Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

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Cycle
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Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Cycle » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:41 pm

As a soon to be new father, I'm seeking advice from those with experience living in a condo/apartment downtown with kids. We're considering moving to downtown Minneapolis to simplify life. I'm curious if there are any negatives or positives I'm missing. Comments on getting over sunk-renovation costs. Recommendations on whether to dive in or further assess.

Main concern is i have a lot of emotional (thousands of hours of free labor) sunk cost in our current beautiful craftsman duplex which I gut rehabbed and installed 2 kitchens / baths. Secondary concern is we wouldn't have a backyard for kids to play (there is a large grass courtyard at the condo). I don't like yard work / shoveling snow, we don't use our garden. Finally, downtown can be a bit bleak in winter, lot of tall buildings, difficult for our friends to park if they want to visit via car, the condo units lack character.

Plan is to have 2 kids, we have #1 due in January. My DW and I both work at megacorps 10 miles from city center in opposite directions. She usually drives (20-50 minutes), I bike (17min)/bus (25min) combo.

Currently we live 3 miles from downtown and daycare is 3 blocks away with inconvenient hours, which is going to be a problem w/ my bike commuting and express bus schedule and ability for DW to make 8am meetings. DW commute is pretty bad when there is traffic. New location would enable her to take the bus 3-5 days a week.

Condo Proximity to services & features:
-gym / day care: across street
-Target (groceries, DW sancuary): 3 blocks
-Trail running / mtb: 3 miles away in a huge park
-Restaurants & taprooms: many nearby and within walking
-Doctor: .5 miles to gyno/pediatrician, ER 1 mile

School District:
-Condo is in great district, our preferred elementary school (current district is really bad, so we need to move in 5 years regardless)

Kids recreation:
-gym across street has pool, so does condo
-condo has courtyard
-Playground in a large park: .4 miles
-building is on a .4 mile long no-cars greenway (teaching bike riding)

Transit:
-express bus stop to suburban megacorps: w/in 2 blocks - 20-30 minute bus ride
-1 indoor parking spot (we have 1 car)
-1 mile to lightrail to airport, .25 mile to greyhound station (which i use a few times a year, grandparents are a 4hr bus ride away)

Financials:
-We are 65-70% net savers, probably 50-55% w/ kids, high-ish income, high NW for our age.
-Currently own outright / occupy a duplex ($300k invested, currently valued $360-380k)

Annual housing expenses (w/o equity considered, and w/ sale cost and 4% lost investment gains considered):
-Current situation (Duplex):
$3,800 profit (ignore equity), -$13,500 (accounting equity)

-Scenario 1 (Keep Duplex, Rent Condo):
-$1,000 (ignore equity), $-18,300 1 (accounting equity)

-Scenario 2 (Sell Duplex, Rent Condo($1700/mo)):
-$21,300 (ignore equity), -$3,800 (accounting equity)
Last edited by Cycle on Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:49 pm

What are the schools like where you are and in the city? In my state, many city schools are rated by how many stabbings they have per week (ok, exaggeration) while suburbs are rated by the percentage of students going to Ivys because they get 100% graduation and people going to college.
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Cycle
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Cycle » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:54 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:49 pm
What are the schools like where you are and in the city? In my state, many city schools are rated by how many stabbings they have per week (ok, exaggeration) while suburbs are rated by the percentage of students going to Ivys because they get 100% graduation and people going to college.
Currently we're in a bad school district.

Downtown is served by a small elementary school that parents love. The average sfh in the downtown district is close to $700k, in a city where median home price is $256k.

Schools are still 5 years away for us. We'd rent in the short term, maybe buy a sfh in 5 years if we want.

warner25
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by warner25 » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:00 pm

I have two relevant experiences and some thoughts to offer. Our oldest kid was born while living in a luxury high-rise building in a major city. We lived there until she was six months old, and it was lovely. Then after spending a couple years in a rural/small town area, and having another kid, we got the opportunity to move to another big city. I was excited, envisioning the lifestyle that we had previously, but things didn't go so well.

