Author Topic: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought  (Read 5284 times)

johnintaiwan

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Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« on: October 25, 2014, 09:16:36 PM »
It looks like I will need to change my name to John(no longer)intaiwan. My wife and I will be moving back to Phoenix, AZ. Having not lived in the US for over 5 years (and never living in Phoenix before) I was hoping I could get some help from the community here, especially from anyone who lives in/has lived in Phoenix. My parents live in Glendale and we will be staying with them as we get situated. I donít have any work lined up and my wife will not be able to work until her visa gets processed/approved.

The main questions I have are:

1. What is the best area to live in Phoenix? During my job search I will seek out areas where I would also like to live. I am looking for a safe, cheap, and walk/bikeable area.

2. Is it advisable to have a car? I have read that because of the heat during a lot of the year and how spread out the city is it is difficult to bike. I have also heard that in many parts of the city there is a lack of grocery stores.

3. Could I get by with a scooter? I have been riding scooters my entire time in Taiwan. It is normally around 28-35C here so I donít think the heat would be a problem. I know you wont be able to ride the scooter on the freeway, but can you get around using side streets?

4. What do you recommend for cell service? I currently use an old nokia brick phone and use less than 2,000 mins a year, though I think this will increase a bit when I am in the us. My wife uses smart phones, but will not have a data plan when we move.  Are there any carriers whose service is especially bad in that area?

5. Any other things you would tell a mustachian moving to the area?

Thanks in advance for your advice!

PS- My mom was telling me about her coworker who seemed like a mustacian. Bikes/walks to everything around her home. Sometimes bikes to work. Has a Honda fit. Are you on here?

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2014, 05:09:49 AM »
No longer live in Phx, but I can answer some questions. I would definitely have a car. The city is so spread out that most likely you won't be able to rely only on a bike or scooter. Plus, biking in the summer time is not something I would be able to handle. The good news is basically any carrier has good cell service so you don't need to worry about that.

Fun things in phoenix (besides the normal awesome things going on) include "first fridays". A lot of the small shops have events going on the first friday of every month starting around 5 pm. One place has a fire eating drum circle! Also the art places have free entrance on first fridays.


Another Reader

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2014, 08:21:20 AM »
Phoenix is very spread out and there is very little public transportation.  For that reason, I would get the job before deciding where you want to live.  You will need a car unless you luck out and get a job very close to where you want to live.  Unless your wife wants to stay at home all the time, she will need some form of transportation as well.  It's too hot to walk around much in the summer and you don't see many scooters or motorcycles, especially in the summer.  Traffic can be an unpleasant problem in a number of locations.

If you insist on putting the housing first, look to areas of Tempe and Mesa near the new light rail if public transit is a priority.  Tempe has some bus service along the major streets and it centrally located.  Downtown Phoenix is supposed to be redeveloping, so you might want to look there.

I can't think of anywhere that lacks grocery stores, unless you are talking about South Phoenix.  That area has the same problems as cities like Oakland, and some neighborhoods do not have multiple grocery choices.  You don't want to live there anyway.  Phoenix is laid out on a grid, and you should be able to find a grocery store or two at many major intersections.  You should be no more than a mile or possibly two from multiple grocery stores in most parts of greater Phoenix.

If you buy, stay away from areas that do not have good access to freeways.  Getting to work from the far East Valley or Maricopa can be a nightmare.

You will probably have Cox Cable and Century Link for internet choices.  Century Link was formerly Qwest, the legacy telephone company.  The Verizon network has the best cell service, not sure who the low cost resellers are.

Glendale is a large city in terms of land.  The farther north you go, the newer and more expensive the houses.  There are some expensive subdivisions north of Loop 101 for people that commute to jobs in Scottsdale but don't want to pay Scottsdale prices for a "nice" house.  South Glendale can be sketchy.  Some effort has been put into redoing the old downtown.  The stadium and the hockey arena are in Glendale.

Gas is cheaper than it is in California.  Grocery prices are also generally less expensive.  Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart have big presences.  Lots of grocery chains that are very competitive.

You are moving at a good time.  The weather is very nice from October to April, which is why the snowbirds flock to Phoenix.

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2014, 10:56:20 PM »
I'll start with the most important part: Find a good job first.  As is reinforced on the MMM blogs so many times, you really want to find a good job first, then perhaps even rent for a year while you make sure you like both the job and the location.  "Phoenix" is a huge down comprised of 20 or so cities and stretching some 75 miles from San Tan Valley to Sun City West.  You don't want to just buy a nice home in Surprise then end up working at the Intel plant by Sun Lakes, for example.

Some people get it in their minds that renting is always bad, but I personally disagree.  If you're moving to a new city and taking a new job, I would suggest renting first while you decide if the location and job suit you.  Renting actually helps keep you mentally freed up to look anywhere in the valley, rather than getting locked into the mindset of "Oh, I can't apply for my dream job because it's too far from the house I just purchased."  That's just me though - I am a huge proponent of giving yourself options, and choosing to rent gives you a lot of options.  You can weigh that against the other option of deciding how long to live with your parents.

