad kid involved in a gang and that person’s house could get shot up even in an above average neighborhood.

  • Hilarious post RoG! It had me laughing the entire way through.

    You definitely paint a colorful picture of your neighborhood. Compared to what I’m used to, that hardly seems like gentrification. You’ve actually got it pretty good man. Hardly what I would call snooty compared to the PNW.

    And those house prices! That’s insanely cheap. Hell, around these parts I’d have trouble finding a house for less than $500k. A house for $165k (even with a 1972 kitchen) sounds like an absolute steal!

    • It’s by no means snooty here yet but I’m starting to see signs that it could make a turn for “the worse”. So far it’s mostly people buying a house, and fixing it up nicely, but sometimes in an interesting or radical way. I say bring that stuff on – I like looking at the innovative changes some neighbors are making because 1960’s suburbia was never a great look. 🙂

      Housing here is still incredibly affordable. You could easily find a 2-3 BR townhouse/condo in my zip code in a reasonably safe area for $100k or so. A really nicely remodeled 1 BR condo just came on the market down the street from me for $60k and it was really beautiful inside.

  • If gentrification means fewer drive-by shootings and potential pitbull defacings, how can it be anything but good? Wow! I’m gonna level with you here; I don’t understand why you chose to live in what any rational person would consider an unsafe neighborhood, at least in hindsight. You could obviously afford better, rather than waiting for “better” to maybe eventually come to you.

    I’ve never been to a Food Lion, but I did watch the exposé that showed them bleaching chicken and selling rotten meat. Sure, it was almost 25 years ago, but I haven’t forgotten. http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/print-edition/2012/01/20/analyst-food-lion-never-recovered.html

    OK, time to say something positive, so I don’t just stop, crap, and leave. Your house is worth more! Higher net worth! Neighbors who might share some commonalities with you and be less likely to leave dirty, infected needles lying around! These are good things!

    Best,
    -PoF

    • Other than this one neighbor, there hasn’t really been that many crime/safety issues. And this neighbor took care of themselves quickly 🙂

      At the time, we also weren’t all that well to do, so it might have been a big financial stressor to pack up, sell the house and find a new house, right in the middle of having multiple kids and starting a new job (Mrs. RoG). 13 years on and we have never been a victim of crime, petty, violent, or otherwise. I know the hotspots to avoid (mainly it’s certain areas outside the neighborhood but nearby between midnight and 4 am – I’m usually at home thinking about going to sleep by that point anyway!).

      I’ve never felt unsafe during the day time or even early morning or after dark in the evening and I’m out and about walking all the time. Just have to use common sense for living in the city and avoid potentially sticky situations (walking in the dark behind the shopping center at midnight where there might be a homeless camp in the woods and/or crazy people like the meth/heroin addict looking to make some $ to score some more junk).

      But to be honest I’m probably overselling just how bad the neighborhood really is. The vast majority of people are law abiding and the rare occurrences of crime are usually someone passing through or targeting the neighborhood (which can happen anywhere – rich or poor neighborhood). The gang shooting next door, for example, was most certainly some kids that don’t live in the neighborhood because they were visiting the kid next door for a b-day party.

      And as far as moving somewhere else, who’s to say 2 months after we buy a new place that another horrible neighbor doesn’t buy or rent next door to us and we have the same problems all over again?

      I’d have to move pretty far out to avoid the bad element completely. Even the nice parts of Raleigh aren’t too far from pockets of “the bad guys”. That would likely mean rather long drives for shopping, dining, entertainment, socializing, etc. And honestly, the risk of serious injury or death from an auto accident due to driving a ton is much higher than the risk of same from a drive by shooting that happens once in 13 years in a huge neighborhood. I’m just playing the odds while saving tons of money and actually enjoying the conveniences of living “in the city” (while accepting the bad parts of city life, too).

      As far as the Food Lion meat issues 25 years ago, I got past that almost 2 decades ago. It was an isolated case and after Food Lion sued the investigative reporters behind the food safety violations, it turns out there was 40 hours of unseen film that showed the reporters were actually the ones trying to get the FL employees to violate their workplace safety guidelines (“hey, let’s just dump bleach on this meat and repackage it!”). The same butcher has worked at our local FL for probably 10 years now (I think he lives here in the neighborhood, as do many other Food Lion employees), and I watch him work. Looks pretty clean to me! I ask for a cut of meat and he’ll carve it up and package it for me, or check their stock to see if they have any in the back. In the meantime, I’m getting inexpensive fresh meat and produce from a store I can walk to in 5 minutes. Pretty great experience! I just wish there was an Aldi right next door.

      • I see. When I read your description, I’m picturing a scary Detroit neighborhood where the cops are afraid to go. The drive-by was a fluke. I frequently employ the “cars are more dangerous than X” argument. As in, “You’re more likely to have something terrible happen driving into the hospital than you are under general anesthesia.” And a year ago, there was a murder directly across the street from the parochial school where we had one son in kindergarten. Not a great neighborhood, but not bad, either. Just a bad tenant with a drug problem.

        I’ve never lived anywhere with a Food Lion, so the only association I have is that report, which I remember watching. The aftermath, not as much. Aldi is nice to have, though. Not an easy walk or very safe bike ride from us, but a 5-minute drive. And ain’t nobody blabbin’ about gubment cheez.

        Best,
        -PoF

        • No, it’s nowhere near the image everyone has of Detroit. Though after visiting Detroit’s “rough” neighborhoods, I found out that most are pretty empty these days because all the houses are gone. No houses, no people, no crime. 🙂 Chicago or Baltimore might be a better comparison these days for a really rough area where some areas have limited police presence at times.

          I can’t think of any murders in our neighborhood at all in fact. Every few years there will be some burglaries then they catch the guy(s) and it’s quiet. Occasional car break ins (then they catch the guy(s) and it’s quiet for a while). Can’t say I hear much about violent crime within the neighborhood itself, though there’s a nightclub nearby that has a murder or two every once in a while (we skip the nightclub, especially between midnight and 4 am 🙂 ).

          Some people here still don’t shop at Food Lion. It’s considered a lower class grocery store compared to Harris Teeter/Kroger (prices are definitely cheaper; can’t say quality is any lower). I think Aldi is winning some middle class converts. It’s usually clean enough and easy to navigate. And I don’t even think they take WIC so no gubmint cheeze problems there, you are right. Ours is about 1.5 miles away, with the walk being partly along an 8-10 lane highway (though excellent sky line views of downtown Raleigh!), so we’ve only walked a few times. It also passes by some of the sketchier parts of town (though totally safe during the day). Again, I’d be more concerned about a car running off the road and hitting me, or having someone run a red light, or a car turning right on red and hitting me as I’m crossing that mammoth 8-10 lane road. So I drive usually. 🙂

  • We’re in a college neighborhood right now which sees its own version of gentrification – mainly with the building of fancy, luxury apartment buildings. It’s crazy to me that college kids (and their parents) pay to live in these places. I’ve been seeing the luxury apartment phenomena in college campuses all over the country. I always thought college kids were supposed to live in crappy, run down houses.

