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Talk » Financing » Discussing 'I make 1MM/yr and I feel like I'm middle class? '

I make 1MM/yr and I feel like I'm middle class?

I need to understand whether this is 'normal' in this city: I thought I made a very good income, been around 1M for the past couple years, and I've got a couple megs in liquid assets.

Yet despite the financial crisis, wall st massacres, etc I feel like I'm living in the middle class. Every parent at my kids school is running around buying 6M condos like its the standard, literally. Meanwhile I'm (relatively happily) living in a downtown 3BR condo rental paying a fraction of the carrying costs of buying the equivalent unit and I think I'm real smart. But the wife is getting frustrated because she wants to make it her own place and put up wall paper, built ins, etc but it doesn't seem that wise given that its not our permanent home.

WTF is going on here? I just need to know if I'm delusional or what does it take to live comfortably in NYC. I thought I was doing pretty well but I realize I can't afford a 5M condo like apparently all these other people around me can. Granted I am in my mid 30's and these other families are in their early 40's. Maybe I need to get more comfortable with being highly leveraged.

I could move to Westchester and get a mansion for 2M but don't really want to sell out like that, yet. Maybe inevitable though as I don't see my income increasing 3 fold in the near term.

If you make a million a year, there is something wrong that you cannot afford a 5 or 6 million dollar condo. You may have the correct idea though with renting at this time.

csn: explain to me the math of how that works, assuming it doesn't entail me putting every dime I have in my investment accounts into a condo? As I said, about 3 million liquid, but invested. I take out a 3M+ mortgage to buy a 5M condo? Seems like a huge monthly nut.

You are not middle class. But it can certainly feel that way in the rarefied circles of private schools and affluent NYC publics. The people running around buying 5m+ condos are:
1) Overextended
2) Family $
3) Have larger incomes than you, or made their pile already.

My research on the UWS indicates that the majority belong to #1
2 and #3.

Just be happy that you were born under a lucky star and quit comparing.

no offense bro but this is what is amazing about people. Guy makes 1 million a year and wife is frustrated???? Are you kidding me? Meanwhile you'll have a wife living off her and husbands 50k and be the most thankful, happiest person around. The human race is unbelievable.

damn right nyc10023 be thankful you were BORN under that LUCKY STAR.

dueces...why not buy a 1.5m condo, pay cash and have 1.5m left over?

Warped view of life. Consider what percentage of the population in the country or NY can afford a 6 million dollar home, then ask if you are middle class.

Riversider, I appreciate what you are saying and I am thankful every day for our situation. However the question still stands - in NYC, is this what is normal? I am simply asking the question about this particular microcosm of the USA, not middle of kansas. I obviously know what the median HH income in the US is but that doesn't change what appears to be the situation in manhattan.

All I am saying is that for all the good things about our situation, we don't feel settled, which is frustrating. And Steve, please show me where I can buy a nice 3BR 1.5M condo in a good neighborhood in manhattan because I have been looking for 3 years. We have 2 children and I'm not intending on stuffing them into a 1000 sq ft 2BR. Rather sell out and get a house instead.

First you have to realize that $1M a year isn't much when we have created a "no-fail" asset-inflation based NYC economy that generated insane salaries/bonuses beginning in the early 2000's and continuing today because the gov't either bailed out all of these institutions - which are also the primary beneficiaries of the Fed's QE policy.

No offense, but have you actually asked "why" you have been making a million a year? Why all of these other people buying $5-6M condos can "afford" to do it? Do you really think that it is all natural? Quick question: Would you be making what you are today if Goldman Sachs, Bank of Amercica, Morgan Stanely and other financials institutions that should have failed went under? Maybe, but most likely not.

Instead we have created the absolutely opposite conclusion where businesses that shouldn't even exist are paying people millions of dollars for jobs that shouldn't exist - all with taxpayer support.

So there is your "why"....

As for buying a $5M condo, you have to ask what you are getting for that much money given how inflated the NYC RE mkt has become. Let's say you get 3,000 sq ft for $5-6M: that's about #2000/sq for what most likely is a t care how they spend it (and whether prices will stay as lofty as they have).

The person committing to a 5 million dollar home often has a net worth ten times that.

