Author Topic: Finding a new town to love?  (Read 7967 times)

kmh

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Finding a new town to love?
« on: February 19, 2014, 08:43:12 AM »
My partner in crime and I are in our mid-40s. We bought a junker of a house 14 years ago for about 280k in a very desirable neighborhood in the DC metro area. Good schools, lots of good commutes, walkability, bikability, the works.

Two years ago, with 2 kids and tired of feeling like we lived in a sailboat we turned it from a junker with almost no mortgage but high utils -- 2 BR/1BA, no insulation, aluminum siding that looked like a Delorian, 1970s kitchen, into a solidly insulated, well proportioned NotSoBigHouse 4BR 2.5 Bath. We went from about 1600 to about 2500 square feet. Our mortgage, which was 150 is now about 260k and 4% interest. The house is now valued by the taxman at about 750k and we could almost certainly sell it for 850.  FSBO might not work in some places, but I live someplace where no house stays on the market more than a week and bidding wars are common. I am 100% certain I could FSBO and keep from giving a dime of that money to a realestate agent.  About 500k would be ours.

My husband's and my 401ks are at about 500k as well.  We have two kids, ages 8 and 11 and about 30k saved per kid at this point for college.
So here's the thing: We could claim our freedom.  The trouble is, no way no how could we live where we live. I'm not sure I could find a way to keep my kids in the same school system (which is tiny and where they are very happy).  At a minimum we'd suffer a change of schools, leave friends and neighbors and most likely skip town altogether.  To give my kids continuity, I can stay where I am another decade, or we can all jump off a cliff together to.... what? I don't know.

So, mustachians, how in the HECK do you find a new town to love? Make enough friends to feel some scrap of connection before you go? I love where I live and it's urban and disgustingly expensive.  I certainly CAN stay here. I even like my job, but I want to build the road out. It's time to find someplace new to love even if it takes me 10 years to figure out where we're going, I need to start solving this one.

CommonCents

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2014, 08:48:02 AM »
What age are the kids?  As a military brat, I moved a lot and it's easier on kids moving when younger or just before starting a new school than say, in the middle of high school.  Can you time the move to accommodate this?

Re loving a new place...you just dive in.  You research and pick a place where you think you'll be happy, and then you join things and become involved so you meet people.  Get involved at the kids school, join an activity, volunteer, etc.  At least with email you can still keep in touch with the old friends nowadays!  I just moved towns near Boston, and I joined a local community conservation group (I lived on a large pond and it's essentially the neighborhood association) and I plan to join a women's group after I relinquish my board position on a non-profit.

kmh

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2014, 08:54:16 AM »
The kids are 8 and 11, which is why I said it'd take me a decade to get them through school where we are.
And the thing about "just plunging in"? You have to be accessible to that place to do the joining.

In order to have a place to live we can buy outright for under 300k, we're going to have to leave the DC area altogether. So, how do you choose a town to migrate to, if work isn't driving your choices?

Undecided

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2014, 09:00:31 AM »
I can tell you what I did in leaving a different but at least equally expensive market for a less expensive one. Unlike many here, rock-bottom cost of living was not on the top of my list of priorities. My wife and I (with one child when we started the process and another born soon after we made the move) identified certain parameters that would require proximity to specific types of locations, then made a long list of places that we were aware of and added places that were unknown to us by searching forums for people for whom our key interests were important (while not ours, take white-water paddling or fly-fishing as examples). Then we assessed identifiable school-quality issues (more for ruling out schools that seemed "bad" by our criteria than for narrowing the list to places with schools that seemed excellent). Then we had a more modest list, and we started making visits. In the end, we found three areas they we thought would be great. We ultimately eliminated one as being too greatly isolated from any very large metro area and were left with two where we were sure we would have been happy with our choice. We picked one based on an overall balance of, basically, how well it would let us pursue our outdoors interests, the quality of the amenities that mattered to us, the quality of schools and the cost of living. It was a 2 year project.

Undecided

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2014, 09:07:49 AM »
The kids are 8 and 11, which is why I said it'd take me a decade to get them through school where we are.
And the thing about "just plunging in"? You have to be accessible to that place to do the joining.

In order to have a place to live we can buy outright for under 300k, we're going to have to leave the DC area altogether. So, how do you choose a town to migrate to, if work isn't driving your choices?

To address this: We knew no one in either of our two "finalists" and they were 500 and 1500 miles from our prior home. We were not overly concerned about "joining" either town (perhaps that comfort reflected that we'd both grown up on the coast opposite from the one where we'd each settled before this move, and we'd moved to and back from a foreign country as a couple before we had kids). Our children were younger (or in utero, in one case) when we made the move. Both of our finalists also had large "relocated" populations, and we had eliminated one of our "semi-finalists" on the grounds that it seemed too insular for our circumstances (dominated by one religion, which we do not follow). It's some work, but I wouldn't put the social aspect as a deal breaker unless there is a specific reason.

minimalist

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2014, 09:40:37 AM »
If you're not commuting to work everyday, you could move further out in MD/VA. There are many great neighborhoods and schools.

kmh

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2014, 11:16:55 AM »
Magnum, how did you know the populations of relocations were high?  That's an interesting metric. 

