Author Topic: Case Study: Where should we live?  (Read 8250 times)

Carrie

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Case Study: Where should we live?
« on: July 16, 2016, 10:51:02 AM »
Current info:
We are a family of 5, with three children between the ages of 2-9.
We live in a deep south state, and are becoming increasingly unhappy with the state politics and the education rating of the whole state.  We are dissatisfied with the hot & humid summers, and lack of four seasons.  We feel like the COL is too high for what we get (being ranked last in everything), however, our COL is still fairly low compared to most big cities. We live in the suburbs (town is 25k, but spread out, in the metro area of a 200k city) in a nice established neighborhood (mature trees, houses up to 25 years old).
I have only lived in the deep south, and am scared and excited for a drastic move. 
DH has the option to work remotely, so all we would need job-wise is high speed internet, although being close to a strong IT job market wouldn't be a bad idea.   
I would love suggestions on what might fit our family.

What we (think) we want:
*Pretty views, local hikes, hills-to-mountains nearby, four seasons with some snow, long spring & fall, and shorter summers than our current 6 months of summer.
*Good public schools
*small to medium sized city (10k - 100k?)
*low COL - dream is to buy a small plot of land and build a custom modern-style home.
*liberal politics (or at least more liberal than the RED state south)
*educated populace (again, comparing to ..... where we are)

We are homebodies and introverts; we don't need an active nightlife or urban scene.  Our ideal weekend is putzing around the house working on projects, doing some local nature hikes, having intimate dinner parties with friends. 

For an idea of current situation & COL, we currently own a home that is worth around $240k and is 2250 sf (4bd 3ba), property taxes of 2300/yr., in a neighborhood 2 miles from schools, 4 miles from grocery, 9 miles from the office. 
Ideally, I'd like to spend the same or less on a house.

Any other info needed? 
Thanks guys!




waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2016, 10:59:37 AM »
What do you define as "low" COL? "Good" schools? Hard to say much without something a little more concrete on both of those.

Lower than where you are (I'm just going off your house price)? If so your options are very limited. Good schools, liberal politics, mountains, etc all add up to high COL in general.

One idea would be Los Alamos NM. Best schools in the US by a large margin, middling politics but leaning liberal, right in the mountains, 4 real seasons, and plenty of decent houses in the same price range as yours. It's a small town, though, only ~15k people. And it's high desert - very different than the south in almost every way. Full of scientists and engineers, a little short on artists (though there are a ton of people who can play a mean bit of Chopin!) So not much nightlife, check! There's a decent brewery, though, and an organic/local co-op, farmers market, etc.

There might be a few other spots like that, but that's the best one I can think of based on your stated priorities. Oh, and there is a crazy strong IT job market, if by IT you mean computer science/supercomputer/mathematical modeling and network stuff. If you mean developing the next Pokemon Go, not so much.

Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions. I used to live there, and still own a house there.

-Walt
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 11:02:16 AM by waltworks »

pbkmaine

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waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2016, 11:10:06 AM »
Cool article. 100% fail on mountains, though.

-Walt

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2016, 11:15:14 AM »
I just looked it up - it appears our town has a COL index of 112.5. 

While I'd love to keep housing the same or cheaper, I keep going back to the fact that while we're in the worst state, we're in the best spot (As far as education level, income level, school grade, commute time, etc.) in the worst state.  So I'm not really sure how to know if moving is going to be better or not.  We're just so frustrated with these hot summers, lack of winter, local crappy politics.  We're not especially liberal, probably more moderate, but most people around us are very conservative.

Unfortunately, I was afraid that the combination of what I dream of (schools, politics, mountains = high COL).

Thank you for the suggestion - I'll look it up.

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2016, 11:23:08 AM »
Looks like COL index is 116 for Los Alamos. So a tiny bit more, but basically the same.

If you hate humidity and super hot summers, you got it. Elevation is 7500 feet. Expect lots of snow in the winter, though.

I own a house there because it's really pretty cool. I just can't justify living there over Park City, but I like having the option if I get tired of continuing to work to pay for my stupid expensive house here. PC COL = 171, with a housing component of 341. Ouch!

-Walt

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2016, 11:29:14 AM »
Moving to the dessert would be a huge change for us.  We hardly ever travel, but when we did travel (pre-kids), we went out to Sedona, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon -- and really loved it.  It looks like there are still trees in Los Alamos, which is a positive. 