This does seem like the wrong forum for your vent; I wonder if the Robb Report would have an online forum you could try. I also think there is a sweet spot in the market for you, not sure why you can't find it.

Oh, nobody knows the troubles I've seen...

duecescracked you're disgusting me! You make a $1m/year and complain about it ?
You seriously deserve to lose everything so you can understand what real misery is.

And there is a pretty good chance that person made his/her money off of the bubble economy and were saved by TARP and QE policies.

And now they can celebrate by buying a $5M apartment in NYC with 1/10th of their net worth when realistically they would have been lucky to have that much left if they weren't bailed out.

And just how many would be willing to admit this? How many even realize it? Hence, why should they care how much they spend on a NYC apartment.

Tell your wife to vent on or

No, you probably shouldn't buy a 5m+ condo. But you can comfortably afford to buy a classic 6 in prime UWS. As for condo, there are more limited opportunities up here, but they also surface from time to time.

Hope i'm not speaking out of line, but if you are making a million dollars a year, you could not have been doing so very long. Most who work on Wall Street after having done so for a number of years and getting into that range, worry about maintaining it and maintaining a certain discretion when speaking of it. It's usually those who have only recently achieved this do they worry about keeping up with the Jone's. Traders,Bankers in the 40+ age range after living through Lehman & Bear worry how many good years they might have left, count their blessings and save like hell.

I was hoping this was satirical but it seems you're serious.

Memito - thank you for a rational explanation.

Riversider - I don't work on wall st and have had this level of income for about 4 years. I made my little stash in the old fashioned entrepreneurial way not by shuffling paper on wall st.

Sledgehammer - where am I complaining? I am simply pointing out what is happening around me and asking if this is normal protocol in this city, or if I happen to be caught in some hyperbiased sample.

Tell you what - get your wife turned on to ACRIS & google, riff through the class list (or whoever she's feeling sour grapes about). There are a lot of rich folks here who don't need to worry about 5m.

deuces, you're living in the center of the world. The greatest city in history of this planet. Of course you're going to pay for it.....
Why not buy a 2.5m condo and have 500k left over? Would that satisfy the wife? Hang in there bro some of the posts are going to be a little rough. But imo, it'll put everything back into perspective and that is a good thing. Good Luck.

Sounds like you need a tax cut. Try living on 30K a year & then decide how lucky you are. It actually sounds, though, that THE WIFE (always loved that expression, the same way they refer to THE DOG) is the one with the bigger problem but she's yours now so good luck. Oh, boo hoo I only have a million dollars a year. Boo hoo, boo hoo.

You are caught up in a rarefied rat race, but your common sense is telling you that it ought not be that way. Average income in this town is something like $50,000, I think, and you're at about 20X that. The Joneses are not worth keeping up with.

Here you go dude. River House has 3br's fit your criteria - 23A was sold for $1.68MM. For a mere $2MM (and come on dude, you can afford that if you bring home a buck a yr like you say), you can get water view 3 br. I am not a broker. I am a gal in her early 30's in your shoes - yes, except I am a woman ;-)

Compare and despair. You are in the rarefied most wealthy category in income, but not in assets. If you look around you, you can choose to look at the 99% who are poorer, or the 1% who are richer, and it will affect your enjoyment of life. I think people are happiest when they make twice as much as the people they consider their peers. If your kids are in elite private schools, many of your peers have inherited assets that allow them a much more expensive lifestyle than their income alone.
For example, I know people who have houses in Manhattan, Nantucket, Aspen and South Beach. The wife has a business, the husband works on wall Street. I'm sure they have a very decent income, but that's not how they can afford all that. They're both only heirs to vast family fortunes, and their first apartment in Tribeca was a gift from her dad (4,000+ sf dream loft.) They sold the loft 10 years later and bought a townhouse; even if your income matched theirs, you couldn't afford a townhouse.
Others have great-grandfathers who started a bank or a pharmaceutical company. You can't replicate that and if you try, you'll just be a casualty of the "keep up with the Joneses" mentality. Be happy in your rental, and spend $10,000 or $20,000 to make it snazzy. It's much cheaper than the hundreds of thousands you would spend in transaction costs if you bought a place.

