Would $650,000 Buy a House in San Diego? One Couple Tested Their Budget.


Growing up with a father in the Air Force, Jordan Toellner was constantly moving. When he turned 20, he joined the Navy, which led to tours in Bahrain, Baltimore and the Bahamas. By the time he was 30, he had never put down long-term roots.

Mr. Toellner, now 32, met Barton Lynch while both were living in Washington, D.C. Mr. Lynch, now 28, is a corporate communications consultant, and Mr. Toellner was serving as an aide to the secretary of the Navy in the Pentagon. They married in 2019. Two years later, the Navy reassigned Mr. Toellner to San Diego, allowing the couple to stay put for the remainder of his military career.

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Neither knew much about San Diego. Mr. Lynch, who grew up in Lexington, Ky., had never even been there. After perusing apartments online, they rented a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in the city’s East Village, in the center of downtown, for $3,200 a month. They loved the location — Mr. Toellner had an easy trolley commute to San Diego’s naval base, and they were near the Hillcrest neighborhood, the heart of the city’s gay community.

All was well until their landlord informed them that he planned to raise their rent by 20 percent, which would have pushed it uncomfortably close to Mr. Toellner’s monthly military housing stipend of $3,900.

“The apartment we were in was nice, but it was not worth $4,000,” he said. “We started to look at renting other apartments, but as soon as we saw them on Zillow, we would call and be told there were 10 people in line in front of us. So we decided to look at buying.”

Mr. Toellner qualified for a Veterans Affairs loan, which would have allowed the couple to buy a home without a down payment. But they both had some savings to work with, and while taking the V.A. loan would have covered the down payment, it also would have meant a higher monthly outlay. It was August 2022, and interest rates were rising. To keep the mortgage payments within range of the housing stipend, they decided to go for a conventional loan and put 10 percent down on a purchase of up to $650,000.

They knew that in San Diego’s heated housing market, that meant a condo rather than a single-family house. They wanted to stay close to downtown and Hillcrest, and were hoping for two full bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as an in-unit washer/dryer. Some outdoor space would be a plus. The pickings were slim.

“We would go on Zillow to search houses, put in all our filters, and then be like, ‘Oh, one result!’” Mr. Lynch said.

They contacted Gizem Keskin, a real estate agent with Coleman Homes Real Estate, who helped guide them through the market. “Although it was their first experience of buying a home, from the decision of the home to putting in the offer to closing escrow, they were both very open-minded about the options they faced,” Ms. Keskin said.

Among the properties they considered:

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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