Monday, September 3, 2007

West Virginia vs. Southern California: What does $1 million buy?

Remember the days when you could purchase the home of your dreams in Southern California for a mere million dollars?

These days, a million smackers can fetch a modest 2,300-square-foot ranch-style home on an eighth of an acre lot in Pasadena. Nice, but hardly a "dream house." Move that same home to a palatial San Marino neighborhood "north of the drive," and you can expect to pay up to $1.5 million. Whisk it away to the sands of Malibu and the price would take a quantum leap to $3 million clams or so. That, of course, assumes that the house is in tear-down, not move-in, condition.

But in West Virginia, a million dollar mortgage can make you a member of the landed gentry. A story in last week's Parkersburg News described a 13,000-square-foot stone country estate on 105 acres. The property features five ponds and "seven modern out buildings." (Grandma Opal also had seven out buildings, but that included the out-house.) A retired doctor and his wife became the proud owners of this dream property for - you guessed it - $1 million.

And that same 2,300-square-foot home with a $1 million price tag in Pasadena can be picked up for less than $70,000 in Ravenswood.

I can see why West Virginia has the highest rate of home ownership in the country and California has one of the lowest. (Only New York and Washington D.C. have fewer home owners.)

Would I be tempted to move back and live like the good doctor and his wife? Nope - not even for a million dollars.

(PS Tomorrow I go back to the City of Hope for a blood draw, consultation and possible admission for conditioning Cytoxan. I'll pack the PJs, toothbrush and laptop, just in case I need to check in. That means I'll soon be back on the blood count and stem cell count treadmill, so it's nice to think about other numbers - square footage, acreage and dollars - for a change.)


Paula Johnson said...

Shortly after my sister and I bought our very modest duplex, we visited relatives in a small town in Michigan. Our cousin is a real estate agent, so for fun, we looked at the local listings for houses with the same price tag as our Pasadena duplex.

A few of the abbreviations in the listings were unfamiliar to us, so our cousin translated. We were shocked to find out that in Michigan, our money would have more than covered a stately old home...with a formal ballroom...and ORCHESTRA PIT.

I never really wanted an orchestra pit...until I knew that I could have afforded one.

Susan Carrier said...

Aint it the truth!

When Cindy was little, our favorite game was to drive around Ravenswood and look at the fanciest houses the town had to offer. She'd point and ask, "Could we buy that one, Mommy?"

And I'd say, "Yep, we could buy that with the equity in our little house." And still have enough left over to treat the whole town to biscuits and gravy.

Margaret Finnegan said...

Good luck tomorrow. I'll be thinking of you.

Lilli said...

I left the Midwest in 1984, but I have never completely been able to leave my Midwestern sensibilities about real estate prices.

Although I believe I am truly rich because I have important things, such as good friends like Susan, it's sort of odd to know that I'd be rich in financial terms somewhere not so far very from here.