By the way, I live downtown, Tribeca area. But I don't see any of my daughter's preschool parents buying $6MM condos. You and your wife honestly need a reality check. If she keeps complaining and she does not work, maybe it's time to upgrade to someone who is more grateful and content. Also, I work on Wall Street and we don't shuffle papers. You ppl who say that because you wish you could!

Consider Warren Buffet. EVERYONE is poorer than him and yet he lives in the same 500k has he bought 50 years ago and drives a used Cadillac. he has lived modestly his whole life even though he could ahve bought and sold everyone. BE LIKE BUFFET.

A 3M house is just gluttony.

Due - I am a boutique real estate agent with an Ivy league background, and I have clients who make $300K a year, and clients who make millions a year (I have a few clients in entertainment). THe clients who make more money are usually more averse to buying. Happy to talk about this at more length off-board, but for you, the short -term solution is to let your wife spend some money customizing the rental.

Ali R.
DG Neary Realty
ali [at] dgneary [dot] com

I need to just start a new company and give it another spin.

jqzeng: no offense but for various reasons I am quite familiar with what goes down on the buy side, and I am quite certain that 99% of practitioners in that field are overpaid dunces that create nothing and blow smoke around making like they have 'skill' to find 'alpha'. No harm if they can get away with it, but lets not make like there is any particular redeeming value to that line of work.

"I could move to Westchester and get a mansion for 2M but don't really want to sell out like that"
I don't understand how this is selling out. Plus as others have pointed out, there are family sized apartments in Manhattan for $2 to 3.3mm if you broaden your search. Taking out $1-2mm in mortgage debt is not such a stretch for such a high income. Moving to BPC, UWS or the UES might also seem like "selling out" but if you cannot keep up with the Tribeca or Chelsea loft downtown lifestyle, the living is more comfortable when you own something you can comfortable afford. It is nice to settle in and contemplate wallpaper, even if you just paint every 10 years or so.

but at least you've defined the elusive "middle class" at last!

1)no $5mill house

2)nagging wife

but seriously, don't feel bad about selling out. new york did.

lucillemissSE, Yeah, New York City sold out. Now you can buy a telephone or a electronic gadget and you don't have to negotiate a fair price because national stores do business here. Now you can get to an ATM without traveling 20 blocks. Now, a billionaire mayor feels comfortable taking the subway. It's just terrible how NYC is doing.

Look at me

all my life I thought I was gifted

It felt gifted and those who took the ride appeared gratified.

Internet porn put that notion to sleep.

be glad it's only money

pmg, typical reactionary response. you don't even know what i was talking about! new york sold out when people making $1m a year started feeling like middle class. the bubble killed new york, not the lack of crack fuled violent crime.

I wouldn't mind buying a place in BPC or UES or wherever for 2-3M but then I see that I can rent the equivalent space for 70% of the carrying costs of buying it. This is exactly the situation we are in now in our building. The owner bought the place for 2.7M and has 3.5k
In taxes and CC. And I'm renting it from him for under 9k. So it doesn't add up to buy at this level. At the higher level the rent becomes outrageous and I'm not comfortable with spending that much on something I am not paying principal on.

Seems like some redecorating of our current place is in order. And perhaps a fresh wifey.

Btw alanhart: i didn't include all the obvious socio economic side effects of my comment as I wanted to keep it succinct. But obviously I wonder how our nanny, Duane reade clerk, teachers, etc get along.

You'll always feel poor if you surround yourself only w/people who are doing a ton better than you. Broaden your social circle. I am the same age as you. I have friends making a multiple of what you make and friends who are in non-profits, education, etc. making a ton less. Wealth is always relative. Don't let keeping up with the Joneses make you go crazy.

"What I find most disturbing about the OP -- and I don't mean this as character-assassination -- is that there's no nod to "I can't even begin to understand how a Duane Reade clerk can afford to live in this city"."


Alan, have you ever visited

I find it ironic that the same women who whine about how "impossible" it is to "survive" on less than $500K in this city are the same witches who turn around and say that paying full-time overworked nanny-housekeeper-personal slaves (50+ hours for women who face 90-minute commutes each way from their hovels in far-flung Brooklyn and the Bronx) more than $15/hour is "highway robbery".

listen matt, time to forgive mom. it's not she was bad, NO ONE could live up to your standards.