DH is in IT security, and would keep his current job (although nice to have options, just in case). I'm an architect but I work very little right now, might go back in some capacity when the kids are older.  Or we just might retire early if we can get this stash built up.

Where ever we move would be our early retirement spot.  And I really, really, really want to build, but I realize that it may not be realistic, cost-wise.  New construction is always more expensive. (sigh)

ETA:
just looking at pictures --- that area is so beautiful.  LOVE the sweeping vistas. Thanks for the suggestion, Walt!
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 11:39:46 AM by Carrie »

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2016, 11:51:15 AM »
Feel free to ask me any questions you want. It's a great town and there would be lots of jobs for your DH if he decided he wanted to do something different. Not sure how much work for architects, though if you do passive/low energy stuff the Santa Fe market is huge for architects (Santa Fe is about a 40 minute drive).

If you like Flagstaff, you'd love northern NM. Only place with good schools is really Los Alamos, though.

When I was there (high school) about 20% of the entire graduating class at the high school (literally like 80 kids) went to either an Ivy or MIT/Cal Tech/Stanford. It's nuts how good the teachers are too.

-Walt
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 11:56:21 AM by waltworks »

FINate

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2016, 12:00:29 PM »
Posting in part to follow this thread...we are in a somewhat similar situation, though in our case we're in DEEPLY blue CA and IMO the state is ungovernable and mismanaged. The unbalanced policies (CA is very unfriendly to business except tech) are partially to blame, but I think the bigger issue is what is effectively one party rule. There is no/little accountability. So we're always keeping an eye out for other places to live.

I think you're going to have to compromise on your list of wants. Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough or in the right places, but I've yet to find a place that has all these elements. I think you can find most of what you're looking for, but I think that means going higher on COL or giving on school ratings.

Some general ideas on how to narrow down your search of small to medium sized cities:
* Look for those with a University. This usually indicates more liberal politics and more educated populace (plus more vibrant local economy)
* Look for those with a Whole Foods or other natural food stores. This is usually a good proxy for enough 'crunchy' people in the area to support such a store.
* I forget where MMM mentioned this, but look for cities that are distinct from big metro regions, and not suburb that has been swallowed up by a bigger city. Basically, you probably don't want to live in a bedroom community where you have to drive to everything. A small/med city that is self contained is much more likely to be walkable/bikeable.

A few concrete ideas to explore. No idea what the schools are like in any of these areas:
* Grants Pass, OR or one of the nearby cities (city is conservative leaning, but state is blue)
* Prescott AZ
* Fort Collins CO. This is near MMM. Any of the cities in the Rocky Mountain foothills are worth looking at. Winter is quite cold compared to the south.
* Grand Junction CO.
* Tacoma WA. Close to Seattle and IT jobs. Not a lot of sun as compared to other places with gloomy PNW winters and lots of days with rain.
* Reno NV. OK so this is probably a wildcard. City is bigger than you're looking for, and it's a bit strange because of the casinos/gambling. But the high desert of the Great Basin can be pretty and it's very close to the Sierra Nevadas (the eastern side is the prettiest IMO) and Lake Tahoe.

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2016, 12:06:44 PM »
Agreed, the places that fit all the criteria are... practically nonexistent.

Here's a cool project the NYT did using the 2010 census data:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/28/upshot/more-on-how-we-chose-the-hardest-places-to-live.html

Note the paragraph at the bottom:
"Finally, some people asked for the full top 10 list. These are the places, almost all suburban, that have unusually well-educated, well-paid, long-lived populations.

1. Los Alamos County, N.M.
2. Arlington County, Va.
3. Fairfax County, Va.
4. Loudoun County, Va.
5. Summit County, Utah (home of Park City, the upscale ski resort)
6. Montgomery County, Md.
7. Alexandria City, Va.
8. Lincoln County, S.D. (suburb of Sioux Falls)
9. Howard County, Md.
10. Williamson County, Tenn. (suburb of Nashville)"

-Walt

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2016, 12:35:38 PM »
Funny, we live in the blue spot in an all-orange state (from that info-graphic hardest places to live), and I'm from the other (southern) all orange state -- from the one blueish spot.
That's how I get my warped idea that I should be able to have my low COL combined with a better place to live.  I have the advantages of being in the best spot in a bad place. 
I'm afraid that any move or upgrade would result in us only being able to afford on OK spot in a better place and that the move might feel lateral or worse.

