Over the Hill

1957 was a good year to buy a new house

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

Housing prices in our county have gone up. It was frontpage news in The Sunday Tribune. But does it mean my house is worth more now, or does it mean my dollars are worth less?

Mamie and I bought our first house in 1957. It was in a nice neighborhood of San Jose and in the Cupertino School District. It was a brand-new, three-bedroom house with two bathrooms, a double garage, a cedar shingle roof and hardwood floors (not a concrete slab).

We bought it with my G.I. loan and no down payment. The price was $14,382. But The Tribune said the median price of a home in San Luis Obispo County this January was $454,500. That’s $440,000 more than that nice house cost in 1957.

The payments on that first house of ours were $105 per month including taxes and insurance. My salary as a finance company manager was $435 per month. Yes, that’s right, per month. That’s $100 per week. Who could live on that today?

Mamie was a stay-at-home mom then, but we managed nicely. Dollars in those days bought a whole lot more than they do today. We even bought a second car so Mamie could do all the things suburban California wives and mothers were expected to do. Neither car was new, though.

Then, in 1962, we sold that house for $550 more than we bought it for. And we moved to Paso Robles, where I opened a finance company office. We bought a house in the Sherwood Acres neighborhood. It had three bedrooms, but only one bathroom. It also had a slab floor and a double carport in the backyard instead of a garage.

But the backyard was extra large, and the carport was newly built and had two large storage rooms. The living room was also newly expanded. Best of all, Paso Robles was a rural town with a population of about 6,700. That suited Mamie and me just fine.

Also, the price was right: only $10,500. At first, the payments were $107 per month, but after 2½ years they dropped to $66, including taxes and insurance. On Oct. 5, 1977, we paid off the mortgage in full.

And by then, $66 seemed small. It couldn’t buy as much it did in 1962. But still, having no payments was a relief. In fact, in 1980 Mamie and I felt I could quit my job at KPRL Radio and take a year off to run for county supervisor. Mamie had a good job. I lost by 56 votes and went to work for the Telegram-Tribune.

In 1982, we sold our Sherwood Acres house for $60,000. And in 1982, $60,000 could only buy about one-sixth of what it could have bought 20 years earlier.

In 1982, we bought our present home for $91,000. It has four bedrooms, two baths and a tile roof. But today, $91,000 could never buy us anything close to that.

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