Author Topic: Relocating from Houston to Chicago  (Read 924 times)

BadassEm

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Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« on: July 15, 2018, 04:47:57 PM »
Hi All,

I have a big life change coming up at the end of August.  I asked my company for a transfer to Chicago, and they agreed, so I will be starting in Chi in September 2018.

I'm going from working in the Houston office (a dressy, stale, corporate environment) for 4+ days/week, to working from home 90-100% of the time -- the Chicago office is casual dress (!!!).  I'm happy about this change because I'm much more productive working from home, and don't get sucked into the office politics, which are especially toxic and mind-numbing in the Houston office...  Just picture lots of white crusty men in suits, no technical skills, but a lot of mansplaining... AI am also excited about downsizing my corporate attire and having much more flexibility.

In Chicago, I'll also be nearby my immediate fam, who all live in Chi, which is why I asked for the transfer.

There are several downsides to this move: I hate winters in Chicago; gray, sad, slushy, dark, bitter cold days...  I hate state income tax.   I dislike the Chicago accent (sorry, just sounds a bit tone deaf to my ears). My company is not paying for my move.  Chicago is a HCL city compared to Houston -- I'm paying no state income tax currently, but will be paying almost 5% in Chicago.  Rents are especially high in the neighborhoods I would like to live in: wicker park, boys town, Lincoln square, etc. 

I'm debating buying a home or multi-unit in the western areas of the city that are less dangerous, or Humboldt Park, but haven't lived in Chicago in over a decade, so not in tune with the various neighborhoods.  I may need to rent a while until I'm familiar again.

Recent real estate news on Chicago is also concerning... I believe 15+% of Chicagoans owe double what their home is worth (?) so they aren't selling even though many would like to, until the market appreciates; the market is currently where it was pre-bubble burst in 2008 I believe.  Please correct me if you have any intel on the current Chi RE market...  Or have any recommendations on where you would move as a single MMM 39 y/o with two large 70 lb mix breed dogs (one looks pit-ish).

At present, I make $109K base, $20+K annual bonus, have zero debt, perfect credit and rental history, am 4 years away from FI.  My company matches 401K contributions at a ridiculous 9%.  I am not in love with my job... it's a soul suck most of the time.  I have a great reputation and could find another job immediately.  I was considering leaving, but starting all over at a new Corp seems even more soul sucking and just doesn't seem worth it. It's taken me 5+ years to navigate my current environment.  I am on great terms with my old employer in Chicago, which was a .com startup, a place I loved.  They have been acquired, but by another .com, so apparently the work environment is even better than it was back in the day.  They are located in the same building as my current company.  I've been thinking I could always revert if the urgency/misery strikes.

In any case, would love to hear advice from my fellow MMM and chicagoans.  My current rent in Houston is $1,160 for a beautiful, light-filled apartment with all the amenities (in unit W/D, Pool, Gym, onsite dog park, beautiful grounds, palm trees & grilling stations, etc.) and a perfect tree top view of the entire Houston city skyline.  I do live in a tiny space: a 1B/1BA 567 SF apt -- this was by choice as I wanted to save on rent, but also liked the amount of windows, view, and beautiful 8'X8' balcony I'm writing from while lounging in my hammock.  I know $1160 sounds excessive to some... I'm MMM, but not to the point of not coming home to a place I love/enjoy.  I'm a 4 block walk/6 min drive to work.  Can also walk to Whole Foods, and many other spots....

I guess I'm starting to mourn the move/decision even though it's the change I need at this point.  Houston is a transient city. I've been here 5+ years, and all my original friends have moved on.  I've been an expat before, and lived in this type of environment, but want the consistency of having "my people" around always...  Though Houston is a good place, I do get tired of the heat, pickup trucks, guns, local houston accents...  I want a walk-able city where I can take public trans and be around people who have MMM values -- not constantly upgrading trucks, cars, homes, the use of plastic bags and not recycling... I'm appalled by the waste I see in Houston!  I've also recently converted to a plant-based diet which does not gel with the Texas mindset. 

Still, I do love the beautiful sunlight here, Texas sky, lifestyle. It's been an amazing 5 years and I love the life long friends I will take with me... Plus my Texas rescue dogs/aka dog foster failures!

nippycrisp

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2018, 08:45:45 PM »
What do you want advice on - there are no direct questions in the entire post. Where to live? Whether to rent or buy? Good brunch places? You'll get more/better responses if you narrow it down.

Taking a swipe at what appear to be the big issues - your assessment of Chicago real estate is largely correct. When I lived there, it felt as though Chicago is a city on the edge. On one hands, it's a colorful, cheaper big city. On the other, the current administration is fighting corruption, crime, and is at war with the rest of the state. I left because I was tired of the cold, the crime. Many of the nicer things you say are true (walkability, etc). Regarding costs, you will be able to rent a 1-2BR (nice/basic) in a decent neighborhood for what you're currently paying. Farther from lake = cheaper, generally. If you tell us where you'll be working, I can probably recommend a few neighborhoods with good public transit options.