FINate, I'd thought of that before, that we should look into small university towns.  That could also possibly offer an option of working for a university during some pre-retirement phase.  I also agree with you that a bedroom community isn't the feel I'm after.  That's what we have, nice neighborhood, but can't walk to the library/school/grocery.  I'd rather have the neighborhood feel actually in the center of a small town.

Is it too much to add to my list of unreasonable desires -- legalized pot?  :)

I really appreciate the responses.

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2016, 12:39:11 PM »
Yeah, Los Alamos/Santa Fe is the same story. Blue in a sea of orange. Different story somewhat (Native American reservations in NM are awful places) but the same overall outcome.

It sounds like you've got it relatively good. Can always go on vacation to the mountains!

-Walt

FINate

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2016, 01:06:15 PM »
Is it too much to add to my list of unreasonable desires -- legalized pot?  :)

In the lower 48 that, for now, narrows it down to WA, OR or CO :)  IMO you should seriously look at Fort Collins or one of the nearby cities.

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2016, 01:22:12 PM »
Fort Collins looks really good.  The COL is virtually the same --- I'm definitely talking to DH about this.


Our short term plan is to get our house market-ready and start traveling to the top 4-5 spots, so right now I'm trying to get my list together.  We could reasonably get our house on the market next spring - just needs paint on the walls & some staging.

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2016, 02:21:31 PM »
Next question : how do I get up the nerve to move cross country?
What would the steps be-
Sell current house, bank the equity, rent in new location to scope it out?
This all sounds expensive.

Trudie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2016, 03:07:37 PM »
Moving is expensive, period.  Might want to visit a few places first, then decide.

Fort Collins is on our short list, so I understand the appeal.  However, you may feel differently about it once you are there and experience it.  It is growing at a fast rate.  That may or may not be desirable to you, especially with kids.  Colorado is a lower tax state.  I assume this is because they have enough tourism and industry to help pay for things.

A word about property taxes... yours are extremely low, but just remember that in some sense you get what you pay for.  You will also not get that much house for that kind of money in FC proper.   The key is to optimize your key values.  We live in a state (Iowa) where property taxes are in the middle.  We live in a small college town that is quaint and has some appeal (and I grew up a few hours from here), but sometimes I am struck by what we DON'T get for our property tax dollar -- few municipal utilities, crappy broadband, no curbside recycling, crumbling roads, schools that are badly in need of upgrade/repair.  This makes me long for the days when we paid more in property taxes in Wisconsin and could see benefits accruing to our communities.

I would check out Sioux Falls, SD.  Sometimes it gets a bad rap as "fly over territory", but I have been there and it is surprisingly nice.  If legalized pot is a priority you've only got a few options.  I'd check out OR.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 03:11:00 PM by Trudie »

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2016, 03:36:43 PM »
I was (mostly) joking about legalized pot.  I'm not a pothead, but I'm not a fan of making something relatively harmless into a crime. 

I keep going back and forth on relocating.  We have home equity, but we'd also lose money to a realtor, to home repair/fixing the place up to sell. I just don't know if the quality of life upgrade (pretty hikes, nice summers, etc) are worth the money lost on moving.  I'd love to live in a quaint town, walkable with great architecture. So many houses I've browsed on zillow in various towns just don't have any character (in our price range), and one fear is that we'd sell our OK house for a crappy house. I don't want to pay more for something falling down or stuck in the 80's/90's. 

So many of the houses near us are pricey and the finishes are shockingly beautiful (not in our neighborhood, but a street over - half a mil will get you a gorgeous home).  We're in a 13 year old home, nice-ish builder quality (you know, crown molding everywhere, huge master suite; large closets, lots of storage), in a golf course neighborhood w/pool / tennis, top ranked elementary school nearby.  Our amenities are actually pretty nice.  But, summer temperatures are oppressive.  I basically stay inside from late June through September.  Our winters are mild and fine, but it doesn't feel like winter (no snow, no need for heavy coats). 

Half the time I think travel and vacations are in order, the other half the time I think I don't want to be stuck in the deep south my entire life and I want to experience something new.

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2016, 03:43:17 PM »
Yeah, you're screwed if you're going to throw interesting/gorgeous architecture into the mix! Does the town need to have a free pony program, too? :)

Selling your house and moving, worst case, will cost you like $30k. IMO that's peanuts compared to living where you want to live for 5/10/rest of your life years.

It's interesting, I think about location as my #1 priority. I'd spend (and do) most of my money on living where I want, and I could care less about what the house looks like. It's a box to keep the weather off and store some junk. As long as it does that, I will select where I live entirely based on where is the most awesome.