As for specifics, I made the following somewhat humorous map maybe a year ago for a different forum where somebody asked the same question.  Basically I answered with "You can live anywhere outside the NO ZONE".  Of course, several guys jumped in to say that I made the no zone too big, that it isn't all bad (especially the further north you get, as long as you stay clear of the I-17 corridor) but as a broad generalization, that's the short version of what's nice and what isn't.



Now it's worth pointing out that yes, there are some areas of Peoria, Glendale, and Phoenix that aren't half bad, just as there are some cruddy neighborhoods in Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler and Mesa.  It's more about the averages though.  The average within the no zone is not so great in terms of crime and safety.  The average outsize the no zone is pretty decent.  Gilbert was actually ranked the 2nd safest city in America last year, behind Irvine, California.  There's maybe 8 square miles of Gilbert I'd rather not live in, and 30 square miles I would love to live in.  Only problem is that it's way at the southeast edge of the valley and statistically likely to be far from your job.  Hence, my first suggestion to find a job first and give it some time to make sure the job is right for you before putting down roots and buying a home.

As for the rest of your questions:

2) Yes, I suggest having at least one car, but you may as well get a bike and trailer too.  I have been doing my grocery shopping by bicycle a lot in the last 6 months and aside from late June through the middle of September when it's only practical to hit the stores at 6am before it's ridiculously hot, it otherwise isn't bad.  If you're willing to shop at dawn, then honestly I think you could do grocery shopping (most stores are open by 6-7am) from September through June.  Most of June, July, and August it may already be 80-85 degrees and with monsoon humidity even at 6am, unfortunately.  The area I'm in, I have access to 4 grocery stores within 2 miles.  Pick a good area and you'll be fine.

3) A scooter?  Maybe, but actually the biggest problem is that Phoenix is largely a car city.  Maybe scooters are common in Taiwan so people are used to looking out for them, but scooters and motorcycles are basically uncommon here, even though Phoenix is considered a popular town to own a motorcycle in.  Guys paint the streets with their blood all the time.  Statistically you are 35 times more likely to die on a motorcycle than in a car.  A decent scooter will run you at least $2k and a halfway decent car with a little life left in it should "only" be $4k or maybe $6k if you splurge.  I would do it for safety alone.  Fountain Hills is the only place I would even begin to consider owning a scooter, and only if I stayed within FH.  (The town-wide speed limit is 35mph)

4) All of the major carriers as well as a number of small ones are totally fine.  Phoenix-Scottsdale-Mesa is the 14th largest metro area in the USA.  Everything works here.

5) I would look for newer build homes, like year 2000 and later.  Energy efficient homes were only just starting to really get popular in the late 90's and by 2000+ they were beginning to become standard.  I currently live in a 1000 square foot home built in 1986.  There are so many things about this house that are stupid that it makes me want to cry sometimes, but then again it is only a rental.  My power bill, even with keeping the house at 80 to 83 degrees in the warm months is only about 60% of the power bill of my parents' 2300 square foot home they keep at 78-80 degrees.  My house is 1986 and theirs is 2006.  The advances in insulation and efficiency with newer homes makes a HUGE difference.  Electricity can easily run you $2500+ a year on an older home with a crappy A/C unit, where a newer one you might only be at $1500/year.

I guess my question to you would be: what line of work are you looking for, and what salary range do you expect to receive?  That could influence where you want to live and what housing areas are affordable while still holding back a healthy percentage for savings every year.

Guardian

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2014, 11:49:25 PM »
Sid Hoffman has good points - especially the map.

I've lived in Scottsdale (10 years), Mesa (3 years), and now Tempe (2 years).

I have bicycle all over every part of Scottsdale and Tempe and most of Mesa, but I'm also 25 and extremely fit. The heat has little effect on my stubbornness. Haven't owned a car in 5 years.

I will say: RENT FIRST. You will learn a lot quickly and it will help you decide. Explore often.

I am willing to meet up with you - I know several good real estate agents and have helped friends buy homes out here for the past few years. I also work for a Home Energy Audit company so we can help you to make sure you'll be saving a crap ton compared to your neighbors when it comes to electricity and other utility bills.

Go with PTEL - they are the least expensive and (best privacy policy/Terms of Service) that is available in the Valley in terms of Cell Phone Service. See I.P. Daley's Guide on telecommunications and ask if you need help.

Do NOT give up on bicycling. Be a true Mustachian and make it work. I believe in you!


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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2014, 05:34:13 AM »
Sid, you picture made me laugh! But it is pretty accurate.