I would advise renting; the multiplex options in the city have been mined out. Buying a SFH will be costly, and the condos in the city have HOAs that seem to limit appreciation. Many buildings are older, and need a lot of work. It will probably be cheaper and happier to rent. I lived in a high rise on the lake for 8 years and it was a "meh" decision, financially. If you do buy, understand that few people move in the winter, and that you will have much power as a buyer.

You probably already know this, but you are likely going to pay dearly for your dogs in terms of who will rent to you and for how much (I have learned this firsthand, unfortunately). Many, many buildings have strict weight limits. Chicago is also very strict about pet immunization records compared to other places - if your dogs bite someone/another dog, they're looking at a month of quarantine without rabies vax records.

Good luck with the move!

BadassEm

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2018, 07:14:16 AM »
Thanks so much Nippycrisp! 

As far as questions:
- what's your opinion on the RE market in chicago?  Good time to buy or not?
- what neighborhoods are good MMM neighborhoods, either renting or buying?  I'm looking for walkable, safe, not too residential, etc.  I'll be working at Ogilvie when I go into the office, so looking to live near a metra stop hopefully.
- Looking for encouragement, that Chicago's a great place to be right now, etc. -- what people like about it

Thank you for the dog intel as well.  That's of course a major concern, not only in finding a place that will accept large pit looking dogs, but I may need to find a place with a yard...   I currently walk my dogs 3-4 times/day, I imagine that would get pretty old in chicago winters... I keep my dogs current on vaccinations as they're much more susceptible to stuff down here in the south.

Thanks again!!

Sibley

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2018, 07:40:36 AM »
Olgivie and Union Station are about 2-3 blocks apart, between the two you'll cover most of west and northern suburbs. CTA (subway) covers more of Cook county, while Metra goes further out.

If you'll be working from home most of the time, then you might be ok with a crappier commute on the days you are in the office. That will open up a lot of suburbs. Cook county is pretty nuts overall. Taxes, traffic, housing prices, etc. Before I moved, I was in Dupage county, which was much more sane. You can find smaller downtowns in the suburbs that will give you the walk-ability, without being in Chicago itself.

In Illinois, well, I moved to Indiana to buy my house. I am not willing to pay $10k in property taxes. And since IL in general is broke and unwilling/unable to address the underlying financial issues, taxes are only going to go up.

SimpleCycle

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2018, 08:30:33 AM »
I mean, it sounds like you have some good reasons to move to Chicago, but are also a bit ambivalent.  That's an okay place to be with a major life change!

I think you should rent while you decide on a neighborhood.  There are so many, they each have their own character, and they have changed substantially in the past 10 years or so.  I have my preferences, but they're likely to be different from your preferences.  We're currently thinking hard about relocating to Logan Square (from West Town) because it's a mix of relative affordability, more space than we have now, workable local schools, etc.  But that's entirely different from what you are looking for!  If you are willing to bike or take the bus, a ton of MMM friendly neighborhoods open up to you.

I think the RE market is overvalued right now, which is another reason to rent for a bit.  I have more thoughts, so I'll be back later.

nippycrisp

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2018, 12:17:02 PM »
- what's your opinion on the RE market in chicago?  Good time to buy or not?

It's about where it was when the housing crisis ended. Exceptions, of course, but sludgy. I wrote a wrap-up of my experience owning (https://www.ofmiceandmolecules.com/blog/the-home-as-an-investment-my-experience-with-data) you may be interested in.

It's not going anywhere soon, I think. Strongly advise renting, especially until you find a neighborhood. This also gives you the option to pull out and/or reposition if things don't go well for you. 

- what neighborhoods are good MMM neighborhoods, either renting or buying?  I'm looking for walkable, safe, not too residential, etc.  I'll be working at Ogilvie when I go into the office, so looking to live near a metra stop hopefully.

You have to decide if you want to be a city or suburb person. The burbs are (my opinion) safer, blander, whiter, wealthier (overall). If you must have a house, they're your main option. I was a city person who lives in Lincoln Park (I actually had a 45m car commute to the burbs in order to live there). There were 50 restaurants within half a mile of my home. Free zoo a half mile away. I lived on the 40th floor of a high rise with a lake view on one side and Wrigley field on the other. As close to the lake as you can get.

If you want to live in the city, I would recommend a swath of neighborhoods on the north/west sides. In order of ascending cost (roughly speaking): Logan Square/Edgewater/Lincoln Square/Ravenswood/Wrigleyville/Lakeview/Lincoln Park. West/South Loop is dull and expensive and downtown is all office space that dies at 5 PM. Old Town and Gold Coast are better, but pricey. Hyde Park is the only place I'd look at on the south side, but I wouldn't after having lived there. That said, if you want the city experience, you'll probably be in or near one of these neighborhoods. If Chicago hasn't finished their war on AirBnB, you might want to try surfing a few neighborhoods and plying the hosts for more information.

Another idea: Perhaps look at the dog beach locations (Lakeview harbor and the other one north) and Wigglyville in Wrigleyville as anchor points, although Lincoln Park (the actual park) has a lot of green space (I liked North Pond area). Also, look at the CTA network, probably the red and brown lines going north and northwest. Lakefront offers the bike path as a quick transport option in warmer months.