    It’s great for the neighborhood. Makes my area look nicer. But I worry about how these college kids can afford to pay to live in these places.

    Also, what’s wrong with those painted bike lanes? I say go even farther and make them protected bike lanes!

    • Yeah, we have that phenomenon around NC State University now, too. It’s unlikely my kids will be staying in those luxury apartments. 🙂 Can’t afford it! 😉 But if you ever want to see how to spend a quarter of a million dollars sending a kid to school, just imagine the rent bill and how much it costs to keep up with the Joneses in those luxury apartments. The true sad times come when that kid graduates from college (with debt) and starts out making $3x,000 per year and has to cut their standard of living in half. I think that’s a big part of the millennial complaint – “OMG I went to college now I’m living like a poor person” when they are really living like the lower-middle class person they actually are given they are fresh out of college and making a modest salary those first several years.

      I don’t really have a problem with bike lanes (just thinking of the already gentrified areas and what they have in common). It would probably slow down traffic on my street which is great in my book because cars fly through here sometimes. I don’t even own a bike right now because I can’t get to many useful places without taking a very roundabout path since the main roads are very bike unfriendly.

  • We’re experiencing the exact same thing in our little corner of Montreal. At the moment its full of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, African, Haitian, Arabic, etc. stores and restaurants but you can already see the signs that the neighbourhood is changing. Condo development is non-stop these days as whole blocks of houses get bought up and torn down. The local mall has completely transformed.

    My *personal* indicator is that there’s suddenly a wealth of craft beer selections at the grocery store 😀

    • Sounds like a wonderful place to live, actually. 🙂

      Speaking of craft beers, a sales guy from one of the many local microbreweries just bought the house on the corner (for a ridiculously high price). The local grocery store still has more 40 ounce beers (aka poor people’s beer) than fancy beers, though there’s plenty of both. And they actually carry some pretty good kale there for $0.99 too 🙂

      • Oh I wasn’t implying it wasn’t great, I love the different shops, restaurants, etc available. There’s a reason we’re here! My wife is Cambodian as well, so having specialty grocery stores nearby means we can whip up amazing dishes constantly.

        I admit to loving the beer selection growing though 🙂

        • Small world! I remember seeing a few Cambodian places in Quebec (Montreal and Quebec City) and was surprised since there aren’t a whole lot around North Carolina (many more Thai and Laotians here compared to Cambodians).

  • Interesting read. We paid ~$275k for our house 10 years ago. It would now sell for ~$430k to $450k (paid off in 2007). We could move 1/2 mile away and buy a similar house for ~$230k. We have a 5 bed/3 bath. Most houses are 4 bed/3 bath. So we would likely lose a guest bedroom.

    I would love to make this move and put $200k+ toward our march to financial independence. My wife is not convinced. We could “buy” some awesome flexibility toward early retirement. I will keep working on it.

    Thanks for the detailed post about gentrification.

    • Very tough choice to make. I think I’d have to make the jump for $200k+ (tax free presumably!). The guy I bumped into on the street with the oboe reeds told me he had just moved from the higher priced fancy area a couple miles away, probably to save this exact kind of $$ (but maybe to get more space for less $$ too).

  • The balls on you, man! Please do be careful. A little story.. my pops used to frequent the Mr. Pawn shop over in Mini city (is it still called that?) which I think may be near where you live and was friends with the owner who got murdered over there last year. Pops had warned him before that the neighborhood isn’t what it once was, but said Mr. Pawn shrugged him off and said he always carried a handgun when he was working. Well, it didn’t end well. Of course odds of something happening are low, but obviously those odds are higher around that area than other places. Not trying to fear monger, but rather share an anecdote. Just don’t let desire to live cheaply get in the way of your families well being.

    I grew up in that area several decades ago and it certainly went downhill in the last couple of decades. Hopefully it’s bouncing back, but if it were me and my family, and I had your net worth, we’d have been in a hotel that night looking for a new area to move to. Be safe, dude!

    • I rarely get to the mini city shopping center, mostly because there’s not much there that I can’t get elsewhere (the food lion, for example, is further away than the FL I go to and there are other stores at a similar distance). But I know what you mean – that area doesn’t feel safe, particularly at night. The few rare times I end up visiting that food lion, for example, I’m usually sketched out by the crowds loitering in the parking lot. If I lived in those apartments right behind mini city, I might be tempted to move because that immediate area does seem to have ongoing issues and I think gentrification has a ways to go before reaching that area.

      A lot of it is pure randomness though. Plenty of shootings and armed robberies all over every city in America, good and bad parts of town. That Mr. Pawn killer (who went on a killing rampage elsewhere) ended up escaping to our neighborhood and causing quite a scare here, but it could have been any neighborhood in any direction (imagine if he went 1-2 miles to the west of us, he would have been in a very nice section of neighborhoods just east of North Hills – a nice part of town for those not familiar with Raleigh). I write this off as “living in the city” and not necessarily a sign that we need to move. Remember the armed robbery and shooting in Historic Oakwood several years ago? Same thing – you live in the city in a nice part of town but random bad stuff can still happen. I just think we interpret it as “oh that’s a bad part of town and stuff like that just happens there” when it’s a lower income neighborhood, but we’re more ready to write it off as random violence if it happens in a nicer part of town.

      Edit: interesting backstory to the Mr. Pawn killer: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/crime/article34126575.html Apparently he went to school at Stough, in the “good” part of town. Suffered from mental illness.

  • RoG,
    You have guts and a good sense of humor! I have to admit, I probably would have been too much of a chicken to live in your neighborhood as it was when you first moved in. But your perseverance paid off. Now the stories you have are worth it, even if the price of your home didn’t go up!

    • It wasn’t so bad really. Just a couple of isolated incidents. Most of the rest of the time was pretty boring crime-wise. Though we do have a DUI run off the road into the neighbor’s yard about once per year, so there’s that if we ever get bored 🙂

  • I love your generalization of the gentrifiers as absurd hipsters, driving their Subarus or riding their bikes to “organic coffee bars, hot yoga studios, a skinny jeans shop, a cronut shop, and a boutique oil dispensary.”

    It’s also interesting to read about how property is getting unaffordable at around $200,000. In our southern California neighborhood the the median home price is about $700,000, which makes early retirement a heck of a lot harder to achieve.

    • Real estate is all relative. I still don’t think it’s anywhere near unaffordable for most at $200k given how low mortgage rates are. There is no absence of great paying jobs in the area between all the suburban office parks, downtown Raleigh and Research Triangle (where Mrs. RoG commuted every day). It’s just that I’m used to seeing houses in the neighborhood sell for closer to $100k for the past decade then suddenly $200k is the new $100k. 🙂

  • Crazy about the drive by shooting. I would totally freak out and want to move out!