Huh? I love Mom!

Matt, they can make it up in Christmas tips.

duecescracked, "then I see that I can rent the equivalent space for 70% of the carrying costs of buying it." ... I see the same ratio out there for myself, and I'm a nanny, Duane reade clerk, teacher, etc. I think it might have very little to do with the earnings level or the wife.

All kinds of things, including wallpaper, can be negotiated into a lease, and so can a longer term of residence. I like that red velvet wallpaper that they used to have at Cantonese restaurants. Just a suggestion.

And no, I've never visited urbanbaby ... I'm creepy, but not quite that much.

and surely you haven't read anything like that on urbanbaby. they'll rip you a new one for not providing 3 weeks paid vacay, health insurance and a christmans bonus of like 5X monthly salary.

"I like that red velvet wallpaper that they used to have at Cantonese restaurants. Just a suggestion."


So you like decorating your home like a 19th Century western whorehouse?

falcogold1 lol!

Nycmatt: your edited story was hysterical. Touché!!

Bringing it back to reality

Consider Warren Buffet. EVERYONE is poorer than him and yet he lives in the same 500k

That story is not really correct. He has other houses(one in California I recall) that cost far more.

I could move to Westchester and get a mansion for 2M

2mill is not a mansion, just a very nice house. WestChester is one of the richest counties in the Country.

It's not the wife. Her requests are normal, typical and, reasonable.
In most other towns she would be busy debating molding types with the decorator.
You need to get good with your situation.
Forget about Ritchie Rich.
Where else in the known Universe could your children grow up striving to go get off the proverbial bottom rung?
I live on the same block as Bloomberg.
On our block the contest is over.

FYI, dueces ... you can buy a 2400 square foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bath co-op in Washington Heights (with all prewar details intact) for less than a million dollars.

It's all about the choices we make.

TOP makes me want to vomit. The average household income in NYC is $55,980 per year. In Manhattan, its $68,402. Mean family income is about $166k. The PER CAPITA income in Manhattan is about $61k. (The average and median are skewed by the top end.)

84% of people in MANHATTAN (not NYC, MANHATTAN) make under $200k per year.

The HIGHEST mean household income by zip code in Manhattan is 10022 and a few others at about $400k.

TOP is in the top 1% if income in NYC, top 2% for Manhattan, and in the top 10% EVEN by zip code.

Only someone with an utterly warped sense of reality thinks that makes him "middle class" by USA, NUS, NYC or even Manhattan standards.

What you make in a year is what it took me half of my life to save. Go write a gratitude list. The things I remember most in life are not things, they are experiences. What could you buy instead of a money sucking NYC condo? Do you love what you do? My uncle was a CEO of a bank. When I visited my cousins I thought how great they had it living in their big house. It didn't save his marriage, it didn't teach his kids about work ethic. But still my uncle figured out a way to retire at 55 because he hated his job.

What about this... it needs more than wallpaper but could keep your wife busy with a huge renovation and do any of your friends have a key to the imprisoned park?

Methinks the wife has too much time on her hands.

Fire the domestic help and buy her a nice pair of pink rubber gloves and a brand-new mop.

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Jason - thanks for the statistics lesson. I'm just trying to survive homie, don't murder me for asking a legitimate question.

Duece: how come you're smart enough to make 1m as an entrepreneur and not comprehend that while 1m may feel like middle class (for all the above identified reasons), that it's far from middle class?

I am genuinely curious.

I agree with citymouse, life is about experiences, not things. Reminds me of the scene in American Beauty where Kevin Spacey was tryng, one last time, to have a romantic spontaneous experience with Annette Benning, and she got all worried about him possibly spilling a little beer on Italian couch.

