As circumstances in my life are leading me in the direction of staying put for a while, I’m beginning to think we need to purchase a house sooner than later. Yet, the budding question is where? Ideally, it would be within bicycling distance of where I’ll be spending most of my time which would put us within a radius of 5 miles. I’d like to think we can find something we like in a decent neighborhood at a decent price (decent price to me is a max of $370,000). But the more I search the online real estate sites, the more I think that might not happen. Why? You don’t get a whole hell of a lot for the money.

Case in point: Staying with a radius of 2-miles from where I currently live, most “decent” houses (1,500 sq. ft that don’t require too much work) are pushing $425,000. That’s a bit steep for us. If I look a little farther away (say 8 miles), the neighborhoods become a bit shady and the prices don’t decrease all that much.

However, if I look 15 – 20 miles north (or even west for that matter), I can get a much better house (newer with fewer things we’d have to repair, though not necessarily larger) for low $300,000’s. This is exactly why Los Angeles has become a sprawling metropolis that is completely car-dependent; affordable homes in decent neighborhoods are in the boonies.

So what is distance worth? Is it worth moving 15-20 miles away to become car dependent, spend an hour or more commuting for the nicer, less expensive house? Or do I settle for a fixer-upper in a shabbier, older neighborhood but ride my bike more often?

I’m sure if I did a complete cost analysis, I’d about break even. Moving farther away would mean we’d have to become a 2-car household and once I added in my time in the car, we’d break even on the costs when I compare the less expensive house to increasing our house budget by $55,000.

Mentally, I like the idea of living in a nicer neighborhood and in a nice home or one that I don’t have to completely overhaul. Ideally, if we could find a smaller home that needs less work on a larger lot, we could always add on to it later or install an outdoor office/guest room through the use of a shed/cabin.

The more I search, the more I have to ponder my options.

Did you have to make a tough choice on location based on  price?