Terrestrial

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2014, 09:01:10 AM »
I live in Tucson now but used to live in Phx and still spend alot of time up there for work or visiting people.  You can bike here, I do it all the time.  Morning usually isn't horrible, afternoon I'm not going to sugar coat it, isn't great for chunks of the year.  You kind of get used to the heat but it can feel brutal.  I commute by bike and in the depths of the summer sometimes cheat and ride the bus back 90% of the way in the afternoons.

Lots of good advice here already, live by where you work.  It's a huge city by area and if you say live in chandler (plenty of really nice neighborhoods there) and work in downtown, 1) you probably aren't going to be biking, 2) even driving will take you a while...phx traffic isn't as bad as LA/Chicago/Bay Area etc but the 10 still isn't great in the morning going into downtown.

Like the map shows there are nice areas in a whole ring around the city.  I am partial to the eastern suburbs closest to downtown but it's all personal preference.  PV is the nicest but you'll pay for it (no idea what kind of income/housing range you are looking at but PV is big $$$...if i had to guess probably 90% of the houses there are 750k or more).  Scottsdale is really nice and can be a bit more affordable, chandler/tempe have plenty of decent affordable middle class housing.  Scottsdale/tempe/chandler also have kind of mini city-center downtown strips that depending on your lifestyle can be nice to live by.

Good idea to rent for a while until your job situation is settled and you figure out where you like.

ketchup

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2014, 09:38:10 AM »
My girlfriend is originally from pretty close to the center of your NO ZONE and I definitely agree with that map.  Definitely some not-nice things going on there.

Another Reader

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2014, 10:59:42 AM »
We could quibble about the exact location of the perimeter, but I agree with the map overall.  The funny thing about Phoenix is that it is probably double the size it was 20 years ago, but the borders of the "No" areas haven't changed much.  That's because there has been a huge influx of middle class folks from places like California that want the nice house with a pool and good schools.  The developers and the municipalities have been happy to oblige, and ADOT stepped up the freeway construction in response. 

Stay with the in-laws until you get a job and a feel for the place.  Waste some $2.85 per gallon (Sam's Club) gas driving around.  That's the only way you will get to know the cities and neighborhoods.

johnintaiwan

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2014, 08:11:42 PM »
Thanks for all your advice so far!

Yes, the plan is to find a job before finding a place to live. I would want to live near my work in the future though, so I will try to avoid jobs in the bad parts of the "no zone."

I have been teaching ESL for the last 5 years but plan on getting into HR. I am not expecting much in the way of salary since I have no experience and haven't worked in the us for about 5 years. I am looking to do temp work in the beginning to see what is out there and also get a chance to hopefully work in a few different areas of the city.

I also plan on living with my parents for as long as it takes to get settled in a job and decide where to live. I plan on renting for a very long time.

I was really hoping to avoid a care, it has been so great the last 5 years, but it looks like I am going to have to break down and get one.

We will only need 1 car for the moment though as my wife will not be able to get a license until she gets her green card application approved.

one more question, do you ever have an area meet ups at all? Being new to the area it would be nice to meet some like minded people.

Trifecta

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2014, 09:43:00 AM »
While I generally agree with much of Sid Hoffman's NO ZONE part of the map, one of the nicest areas in the valley is near the center of it - the North Central corridor.  There are a number of million dollar houses and most of the homes are currently in the $250k-$500k range, but you can find smaller places, fixer uppers, or condos in the area that are less expensive. FWIW John McCain and a number of the Phoenix Suns live in this area... In my 30+ years in the valley I've lived in Scottsdale, Tempe, and now the North Central corridor and while I've enjoyed all 3 areas I prefer the North Central corridor because it allows for a more Mustachian lifestyle.  The area is relatively bike friendly and close to the light rail which currently extends from Phoenix all the way to Tempe & Mesa. It's also arguably one of the best school districts in the state (Madison school district) and there's also a ton of stuff to do in this area for little/no money.

I do own a car because the city is so spread out as others have mentioned. My brother lives in the far east valley so I need a car to visit him, and we enjoy the occasional road trip to Northern AZ (Flagstaff, Sedona, etc). But there are many weeks where my car will just sit in the driveway since I bike to most places I need to go (work, grocery store, entertainment, etc).

I agree to wait until you find out what your job situation is and maybe rent for a bit first before you commit to anything.  Regarding a cell phone, I have Republic Wireless and the coverage has been great so far.  I haven't explored all parts of the valley yet though since I switched to Republic but I'm happy with the service.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2014, 12:09:07 PM by Trifecta »

shadowmoss

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Re: Phoenix Mustacians - Advice Sought
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2014, 02:16:34 PM »
I live in Mesa, and moved to Phoenix almost 2 years ago.  Only 2 things to add:

I have Consumer Cellular, which uses AT&T towers.  Cheap for low usage, especially data.

I'd love to have a meetup.  I offered the clubhouse at my (55+ mobile home) park in Mesa and no one was much interested.  I'm up to driving to whatever area where folks would be interested in meeting.