Basically, my opinion is that having one infant isn't too different from having no kids at all. I once heard someone refer to infants as being in the "potted plant" stage. I mean, certainly an infant will change your life, and they are demanding, but compared to toddlers...? We love the amenities of cities, but having a couple toddlers made us appreciate the features of modern suburbia. Before having kids, I scoffed at everyone fleeing cities for the suburbs as soon as they had kids, but now I totally get it. Things we wouldn't want to give up at this point:

* Spacious house with ample storage (for large appliances, bulk purchases, and all those toys we didn't want but got anyway!)
* Off-street driveway or garage/carport parking (just imagine how you'd haul two toddlers and a week's worth of groceries up to your 10th story condo from a downtown parallel parking space in most big cities)
* A backyard for all the outdoor toys, and the ability to just let our kids run outside to go play in the yard
* Nearby drive-through/curbside pick-up options to minimize getting kids in or out of the carseats and dodging cars on foot
* The company of all the other young families that flee cities for suburbs, given the reasons listed above

On the other hand, if living in the suburbs means losing hours to a grueling commute, that's bad too. So really, my thinking is that it's not worth being near a city unless you can live in the city center, but it's not worth living in a city center if you have young kids. I really, really wish big cities were more kid-friendly, but I just don't see it. I think big city centers are really adult playgrounds, so maybe it would be more fun with older kids, but then you have the issue of school quality in most cities.

However, the particular building in the particular city you describe sounds like it might address some of the common city-life-with-kids problems.

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Cycle
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Cycle » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:57 pm

warner25 wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:00 pm
Basically, my opinion is that having one infant isn't too different from having no kids at all. I once heard someone refer to infants as being in the "potted plant" stage.
We would like to be flexible, so if we we're renting (which financially makes the most sense due to hoa's) we could always adjust as our needs change.

Ideally we'd be there till preschool or kindergarten.

We'd be trying to achieve maximum free time and convenience with daycare for this move. We actually both have daycares at work, but with work travel that could be a pain for the opposite parent since the two offices are 20 miles apart.

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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by sergio » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:33 pm

I would not do it. We briefly considered a similar move.

I lived on the 14th floor of a building in Chicago years ago and found it to be an enormous hassle, and this is when I was single w/o kids. Getting in and out felt like a chore because of the slow elevator and navigating out of our cramped garage. No one, except for those walking distance wanted to come visit due to traffic and parking (or having to take public transit in winter weather). I hated stepping out of the building and being surrounded by more tall buildings, noisy vehicles, concrete sidewalks everywhere etc. Then there are the usual issues that come with condos, like soundproofing (a big issue if you have kids, both hearing others and complaints from neighbors about hearing your kids), HOAs, etc. that you need to deal with.

We now live in an "inner ring" suburb in a townhouse which has been great blend of condo + house. There's lots of open green space, many neighborhood kids, 2 car garage in unit, 2 stories + basement, no worries about lawn care/snow shoveling etc. We're close enough to the downtown that it's not a big deal to drive or take the bus, but far enough out that we're in a good suburban school district, lots of parks everywhere etc.

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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Carson » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:52 pm

Do you think you would mind sharing what specific city you are considering?
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Cycle
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Cycle » Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:13 pm

Carson wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:52 pm
Do you think you would mind sharing what specific city you are considering?
Minneapolis

sergio
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by sergio » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:00 pm

Cycle wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:13 pm
Carson wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:52 pm
Do you think you would mind sharing what specific city you are considering?
Minneapolis
I live in the Twin Cities and would certainly not live in a downtown Minneapolis condo with two kids because (1) downtown Minneapolis sucks and (2) condos in general suck from a financial and lifestyle point of view, in my opinion. Doubly so on the financial part based on the condos I saw downtown. It seems like a lot of your problems can be solved by (1) open enrollment for kids and (2) getting a second car.

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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by FoolMeOnce » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:16 pm

sergio wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:00 pm
Cycle wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:13 pm
Carson wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:52 pm
Do you think you would mind sharing what specific city you are considering?
Minneapolis
I live in the Twin Cities and would certainly not live in a downtown Minneapolis condo with two kids because (1) downtown Minneapolis sucks and (2) condos in general suck from a financial and lifestyle point of view, in my opinion. Doubly so on the financial part based on the condos I saw downtown. It seems like a lot of your problems can be solved by (1) open enrollment for kids and (2) getting a second car.
The suburban dream is not everybody's dream.