    We are seeing a bit of gentrification/tear down in our neighbourhood. It’s certainly driving the property values up but the property tax also increases too. At $200k you can’t even buy a 400 sqft condo in Vancouver, you’d need to go very far east in the valley to get something. Consider you guys lucky to have much more affordable housing.

    • It’s America, so I’ve mostly grown accustomed to random gun violence all over. I guess it’s like growing up in Cold War America and accepting the fact that one day you might get nuked but you still go outside, relax, and drink a beer.

      I definitely consider us lucky to have rather low housing prices. It explains why so many people from higher COL places love moving down here. With their cashed out equity they can buy a place free and clear (or buy a huge place and have a tiny mortgage). I think the Freedom Is Groovy folks did just that but in Charlotte NC instead of Raleigh NC (though they are moving to Raleigh soon I understand).

  • Conversely, gentrification can be a big help for those of us still early in our FI/RE journey. We bought a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Portland OR 3 years ago, because we liked the area and the house, although fairly modest, was in solid condition. If you’ve heard what’s happened to the Portland real estate scene in the past several years, you might know that tech bros and California refugees have been moving to town and snapping up all of the “cheap” houses (because if you’re from SF, Portland looks like a bargain!), often paying tens of thousands of dollars over list price. We bought for $345K and Zillow is now saying it’s worth $540K, a mere 56% increase in 36 months. I take those estimates with a huge grain of salt but even adjusting downward by 50-75K it’s still a huge increase that we did nothing to earn (no real improvements to the house, etc.) In 6-10 years, depending on where we are with our other savings and our FIRE goals, we plan to sell, move to a lower-cost area and hopefully buy a house in cash with the equity we gained. None of this is guaranteed – we could have another crash, after all – but living in a hot housing market does have its perks for those of us who bought modestly and can take advantage of others wanting to live here more than we do.

    • That’s a good point. We could theoretically sell up and move to a more distant suburb where land is cheap and cash out some equity. If you’re just starting out and land in the right spot as it’s gentrifying/appreciating, you can really make a ton of money over a decade or two.

  • Interesting article, one that hits on a lot of things I’ve thought about in our own hood. I’ve lived in roughly the same place the last 36 years and my family has been here pretty much forever. It’s gone seriously downhill since I was in school (graduated HS 98) but I’m hoping maybe it’s on the up swing.

    Never been that close to a drive by, but I have been awoken by gunfire twice in the last 6 months 🙁 But like you say they are really isolated incidents and you just have to over look them ;even though it’s tough.

    My daughter is the only white student in her class for the second year in a row. I don’t have a problem with it and so far neither has she; but I do worry as she gets older whether there will be any isolation or discrimination. We’ll see maybe her generation can finally climb above the rampant racism in our country. One nice benefit is the lack of “keeping up with the Jones” since it’s a relativity low socioeconomic school now.

    Of course the main benefit is I’ve only got 15 years and $250K left on my Mortgage while most of my friends have moved out to “better” areas taking on new $500-$700K houses with 30 year notes. We are in the HCOL DC area (MD suburbs).

    Anyway, thanks for another good and honest article about a sometimes tricky/taboo topic. Your article about “why we choose the worst school in the district” is part of what inspired me to stick it out and give it a try here 🙂

    • We’ve certainly had that experience with the gunshots (we play “fireworks or gunshots?” and guess which one we’re hearing; sirens shortly after usually means it wasn’t fireworks). Maybe other people here live in much safer cities than Raleigh, but it really seems like every week there’s at least a few headlines about a shooting or killing involving a gun, and I’m sure the random people firing guns and not hitting anyone doesn’t even make the news. It’s a little disconcerting but a fact of life in “the city”.

      Our kids have been the “only white student in the class” more than once (well, they’re half white anyway, so sometimes we have to add them to the other half white kid in the class to get to 1 white kid). I remember when we first started school there, walking into the cafeteria for breakfast with my little one, and I was the only white guy in the room (other than a few white teachers). Fast forward seven years and last night at the open house, I was shocked by all the white people and obviously middle/upper middle class people (still wearing work IDs from some fancy tech/pharma/biz/IT employers around town). The times, they are a-changing. Of course our county school system has a long history of supporting failing schools and trying to keep the socioeconomics balanced, so you can rest assured that no matter where you live, the school situation won’t be untenable.

      Glad you enjoyed the article. I was really focused on reporting factually in this article (with my own editorial spin of course) without being classist or racist, because I think the issues discussed herein transcend the class/race question.

      • I appreciate your attempt to write this post without being classist or racist; however, I feel it’s necessary to call you out for (in my opinion) not succeeding with the story with which you started out the post. I found your mocking of the woman who was looking for WIC cheese really offensive, as you were making fun of a woman who was 1) poor 2) disabled and 3) a person of colour (I assume from the way you describe her speech). You’re a good writer with an interesting blog, and I don’t think you need to sink to the level of mocking a marginalized woman to get laughs.

        • I don’t think I’m making fun of or mocking a marginalized woman. I really don’t know if she was poor or disabled (could be tired; could be temporarily injured like a sprained ankle).

          She appeared to be a little older than the age where she would be likely to have kids age 4 and younger (kids age <5 are a requirement to get WIC - a specific food aid program intended to support nutrition for young children and infants and mothers who are nursing infants aka Women Infant and Children = WIC). There were also no kids present with her (and daycare isn't free!), so I kind of doubt she's the actual beneficiary of those WIC benefits.

          She could be picking up food for her grandchildren or someone else who receives WIC benefits for all I know. So when you assume she's poor based on my description of her dialogue and the fact that she's selecting WIC items, that assumption reveals your bias more than mine.

          It's very plausible she could be
          -retired with pension income well above the poverty level
          -disabled military with a sizable disability payment well above the poverty level
          -still working full time and making a sizable salary, just not scheduled for work at the moment, or on her lunch break (it was around lunch time when I visited the grocery store)

          It's a little disturbing that you actually assume that she's not somehow able to support herself financially simply from the facts I've covered in this article. My own brother in law and sister in law receive WIC even though the primary wage earner in their household has a very nicely compensated job. Her use of a mobility aid and her lack of what I would call "proper" English doesn't mean she's not intelligent, educated or competent in all areas of life. I think us members of the middle class are guilty of making assumptions about others that subconsciously make us feel better about our own station in life. Interesting social commentary, don't you think?

        • Being a person of color who has been a loyal reader of your blog I also thought your story of the lady looking for government cheese offensive. I am no longer a loyal reader.

          • Thousands approve; 2 dislike. Can’t please them all.

            I still haven’t revealed the race of the people in the grocery store. 🙂 It’s also not a relevant piece of info for the story to make sense. Those who bring race into it are welcome to do so, but I think it speaks volumes about that person, and not me or my story.

            We have wealthy people moving into the neighborhood (not all white, since we’re into talking about race now!) and we have people who are probably members of the lower middle class or below given their access to WIC (though I’m a millionaire with access to WIC, so having WIC and being poor is just a stereotype). The person in the store was being rather loud, which is weird colorful behavior I rarely see in the “good” part of town, and struggling to find the WIC items she was looking for (for which I sympathize because WIC is complicated and frustrating).

            edit: I removed the email address domain name from the name you put on your comment. I assumed you might not want that publicly displayed but if so feel free to comment again or send me a message and I’ll add it back.

