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Buying a Second Home
Our family currently has 2 kids in private school, one in elementary and one in middle school. Due to 2 recent unexpected financial setbacks we realize we can't keep them there, and we need to figure something out fast. Our assigned public schools in our crappy East Oakland neighborhood are too low-performing (and possibly dangerous)to be acceptable to us. With our current mortgage payments being quite manageable and interest rates so low, we think we could swing the purchase of a little [second] house in a good school zone in Castro Valley. However, we don't want to move there. (Though our current neighborhood has way too much crime, our house is large, full of character, and sits on a quarter acre, which is invaluable to our extensive horticulture pursuits.) We've thought about buying a house in Castro Valley, renting it out to someone else while we stay in our current Oakland home, but using the address to get our kids into Castro Valley schools. When the kids are out of high school, we'd sell the second home, thus gaining back at least some of our nest egg instead of simply having spent it on private schools. We know how angry people get when others use false addresses to get into good schools, and wouldn't want to be perceived as cheating a true resident out of a school spot, but we figure this wouldn't be cheating because we'd be paying property taxes in Castro Valley. Is this a workable idea? Would it be unethical in any way we haven't foreseen? Worried about our kids' future
-The school districts have gotten stricter and do verify where you live.
-Your child will want playdates with other kids at school and those parents will find out that you don't live in the district.
If I was going to buy a home for a my child to go to a better school I would not pick Castro Valley school district. I would pick San Ramon which has safe and award winning schools, some which have been featured in Newsweek. Castro Valley Schools are just ok. Joy
I have had a friend, whom I really liked and cared about, who was cheating the system and using a friend's address. While I have great affection for her, my level of respect for her diminished. I also have disdain for the system that tempts otherwise good people to cheat. All the while I consider children in more impacted school districts who have a lot more on their mind than whether or not their parents enjoy a fantastic garden. Your children are no more important than these children.
Do the right thing and play fair. Maybe consider renting the home in CV and renting out your Oakland home. Kari
Instead, check into the program in Oakland where you can apply to schools all over Oakland for your kids. Unfortunately, the application period starts in February and I don't know what you can do before then, but check with the district and see if there are any possibilities, particularly if the school in your neighborhood are labeled under any of the ''improvement'' laws where kids in the neighborhood are guaranteed the right to apply to other schools. By the way, there are some very good public schools in Oakland; my daughter went to Sequoia and my granddaughter starts kindergarten there in the fall. Lots of parent involvement, and the place looks like the U.N because of the diversity. Barbara
My siblings and I went to the same middle-class, white-bread, academically sound schools. Two of us finished college, married, and have led stable lives, including good careers and paid-up mortgages. The other two are substance abusers who don't pay their debts, and took handouts from our hard-up mother until her death at 98. Wherever they're educated, your children will ultimately do what they want to do.
If you can afford a second home, you can afford academic enrichment and self-defense lessons for your children. The kids would commute from Oakland to Castro Valley? How? BART? Wouldn't you worry about them? Car? Wouldn't you rather spend that time on your horticultural pursuits? Perhaps there is a medium-sized house with a big back garden in Castro Valley. (I have a friend with such a house.)
Most important, at this point in their lives, your children look to you for guidance and, especially, for a good example. How are you going to explain your slumming to them? ''Sorry, kids, we love cultivating our nice, affordable garden, but you're just too special for the rest of this squalid 'hood?'' I apologize for my sarcasm, but I hope you rethink this situation, because your ethics are indeed on shaky ground. Melanie
If you're committed to staying in your home in Oakland, why not take a look at some of the nearby charter schools? There are several new schools at the elementary level and a few good options for middle school too. No guarantees on admission, but definitely worth a try. Good luck! Another Oakland parent
I see the logic in your attempt to justify your actions, but property taxes aren't really the issue. It would irritate me to no end to think that someone bought a house (bought a house!), schlepped their kids here to be taught, but didn't live here. My kid will want to be your kid's friend, but will never be able to play together outside of school. Very likely, you will not attend school events, from fundraisers to PTA meetings, and will not be available to volunteer because of the distance of your home. I'll be there every week, working in the classroom and out, to support your child and mine, while you would be miles away. I know that not every parent can be so present, and I am for the sake of the parents who can't because they are my neighbors and my friends. Our kids will grow up together, will see each other not just at school but at the park, at summer camp, at the movies. There are reasons that we have neighborhood schools. Proximity matters for your kids, too.
Bigger districts have hunted down this kind of behavior; I'm not sure Castro Valley USD would, but given the small town atmosphere and small (some very small) elementary schools, I would not be surprised if you weren't discovered pretty quickly, especially in impacted schools like mine. The district has significant trouble handling local residents whose zip code is Castro Valley but their district boundary is Hayward....The whole system is a mess and a half, but I can't imagine how your personal solution makes it better for any of us.
I gave up my Oakland house to move to Castro Valley for reasons other than the schools, but it has turned out that we are here for schooling. It has also turned out that this is a pretty decent place beyond the good schools. It seems that good schools are run by, attended by, and supported by, pretty decent people.
Consider the options that are beneficial not just for you, but for your kids and mine. Maybe home school them until your situation improves. Maybe find a school in an area that you do want to live, and move there? If you can afford a house in my neighborhood, perhaps you can afford a tuition at a cheaper private school? I just can't imagine how buying your way into a public school district is a good solution for anyone. Long-time teacher and CV mom
We currently own a home in Berkeley and are on a 30 year mortgage (the banks owns it, I guess). My husband just got a job that just coveres our living expenses and we are in the incredibly lucky position of being able to save most of my income. We hope to save by the end of next year (2013) 70-80k, which I hope can be a downpaymnet on a second home. The hope is that retirement time (in 25 years) we'll have paid both off and will have rent to supplment out SS income. Couple of questions: 1. Is this a good retirement strategy? We will have some other retirement savings (401k, etc) but hoping that rental income will provide us money to live on in our retirement years. Can people who use rental income or hope to use rental income tell us how that's working out? 2. How do we even get started researching where to look? Should it be in the same city we're in? or other cities? Given the real estate crash should we not even look to real eastate as an investment? Thanks for sharing any personal stories or advice. Saver ant
There are other costs associated with second homes, more importantly taxes and been able to pay the mortgage when the second home is not rented
Good luck RR
You are smart to save your income & pay the bills with your husband's income. We've been doing the same for years and it has really helped. Make sure you are putting away the max into your retirement and into his as well. I'm not sure the max for a 401k, because we've used a SEP for so long, but put that money away-tax free! I think it's really important to think of your retirement first, because experts will always tell you that you can't take out a loan for your retirement, but your kids can always take out loans for college. Also, I'm being conservative and counting on NOT getting Social Security. Maybe once you max your 401k, you can put away XX for your kid's college fund.
One thing you could consider is paying off one extra mortgage payment on your 30 year loan yearly. That cuts off 7 years off your loan! Bankrate has some great calculators to play around with the numbers-check it out for different college, retirement, and mortgage scenarios. Good luck! anon
In terms of researching where to look, I would look into areas that are easy to rent and will cover your expenses (mortgage, insurance, property taxes, taxes, etc.). You can check craiglist. We rented in Lower Rockridge and had great luck, the good thing about Berkeley & its surroundings is that there are a lot of grad students you can rent to, as long as it is a reasonable price. My feeling is also that you make more money for small places (1-2 bedrooms) than for large ones (3-4 bedrooms)--but again, check craiglist to see what is the range people are working with. Definitely live nearby or, if not, get a property manager (or get a property manager if you are not into managing it yourself--if you are, you need to have a list of reliable and affordable services such as plumber, electrician, etc. EP
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