Honestly, who CARES about what everyone else is doing? We got one life to live, savor it, live it. Life is too short to worry about how or why other people are buying the homes they buy.

dueces, just a suggestion. There are many nice 3br under $2.5mm-3mm with more than 2000 sq ft space and top finishes. Living there is not middle class. Middle class family in Manhattan is $200-300K total income who can afford 2br 1200-1300 sq ft apt with den for $1.1-$1.4mm - basic finishes. If you want to compete with the richEST in new york, you need $5mm per year income but at $750K plus income you are not middle class for sure. You are at least Upper-Upper middle class for manhattan if not rich.

nyc10023: my original subject was intended to stir up some drama in an exaggerated form. I realize I am not middle class in the true sense of the word, but I am not lying when I am telling you that every time my kid goes to a playdate at someone's place it is literally shocking to me the types of places people live in. It has become so predictable a pattern to me that it is humorous. I am enjoying my life and my kids so I am not staying up at night thinking about it but it engenders a curiosity about what exactly is going on around me and how there could be such a skew in the population around me.

I have many (most all) friends that are of much more modest or similar means and they are the ones I hang out with, but the reality is because of the school we end up having to socialize with the kids of my children's classmates, so it is a forced exposure and I don't enjoy it.

So in part, I started this thread to hear some harsh words and give me a reality check.

Thanks for clarifying. So the solution is obvious: move to a poor neighborhood, like the Upper West Side, and be the one with the bedazzling home. Host playdates.

Do you send children to private school? That is one of the downsides of private schools. You kids are jaded and you feel poor.

There are the wealthy and the rich. Too many people's lives fall apart when they suddenly lose a job and they suddenly realize they were the other one. Too many people in Manhattan don't save, get help from parents and live from pay check to pay check leasing their toys. Citymouse is right, life is to short to worry about competing.

duece, If your wife does not like the finishes of a $3mm place you are renting, there is an issue with expectations for sure.

"If you want to compete with the richEST in new york, you need $5mm per year income but at $750K plus income you are not middle class for sure. You are at least Upper-Upper middle class for manhattan if not rich."

who thinks about shit like this?

mercer: yes kids in a private school, which i hate, and going to get them out of there asap.

duecescracked's post is a great example of why we need Socialism.

only if you tell

Why? Everyone is doing better. The world today is better off.

i have good friends who make more combined more than $1mm per year. They pulled their from private school for exactly the same reason - they were feeling poor. Now they feel great and they live in $3mm apartment.

Duece: come to the UWS, live in a renovated 6 or 7, be the envy of your children's public school classmates. Your wife will feel much better too. No Birkins at dropoff & pickup.

I don't want to 'compete' with anyone and I don't care about the joneses. The only thing that is frustrating is that at my income and asset level, like everyone has so kindly pointed out, I should feel like I am in the top 1% and therefore could afford a very nice, spacious home of my choice, without compromises on location, space, finishes, or public school quality. If I lived in Boston, or Miami, or LA that would be true. It does not feel that way here, which is what led me to the exaggerated 'middle class' positioning.

"Middle class family in Manhattan is $200-300K total income who can afford 2br 1200-1300 sq ft apt with den for $1.1-$1.4mm - basic finishes."

Oh lord, another clueless over-privileged idiot.

$68K is the median household income in Manhattan. "Middle Class" in Manhattan is $30K-55K. "Upper Middle Class" is $55K-92K. Over $92K, you're in the upper 25%.

At $167K, you're in the top FIVE percent. There is absolutely nothing "middle" about being in the top five percent.

Further, over $250K is the top 1.5%!

Newsflash: Just OWNING in Manhattan is an UPPER CLASS phenomenon. The MIddle Class in Manhattan rents. And at MIddle Class incomes, the most they can afford for rent is $1375/month.

To really be fair, it's easy to take cracks at duecescracked and his cry baby multimillion boo hoo.
I feel for you brother and have had the same feelings, only at a fraction of your income. To others I would appear to be successful and, wrt my colleges, I am the picture of professional success. In this town when you live and interact with those that have met with extraordinary success it can be deflating. Your kid's school is a perfect place to develop that nasty case of penis envy. Where else will so many of privilege gather and interact? Your wife just wants her own place. She doesn't need you to be the big dick.
I know, I know, it doesn't have to be big to be good but if it's's good.

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nycmatt: you can pull out as many stats out of your ass as you want, but if you truly believe that a family is living large in manhattan on 167k or 250k for that matter, then you need to get some stronger meds or a reality check. And at 55k, you are not middle class, you are living in quasi-poverty, regardless of what the wikipedia definition of middle class may be.

falco: its mad huge

NYCmatt, I am taking about families with children not household income. Lot of single people. Also, upper manhattan, east of chinatown, and projects skew the statistics. People with children who make only $150k and pay market rent in manhattan will certainly not feel middle class.


