“Why don’t you just move back to the West coast?” I asked my mom recently over a tall soy latte of some sort.
She and my dad have been living in the only childhood home I remember for the past 26 plus years or so. But they both always kinda wax nostalgic about their time in Northern California (especially this time of year when we’re entrenched in ice and the forecast reads chilly misery for the foreseeable future – not that they ever “foresee” it accurately for their reports, the bastards). But her answer to my question kinda shocked me a bit. Half, naturally, had to do with the typical answers you’d expect: we’d made a lot of memories in that home, moving is such a hassle, and – of course – my sister and I still live here, which is a motivating force for them to stick around. But the other half of it, she admitted, was that the only neighborhood I’d ever known as home, had apparently made it to some “top desirable places to live” list somewhere in the past few decades.
Sure, we’ve gotta shopping center and a lake and a golf course.
Sure, we’re near the freeway and not far from D.C.
But aren’t a buncha other places, too?
It’s a nice locale, no doubt. But I still haven’t been able to figure out what sets us apart and grants us desirability status outta all the other tons of places that must exist. Then, today, when I saw this piece on the news, I realized – it might have a lot to do with where mom and I physically were when we had this conversation in the first place: Starbucks. No, really. Reports are now showing that homes near Starbucks (or any chain, really, but especially the brand name stuff) have appreciated considerably over the past several years:
“Let’s look at the historical home value appreciation of areas that now are located within a quarter mile of a Starbucks. A home that is now near a Starbucks would have sold, on average, for $137,000. A home that is not near a Starbucks would have sold, on average, for $102,000. Fast-forward 17 years to 2014. That average American home has now appreciated 65%, to $168,000. But the Starbucks-adjacent property has far outpaced that, appreciating 96% to $269,000.”
When I backtrack to my coffee-shop convo with mom and revisit my cognitive map, I realize that we were in one of three Starbucks locations we could’ve easily chosen to patronize – because they’re all within five to ten minutes of where either of us live. And that’s when traffic’s bad. I mean, this news actually explains a lot – most importantly of which is: why my own apartment rent keeps going up so much each year (I assume the spike applies to rentals as well; which obvi begs the question: if I throw a grenade in each of the nearest few cafes, will my price plateau come next January?) As for my old bougie stomping grounds? People may have wanna lived in my former “desirable” neighborhood previously because of the well manicured medians, lawns, big homes, and pretty lake for a while there; but the prices shot up mostly after the ‘bucks chain started spreading on a supercalafragalistic sized level.
I’d say my parents would do well to just sell my childhood home with its small (tall?) fortune price tag, make bank, and move back west to revel in their golden years together in some seaside home. But when I try to envisage this, I realize… it’d be kinda pointless. Because the problem lies in the very first question my mom and dad’d both be asking the realtor as they wander through some devastatingly gorgeous abode in San Fran or Walnut Creek or Sausalito or whatever would be:
“Mhmm… Mhmmm…Yes, and how far away is the nearest Starbucks?”