I guess as an architect (or a chef/other professional) you can go either way. I know some who basically just live in crappy shacks/eat whatever leftovers are sitting around. Others geek out on their own house/food like crazy.

-Walt

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2016, 03:50:57 PM »
I geek out on architecture and food.  I don't care if there are great restaurants around, because I'm the best chef I know.  I also don't want to live in a crappy shack, because it's my HOME, where I tend to spend most of my time. :)

I've been getting the heeby-geebies looking at zillow pictures of $300k houses with cheap 2 1/4" oak trim in every room.

Basically you're just reassuring me that I'm unrealistic and need to accept that I'm not going to get my dwell-home-magazine modern custom house AND gorgeous views/ hikes.  (oh and great public schools and an educated populace)
:) 


waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2016, 03:57:10 PM »
Yeah, you're not going to get any Dwell houses for your budget even in crappy places. Sorry. If this was 2009, different story...

I don't want to sound condescending, but not liking trim is pretty easy to fix. If you don't like the whole style/layout of a place, that's a bummer. But trim? Just rip the shit off and do whatever you want. It's just wood and drywall and crap, as you know.

Then go for a hike. You won't even notice the trim once you have a few beers afterward and get home after dark.

I know this is heresy here but... it sounds like you'd be happier if you made more money so you could spend a little on some of these things. Low COL is great, but not if you don't actually like where you live.

-W
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 04:17:18 PM by waltworks »

undercover

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2016, 04:23:25 PM »
I'm with waltworks - at the end of the day, a house is ultimately a place to rest your head and feel relatively safe. Falling in love with a house doesn't exist. Ok, staying in love with a house doesn't exist. A nice house is nice, but it won't feel nice after a while - it will just feel normal. A nice house is also high maintenance (or it can be). "Nice" human built things don't last long in nature. It's better to just go with an acceptable home in good condition, and it will become and feel the same normal as the nicer home would've.

I'm not an architect but I have a high appreciation for aesthetic and architecture. But...it's better to keep it simple. I've come to the conclusion that it's really not worth it in the long run to own a unique house (both in initial and ongoing expenses, and when you decide to sell). You won't notice the differences over a long enough period of time to matter, and you will save money in the process. The extra costs usually associated to owning something that's custom designed and built is just not worth it unless your net worth is crazy. Even then, it's not something that's going to significantly alter your happiness.

I divert from walt in that I'm of the mind that it doesn't really matter where we live (especially when you're a homebody and an introvert - I am too). Weather has a very insignificant impact on overall happiness. Friendships and career rank way farther up the ladder than the style of your home, where you live, or weather. I say this as someone who recently purchased a nice home in a nice location. I have everything ticked on your list, and I'm close to everything, but if I had to do it over again then I'd probably do it different.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 04:34:25 PM by undercover »

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2016, 04:31:36 PM »
Depends on what you like. I'm an outdoors person - skiing, mountain bikes, trail running, hiking, rock climbing, etc. For me weather and topography matter more than anything else. If you're more interested in non-outdoors stuff, obviously it won't matter as much and you'll get used to whatever weather (within reason) you have to deal with.

I think OP is a house person. There is just some part of her that can't handle llving in a house that isn't what she wants, and being an architect, I can only imagine her standards are just crazy high.

Problem with that is you end up unhappy with a lot of perfectly acceptable stuff. I build bikes for a living and raced them professionally for years - but my own personal rides are all cobbled together from random crap that just manages to function. Not top of the line shiny stuff. It's not because I'm cheap, it's because after enough experience with bikes over the years, any bike that fits and works ok is great by me and I'm now more interested in where I'm riding, who I'm riding with, how many beers I'm drinking afterwards.

Maybe the OP can get there with houses eventually. Or maybe it would be better to work for a while to make some more money to build that hypermodern passive Dwell house. Or maybe the status quo is good enough.


Sometime it's worth thinking about the literal choice, though:
-Scenario A: Sitting on the custom-stained poured concrete porch of your Dwell house, sweating profusely, after a day being inside because it's too hot/humid to do much. Your beer gets warm after about 2 swallows due to the humidity and heat, but man, you've got a sick house.
Scenario B: Sitting on the porch of your craptastic 80s ranch house that looks just like every other craptastic 80s ranch house. With 2 1/4" oak trim! And a cold beer, several tired hiking buddies, a gorgeous sunset, and a few blankets because it's getting cold in the mountains.