            • Justin, I have also been reading your blog for a few months now and considered contacting you about retirement consulting but no longer I am afraid. Your portrayal of the woman looking for WIC cheese smacks of inherent racism. This is exactly why gentrification is such a delicate issue for minorities and underserved communities. Neighborhood re-development is always approached through a lens of privilege and economic stimulation without regard to cultural heritage. You reaffirmed this idea with your article when you mention your new neighbor who is “completely white and fluent in English” and “Solidly middle-class” and then go on to describe the woman at the Food Lion grocery store with the “Fat Albert” voice. I’m glad that you see the positive side of gentrification in terms of rising property values but did you ever once stop and think about the families who would be displaced if they can no longer afford to live in those neighborhoods? This is an issue that goes beyond YOUR loss of ethnic grocery stores and restaurants in YOUR neighborhood.

            • “[D]id you ever once stop and think about the families who would be displaced if they can no longer afford to live in those neighborhoods?”

              Of course I did and I’ve said as much in the article. My own extended family is already being priced out of the neighborhood. Do you assume everyone in my extended family comes from a privileged background?

              It’s a complicated issue. There will be good and there will be bad. As far as lower class people wanting to live here, they don’t really want to live here as is IF they can afford somewhere better. I’ve heard that all the time over the past decade. Now, if it continues changing for the better, there will be some in the lower classes that simply can’t afford to live here and will be priced out eventually (though a mortgage on a $180k house is still pretty affordable for many assuming they have access to credit).

              Are you certain the person looking for WIC cheese was of a certain race? Doesn’t sound like hardly anyone I know in real life (of any race). I had to reference a cartoon character to convey what this individual sounded like. I think she wanted some attention and I gave her a little fame right here in this internet pages of mine.

            • Long time reader, first time commenter. I agree with the previous commenters that the article was laced with underlying classism at least, and racism at worst, which sucks, because I really appreciate most content, particularly the recent how to pay for college post as it was relevant to my job a teacher of low-income high school students. I’m commenting (I don’t think I’ve commented on any blog ever, and I read many) not to express my offense, outrage, and to censure you, but to encourage you not to dismiss the other commenters and hopefully be a little more mindful and reflective in your future writing. I will probably continuing reading regardless, as I think it is one of the great failings of our current culture that we refuse to listen to people we may disagree with about anything (“siloing” I believe it had been called). Regardless how you “actually” feel though, your article was rife with judgements (read: prejudgements, read: prejudices) for all sorts of people, be they higher or lower socioeconomically, similar or different ethnically, etc. I don’t really want to go in depth and annotate all those instances, as that isn’t the point of my post. I just encourage you to, instead of being defensive and trying to counter those “arguments”, instead step outside yourself and try to understand where that perception may have come from within yourself. You have built an awesome platform and community for people around yourself, and I would love to see that community as more inclusive an welcoming than I think this post indicates. As I alluded to earlier, I am actually a teacher at a ethically and socioeconomically diverse high school, and I teach a few different courses, one which is on economics and personal finance, and another focused on college preparation for low-income, minority, first-generation students. I have actually used some root of good posts (along with MMM) in my classes, but have had an underlying concern that much of the online FI community is created by and, naturally, focused towards well-educated white or Asian people. It is not necessarily that you or any other awesome FI blogger had an animus towards minority readers and/voices, but rather an unconscious bias that is entirely natural (as we see things initially from the only perspective we know, our own). Again, I really appreciate the time and effort you invest to create and share this great content, but would appreciate you endeavoring to make that content more accessible and welcoming to people that would benefit the most from it by examing your own biases that may be reflected in your future writing.

              Thanks!

              Kelly

            • Congrats on posting a comment on a blog. First time for everything 🙂

              I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t come off as defensive, but rather a continuation of the discussion.

              I think the nature of the FI community and the subject of this article in particular – gentrification – makes it inherently classist, and by proxy some would say racist (race being strongly correlated with wealth). As far as your comment “much of the online FI community is created by and, naturally, focused towards well-educated white or Asian people”, I tend to agree because wealth is correlated with race. From reading many blogs and meeting many people in real life, you’ve nailed the stereotypical FI blogger and community member pretty well. 🙂 But there are so many examples of FI success situated outside that norm that I know it’s not impossible (but yeah, not having a high paying job makes it much harder to retire in one’s 30’s with a seven figure portfolio – education is a key component of creating the luck you need to get a high paying job).

              I suppose I could have written in a style without any judgments, opinions, or personal feelings about the gentrification happening around me, but there are probably much better textbooks on the subject somewhere (not that many people actually read those tomes 🙂 ). And this is, after all, my personal blog where I relate things going on around me. 🙂 Sometimes personal experiences rub others the wrong way. Sometimes my worldview reveals my implicit biases.

              I have opinions about what constitutes a good neighbor and a bad neighbor (hint: it’s not about their race, it’s about not having gang battles at your house or having angry battle-trained pit bulls). I live in an incredibly diverse neighborhood both racially and socioeconomically and don’t have a problem with any current neighbors in the hood (except that one owner – who happens to be white – that can’t keep their wild overgrowth trimmed back from the walkway and there are serious public safety hazards – City Inspections has been notified 🙂 ). Our neighborhood elementary school is the same way – mostly black and Hispanic with a small proportion white and Asian students but it works for us. The neighborhood and school saves us many trips overseas for cultural exposure. 🙂

              I struggled when outlining and writing this article with exactly what my opinions on gentrification are. I see both sides of the coin, good and bad and realize that it’ll be different in 10 years. Even though we would make out like bandits, I’m sort of hoping we don’t end up with million dollar homes such that none of my current neighbors could afford to live here if they were house shopping today.

            • The neatest thing about this series of comments is that every person who sees race as the issue rather than economics is actively reducing the people involved to simply the melanin content of their skin, and they are doing so based on their own assumptions of the melanin content of the skin as derived from details irrelevant to the melanin content.

              Tip of my hat, good sir. (Quick, guess my race!)

            • But it’s easier to fire “you’re racist!” accusations right from the hip while resorting to your own form of racism isn’t it? The WIC cheddar cheese hunter doesn’t match my version of any racial stereotypes because it goes against all that I’ve personally observed from real life people (I mean, if you’re going to form racist stereotypes, they should at least be based on a small sample size of those personally known to you, right?).

              As for your race, I’m guessing “not green”. Did I come close? 🙂

  • My parents live right near the corner of Lead Mine Rd and Lynn Rd. I wonder if I’ve been to those tennis courts you show pictured at that park right there on the corner. Do you live close to that/ is that the park?

    • Nope, different set of tennis courts. 🙂 Though I know the park you’re talking about and from Google streetview it does look very similar – surrounded by trees, same park benches sitting on the mid-court area near the nets, etc.

