I Was Going to Buy a House in San Francisco But Then I Bought Avocado Toast Instead
Hi, my name is Kathleen, and I’m a Millennial.
(This is where you go, “Hi, Kathleen.”)
Right. Now that’s we’ve gotten that bit of ugliness out of the way, I have another confession to make. I avocado toasted my way out of home ownership in San Francisco. I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t San Francisco one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, requiring a salary of over $150,000 in order to buy a home? Aren’t Millennials saddled with a tremendous amount of student loan debt, working in an economy in which real wages have been stagnant for decades?
If you’re thinking any of these things, you sound like a whiny Millennial. Yes, technically I am a Millennial. But I have the gas-guzzling, processed food-loving soul of a Baby Boomer. And I am here to tell my own shameful story, thus exposing the real reason why only an estimated 30 percent of Millennials are homeowners.
I make an annual salary of $1,000,000 at my fancy tech job, which also offers cool Millennial-oriented benefits like a flying shuttle and a personal chef. But because I wanted to be a responsible Millennial and save money to buy a house, for the last 10 years, I’ve lived with nine roommates in a one bedroom apartment. You’re probably thinking: But it must have been so loud! How did you sleep? And the answer is, no, actually, it was never loud, because we literally never talked to one another. We were always on our phones. I’m not even sure I knew all of their names, though I could tell you what each of their phones looked like.
Still, there came a time when I realized that it might be a good idea for me to get my own place. You can only sleep in a sleeping bag on a wood floor for so many years, you know? And I had scrupulously saved money during my years as an employee of a Fancy Tech Company. I never had to buy groceries, what with the personal chef, or pay for transportation, what with the flying shuttle.
A Bad Millennial, an irresponsible Millennial, might have moved back home at this point, or at some other point in the last 10 years, but remember, I’m a Baby Boomer at heart. I knew it was time to buy a house.
Over the next few weeks, I looked at a few houses in the city, all of which were listed for $5 million or more. I had enough for the down payment, but just barely—one misstep, and it would be back to the sleeping bag for me. The houses were nothing too fancy. Some of them didn’t have electricity or running water. Others had no windows. It’s a seller’s market out there. But the tiny Baby Boomer inside my head was telling me, Kathleen, you must buy a house. AndI listened, because as far as I know, that voice has never steered anyone wrong.
Finally, I found a house that was pretty close to perfect. It had two windows and 1/2 of a bathroom. Yes, to the left of the house was a concert venue where death metal bands played at midnight every night of the week, and to its right was a sewage treatment facility. But beggars can’t be choosers, or so says the little Baby Boomer living inside me.
After the real estate agent showed me the place, she used a lot of fancy words like “escrow” and “mortgage.” I mostly tuned this part out. Then she named a price for the down payment, and you won’t believe it—it was literally the amount that I had in my bank account. Down to the penny. I’m not sure how that happened, but it certainly was fortuitous. I told the real estate agent that I needed to walk down the street to get a certified check from my bank. Great, she said. It seemed like she couldn’t believe her luck that this whole thing had been so easy for her.
I’m walking down Market Street in San Francisco—skipping, more like—when I smell it. Thick, chewy bread. Smashed avocado. Oily olive oil and salty salt. I wanted it. But I kept walking. And then, as if possessed by some Millennial demon, I turned around and walked right into that cafe, and bought one order of avocado toast (19 bucks) and four coffees ($4 each). Why did I need four coffees, you might ask? I can’t answer that question. I’m a Millennial. I knew that I was now exactly $35 short of the money I needed for my down payment. But you know what? I didn’t care.
Then the avocado toast was delivered to me, in all its oily, salty glory. I stared at it. I sniffed it. Reader, I ate it.
And that is the sad tale of why I do not own a home in San Francisco. I lost the house to someone who hadn’t spent $35 on avocado toast and four coffees. I’m back in the one bedroom apartment with 9 roommates, texting the night away from my sleeping bag. Because I moved out and then had to beg them to let me back in, they stuck me in the worst spot in the apartment, next to the furnace. My plan is to keep saving money, avoid avocado toast like it’s heroin-laced cocaine, and then, someday, maybe I’ll have enough money to buy a house in San Francisco.