There is a huge difference between riding the CTA (local) and metra (burbs), both in cost and time required. I advise against a metra commute. Some poor souls actually live in Northern Indiana and spend their lives on the train. You do not want to do this unless you have horses or have a serious city phobia. Honestly, you do not sound like a suburb person, based on your desire for walkability. 

- Looking for encouragement, that Chicago's a great place to be right now, etc. -- what people like about it

It's a big city experience without cost. Amazing food, shows, sports. 2 major airports on the train line. Close, cheap flights to anywhere in the US. Summers are amazing - festivals every weekend, and a great music scene. I'm going back to visit next week just to eat. The largest airshow in the US is in nearby Wisconsin. The best blueberries grow on the Michigan/Indiana state line and you can see the lights of the skyline from 70 miles away across the lake on the Michigan side. Northerly Island has great outdoor summer concerts. There's a 30-mile pedestrian path fronting the lake. There are a thousand other things I'm forgetting or haven't the time to add.

The main negatives are weather and crime. You already know about winter, so just go on a sunny vacation in Feb. The crime/sociological climate is just the way it is. As for crime: stay alert, buy sturdy locks, and be extremely aware of your personal safety when you see sketchy people (especially in groups) who look out of place in a particular neighborhood. Prepare for your car getting scuffed up on the bumpers.

Happy to make specific recs once you're on the ground there making decisions.


Rubic

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2018, 01:16:16 PM »
Prepare for your car getting scuffed up on the bumpers.

Better yet, ditch the car.  My current ride was purchased from somebody who was
moving to Chicago when I pointed out she wouldn't need it.

Sibley

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2018, 03:19:55 PM »
There is a huge difference between riding the CTA (local) and metra (burbs), both in cost and time required. I advise against a metra commute. Some poor souls actually live in Northern Indiana and spend their lives on the train. You do not want to do this unless you have horses or have a serious city phobia. Honestly, you do not sound like a suburb person, based on your desire for walkability. 

Hey! I live in Northwest Indiana. You wanna know why? My property taxes are $1200 a year, my mortgage is just under $800 a month, and I have a 3 bed, 1.5 bath 1500 sqft house. With a garage. Beat that in Chicago. Plus, my gas prices are easily $0.10/gallon less than IL.

Re commute - South Shore is no worse than a Metra commute. In fact, I spend less time commuting than many of my western suburb colleagues. Is it 10 minutes? No, it's not. But for the type of housing I was looking for, this worked out best for me. Not everyone wants to live in the big city.

Also, I know multiple people (6+) with horses who live in Brookfield, Western Springs, Palos Heights, and Willowbrook. There's a barn on Clarendon Hills road in Willowbrook/Darien/whatever that area is called (I just drove through it), and there's at least 2 in Palos Heights. Both are IL. I haven't met ANYONE in Indiana yet who has horses.

There are pros and cons to wherever you live in the Chicago region. Not everyone has the same wants and needs, and dissing one area because you don't understand some of the pros isn't very nice.

BadassEm

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2018, 09:49:51 PM »
As always, invaluable information from my MMM community!  I think I'm opting to rent at this point, focusing on "dog beach locations" and finding a lot of great rental options on Zillow.  For apartment hunting in Chicago, Zillow and Trulia seem best.  I'm sure Craigslist is probably good as well for the sublet options.  Any other great local Chi apartment rental sites that might not be easy for an outsider to find?  Thanks again for all the thoughtful and tremendously helpful insight!

nippycrisp

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Re: Relocating from Houston to Chicago
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2018, 11:47:03 PM »
Domu always advertised heavily on trains and buses in the city. There are also apartment services that will take you around to the various buildings. 

Like anywhere else, if you use a professional service, their cost will be factored into the rent. You will also likely be shown apartments in dedicated rental buildings. If you aren't familiar with them, they're a mixed bag. Briefly, they're professional, decently maintained and responsive. BUT they'll push you for a rent increase every year like clockwork and are fairly inflexible. The alternative are CL/Nextdoor places rented by actual humans. This is where the deals are (someone who is renting directly isn't gonna test a low maintenance renter with a big rent increase), but it's the wild west as well. One idea may be to consider a furnished sublet to give yourself time to acclimate.

Included heat and parking are nice perks anywhere. On the latter, realize that street parking is frequently an issue, and you generally have to pay 100-350/mo for a parking spot (depending heavily on location). Package delivery is another factor to consider. Packages like to disappear in the summer months.

BTW, the dog beach neighborhoods are Lakeview East/Lincoln Park (Belmont Harbor Dog Beach is small but busy with lots of green), Montrose (the biggest, cheaper area, but a little sketchier - Chicago has "travelers" each Summer that seem to congregate here), and Edgewater (there's another dog beach up there, don't know the name). Edgewater is comparable to Montrose in cost. Personal pref is Lakeview/LP>Edgewater>Montrose, although Edgewater is probably a better straight-up value.

Happy hunting!