      We go swimming near there about a mile away at Optimist pool from time to time.

      • Woah – my mom lifeguards at that pool sometimes. She probably knows you guys ! My younger brothers have been lifeguards there as well

        • Mrs. RootofGood remembers an older lady lifeguard though I can’t recall. Short, very small frame? We haven’t been to Optimist since the springtime I think (usually go to Buffaloe Road aquatic center). We’ll have to chat with her next time we’re there at Optimist!

          • Short and probably wearing a visor. Her name is Priscilla Hackney. She knows my goal is to retire by 40 so that would be an incredible conversation for you to tell her you actually did reach FI and are an inspiration to me.

            • Ha ha, yeah that’s probably her. I’ll talk to her if we see her there next time we’re up that way. I know we’ve been a few times at like 10-11 am on a weekday and we are the only people in the Olympic size pool other than 4-5 lifeguards on the periphery. THAT is the time I’ll speak to her – and say “yeah this whole early retirement thing is treating me pretty well. Now let me finish a few laps” 🙂

  • Never underestimate the financial pressures of living in a neighborhood where people are competing to out-spend each other. I think you have very legitimate concerns about being able to maintain the frugality of your lifestyle.

  • Wow, I’d hate to live in a city with neighbors all bunched up like that.
    I’ll keep my home on 35 acres, along with the privacy and freedom that comes with it.
    I can live with the fact that it takes us a whole 5 minutes to get into town. SMH

    • I actually like all of my neighbors right now, and consider them a benefit of living in the city and not a detriment. To each their own of course!

      • I have great neighbors too, and we look out for each other and help out whenever the need arises. 🙂
        I just like having the space to do whatever I want whenever I want, whether that be shooting, riding ATV’s, or just enjoying nature, without bumping into other people all the time.

        • Nothing wrong with that. We have a couple of 35 acre plots all to ourselves on many days. We back up to a city owned lake so we don’t really see other people out the back. And then there’s the city park. It’s fairly deserted during the weekdays (just one guy doing pull ups on the monkey bars this morning plus a parent walking to her car after kid pickup at our kid’s school). Lots of nature and peace and quiet most of the time without actually having to own all that land.

          But if I were into riding ATVs or shooting I’d certainly appreciate a lot more land than the .3 acres we have. I just wouldn’t trade the amenities we have now for that much land and a much longer drive.

  • Great story, I wasn’t sure where you were going at the beginning but liked where it ended up.

    We watched this happen around our first home, it was a combination of foreclosures and elderly people passing or moving into assisted living that started the change. Definitely witnessed a few tear down/rebuilds. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood at all – just seamed ready for a change.

    We did sell that hous and make some money – we weren’t married to the area for the long term and decided to cash out.

    • We’re seeing that a lot here too. Some foreclosures in the past several years (probably people that bought while credit was loose till 07-08, and some FHA type loans that don’t require stellar credit or big down payment), plus a lot of people hitting their 70’s and 80’s and deciding to move somewhere smaller (or dying!).

      I’m still waiting on that first tear down. I’ve seen a few major renovations that doubled the size of the house (but still nothing over 4000 s.f. as far as I know).

  • The city I currently live in is a bit peculiar. You wouldn’t think that it’s a desirable area, because there’s not a whole lot to do, but you keep seeing new apartment complexes go up and people are moving here. I guess the people getting priced out of LA and Orange County are moving inland because it’s more affordable.

    Despite the drive-by shooting, Raleigh sounds like a good spot to be in. It’s fun to think that I could buy one of those cheap condo’s for cash, or potentially be early retired or work very part time with a dirt cheap mortgage payment. 😀

    • Raleigh is great. Especially if you can afford to leave the summer heat and humidity (or you’re one of those crazy f*$%ers that loves heat and humidity). Cheap living while still being in a city with tons to do. They keep building those apartments around here, too, but given the job growth locally it makes sense. I can’t wait till they bulldoze some of the crap on the main road near our neighborhood and replace it with something a little nicer (even if it’s even more of those same apartments!).

  • OMG- thank you. I might have a contender for most hard core gentrification tale. When my parents bought a 4 bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the mid 1970’s (for 50k) the agent curled her lip and said it was “GU” (geographically undesirable). No one, no one could see what was going to happen to Manhattan over the next fifty years. Back then there were burnt out buildings on every block and drug dealers in every alley and Central Park was considered a liability rather than an asset.

    Now, of course, what was once a land of urban pioneers is a homogenous soccer mom neighborhood filled with arbitrageurs and financiers where folks like me can’t buy even a studio apartment. That apartment would sell for 3 million now, conservatively.

    If you like the location, maybe consider investing in real estate for your kids. I don’t like being an exile from my family, and they don’t like it either.

    • Ha ha, “GU”. I’ll have to start using that. “Oh wait, you live where? Oh, that’s so “GU”. Oh, you don’t know what GU is? Not surprised. People of your ilk wouldn’t know anyway” 😉 We have the abbreviation “ITB” here to refer to Inside the Beltline (I-440 beltline is a loop road that circles 2-3 miles from downtown around the whole inner city). The western half of that circle is the fairly exclusive nice part of town, with some parts having high concentrations of wealth. So you can brag about living ITB (we live just outside the ITB zone and I’m okay with that).

      That New York City scene you describe sounds crazy. I’ve seen old movies and documentaries where they were almost giving away the units because no one wanted to live there. Amazing how times have changed, and that 4 BR Upper West Side apartment must be worth well over a million dollars.

      I’m not sure I would invest in local real estate just as a placeholder for my kids to return one day. Mainly because we may not be here in this same neighborhood forever either. I don’t know what our plans are in another ~15 years when the kids will be mostly out of the house but it might not include living in a 4 BR house in this neighborhood (then again, it might, or might involve downsizing to a smaller house or one of the condos down the street or a new not-yet-built condo/apartment/townhome development).

      • Oh, it would sell for three million, easy. People though my parents were crazy for buying there and raising a kid in that neighborhood. Guess they got the last laugh, although they are not fans of the new residents. Not a lot of sense of community anymore, to say the least, and the only option for groceries appears to be Whole Paycheck.

        Ah, yes- NYC real estate they couldn’t give away. It existed- you could buy a rat infested, burnt out brownstone from the City for, drumroll please, $1 in the 1970’s as long as you fixed it up. There were blocks of these just around the corner from us. In grade school my best friend and I (ignoring the warnings to NEVER GO DOWN THAT STREET) used to go and play with the stray cats that lived in those abandoned buildings.

        Now those brownstones sell for TEN MILLION EACH. A unique real estate situation, to be sure, but perhaps a better ROI than even buying stocks in the doldrums of the 1970’s (feel free to run the calculations). I think one of the reasons I still rent is I’m looking for a similar deal-of-the-century!