Now, obviously the choice isn't that black and white. But if the OP really wants the best of both worlds, she needs to lay hands on more money. Or give up on the cool house, at the very least.

-Walt
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 04:38:33 PM by waltworks »

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2016, 04:43:10 PM »
What would you do differently, undercover?  (and where are you that you've got everything on my list checked?)

I know what we need to do is just get out there more, travel --
but then I get hung up on cost.  We've just now gotten to the point where we're maxing out retirement options (401k & ROTHs), and our house is getting close to being paid off.  I hate to stop that momentum just to take a vacation, but if it saves us mega-bucks in moving expenses, then a few vacations may be in order.

I'm actually pretty satisfied with my life - I have basically zero stress.  When the weather is nice, I get outside & walk the neighborhood, when the weather is hot, I stay in the a/c and do hobbies. I have this nagging feeling that we're missing out by staying where we are.  And we probably are -- since we've had kids we haven't traveled beyond visiting family (well, ok, one trip to the NC mountains before our youngest was born).  I guess I'm worried also that if we do move it won't be everything I've hoped and it'll end up putting us behind financially.

If we stay put and continue to save at our current rate, we'll be in a much better position for ER than if we move.  I've got to work out those priorities. 

This is what happens when DH leaves town, leaving me to google maps, zillow, usa.com.  :)

Thing is, even if we stay here, we can't afford the kind of house I want to build (it's a simple floor plan, really - nothing fancy, it's just that new construction is double what an existing house costs!). 
Other option is to give up my luxurious life of leisure (mostly SAHM), work, like you say, Walt, build up the stache to move & build.  Our kids will probably be grown by then - then the school district won't matter making it more affordable. :P

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2016, 04:54:06 PM »
Shit, forget the ER part for now. You want to maximize happiness, not minimize the age at which you FIRE. Sometimes that's the same thing, but seriously, you don't travel at all, just to save money?

You've gone sort of out the other side of things at that point and you're making yourself miserable because of money just the same as someone who is behind on 8 different credit cards and has a bunch of useless crap.

The whole point is happiness. Not money. Money is just a means to an end, and "ruining the momentum" to get to some arbitrary amount of it a little sooner is ludicrous unless you're trying to ransom a family member or something.

-Walt
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 04:58:03 PM by waltworks »

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2016, 04:59:54 PM »
It's more than that --- we've been in the pregnant/baby/toddler stage for too many years now (sleepless nights).  These kids have thrown us for a serious loop.  The last one (and I mean LAST) is almost 2 now, so I am starting to feel like we can venture out into the world soon.  I admire people who can travel with babies, but it is no fun for us.  So, while the kids are too young to comfortably schlep around, we're stashing as much money as we can.  I know our savings rate will go down a little as the kids get older and we can travel more.  But for the past quite a few years travel is way more hassle and stress than it is fun.

I should have mentioned that before.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 05:02:54 PM by Carrie »

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #25 on: July 16, 2016, 05:03:49 PM »
All the more reason to travel. The kids will settle in somewhere and it'll get hard to actually move, if you want to. Go out into the world, and just sigh and clean up the barf and spilled chocolate milk as it comes.

Organic chocolate soymilk, I mean! :)

-Walt

JustTrying

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2016, 05:05:09 PM »
Maybe Olympia, WA or surrounding areas (Dupont??) would fit your needs??? I admit, I live in WA, so I bet there are lots of places in the US that might fit your needs, I'm just not familiar with them. I also don't know Olympia or Dupont very well, though it sounds like you're pretty into the suburbs, and Dupont is one of those areas that people seem to like though I don't understand the appeal (I was cracking up that a 25yo development is "well-established" in your mind as I very much like houses and neighborhoods that are at least 100 years old, and I very much dislike suburbs). I'd imagine there are probably some spots in Oregon that you'd enjoy as well, I'm just not as familiar with the area.

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2016, 05:08:34 PM »
Yeah, well established as opposed to the treeless new construction going up even further out in the country.  I wish we could have one of the 100 year old houses in the city, but terrible schools and some of the highest crime in the nation had us looking out in the burbs.  I don't actually like the burbs, but as far as they go, our neighborhood is ok.
I don't want big city either, which is why I think small town where we can live in town (either in an older home or my own design) would suit me fine.

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2016, 05:13:45 PM »
What about Divide, CO or Cripple Creek? (looks to be affordable, not too far from Colorado Springs)
I'm going to have to plan a vacation, sorry 401k contributions.  I've got to see these places before I'm too old.

