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Old 10-29-2010, 04:26 PM
 
Location: Eagle River, Alaska & San Diego, CA
6,111 posts, read 4,529,100 times
Reputation: 2620
Final thought. If you like it here buy. Get quite a bit for your money and prices are going up, not down.
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Old 10-29-2010, 05:22 PM
 
Location: Anchorage
1,929 posts, read 2,354,460 times
Reputation: 823
Yes, house prices are going up. Bought 2 years ago and already the same house is selling for $30,000 more then we paid.

Welcome!
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:16 AM
 
Location: Alaska
247 posts, read 150,408 times
Reputation: 249
Default Input on the costs of living in AK compared to elsewhere

Housing values have gone up depending on where you live. In some neighborhoods, they've gone down.

I've not used the calculator, but after several years living in Anchorage this is our experience: Everything is more expensive and we get less quality and choice for our money. Service is slow and often poor. Maybe people you've made an appointment with to do work on your house will show up, or maybe they won't. Maybe they'll be good at what they do and charge a fair price, or maybe they won't. If one is lucky, on occasion one gets someone who actually behaves professionally, but so far our experience is that most have not; especially GCI employees! Corner-cutting is a way of life in Alaska. (We did finally find a fridge repairman who rocked.)

Businesses do not have enough competition to make them try very hard. Small businesses have high prices, crummy return policies, slow employees who will leave you standing without help until they feel like it, and will kick customers out at closing time instead of waiting to see if you are going to make a purchase. Large businesses do better on those scores (except for the slow employees and they are usually understaffed too), but of the stores we shop in among the big chains, they all jack up prices higher than is necessary to cover the shipping costs to Alaska, except for REI. Even Costco does. Also, most companies will not ship to Alaska so there are plenty of goods we cannot get from companies we would like to buy from. (Bless Amazon! It is great for us! And bless REI for charging Alaskans the same prices as everywhere else.)

We have the worst cable/Internet/phone service than we've experienced in any other state, but for higher prices. When I moved here, I was literally shocked by the outright awful service I received when I wanted phone and cable outlets installed and it took over a month to get a dial tone on our new phone line. Even food, herbs, spices, over the counter medicines, and cosmetics must be checked for their dates because things sit on the shelves until sold and if one isn't careful, one buys old stuff for those extra dollars. Expect to buy foods past their sell by dates for full Alaska prices.

Alaska is about 15-20 years behind much of the rest of the country in a number of areas. For example, they just started a city recycling program, which we've been using in every city we lived in for 20 years. Due to no interest in what the rest of the country has been up to, there is a rather extensive list of areas Alaska is behind the times in.

Visit before you move here because housing is a shock, especially in Anchorage. For the money, mortgages are higher for much worse housing. Building codes were inadequate for far too long and still could use improvement, so homes built during the pipeline building and early oil heydays of the 1970s-1980s were thrown up and show it. Many homes are improved and maintained by owners themselves because the costs of hiring professionals are so high, and the workmanship on many if not most homes shows it. You will find a lot of jerry-rigging. (Thanks to lax code enforcement, I've seen it in apartments too.) If you want to live close in, you will pay a lot of money for a small, low quality home.

Old homes built in the 1960s and before tend to have been solidly built, but are mostly small and/or have small rooms and so need a good gutting and remodel to bring them up to contemporary expectations.

Newer homes are better about room sizes, satisfying contemporary expectations, but those are harder to find in Anchorage close in. If they are nice, they are very expensive. Even in the burbs though, be careful because the homes might be bigger for the money, but there is still a lot of shoddy building going on in this state. Take the time to investigate the reputation of the builder and the land the home is sitting on for any problems.

If you plan to buy, I'd look very closely at the schools before I chose where to buy. Our schools are struggling and we have the highest drop-out rate in the country. I'd look for a neighborhood with good schools or close to a good charter school I knew I could get my children in to.

I'd rent first because most people who move here are gone within two years. The weather, culture shock, and isolation is too much for most people so they book. If you've bought a house but you decide you don't like it enough to stay here, you will be stuck trying to sell your home. I've watched a couple of houses in a sought after neighborhood that always has very few homes for sale, just sitting there for sale for the last four years despite their prices dropping. That's worrisome for anyone wanting to sell and leave.

Also, the weather and permafrost issues are hard on homes so the expense of maintaining them is ongoing. Everything up here costs more, so if you need a new roof or want to build a fence it is really going to cost you. If you aren't sure you will stay here for a long stretch, your extra money might be better spent on savings rather than home maintenance in addition to your mortgage.

Even with rentals, though, I'd visit first. In Anchorage, close in toward downtown and downtown, there are a lot of dingy, depressing rentals. The nice apartments in the city cost around $2000.00 or more a month, and anything less is really small. The not very nice apartments and the slumlord houses cost less. I'd come here and do a search in person for my family or you could end up with a very depressed spouse and getting used to Alaska is hard enough for a lot of people. It will be easier in a happy home the spouse doesn't hate.