I vaguely recall a recent article about raising kids and growing up in downtown Chicago high rises. I can't find the article I'm looking for, but a Google search turns up other similar articles that can give the OP some first-hand comments on living in a downtown with a family.

warner25
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by warner25 » Fri Oct 12, 2018 5:38 am

FoolMeOnce wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:16 pm
The suburban dream is not everybody's dream.
I think "dream" is a strong word. I think a lot of people, including me, actually dream of downtown living. We've just admitted defeat, sort of, and resigned ourselves to living a different way due to the costs or difficulties of downtown living, especially with kids.

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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Leemiller » Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:29 am

Sounds like you can afford a SFH, so that is what I’d recommend as a parent of two. Move, get settled into your new neighbor and new life as a parent. FWIW, we lived in downtown DC until my first was three. The full time nanny we had took her to places during the day, but on weekends we didn’t do as much. We’re more active in the suburbs, it just feels easier with kids. Our suburbs are also walkable to a park and downtown. 3 miles is pretty long and a big difference from a walkable park for most people in terms of how often they will go when it involves car seats and diaper bags.

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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by flarf » Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:03 am

It sounds like you want to try living downtown, so why not? Like you said, you can rent -- this isn't a long-term commitment.

As far as your DIY efforts on the current place, it's equity. I'm in the same boat with our weekend place. I've spent countless hours bringing it from a teardown to a pretty cool spot. It'll be emotionally difficult to let it go one day, but life goes on. In your case, being in an undesirable school district should be a strong rationalization for selling the place (or converting it to a rental, but that's an entirely separate discussion).

My wife and I have two little kids in a big city. Quality of life depends on location and building. Ideally your building will have other families with little kids -- you wouldn't want to be living with a bunch of retirees who are going to complain about noise and bikes in the elevators, and the upside will be a ton of friends for your kids in close proximity. The ability to have things delivered (Amazon/Whole Foods, groceries, etc.) on super-short notice and at little/no added cost is a huge factor that makes city life much easier with children.

Somebody mentioned how their friends didn't come visit once they moved to the city. That will absolutely happen regardless of how convenient parking is at your building. But you're going to make new friends with all the other parents of similarly-aged kids who live nearby.

Once you've narrowed your choices down to areas with good schools, there is no right answer. Some people want to be in a big city, some people want to be in a nearby suburb, some people want to be out in the country. You've clearly done your homework and it sounds like you want to give the city a shot, so what is there to lose?

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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by ryuns » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:56 pm

As others have said, you can always give it a go and see if it works for you. While there would be plenty of added difficulties, there are also benefits to density, short commutes, and close amenities. There are plenty of headaches and expenses that people in the 'burbs put up with as a cost of doing business, just as there are with people in the city.

I'm not yet a parent, but I think that means I don't have much of a conflict of interest ( :happy ) when I say that kids are probably going to benefit most from what makes you most happy and what makes you most able to spend time with them and take them places. My wife and I are from the same, relatively small, home town, and the experience of children in even our mid-sized town is wildly different. We had the benefit of growing up in a close community, but we also grew up doing the few kids' activities available to us, rarely interacting with adults or spending time in places geared to adults, didn't have mass transit, etc. If we have kids, I hope to bike them all over the place, get on mass transit, go to free events downtown, bring them to kid-friendly spots where adults can have fun too, etc.
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered. -- GK Chesterton

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Cycle
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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Cycle » Fri Oct 12, 2018 1:25 pm

flarf wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:03 am
It sounds like you want to try living downtown, so why not? Like you said, you can rent -- this isn't a long-term commitment.
It would be a one year commitment if we lease. We could just rent out our current unit, and if we changed our mind move back when our lease expires. We own both units in our duplex.

We know one person who lives in our preferred building, so we can find out the inside scoop wrt kids in the building. I'm speculating its a lot of retirees, as she said it's a really quiet building. She may have been referring to the concrete floors / walls tho.

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Re: Downtown Condo Living w/ Kids

Post by Onion » Fri Oct 12, 2018 3:27 pm

flarf wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:03 am
It sounds like you want to try living downtown, so why not? Like you said, you can rent -- this isn't a long-term commitment.

<edit>

Once you've narrowed your choices down to areas with good schools, there is no right answer. Some people want to be in a big city, some people want to be in a nearby suburb, some people want to be out in the country. You've clearly done your homework and it sounds like you want to give the city a shot, so what is there to lose?
All of this, yes.

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