        • Wow! Our city occasionally offers surplus property in the worst parts of town. I actually bought our current house, the subject of this article, through the same surplus property listings, though it was due to some construction projects going on that they bought it and surplused it, not being in the hood! I’ve been so tempted to jump on some of their listings. $25-30k for places in the worst part of the hood. $20k for an undeveloped lot that could allow a duplex or possibly 2 detached single family houses (smallish lot, so those suckers would have to be 12′ wide shotgun houses lol). I just checked and all those are gone today, except for an abandoned water tower site that’s landlocked and has asbestos piping underground (where’s that 10′ pole I’m not going to touch that one with?).

          We spent the day in suburbia today visiting family. Almost went the entire day without seeing a single white person (then saw 2 that weren’t white as we were leaving the park). Drove through a ton of neighborhoods that I worked on as an engineer, and wow at the prices. Most single family homes in cookie cutter subdivisions were priced at $250k+, townhomes just under $200k. I guess that’s where people looking for “a good community” move to…

  • “What will life be like without the panaderías, tortillerías, Latino, Asian and African groceries, and restaurants from all over the world? Who would want to give all that up for organic coffee bars, hot yoga studios, a skinny jeans shop, a cronut shop, and a boutique oil dispensary? ”

    That would be very sad indeed. I love ethnic stores and asian food markets. That’s one of things I always miss about Asia whenever we go back to to North American. And with housing prices in Toronto going through the roof, this conversion of ethnic stores into organic coffee vars, hot yoga studios, etc was happening all over the place. I hated it. No character what-so-ever and no diversity. Then you get stuck with “keeping up with the joneses” people who are constantly stressed and stressing you out by pressuring you to buy shit you don’t need. Run, don’t walk, away from them.

    Congrats on the house price increase, but I hope your neighbourhood retains it’s charm and diversity (minus the drive-by shooting of course :P). And no, I don’t see you ever giving into peer pressure just because of the new neighbours. Us FIRE people are outliers. We got here but not giving a shit what other people think and that will never change 🙂

    • I’d like to keep the good parts I like but get rid of the bad, please. 🙂 Can I have my cake and eat it too? Ha ha.

      There are other parts of town that have gentrified exactly like you describe and I cringe when I see the stores that are there now. And what used to be affordable areas that were convenient to all of town are now priced high enough where those outside the upper parts of the middle class can’t easily afford to live there.

  • I’m not sure if you were using 6% as all your selling costs or just the realtor costs. If you were just talking about realtors, you should really use a website to get a flat-rate MLS listing to sell your home: instead of paying 6% you’ll pay 3% or less. Usually buying realtors will settle for 2%. The websites let you set up the listing completely online and cost less than $200. I’ve used them to sell two homes now. Doing the job of a selling realtor is quite easy. You show the house when people want to see it. The buying realtor has to do all the work of making the contract. You’re protected against a bad transaction by the title company.

    • Great points. I figured 6% to do a full service RE agent sale since I might have to relocate somewhere else or be unavailable for any number of reasons (assuming the reason I’m forced to sell is some calamity of some sort). In reality, I could probably sell it FSBO in this market and skip a realtor. But even with a 2-3% commission, I’d end up spending another few percent to prep the property and move somewhere else, so 6% is a decent back of the envelope number for planning/dreaming purposes.

  • So hard to figure out where to live! Like Fervent Finance I’ve lived in many cities through my 30 years on earth. Grew up in a rural CA area that is still rural (and most importantly quiet). Prices never really increased much as well. Then I went to LA for school before moving to Seoul, Korea, Perth, AUS and now San Jose, CA.

    Before moving to rural CA (and settling down with my dad) my mother grew up in the current neighborhood I reside in. A lot has changed she says. There used to be orchards. My grandma lives on the same street still and bought her fixer-upper house for 13k about 50 years ago! It’s now worth over 600k. My wife and I do well by any standard (outside of Silicon Valley/SF and maybe NYC) but it would still be a huge sacrifice to buy a house here. It would also significantly slow down FIRE, so we happily rent with plans to move in 4-5 more years.

    My grandma talks about how the neighborhood used to be so safe and quiet. However, I have a new neighbor that now has three dogs, one which wakes me up every morning before 6am and will bark throughout the day as well. I’m working with the city to get this issue resolved but it’s not looking good. The city and the police will issue a few fines but if that doesn’t do the trick I’m pretty stuck. Seems like my current neighborhood has regressed over the years. The school system is much worse than when my mom, aunt and uncles were growing up here. Perhaps it’s all a big cycle.

    • Sounds like a great argument to rent 🙂

      As least if those dogs keep barking you can wait out the lease and find somewhere else (even if it costs a little more). We’ve considered buying the houses on each side of us if they ever go on the market again, just so we can control who lives there (and evict them if they suck). So far we are fortunate to have quiet neighbors. They are both single people, both have 2 or 3 small dogs who stay mostly quiet, and are very neighborly when needed. The way things are going, I expect whoever buys these houses in the future will be good enough.

  • Awesome job picking the right neighborhood and watching your house increase in price. Sounds like you’ll miss some of the characters that you have grown up with over the last 13 years but I’m sure you won’t miss the couple of violent days.

    Do you think you’ll find yourself trying to find another location in need of gentrification to be the change agent again?

  • I have experienced gentrification, but I have been the gentrifier. When I moved to San Fransisco 7 years ago, I was one of the privileged elbowing out those with less. It is odd for me to think about. I was a new immigrant to this country, and I was so busy adapting to my new home and falling in love with San Francisco, that I didn’t realize what I had been a part of until I had long moved out of the city.
    I now live in a gentrified suburb. We do have cultural, ethnic diversity (this is the Bay Area after all), but it doesn’t feel like “real” diversity to me. We may come from different countries, and celebrate different holidays, and eat different food – but from a socio-economic perspective we are boringly the same.
    I grew up in chaotic Indian cities and towns. Though almost everyone I knew growing up was Indian, we lived cheek by jowl with people of every economic stripe including people too poor to afford more than a meal a day. I think there is value in growing up like this, and knowing that “poor” people are just people. You don’t fear them. You don’t avoid them. You don’t just see them on TV when there is news about them. You don’t think about them as a “problem” or consider how they might be affecting the value of your home. As children, we witnessed brawls, and shouting and spitting on the streets. I wasn’t traumatized by this, I haven’t been damaged by it. I do feel that I am more comfortable with the gritty bits of life than someone who grew up more protected. Someone like my daughter, and I worry about this all the time.

    • “We may come from different countries, and celebrate different holidays, and eat different food – but from a socio-economic perspective we are boringly the same.” There’s a suburb of Raleigh like that, where you have lots of people from Asia and India and a lot of white people too. It’s probably a very similar demographic to silicon valley/SF tech workers because that’s what a lot of them are in that suburb. But they are all pretty homogeneous when it comes to economic considerations. Household incomes all over $100k, plenty $200-300k if both spouses work. So it’s easy to afford a $500k+ huge house, 2-4 really nice cars, and tons of conspicuous consumption.