Undecided

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2014, 12:31:31 PM »
Magnum, how did you know the populations of relocations were high?  That's an interesting metric.

City-data.com has a vast collection of data sets at the country [edit: that should say "county"] and or zip code levels, including things like percent of residents who relocated from another state, from another county within the same state, from abroad, etc. Looking at population growth within an area is also generally useful. Most importantly, if least scientific, it's actually pretty easy to get a sense of it from talking to people in any area that interests you.

By the way, "magnum," "stubble," or whatever is a shorthand for how many posts a user's made; his or her username is immediately above that.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 02:14:24 PM by Undecided »

C. K.

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2014, 01:22:43 PM »
"How Did You Choose Your Retirement City/Place?"
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/how-did-you-choose-your-retirement-cityplace

 ---- This post has some good ideas, including test driving  a place for a month or two. Since you have children, that might be a summer thing.

www.FindYourSpot.com

---- You plug in your particulars and the website gives you a list (and decent summaries) of places that fit your criteria.

Best wishes,
C.K.

kmh

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2014, 01:58:31 PM »
Ack! I'm sorry I called you your mustache size! :D I think the "undecided" threw me. Anyhow, you've all provided me some interesting food for thought, though, thanks.

Fuzz

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2014, 07:06:19 PM »
It seems like a huge leap, right? I'm not sure that I'm hearing you want to be MMM-retired...do you love oceans? Mountains? Enough to trade that for the DC career? Idk... so if you walked now with 1M, where would you go? Ecuador? Idaho? Hawaii? New Orleans? I think if you had a strong attraction to place, then the decision would make more sense to you. I don't have kids, but I think they change everything in the sense that you now need to do something that works for them too (so maybe Idaho is out--not particularly good schools, imho). Is there a semi-retired job you'd like? Say fishing boat captain? Ski instructor? Yoga teacher? I could see the move making more sense if you had a purpose to your move, other than not working. But I'm a long way from your enviable position. Since you've got time to make your decision, I'd encourage you to visit a couple destinations. I will say that living in the mountains does a lot for my happiness. I think I'd be equally happy in a warm place with ocean access.

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2014, 07:11:47 PM »
Have you considered Pittsburgh?  I've never lived there, but I've heard wonderful things about it.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2014, 06:45:00 AM »
If your kids are 8 and 11 not only is that a great age to relocate but if they are active in anyway and you move in a family friendly area you will make friends through them very quickly.

EK

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2014, 07:03:23 AM »
If you're not commuting to work everyday, you could move further out in MD/VA. There are many great neighborhoods and schools.

This is what I was going to say! I live in Fredericksburg and it's very cute and walkable and nice, but much cheaper than similarly cute and walkable and nice places close to DC.  If you don't have to work you won't be bothered by the fact that most jobs would involve commuting closer to DC.  And the kids would still be close enough to visit old friends, which may help ease their transition to the new  place?

tmac

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2014, 07:06:18 AM »
We're moving this summer to a new state, leaving small town NC -- can't handle the Bible Belt any more.

Our selection went like this:

1. Narrow it down to the state. In our case, I'm from CT, but haven't lived there for 20 years. I still have some family and friends scattered around the state and I'd like to return. DH is on board, so that's where we're going. We'd also considered other states (and countries) where we have friends.

2. Narrow it down to the town. Using various on-line database, I built an XLS with school district rankings, walk scores, housing availability in our price range, distance to my parents (30 minutes or less). Created a weighted score, making the school ranking the most important. This gave us a ranked list.

3. Did some random on-line searches to find out more about each of the top 10 communities. Open space, library system, bike paths, safety, etc. I may also have looked carefully at the ethnic restaurant choices, since where we live now has nothing but crappy pizza and crappy Mexican.

* For us, it was important that we do all this research before stepping foot anywhere. We are aware that we tend to get emotionally invested in decisions too early in the process, so we wanted to hold off any personal connection until we'd learned the facts.

4. On an visit last spring, we checked out the top five towns, and really liked the second. Great schools, nice older neighborhoods, excellent park system with a multi-use path that leads to the grocery store, great library programs for kids, some good but not spendy restaurants, and good resources for local food.

5. Before a visit over winter break, we hooked up with a Realtor, gave her a very specific list of needs and wants, and she came back with a short list of 5 houses. We looked at them, and fell for house #3. It was a short sale and a probate, so it would have a long cycle time (good for us) and the possibility of a great deal. Offer made, accepted, and we should be closing next month. The price is low enough that we don't HAVE to sell our current house first to make it work, but it's going on the market shortly.