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2016, 05:14:59 PM »
oh my gosh -- Asheville has been on my list for a long time.
I LOVE the NC mountains.  We've stayed in a friend's cabin in the southern part of the state quite a few times and love it.

undercover

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2016, 05:16:45 PM »
What would you do differently, undercover?  (and where are you that you've got everything on my list checked?)

I know what we need to do is just get out there more, travel --
but then I get hung up on cost.  We've just now gotten to the point where we're maxing out retirement options (401k & ROTHs), and our house is getting close to being paid off.  I hate to stop that momentum just to take a vacation, but if it saves us mega-bucks in moving expenses, then a few vacations may be in order.

I'm actually pretty satisfied with my life - I have basically zero stress.  When the weather is nice, I get outside & walk the neighborhood, when the weather is hot, I stay in the a/c and do hobbies. I have this nagging feeling that we're missing out by staying where we are.  And we probably are -- since we've had kids we haven't traveled beyond visiting family (well, ok, one trip to the NC mountains before our youngest was born).  I guess I'm worried also that if we do move it won't be everything I've hoped and it'll end up putting us behind financially.

If we stay put and continue to save at our current rate, we'll be in a much better position for ER than if we move.  I've got to work out those priorities. 

This is what happens when DH leaves town, leaving me to google maps, zillow, usa.com.  :)

Thing is, even if we stay here, we can't afford the kind of house I want to build (it's a simple floor plan, really - nothing fancy, it's just that new construction is double what an existing house costs!). 
Other option is to give up my luxurious life of leisure (mostly SAHM), work, like you say, Walt, build up the stache to move & build.  Our kids will probably be grown by then - then the school district won't matter making it more affordable. :P

I'm in NC mountains - Asheville. I'm close to family which was one of the greatest motivating factors. But I came from a really rural area living in a comfortable, but dated house. So, I bought an interesting house in an interesting neighborhood near interesting things. There's lots of architects, custom built homes, and modern architecture around. It's also a great place to "grow into". It's nice, but like I said, not completely worth it. While Asheville technically has the highest housing costs in NC, it's still LCOL in comparison to many other places. It's great being near the mountains, and I do utilize them from time to time, but I'm such a homebody that I just end up going to the park for exercise and nature.

I hear you on not wanting to travel because you don't think it's justifiable. I'm much the same way - if I have a mortgage, why would I pay someone to stay in their place even if it's in a different location? Heck, even if I don't have a mortgage, I feel like it's such a waste to leave an asset sitting there doing nothing while I'm unnecessarily staying other places. I don't necessarily think travel is a critical part of being happy for everyone, but I know that I need it in my life. I haven't been traveling lately due to this thought process, but realize that I'm going to have to let loose a bit or I'm going to become miserable. So yeah, I'd rather have more money every month and visit different places than be tied to one place. I didn't buy to the point where I'm house poor and can't travel at all, but I probably could've been as happy or happier in a cheaper dwelling and used the excess saved to travel more often and feel better about it.

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #31 on: July 16, 2016, 05:22:07 PM »
Cripple Creek, like the former mining and now gambling town on the west side of Pike's?

I'm not sure there's even really a school there. Aren't there like <1000 residents? I think they might bus kids elsewhere.

I'm familiar with Woodland Park in general, but not with Divide in particular. It'll be very cold in the winter and lots of snow. No idea about schools or house prices, but you're almost to full-on remote mountain town territory. If you want good schools, that's probably not going to work.

-Walt

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #32 on: July 16, 2016, 05:23:53 PM »
Oh ok, I have a friend on facebook who moved to Divide and is always posting beautiful pictures.  But, I do recall something about snow in late may/early june..... and they don't have kids.  That would explain why land is so cheap there.


Bicycle_B

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #33 on: July 16, 2016, 05:31:49 PM »
Boise, Idaho!

Skiing nearby.  Four seasons.  University town.  COL 95 (though we I read actual real estate listings, thought it was a bit pricey.  YMMV).  Lots of outdoorsy stuff.  Includes a substantial hippie/crunchie culture.  Check it out.

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #34 on: July 16, 2016, 05:48:49 PM »
Boise is definitely a cool place. And cheap!

-Walt

FINate

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #35 on: July 16, 2016, 07:19:57 PM »
I geek out on architecture and food.  I don't care if there are great restaurants around, because I'm the best chef I know.  I also don't want to live in a crappy shack, because it's my HOME, where I tend to spend most of my time. :)

I've been getting the heeby-geebies looking at zillow pictures of $300k houses with cheap 2 1/4" oak trim in every room.