It's the Labor Department's and Census Bureau's definition.

Try stepping out of TriBeCa once in a while and see how MOST of New York lives sometime. Maybe be adventurous and take the subway.

It could be quite an education for you.

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I take the subway everywhere i go, i also eat at grungy chinese joints in flushing and pizza in harlem. Please don't make me out to be some type of elitist that doesn't know the world around them. I'm not living in harlem, riverdale, or washington heights. In manhattan below 110th st living on 55k means living at the poverty line from a lifestyle perspective. Anyone care to disagree?


It's New York, specifically Tribeca, that is weighing on you. The environment of world-class competitors (which may have helped you build your business for all I know) is now creating a traffic jam between you and your dream home.

You will feel way better about your relative position in ten years.

In the meantime, try and take one dose of comfort in that it's not as bad as Hollywood. Did you see Katy Perry on the Victoria's secret show? A lovely 26-year-old pop star at the top of her game, with most of the beauty resources known to man, and wow she looked like she had fat thighs in the context of all those supermodels.

ali r.
DG Neary Realty

See for some fat thighs!

It's also about picking and choosing what you want. Some buy a nice Condo and drive a chevy, or no car at all, some do private school and rent, others skip subways and eat in. Nobody can have everything and still save.

I have to agree with the Kevin Spacey, "American Beauty" analogy. Hats off to the poster who thought of it. I can't believe this question is serious. Nobody can make seven figures and be so clueless about attaining middle class status in NY.

I absofkijglutely agree. As the bubble deflates ever more, we'll see who's driving the porsche mâché body over a 77' chevelle.

FLMAOzzzzz. Can anyone see me or am I just posting to myself?godammmmmmmmit. I've been illegally trolled.

I know people who buy used Porsche's and Rolex's so they can pretend to be rich for less money.

I'm spending New Years with w67 but it's not a yacht. It's more like a submarine. When you party with this guy you're going down! BTW, when he does buy that yacht you would be best to carefully consider the invitation because you know for a fact that the yacht is used, purchased at a distress

$1.5mm 2/2 in the Corinthian is simply shocking.

Oh, you are so right!
I blows me away that the Corinthian commands that kind of price. Sure, modest monthlies and good management, but the low ceilings, dark closet non-windowed kitchens and goof layouts confound me. A round living room sounds great until it's time to furnish it. Don't even get me started about the location.

In Manhattan below 110th st living on 55k means living at the poverty line from a lifestyle perspective.

If that's 55k on a W2 you have got to be in the studio version rent stabilized deal of the century and only have one driving passion...the public library.
Those people are out can spot them in the thrift shops buying everthing else they might need.

opps, that first paragraph was from another post...

W 67. We see you fine. No big deal.

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"I know people who buy used Porsche's and Rolex's so they can pretend to be rich for less money."

i know people who buy old volvos so they can pretend they are "old money", whatever that means anymore.

There is that, and for some the thrill of getting a "good deal", but also if you are a real estate broker or sales person trying to impress, the other guy has no way of knowing the car/watch was not bought new.

Knew someone who leased a new chevy every year(one of their larger models). His thinking was that all new brooms sweep just fine. One he bought the car at the end of the lease and gave it as a present to a valued employee. You can lease a Merdedes or Chevy for two years, if all you want is new and reliable, the Chevy does the trick.

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"I don't want to 'compete' with anyone and I don't care about the joneses."

This is clearly untrue.

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A.R. Unlike Real Estate Cars are almost always guaranteed to depreciate to zero. Keep them for 10,12,15+ years and get your monies worth.

I think it was an Impala

I buy all my luxury goods, cars, watches whatever preowned in mint condition. Anything else is a waste of money. But whats the point of that comment anyways relative to the original question.

SunnyD: the only thing I am concerned about is my own quality of life and the broken expectation that being in the top 1% would mean having your pick of housing in this city. Which turned out to not be true.

duecescracked, You'd be surprised at how many people who make over a mill a year live in Condos selling for a fraction of what you are targeting.

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