Hannibal wrote:Lived in the Bay Area all my life...Scrabble is either entirely talking out of his ass or has an extremely high standard of living. My cousin makes less than 40k, has a nice place of his own with his girlfriend in a nice area of Lafayette, has a one hour commute to SF on BART. You can easily find a 4-bedroom house in the east bay for less than 600k in a decent neighborhood.
I'm not talking out of my ass... I grew up in Los Altos Hills. Having lived in the south bay, my general defintion of the "Bay Area" seldom includes the east bay, as I never lived there and, aside from friends in Fremont, never really went there... Though, I did go to Union City for Fudruckers a few times (shout out for the Ostrich burgers). And, again, I'm coming from the "necessity" of having at least a 4 bedroom house with a large yard, 2500+ square feet, private tutors for my children, etc... It is a lot different with no spouse/no kids. But, if the goal is to have kids, have a house large enough for them to run around, have a yard, send them to private school/home school, etc... it'll be hard to do so in a safe neighborhood in the Bay Area on a $160k salary with $80k in loans.
As far as your cousin is concerned, $40k/year realistically can't afford more than about $150,000 home loan, and I don't imagine there are too many $150,000 homes around. And, as far as the commute is concerned, it may not matter to a single person, but a one hour commute each way isn't something I would do as I would prefer to see my family at some point... BigLaw 10-12 hour days with another 2 hours on top for commuting leaves no time for anything else.