Very data heavy process, but was useful for us to help narrow down the thousands of options. We've been talking it up to the kids and have visited it several times to do things like hike the trails, visit the library, go to concerts on the town green, and generally get them excited. They can't wait to move this summer. :)

Good luck with your decisions! :)

kmh

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2014, 07:21:54 AM »
This is all a lot of great food for thought. One of the things that's certainly true that someone picked up on is that I'm not sure I'm entirely ready for MMM style retirement and I'm trying to mentally wrap my brain around the idea that it's possible at all and what it even *could* look like if we did it. I think I'm financially capable, but mentally? Well, again -- that's why I asked. I know I can't MMM Retire exactly where I live now, so what would I willingly give up? How would I even decide?  I know every person's happiness is individual, and you can't give me an exact recipe for mine, but I'm appreciating the insights I'm getting very much.

Random

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2014, 07:53:05 AM »
"How Did You Choose Your Retirement City/Place?"
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/how-did-you-choose-your-retirement-cityplace

 ---- This post has some good ideas, including test driving  a place for a month or two. Since you have children, that might be a summer thing.

www.FindYourSpot.com

---- You plug in your particulars and the website gives you a list (and decent summaries) of places that fit your criteria.

Best wishes,
C.K.

I just went through the questionaire on FindYourSpot.  It was fun and took me to a number of towns that I like a lot and have considered.  It will be fun to tweak the parameters and see what changes.  For example, I changed the size parameter from small town to in-between.  That added Boston (wth, not NYC, but hardly mid-sized).  anyway, fun for some easy what-if thinking

AllChoptUp

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2014, 08:12:24 AM »
Tamara's process seems really thorough and a good way to meet a lot of the requirements one has when relocating.  We are going through a similiar one as we'll retire in two years with a 5 year old. 

arebelspy

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2014, 08:24:25 AM »
www.FindYourSpot.com

I just went through the questionaire on FindYourSpot.  It was fun and took me to a number of towns that I like a lot and have considered.  It will be fun to tweak the parameters and see what changes.  For example, I changed the size parameter from small town to in-between.  That added Boston (wth, not NYC, but hardly mid-sized).  anyway, fun for some easy what-if thinking

I just did it as well.  Weather was about all I cared about, I was neutral on a lot of the rest, so no surprise ALL of my top 20 are in the south (dominated by AZ, TX, and FL).

Rain and snow suck.  :P
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sheepstache

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2014, 08:47:40 AM »
I think Tamara needs to make applying her system to other people to help them find their spot her new side gig.

thurston howell iv

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2014, 10:18:20 AM »
x2^^

I've been on the hunt for a new place and I'm coming up with the same list as arebelspy (AZ, TX, FL as well as GA and SoCal) ... My overriding interest has been reasonable, warm weather.... AND after this winter, it's a priority!!!! LOL

I've lived in 4 of the 5 states I'm considering. They all had good and bad points... I wish decisions like this were as easy as Tamara made it look... Heck, I can't even pick the state much less the town!




Undecided

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #21 on: February 20, 2014, 10:26:57 AM »
x2^^

I've been on the hunt for a new place and I'm coming up with the same list as arebelspy (AZ, TX, FL as well as GA and SoCal) ... My overriding interest has been reasonable, warm weather.... AND after this winter, it's a priority!!!! LOL

I've lived in 4 of the 5 states I'm considering. They all had good and bad points... I wish decisions like this were as easy as Tamara made it look... Heck, I can't even pick the state much less the town!

I thought the idea that you could pick the state first was very odd (from my perspective). None of my top three choices were in the same state as each other or the state I left.

tmac

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #22 on: February 20, 2014, 11:53:49 AM »
I'm not sure my system would work so great for most people, but maybe some parts of the process could be re-jiggered. We're easy to please and also action-oriented. As a couple, we don't have much angst about all the equally-good choices we might have made. Is this a good choice that will work for us? Great! Let's do it.

Every state has a wide variety of geographies, terrain, culture, cultural activities, etc., and I think we could find an awesome place to live just about anywhere. There are only a few states I refused to consider (the deep south, primarily), but everywhere else seemed equally promising. We know we could be happy just about anywhere, so choosing a state based on a few variables worked well for us.

Where do we know people? Where can we live where people won't give us the stink-eye for not being churchy? Where does it NOT get stupidly hot and humid for most of the summer?

That left us with several New England states, Colorado, Norway, and Scotland. CT won for having the highest density of people we know and like. In the future, once the kids are up and out, the calculus could change and we'll move again.

C. K.

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Re: Finding a new town to love?
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2014, 12:41:36 PM »
If anyone is considering a coastal spot, there is an article that helps you determine what kind of beach person you are , then gives examples of places where you could live.

http://www.coastalliving.com/lifestyle/so-you-want-to-live-in/you-want-live-on-coast-00400000000311/