  • Did a little research on your buddy’s house on Realtor.com. If you live on the lake that’s across the street from him, your water view might be worth as much or more than his detached two car garage, assuming you don’t have one (most of the houses near him don’t). Zillow does not adjust for being on a lake. With the view your pictures show, your property should command a substantial premium. Also, the kitchen in his house is only a little updated, so there might not be a significant adjustment for your 1972 kitchen. Some tile on the walls and what look like granite countertops can’t overcome the 1966 cabinets. Depending on your square footage and the overall condition, you might be able to put a “2” in front of your home value today.

    Looks like a very convenient area with a lot of amenities close by. Some traffic noise from the major streets might be a negative, but for someone that works downtown, the location is unbeatable. With current high employment levels, gentrification will likely continue. You list your equity portfolio at market value, no reason not to do the same with your house.

    • We do have one of the nicest views of the lake 🙂 I asked a realtor selling the next door neighbor’s house (with a better lakeview than our own!) about the premium for being on the lake. She said it’s not really worth anything, but I figure it could seal the deal with a nice “wow” factor (like curb appeal). My buddy’s house at $220k has a ton of upgrades in the bones of his house like new water heater, new HVAC and new roof (in last 1-2 years) so there’s that, too.

      As for my markdown of my house versus the listing at full market value for securities, the cost to sell out of my securities is near zero. All the vanguard funds are zero commission. Probably half the stuff I hold at Fidelity are commission free ETFs or Fidelity funds. The other half are vanguard ETFs that I could sell for $50 or so in commissions. So $50 to sell a million+ portfolio (ignoring the several thousand dollars in taxes I would pay).

  • Even if you list it on your net worth statement as is, allowing for selling expenses, it’s probably more than $145,000. Granted, that’s not a high percentage of your net worth, but it gives you a more realistic picture, should you change your mind about selling.

    That agent who said the view does not add value? Talk to a few more agents. A view like that would add 10 to 15 percent in markets with which I’m familiar. My guess is view amenities are not valued at zero in Raleigh.

    • Good point. I think I’ll bump the value up a bit at the end of this next quarter when I do my quarterly NW spreadsheet update (and update it in Personal Capital at the same time so they match up). Still probably hold it at 94% of whatever zillow says just because I’ve been doing that forever (as it stayed roughly the same value for most of the 13 years I’ve owned it).

      The view might be worth some premium to the right buyer. Even better is the fact that the view ISN’T the back of someone else’s house like you see so often in suburban neighborhoods. I definitely get $10-15k worth of enjoyment out of it. Nothing like sitting by the lake at our fire pit, sky spread out wide above us with the moon shining bright. Tons of wild life that comes to visit. And the slight traffic noise sounds just like waves crashing on a beach (95% serious about that!).

  • Sounds like things are on the up and up!

    Tell me though, what the heck does WIC stand for? How am I the only one not to know this? Water Inside Closet? Wishful Institutional Credit?

    If you enjoy where you live, that’s all that matters. After I discovered San Francisco after living on the East coast for 10 years, I just had to move. Hawaii is even better, but there just aren’t any good jobs or consulting gigs.

    Sam

    • See, if you live in a “gentrifying” area and shopped at the lower income grocery store alongside me, you’d know WIC stood for Women, Infant and Children 🙂

      It’s sort of like food stamps for those with kids age 4 and under, plus mothers who are nursing an infant. Just a horrible program in terms of actually using it since you get coupon vouchers for very specific food items and have to match it to the right items on the shelf, then when you check out at the grocery line it’s really complicated. We had the choice to apply for our 4 year old and I estimated the value at $300-400 for the whole year for what we would get. Definitely not worth the hoop jumping and hassle unless you really don’t have much money (or value your time near zero).

      I think I would love the SF weather. I consider upper 60’s and lower 70’s to be perfect weather. Unfortunately the COL is much higher and I place little value on the access to a thriving jobs and start up market (though it might help my kids!). And it’s so far away from family, friends and everything I know. Maybe I’ll spend the summer there sometime when I escape the NC heat and humidity.

  • I am in Houston and our neighborhood underwent gentrification over the last 7 years or so. It became a boomtown. Homes were selling with no option period for buyers, and everything was going over ask. Lot value topped $300,000 and there was construction everywhere.

    We had bought our house in the area at the beginning of the boom and paid about $400,000 for it, and then watched as values continued to skyrocket. With the slow down in oil we noticed that the homes in our size range (2,500 square feet) were still selling well and the larger homes that were built were slowing down and sitting on the market for a much longer period. We decided to sell ours and move down the street into a bigger house, and into the better school district.

    We sold ours for $625,000 (not a bad profit after just 4 years) and were able to get a deal on one of the larger ones (4,300 square feet) and paid $805,000 for it brand new. The builder was obviously looking to unload it (we paid the lowest price per square foot in the neighborhood based on the comps), and it was appraised by the bank at over $900,000 before we even closed.

    The slowdown has continued for awhile, but construction is starting to ramp back up in the area, and I think we made a good call by acting when we did. Even in the middle of a boom there are some good opportunities to take advantage of a lull.

    • Pretty crazy appreciation! Is it still booming there? I’ve heard oil-centric communities have suffered from housing slow downs as oil prices dropped.

      • Houston isn’t as oil dependent as it used to be. The economy has a lot of other things going for it now. Things are definitely still slow from where they were, but in our area construction is picking back up and the suburbs are probably going to have a longer recovery. In this case “location, location, location” really has seemed to make a big difference.

        There is still a problem with multifamily housing, that has been way overbuilt. I’ve heard from people (I don’t know how accurate it is however) that some new apartment complexes were coming online with only with 8% or so occupancy and struggling to rent apartments even offering 4-5 months of free rent.

        • Wow! So is it better to rent in Houston than buy? With a 4-5 month rent concession your first year would be pretty cheap I imagine. I’ve heard of new places here in Raleigh offering 2+ free months rent with a 12 month lease, but I don’t think we are really overbuilt here (and economy is booming in Raleigh).

          Interesting that Houston isn’t as much energy focused. I guess some smaller cities in TX (and ND/SD) are probably harder hit when the local economy is much more concentrated in 1 resource like oil.

  • Yes my old neighborhood in NYC is slowing getting gentrified. Rents usually went for 800 in the late 90s are now going for 3,000. I always had it in the back of my mind, that I could go back to the old neighborhood if times took a turn for the worse. But that is not part of the plan now. All the old bodegas are now turning into fancy juice spots. They even closed down a classic NYC pizza joint, and put a bakery. That’s just wrong, I used to love that pizza place.

    • Wow, that’s some crazy rent increases.

      Sucks about that pizza place. That’s the kind of thing I’m afraid of. I’d love to lose the nightclub where many of the shootings happen, but hate to other neat stores in the same shopping center closed. We have one of those old timey pizza places in that same shopping center and I’m amazed it’s still open.

