Expats Return Home to New Challenges
When my partner and I got engaged, moving back to the States was a must – but adjusting to life in the U.S. proved to be its own challenge.
My partner and I got engaged without having met each other’s families. Being in Israel, it was impractical to fly back to the U.S. to meet them before getting engaged. We both knew that we were bashert — meant to be — and we wanted to get married and settled.
Although we loved traveling, we were tired. We both had a goal of buying a house, which was completely unattainable for us in Israel.
In early 2014, wedding planning was almost complete. Our next step was figuring out where to live and work.
When we returned to the U.S., the plan was to live with family in Atlanta and in Los Angeles until we figured out where to settle. But the price differentials soon became apparent.
For instance, I was blown away by the prices of fresh produce, especially because almost none of it was locally grown and all of it was covered in wax — the complete opposite of Israel. At the same time, I couldn’t complain about the access to limes! My partner and I love Mexican food, and without limes in Israel, our burritos just weren’t the same.
I was also taken aback by the cost of cellphone service. I got unlimited data and minutes in Israel, including calls to the U.S., for under $20 a month. Now, I’m spending $50 a month with limited data.
My partner got a job at a school in Denver, and we moved there a month before the wedding, staying with my cousin’s in-laws.
By now, we’d been back in the U.S. for four months. We bought a car — our first big purchase together — and were looking for an apartment.
I didn’t know anything about buying a car. While we researched as much as we could, we were in a time crunch. We were borrowing my aunt’s car, and she was due back in Denver in three weeks.
Should we take a loan and buy a new car? Should we get a hybrid? Or should we buy privately or from a dealer?
I came back to the U.S. with only about $2,000 in savings. My partner had saved much more over the last 10 years, and she had the cash to purchase the car. We test-drove a Prius, but we ended up buying a Honda Civic through a private sale.
We paid $13,000 for it. I’m still not sure if we overpaid, but we sure hope we won’t have to buy a new car for years, because it isn’t a pleasant experience.
One Goal, a Thousand Factors
At the same time, I was tasked with finding an apartment. There were preconditions. Sharing one car, we needed to be within walking distance of my partner’s work, which was in southeast Denver. Also, we didn’t want to pay over $1,000.
We also had no furniture, so a furnished place would be preferable, as we weren’t sure we would stay long-term in Denver.
But honestly, we were lucky to find an apartment for a monthly rent of $895. This was including utilities up to $100 a month, and the apartment was only a 12-minute walk from the school.
Denver’s rental market is insane right now, so we saw the apartment for five minutes and agreed to it, making sure to sign the papers the next day with the deposit.
Wanting to be closer to family and recognizing how expensive Denver has become, we made the decision to move to Atlanta.
We have made three failed offers on homes. One offer, for $210,000, was a three-bedroom, two-bath in a good school district. With a little bit of TLC, it would have been a lovely home. In Baka, where we lived in Jerusalem, I found a 419-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment for $257,000.
There was no way we could plan to have kids in that tiny space, which is half the size of our apartment in Denver.
We hope there will be a correction in the market. We would rather buy a house in a buyer’s market, not a seller’s one. Until then, we’re living with my parents.