I'm actually pretty satisfied with my life - I have basically zero stress.  When the weather is nice, I get outside & walk the neighborhood, when the weather is hot, I stay in the a/c and do hobbies. I have this nagging feeling that we're missing out by staying where we are.  And we probably are -- since we've had kids we haven't traveled beyond visiting family (well, ok, one trip to the NC mountains before our youngest was born).  I guess I'm worried also that if we do move it won't be everything I've hoped and it'll end up putting us behind financially.

So...I have to ask. Why pay a premium for scenery, climate and/or location? I don't mean this to be judgmental at all, being a homebody is perfectly fine as is wanting a nice house. It's just that this seems like a lower priority for you so why not live someplace really cheap and have the house you want? This would really open up a ton of options with interesting architecture: Pittsburg, upstate NY, Grand Rapids MI (as a California native this pretty much blows my mind), all around the great lakes, .... Maybe schools are the issue? And if the COL is very low that leaves more money for travel.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2016, 07:29:48 PM by FINate »

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #36 on: July 16, 2016, 07:38:06 PM »
OP, you don't know WTF you want. That's ok. Travel a bunch and figure out if you want/need to move. Do it now.

If you don't, then stop thinking about it and enjoy where you are now.

Try to train yourself not to give a crap about your house, too. It's a tool and you won't notice the trim after about a week.

-Walt

Bicycle_B

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #37 on: July 16, 2016, 08:04:16 PM »
Walt's right, travel.  See all the places you want, then decide.  Live in a van or something for a year on the road, like Root of Good family, except maybe you're driving/ keeping the kids off his back when he works or something.

Just throwing out ideas here.  Family adventure! 

Laserjet3051

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #38 on: July 16, 2016, 08:53:03 PM »
Maybe Olympia, WA or surrounding areas (Dupont??) would fit your needs??? I admit, I live in WA, so I bet there are lots of places in the US that might fit your needs, I'm just not familiar with them. I also don't know Olympia or Dupont very well, though it sounds like you're pretty into the suburbs, and Dupont is one of those areas that people seem to like though I don't understand the appeal (I was cracking up that a 25yo development is "well-established" in your mind as I very much like houses and neighborhoods that are at least 100 years old, and I very much dislike suburbs). I'd imagine there are probably some spots in Oregon that you'd enjoy as well, I'm just not as familiar with the area.

I LOVE Olympia, WA and have really been thinking seriously about moving there in a staged transition. Was just there last week for my third visit. Very LCOL (relative to socal), forests, mountains, water everywhere, legalized pot, vibrant culture, I could go on. Downside is the perpetual grey/rain in the cooler months plus the small photoperiod, I would really have to like the dark through winter. But i'm sold on Olympia, hook line and sinker. Was just studying Olympia homes on zillow this morning.

We all need our dreams.

former player

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #39 on: July 17, 2016, 01:48:06 AM »
It's impossible for you to stick a pin in a map and find your dream location straight off, even with the considered and knowledgeable advice of the MMM forum.  I'm with walt and BB: sell up where you are, rent or buy an RV (or Airbnb for a month at a time), and go travelling for a year (homeschool the 9 year old while you do it, it won't harm them with two educated and committed parents).  You may find your dream location, or you may find that the RV is your dream location, or you may find that the advantages of home outweigh the disadvantages.  You might even try living abroad.  Your finances are good, you've solid capital behind you, you are young and presumably healthy, your husband can earn a good income working remotely.  All that means that the world is your oyster, you just need to shuck it open.

Noodle

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #40 on: July 17, 2016, 08:24:22 AM »
You know, around here it is not uncommon for couples to move after their kids leave the house--it's not mustachian, because people in their 50s and 60s are going into enormous houses that require a lot of upkeep just as they are heading into the phase of life where they may not be able to do that much longer. But you could adopt the idea in a Mustachian way. What if you spent the next 15 years or so traveling during vacations and used that time to accumulate some extra cash for the move (you could even think about going back to work once the littlest is in school) and figure out your preferred destination. Once you remove the "good schools" requirement from your equation, you have a LOT more options. A lot of the Intermountain West is gorgeous and not all that expensive, and the politics are not quite as conservative as the Deep South (still not liberal, though), but the schools have issues because of the aversion to taxation.

