Author Topic: How to find a cheaper place to live?  (Read 4168 times)

gergg

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How to find a cheaper place to live?
« on: January 03, 2015, 08:50:53 AM »
So I've some to the realization that houses in the area I live in now are just too expensive, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed trying to figure out a cheaper place to move to. There are just too many variables - schools, taxes, housing cost, utilities, gas prices, etc. Is there any tool akin to a color coded map that displays relative housing prices or cost of living?  Ideally I'd like to stay within a 2-3 hour drive to Philadelphia, but that's still a lot of places and 4-5 states to choose from.  Any suggestions on how to narrow down the field?

xenon5

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2015, 10:28:39 AM »
Cost of living tools you find online are usually by metro area.  You could compare Philly metro vs New York metro for example but that doesn't sound like what you're looking for.

My advice is to first figure out where you're going to work, then find the most cost efficient location within a few miles that meets your needs.  Even if gas is cheaper farther away, for example, if you have to drive farther you're still probably going to spend more on gas and your car will lose value faster from mileage, not to mention spending more time on the commute.  Most people here would also encourage finding a location that allows you to skip the car commute in favor of walking, biking, or public transit.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 10:31:45 AM by xenon5 »

Bob W

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2015, 10:50:43 AM »
Midwest college towns rock.

gergg

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2015, 11:19:15 AM »
Well to add some more detail, I'm a full time remote software developer so proximity to work isn't that important - I don't see myself ever wanting to go back to work in an office.  I'd like to get a house and start a family in the next few years, but the problem with my area now is the housing cost and property taxes.  I'd need 3 bedrooms (or 2 + an office) and I don't want my neighbors on top of me.  That puts me at around $400-$500k for something in reasonable shape or $300k for a POS.  So I'm looking at needing to come up with $80k and then have a payment of $2250 (including taxes and insurance) for 30 years.  I'm currently renting a 2 bedroom townhouse for $1400 a month and I'd like to keep my minimum mortgage payment around the same.  It's just so frustrating to see these house hunter shows on tv where people are buying what amounts to a small mansion for $150k.  Meanwhile my household income is well above average ($160k) but owning a home seems like a pipe dream to me.

JLee

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2015, 10:10:38 AM »
Well to add some more detail, I'm a full time remote software developer so proximity to work isn't that important - I don't see myself ever wanting to go back to work in an office.  I'd like to get a house and start a family in the next few years, but the problem with my area now is the housing cost and property taxes.  I'd need 3 bedrooms (or 2 + an office) and I don't want my neighbors on top of me.  That puts me at around $400-$500k for something in reasonable shape or $300k for a POS.  So I'm looking at needing to come up with $80k and then have a payment of $2250 (including taxes and insurance) for 30 years.  I'm currently renting a 2 bedroom townhouse for $1400 a month and I'd like to keep my minimum mortgage payment around the same.  It's just so frustrating to see these house hunter shows on tv where people are buying what amounts to a small mansion for $150k.  Meanwhile my household income is well above average ($160k) but owning a home seems like a pipe dream to me.

That's why I moved to Phoenix. My mortgage payment for an 1825sq ft house with garage and pool is less than rent for the 700sq ft apartment I left in NH.

Now, roommates net me $250 profit after the mortgage is paid (well, aside from extra utility costs incurred). :)

Happy in CA

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2015, 02:16:59 PM »
You could try the cost of living calculator on bestplaces.net.  I don't know whether it's entirely accurate but at least for the areas I know (California, mostly) it seems to be in the ballpark.  I was surprised at how many smaller cities were included in its database.

erae

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2015, 04:28:51 PM »
I follow the Monte Largo Financial blog (mustachian financial planners) and they released an Affordability Living Index last month examining cost and quality of living (walkability, bikeability) comparisons of 69 metro areas.  Could provide some information and inspiration for criteria you might want to consider.

Here's the blog entry "What's Keeping You Poor This Month?  Your Location": http://montelargo.com/blog/?p=221
Here's the Index: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NcfrOPIoYre8DJJ-YeXigdtLb0VCAYTfK47WQqdYEs4/edit

nathanml

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2015, 06:46:29 AM »
Hey Gergg,

Well to add some more detail, I'm a full time remote software developer so proximity to work isn't that important - I don't see myself ever wanting to go back to work in an office.  I'd like to get a house and start a family in the next few years, but the problem with my area now is the housing cost and property taxes.  I'd need 3 bedrooms (or 2 + an office) and I don't want my neighbors on top of me.  That puts me at around $400-$500k for something in reasonable shape or $300k for a POS.  So I'm looking at needing to come up with $80k and then have a payment of $2250 (including taxes and insurance) for 30 years.  I'm currently renting a 2 bedroom townhouse for $1400 a month and I'd like to keep my minimum mortgage payment around the same.  It's just so frustrating to see these house hunter shows on tv where people are buying what amounts to a small mansion for $150k.  Meanwhile my household income is well above average ($160k) but owning a home seems like a pipe dream to me.

I live in the DC Metro area right now in a 3 bed home for around $400k which is exactly the kind of thing you said you want to avoid. However, I'm working to pay it off extremely quickly (should be done in 5-6 years from the time I got the mortgage) so my monthly expenses will drop by about 75% by 2020. The reason I'm telling you this is because I make less than you do and I think it is totally possible to get that downpayment quickly if you live a Mustachian lifestyle. However, it's pretty clear that the best choice would be to live a Mustachian lifestyle AND live in a cheaper home, which is why I would also direct you to the index erae posted (full disclosure: I created that index as part of my blog, so obviously I'd advocate using it).

If when looking through the index, you want smaller towns closer to Philly, just ask me and I'd be happy to add them in. We're slowly trying to add more cities every month or so to make it really comprehensive, but we'd rather include places people tell us they want rather than random towns that nobody may care about.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: How to find a cheaper place to live?
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2015, 07:11:58 AM »
I'm in a very similar situation to you (but you make more than twice as much) - I need to be sort-of near Philadelphia for work, but I work from home day-to-day. Because of family, we gravitated towards the Lehigh Valley, and the best place we found was Emmaus:
-walkable
-reasonable housing costs
-good school district
-if you for some reason need to go to New York or Philadelphia, neither is very far away

I tried to sell my wife on Easton, but it was further from her family and doesn't have a safe reputation despite feeling pretty safe to me.

There may be other areas like this near Philadelphia, but I think the Lehigh Valley meets your criteria as well. I'm not sure what you mean by not wanting neighbors on top of you - everybody has a different definition. We live in a twin and it doesn't bother us, but many of the boroughs have single houses in dense, walkable neighborhoods. There are also more spread-out neighborhoods, of course.

We paid $180k for a house just under 2000 square feet and have put some more into it to correct some deferred maintenance - probably more than we needed to but I hate half-assing things.