One way some people shake the yoke of economic expectation is to choose where they want to live, and then cobbling together jobs, consulting, or free-lancing gigs instead of chasing the optimal job, wherever that may be. By and large, people who want to live in ‘cool’ places like San Francisco or Santa Cruz, CA; Ashland, OR; Leavenworth, WA; or Coeur d’Alene, ID make that choice, although the phenomenon has its regional devotees in places like Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; and Portland, ME. The ‘location first / job second’ priority is common among people in their twenties, though I’ve met folks in their thirties and forties who fit the pattern. It’s the most prevalent ‘non-economic’ life decision I’ve witnessed on my journey, and like virtually all non-economic choices, the people who chose their hometown before their job report being happier as a result.
Not everyone has the luxury of ‘location first / job second’. Educated people with facile skills are more likely to select a community based on climate, social or political affinities. But the option is not limited to affluent people. As long as you’re willing to live with less personal space, maybe no car, and postpone illusions of buying a home, people of modest means can choose where to live and finagle the rest as they go.
Scott Joly is a 28-year-old single male with an architectural degree from Cal Poly, an entrepreneurial mind and flexible skills. He’s loves Santa Cruz, so much so that living in a four bedroom bungalow with three other people is not a hindrance. Rather, it’s part of the fun. He’s an active couchsurfing host who almost rejected me because I only asked to stay one night. “It’s impossible to get a feel for a place in one day.” My question persuaded Scott to relax his usual standard. I was fortunate to join Scott and his friends at a local bar for the evening and then stretch out on their sofa in the house’s main room.
Scott traveled the globe for three years after college, with working stints in Chile and Japan. When he returned to the U.S. he moved to Santa Cruz. He’s been a millworker and carpenter, started a painting company and designs furniture. “I don’t have the patience for a career in architecture. I need to be more hands on.” About a year ago Scott got his real estate license. He manages a few properties, finds rentals and has sold two homes.
Santa Cruz County has about 200,000 people and 1300 real estate agents; listings are few and the competition is fierce. But Scott leverages his tech abilities to provide data analysis and other computer support to established agents who aren’t as tech savvy as their Silicon Valley clients expect. For Scott, it’s just another income and networking stream.
How will we live tomorrow?
“Seventy percent of all houses are found by buyers, not agents. Within ten years we’ll have a pay and click system to buy a house. People will demand it. Already, 40% of clients close using digital contracts. Redfin and Zillow will become brokerage vehicles to connect buyers and sellers. Buying a house will just be another online transaction.”