I know, Deep South summers are miserable--currently living it. But so are winters in a lot of the country. I will take sitting in the air-conditioning over shoveling snow, frozen pipes, and driving on ice (says the New Englander).

chasesfish

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #41 on: July 17, 2016, 08:46:24 AM »
Carrie - I think the mid-Atlantic college towns are going to be the right fit for what you're looking for, anywhere from Athens, GA to Asheville/Boone/Chapel Hill, NC to Blacksburg/Charlottesville, VA.

The only thing you're going to give up is the housing costs.   Usually heavily blue cities have tougher development (ie environmental/landscape) requirements and it causes housing shortages.  I've lived in two of the cities above and its extremely difficult to get a new housing start approved.  Its a tough balance, they want affordable housing but ultimately run up the cost of building.  The NC/VA schools are probably the best.

I don't know the West coast as well

FINate

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #42 on: July 17, 2016, 09:01:04 AM »
IMO, you don't need to sell your house right away and live in an RV or on the road. Based on what Carrie described I don't get the sense that she would enjoy the vagabond life, especially with kids in tow.

I would keep the house for now since you like it well enough there, and then make short trips to places at the top of your list. And spend more time thinking about the relative weight of your priorities (what's really important) and the tradeoffs you'll need to make. Once you get that sorted out, and you have things narrowed down to a top choice, assuming you still want to relocate, then try visiting the new location for a month. If you still like it, sell the house and move.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2016, 09:04:33 AM by FINate »

ManchVegas

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #43 on: July 17, 2016, 09:07:39 AM »
I would definitely stay away from the northeast, it's pricey and I think the winters would shock you lol. I'm actually moving from the Boston area to Greenville SC (the summers are going to shock me!) later this year to take advantage of the LOL. My guess would be that somewhere out west is where you'd like to be.

Carrie

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #44 on: July 17, 2016, 09:24:37 AM »
I think I had a mini panic attack reading about the ideas of traveling in an RV with three kids. :)  However, I'm not opposed to homeschooling the 9yr old for a year while we travel cheaply (short stints, coming back to home-base to recuperate every couple weeks) to the top pick locations and make a decision, ready the house for sale, move, etc.

Last night I started looking small town mid-west.  I know, no mountains; but I couldn't believe the price of really beautiful craftsman style bungalows and 1900's farmhouses on 2-5 acres (many are cheaper than our current house!).  I was thinking about FINate said about living cheaply (in a low COL, nice house) and spend the excess money on mountain vacations.  I also am considering what undercover said about not getting out as much to enjoy the landscape because of being a homebody.  I could easily see that being us. That we'd enjoy the view, but may not actually get out and use it.  I could probably be just as happy with rolling meadow/hills, rural-ish, and take those mountain vacations 1-2 x per year as a whole family.   Chasesfish - thank you for the mid-Atlantic suggestions. Those have been on my mind too - and I will look at those places you've suggested. I've heard Blacksburg is lovely and may be more the climate I could enjoy (I'm still leery on whether I could handle a Northeast or a northern Mid-west winter).

If we make what we make now, and spend EVEN LESS than we currently spend -- we would be doing well.  If we sell our house, we walk away with $190k equity (depending on when we sell, that mortgage is getting smaller every month), we could buy a house cash or nearly cash, live somewhere cheaper, max those retirement accounts and add travel to the mix.  Maybe we wait to build smaller once the kids are grown -- I'm thinking 1200sf, passive energy efficient home, single slope roof, big enough for the two of us and one large guest-loft for when the kids come visit.  I've never been quite happy with any of my dream house plans that require more than two bedrooms anyway. ;)

waltworks

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #45 on: July 17, 2016, 10:56:40 AM »
Rural midwest is cheap and can be beautiful, but keep in mind a lot of those towns are just hollow shells. No kids, practically no school system.

But I bet you'll find something that works. The key is to wander around and find it!

SailorGirl

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #46 on: July 17, 2016, 11:00:58 AM »
Look into Vancouver, WA.  No income tax in WA and no sales tax in Portland, just across the river.  Low-ish COL and good schools.  Near enough to mountains and the ocean to offer up great vacation ideas.  Portland is fabulous to visit and has an excellent university.  Seattle and all the tech that goes with it is too far for daily commuting for most people, but I've known folks that will do it for a few months.

DCKatie09

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Re: Case Study: Where should we live?
« Reply #47 on: July 17, 2016, 11:14:43 AM »
I've heard great things about Chattanooga (though it doesn't really get you out of the South) for a balance of schools and outdoorsy things, plus the tech spin.