  • Gentrification has taken on all kinds of social implications, but the fact is that every time a neighborhood ages out it is re-gentrified, whether it’s in a good or bad neighborhood. Here in SoCal my hood has just completed a 20 year recycle where aging homes have been rehabbed by young families and values are ever rising. The media has created a myth that there is some kind of evil attached to this process when in fact it’s just simple economics 101 – demand/supply/equilibrium.

    • I just saw my 80 year old neighbor whose lived there 45 years on top of her 2 story house with a leaf blower. I think she might live there another 10-20 years if she doesn’t fall and kill herself. I’m really surprised at how many neighbors are still living here in their 70’s and 80’s. Eventually they move on through one route or another and it’s good to see the houses being bought quickly and by what seem like good people.

  • Oh man, the FIRE TV show should definitely follow you around. I never get into any interesting situations. Our neighborhood has been gentrified for a long time. I think the big downside is the homelessness. The cost of living is increasing for the whole city (Portland area) and it’s pushing people on the margin onto the street. There are homeless people everywhere now. A ton of constructions too. It’s a weird scene.
    I think it’s great that you got in before the gentrification happened. That’s a good time to move in, but you never know. I could have picked up some homes for cheap in the 90s, but I’m too afraid to dodge bullets…
    Oh, Zillow dropped our rental property value by $300,000 last week. What the heck!

    • 99% of our days are pretty uneventful. The biggest news today was someone’s fence gate mysteriously opened at night and everyone is wondering whether it was a burglar casing the joint, kids messing around for halloween pranks. No one mentioned a ghost, but that’s a legitimate guess this time of year! 😉

      That’s strange about the homeless. I think I see less now than I ever have. I guess housing is cheap enough that even people on the margins can still find a place to crash, and our city doesn’t have to spend huge $$$ to put people in temporary shelters. Funny to think North Carolina is more “progressive” than Portland.

  • I just came back from 2 weeks on Oahu. Guess what? Lots of homeless folks. The story there is the high price of housing. Median is like 700K. I call b.s. I have lived all over. San Diego is a third cheaper than Oahu. Guess what? Yup, homeless folks. I currently live in rural MD. About 25% of what Oahu costs. Yup, we got homeless people. I used to live in MN and grew up in WI. Yup, homeless folks there too. So many interdependent issues involved with the whole gentrification thing. Physical, emotional, financial all interwoven. Sometimes I moved because I had to (military) and sometimes because I wanted to. I studied Urban Planning in undergrad. That opened my eyes and I still view neighborhoods from that professor infused prospective.

    • I think the homelessness thing has more to do with mental health than dollars. Especially in rather affordable places. I get it that you simply can’t afford a roof over your head when you can’t make much more than minimum wage because of your limitations and houses/condos all cost $300k+, but around Raleigh it’s so cheap that you could rent or buy a place for less than half time min. wage employment.

  • I wonder a bit about this phenomenon. I live in Southern California, and our town has very very expensive areas and a lot of poverty too. The school “ratings” are 100% the demographics of the students (poverty/ race/ language).

    The elementary district that we are in is the worst in the entire area, a 40-mile stretch with five different elementary school districts and dozens of schools. We transfer to another school that is marginally better (same distance from home). Of course the wealthier families transfer out of this school to the next one over, or pay for private school. It seems like it’s all about white flight. I don’t quite understand it, because you are all going to be “mixed” in junior high and high school anyway. I try not to judge though, because we transferred from a school that was 98% poor to one that is 65% poor.

    We’ve been in our house for 12 years, and a large percentage of homes have changed hands since then (both before and after the crash). I don’t see that there is a lot of gentrification though. The lowest-priced house since we moved in was $490,000 for a 2BR, 1BA, 850 sf house. Nobody is tearing them down to build McMansions at that price, they are just living, mostly squeaking by.

    • You have described what happened to our neighborhood school here. It was pretty steady for a few decades then “white flight” happened. Every year the % white students dropped by about 10%, till it bottomed out around 8-9% when we started there. And yes, the test scores are extremely correlated with income/wealth (which is also strongly correlated with race). Not hard to imagine a student population that is 80-90% in poverty with 30-40% limited English proficiency won’t test well. In spite of that our kids did exceptionally well. And they ended up in the best middle school in the district with tons of other smart, high achieving kids.

      Those house prices you quote are insane! $490k for a tiny house in a bad school district? Wow! That would get you a 4000-5000 square foot house in the burbs w/ nice schools here, or a very decent 4BR+ house in just about any part of town (that also comes with high performing schools).

  • One of the joneses

    I’m a fan, mostly, but I have to say the WIC commentary turned me off on this one, as did some of the other comments that danced along a blurred line that might or might not have been bigotry. I try to give you the benefit of the doubt, but also pass along the advice that good comedy (and social commentary) punches up. I grew up with food stamps and WIC as a necessity. It seems more than a little disingenuous to offer up as evidence you are not biased that you are eligible for a plan that is intended for poor people, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle because you don’t actually need it. I think it’s safe to assume that the majority of people getting assistance need it, wish they didn’t need it, and probably feel more than a little bit aware of the hostility and judgement that accompanies needing government assistance. So, when you choose to write about such a topic in the way you did, you not only get people saying it’s insensitive (like me and others above), you predictably get Billy Bush types gafawing and verbally high-fiving along with you. It probably is all great fun if you are the ones on the outside looking in on poor people, but it does mean people who could use the advice are going to feel unwelcome, and also wonder when the more serious bigotry begins. Dog whistle speech is (often by design) deniable. It’s like the explanation that “but a bitch ain’t one” is about not having a dog. Unless you want to alienate disadvantaged people, it would be good to listen to critics and consider it might be offered in friendship.

    • Not sure what dog whistles have to do with anything?? Guess I’m not fluent in PC-speak these days! Maybe I should be offended about the dog comments and bad language?

      • One of the joneses

        PC speak? I searched for that, and what came up doesn’t make sense in the context. I’ve lived in Indonesia for a long time, so maybe missed the reference. Certainly didn’t mean to offend, so appologies if it came across that way.

      • I found the article great and the spirit in which you were trying to write it- hilarious- I could tell you were trying to tell the story in a movie format /amusing scenario. Not in a hurtful way

        I am half and half of American and 1/2 another country/culture and I find that humor is such a wonderful trait. Just keep being yourself.

        If someone doesn’t like something- then, they can pass on it and move on.

        I am so over people “telling” other people how offensive something is . Especially when it was clearly meant to be written for humor / effect vs true offensiveness.

        But then I grew up in the south and I love stories told in their original accents. A lot of the best stories employ exaggerated gestures and accents for effect and perhaps even some tall fish tales for further effect. We all know it and enjoy it more for the skill in the telling. There are a LOT of regional accents here and they don’t involve skin color.

        It is like a rich stew with amazing flavors that all blend together to bring deliciousness.

        But one person’ yummy is another person’s yucky. C’est la vie. keep on keeping on.👍🏻😀

        • I’ll try to keep it yummy here and avoid the yucky. I expect those that found this post highly offensive probably get irritated about a lot of stuff in life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *