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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Real Estate and Landlording => Topic started by: marble_faun on February 11, 2017, 02:43:36 PM

Title: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: marble_faun on February 11, 2017, 02:43:36 PM
Hello all!

I'm posting to sort through ideas about where my spouse and I should buy a house and live in the future. Any thoughts you may have on this are welcome!

The basic situation:

Spouse and I are in our 30s and are in a solid financial position. We could comfortably buy a $400,000 house (could go higher but it would start to seem a little non-Mustachian).

We have always lived in cheap apartments, moving from one East Coast city to another, following jobs. Right now I have a temporary position that will keep us in our current northeastern city for at least another year.  (I'm on a career path that tends to work out best in an urban environment, but I'm flexible and can figure things out wherever we go.) Spouse works remotely and can live anywhere. 

We have no kids yet but do want to have kids soon.  We are ready to settle down and to have more control over our living-space.


1. We like our current city and could imagine staying here permanently. But we recently discovered that property taxes for a good house are, in most cases, as high as our rent is for the year thereby giving us zero financial incentive to buy a house in this city.

I'm not adverse to paying taxes -- I get that streets need maintenance, schools need teachers, and so on. But the idea of essentially always paying "rent" in addition to a whole mortgage is extremely demoralizing.

2. I am open to moving to a place that has a low cost of living and that may be considered un-hip.  Somewhere like a small city in Wyoming or Idaho or South Dakota or Iowa. 

Context: It seems like everywhere I dreamed of living when I was in my early 20s is now too expensive and completely out of reach (San Francisco, NYC, Portland, Seattle... even the neighborhood where I lived cheaply right out of college 10 years ago is now insanely pricey and totally different). As these places become expensive, they seem to become less-good places to live in many ways.

I'm ready to escape the cycle. I'm through being cool and just want to have a solid, stable, calm way of life in a well-functioning municipality that doesn't appear on the national hipness radar. If we can have a yard where we can set up beehives, and a cozy nook with a fireplace and bookshelves, I'll be happy.

My spouse disagrees with this idea. He thinks we will end up lonely and culturally isolated if we move to an unfamiliar region, to a town where we don't know a soul. As we get older, it's so much harder to make good friends. He recommends we stay in (or return to) a city we know, despite the higher expense of the East Coast and lack of space. He could well be right.

3. One compromise might be a sort of suburban or even rural small-town situation. Somewhere close enough to a city to maintain ties there.  But far enough out that we aren't in the Expensive Hip Vortex. 

Problem: This could easily draw us into a car-clown lifestyle, which we have managed to avoid.

Does anyone have ideas or thoughts or experiences to share?
Thank you if so!
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: fuzzy math on February 12, 2017, 07:44:36 AM
The "hip" places you mentioned are all fairly large urban liberal/progressive areas. I think you would be in for a shock in small town Idaho or Wyoming.
Find a cheap college town that will still have a lot of local ammenities that larger cities do, and a similar feel.

I've moved 5x in 6 years. I always did my searching on but still managed to miss that 1 community I went to was a real hell hole.
Write down your priorities (cultural needs, cost of living, proximity to airport/beach/family/whatever) and actively search out areas that you hadn't considered before.

Case in point: I just moved from Portland, OR to Columbia, MO. It's a town of about 120k plus 40K students. It's very progressive and housing is half the price. It's not near the beach or good skiing, but I have just halved my working years.
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: marble_faun on February 12, 2017, 09:46:17 AM
Thanks for the thoughts, fuzzy_math!

Your move from Portland to Montana is exactly the sort of thing I am contemplating. I would LOVE to be able to live cheaply and stop working at a reasonable age. 

And yes, we are left-leaning individuals who might feel out of place in the deep-red, low cost-of-living states. I'm originally from a red state and can roll with it, but my spouse is more worried about social isolation.

The college town idea is good -- might be a decent cultural compromise!
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: Roland of Gilead on February 12, 2017, 09:54:40 AM
MO is not me
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: fuzzy math on February 12, 2017, 09:57:34 AM
Missouri :p

Remember too if you are looking to have kids that if you raise them in a town w less culture and more isolated viewpoints, the people they are more likely to befriend / marry and settle down in those areas.

I somehow skipped over your point #3 earlier - the hellhole I described was an outskirts suburb (sort of) of a major metro area. Most people commuted all day and were not really available in town for friendships etc. They were also of the less educated and lower socio economic status that could not afford to live in the bigger more expensive cities - there was a lot more unsavory behavior in this particular area. I would recommend committing to living and befriending those in your direct community by making sure it's the actual place where you want to be. There are always flights and vacations to see old friends.

My move was not my choice, but I tried to make the best of all the options available. My $400k home there would have taken 20 years to pay off but my (soon to be) $200k home here will be paid off in about 6.
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: theolympians on February 12, 2017, 10:28:07 AM
We have traveled across country several times on vacations. The spouse and I like to look at housing in various areas and wonder about moving there. You mentioned SD. South east Dakota is beautiful and housing is literally about 40% of the greater Seattle area. The towns seem well maintained, with active people and tidy lawns. There  are larger cities with all the modern amenities and stores. You wrote about "isolation". Most of the area is farming community, so bear that in mind. Your kids would go to school and grow up there, in many ways it would be idyllic for them (country air, room to explore, etc).
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: Roland of Gilead on February 12, 2017, 10:31:38 AM
We were traveling through a farming town in North Dakota and a nice cute 3bd house right off the old main street was $34,000.   I almost bought it just for the hell of it.
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: marble_faun on February 12, 2017, 01:35:14 PM
Haha, awww, I was mulling over this thread while cooking a minute ago and was stricken with the sudden thought that MO = MISSOURI!  Was gonna stealthily edit but y'all caught it first.  Apologies to all Missourians and Montanans!! 

(I guess it goes to show that I don't know anyone in those places and, sadly, have never spent much time in the western interior of our country.)

Roland of Gilead: Buying a cute house for $34K would be a dream!  I follow Cheap Old Houses ( and am always imagining what it would be like to pick up and move to some random town where we could buy a beautiful old house for cash. Browsing Zillow one day, I remember seeing what looked to be an outright Gilded Age mansion in Iowa available for about $250K.  Swoon!

theolympians and fuzzy math: Thanks for the advice, and for the thoughts about future kids and what their experiences might be.

We will definitely be mulling this over more!

One major issue at the core of this is that I am highly-motivated to FIRE whereas my spouse enjoys his work and doesn't compelled to ever stop. So making drastic life-decisions to lower our budget is much more appealing to me than to him. 
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: vodsonic on February 13, 2017, 10:31:11 AM
2. I am open to moving to a place that has a low cost of living and that may be considered un-hip.  Somewhere like a small city in Wyoming or Idaho or South Dakota or Iowa. 

3. One compromise might be a sort of suburban or even rural small-town situation. Somewhere close enough to a city to maintain ties there.  But far enough out that we aren't in the Expensive Hip Vortex.

My experience moving to mountainous, rural flyover country in the western US has been extremely positive, but as a racially-mixed family, we did pick our landing place with care. Overall, Iíve seen much less racism in the rural Intermountain West than was apparent in places Iíve lived in the Midwest and the South, perhaps due to a lack of historical tensions, but also due to the rugged, colorblind meritocracy inherent in society here. People with radically different political perspectives also tend to be pretty neighborly here, outside of social media.

We did our homework and then drove around a lot to get a feel for different regions and towns. While we never experienced any overt unpleasantness, there were definitely towns where the vibe was less friendly ó not hostile, but stand-offish ó so we concentrated on the friendly places.

There are some pretty vibrant small-to-medium-sized towns out here, with rich, diverse communities and plenty of extracurricular activities for our kidsÖ and thatís in addition to 4-H, FFA, high school football, hunting, and the rodeo.

I wonít name specific small towns here, since you would have to do what we did - homework plus a tour to check out the high points - to find a place that fits you. But if youíre looking for what passes for a bigger town or city around here, with a modicum of big city culture and amenities, you might check out places like Boise, Coeur díAlene, Missoula, or Bozeman (MT, not MO :D). (And if you happen to like exercise in the great outdoors, all of these towns have spectacular, accessible wilderness areas right in their backyards.)

We ended up in a rural area with several towns within a 30 minute drive, and itís struck a nice balance for our familyís needs. I work from home, but we still put a lot of miles on the vehicle. Not very Mustachian, I know - but itís the price we choose to pay to live in a great, semi-rural community that we wouldnít trade for anywhere else.
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: marble_faun on February 25, 2017, 08:20:48 AM
vodsonic: Thanks for your thoughts!  I do think a cross-country road trip may be just what we need here.  Will look into some of the mid-sized cities you mentioned.

(And yeah, about social media... I actually deleted all my social media accounts during the election. It was making me too angry at everyone!)

This discussion has become a bit more urgent, since I am now pregnant (!). If all goes according to plan, our current set-up of living in a tiny apartment with a dog and a ton of clutter just isn't going to work in the future.  We'll probably need to move over the summer. We might end up renting a house in a quasi-rural area near where we live now to see how we take to the sticks. This could be a good opportunity to experiment before we settle down for good!
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: J Boogie on February 28, 2017, 08:55:18 AM
I would point you in the direction of cities like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.  I think you can have affordable urban living in less high-profile cities like these.
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: gipsygrrl on March 01, 2017, 04:11:42 PM
I was just going to ask you how far down the road kids were :) Congratulations!

Do you either of you have families that could be helping with the kiddo? Or will you be wanting to travel back to see those families fairly often? These are good questions to consider when choosing your new spot with a baby in tow. As a fairly new parent, having some family nearby is pretty fantastic... don't underrate it. And travel times are definitely a consideration... taking a 2-3 hour flight back to see family over Thanksgiving is WAY BETTER than a two-leg, multi-flight excursion with a little one.

Also, check out the daycare prices in your possible options. Some are inexplicably low/high... and that can have a big impact on your budget.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: ditheca on March 03, 2017, 12:52:10 PM
We just had the same discussion last year, and ended up in St. George Utah.

It is a big town at the southern tip of Utah (70k population).  It's low elevation, so the weather is basically Arizona desert... no real winter.  We love the schools and our neighborhood.  It happens to be a popular vacation/touristy spot so there's lots of cultural/entertainment events if you like that sort of thing.

Also great national parks and mountains close by for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, etc.

The best feeling in the world is standing outside on a beautiful 70 degree winter day, looking up at the snow-capped mountains all around.  I used to live in the cold, and it sucks!  Although I do miss the the bragging rights of biking to work in blizzards...

Cost of living is fairly low, you can buy a nice 3br house for 140k, or rent one for 1k/month.

Best of luck in your search!
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: marble_faun on March 09, 2017, 01:35:01 PM
Thank you all again for your thoughts and feedback!

As it turned out, the pregnancy I mentioned was not viable. Very sad for us, but it did prompt us to have many conversations about what we want out of our lives and where we want to live, with kids or without kids. (Though hopefully with kids!)

We have decided to buy a house in a particular East Coast metro area. This area happens to be where we met as college students and where we lived most of our adult lives. It's not the craggy Rockies or the Pacific coast or big-sky country. But we realized that we are at an age where it's harder to make new friends. And there's something valuable about being in a place where we have social connections, local knowledge, and a lot of memories.

Truth be told, this is more my spouse's preference than my own. But he has reluctantly moved along with me for the last few years, for reasons that relate to my career. So while I could veto this new plan, it wouldn't seem fair, and I do appreciate his reasoning.

We are compromising in certain ways:

Whew! It's nice to have this space to reflect and think things through. Thank you all for reading!
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: cchrissyy on August 05, 2017, 09:54:40 AM
as you decide, and after you arrive in the new town, you might find this book relevant

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: Lmoot on August 07, 2017, 07:06:12 AM
Pssst! You don't have to live somewhere specific to experience culture, or raise your kids in it.  I live in a low cost of living area, it's a fairly well-known city, but no big urban area. Living cheaply in my home base as I call it because I grew up here, I am able to leave the country every year, and can travel in country to visit friends. I have always liked the concept of roots, or a homebase. I can come and go as I please and I'll always have a spot to go back to. Cities get old, activities get old, even people become tiresome if it's only one group of people, or one culture. If you like your neighborhood and have good neighbors and a few good friends, that's good enough for a lot of people. But then again I am somewhat of a homebody who really doesn't like to do around town things, I prefer to travel.

My advice is to evaluate your hobbies, do you like hiking,  beer, climbing, skiing. What would you do the most of if you have easier access to it? And go from there. I personally don't get impressed by big cities. I think it takes a certain creative, independent soul to not flock to the same old places everyone else is. You'll find some nice gems in small-town living or even not so small town living. I live in a red state, but blue county, and you can find things to do everywhere. For me personally I would find too much to do in the big city, and it feels like it could be taken for granted. Just like anything else it could become mundane.

 I have had friends move to a specific part of the city because they enjoyed the restaurants there. And my first thought is well damn, how many times can you eat at the same group of restaurants and not be bored to tears? To me my home is a place to be near family, be comfortable, be a part of the community. I can seek fun anywhere I don't have to seek it in my own backyard even though I do find plenty to do,  nothing is stopping me from taking trips to other states. So one thing you could consider is picking a state that's near other states, within a days drive, that have things you'd like to do for a weekend away. With the money you could save, you might be able to travel more and actually see more than any of the big cities would have to offer.
Title: Re: Where to Live? Quandaries!
Post by: bobechs on August 07, 2017, 07:49:40 AM
MO is not me

 Principal and principle are different words with distinctly different meanings.

But not around here.