We thought medical costs were 30-35% higher than other places, but WA state Blue Cross said last year that Alaskans' medical costs are 55% higher than Washingtonians'. Most medical providers in Alaska refuse to belong to health insurance networks, and they can refuse because there are not enough of them-again, no competition. Therefore, unless you can strike a deal with your employer, you can expect to pay out of pocket what your health insurance plan won't cover when the physicians or dentists have no contract with them requiring them to charge only what the insurance company will pay.

Alaska is not preparing well for an oncoming energy shortage. If this shortsightedness continues, with more fighting than moving toward new sources of energy, we will soon be facing depressingly, even crippling, skyrocketing energy prices. (Fingers crossed the right people come to their senses before our household feels forced to leave ahead of the you know what hitting the fan.)

Having said all that, we do get a PFD check every year, one for each member of the household (you have to be here a full year before you qualify.) In our house, our PFD checks almost cover our property taxes. One year they did cover it so ultimately we had a negative tax responsibility to the state that year.

It is true there is no state income tax, no city tax in Anchorage, and no sales tax. Of course, it shows. There are many cities in the old US of A nicer than Anchorage because their citizens pay taxes to cover making their cities nicer places to live. We don't. (But citizens still complain about taxes!) Except for the downtown core that was being improved until a couple of years ago, and now that progress has slowed to a trickle, most of Anchorage is poorly maintained and unattractive.

If you don't mind commuting, with a family you might like it better out in the burbs or in Eagle River. Keep in mind the added cost of commuting, plus there are only two roads out of town so during commuting hours, they are heavily traveled by lots of rigs. The road to Eagle River has too many accidents on it to suit me, and I've seen traffic backed up all the way from Eagle River to 5th Ave. downtown Anchorage, which is about a 20-30 minute drive when traffic is easy. That's a big backup! Some of our friends in Eagle River adjust their work schedules so they can commute during less heavily traveled hours.

South of downtown Anchorage there are some nice suburban neighborhoods where you can find more house for the money (we have friend who just bought a great house on a nice street), there are more routes to take to get there than there is going to Eagle River, and there's been a lot of commercial growth so most of what you need is close by, from big grocery stores, to Costco, to Home Depot and Lowes, restaurants, small businesses-pretty much everything.

I agree with avoiding Muldoon, Fairview, and Mountainview.

The "life-long Alaskans" (You'll hear that term a lot, meaning they are special so we should buy from them and vote for them, but to a lot of the rest of us it means insular and out of touch with possibilities. The lifelong Alaskans we know who do not fit that description, never use that term for some reason), seem largely unaware of what I've described. Most look surprised or perplexed about any complaints or comparisons, and if questioned about why service is crummy while so expensive, the most common answer is, "This is Alaska!" The fact that it is the 21st century with its superior technologies, and also we are connected by land to Canada and the rest of the United States via Canada, so they don't have to be gouged over absolutely everything or they could at least be getting better service for their dollar, hasn't occurred to enough of them yet.

Transplants who love it here don't care about what makes it harder to live here. They love it that much. They love the beauty and the outdoors. The politics are amusing and unpredictable. The pace of life is slower and more relaxed. You can go to the grocery store in your pajamas and no one cares or even notices. All kinds of people rub shoulders in public forums in a way that is refreshing.

Of both of those groups, the life-long Alaskans and the happy transplants, there are plenty who love Alaska but do not like Anchorage and wouldn't live here or wish they lived in a smaller community. I can understand why, because once out of Anchorage, Alaska is a pretty awe-inspiring place.

Both groups tend to get outside a lot and to leave the state often and/or for extended trips because doing both makes living here much more enjoyable.

If you don't buy a home right away it is less risky to try it out to see if you and your family will like it here longterm. You can always leave if you don't like it, and if you do, then you will have time to learn about the area and can know where you'd most like to invest in a home.

Good luck!
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Old 10-31-2010, 02:33 PM
 
22 posts, read 41,535 times
Reputation: 22
Wow, thank you for the time to compile that information for me. I probably needed that as a good reality check for me to curb my expectations.

The insurance my proposed company has is 250% more that what I am paying now, so I believe your experience w/ medical costs.
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:23 PM
 
Location: Eagle River, Alaska & San Diego, CA
6,111 posts, read 4,529,100 times
Reputation: 2620
And yet another viewpoint.

I lived in an apt in Anchorage for six months before purchasing in Eagle River. The people there were friendly and helpful. The city has to me a nice vibe. Just smart enough to be cool and not trendy enough to be overly PC. I purchased in Eagle River. My home has increased in value $20K in eleven months which means the home next door to me just sold for 20K more than I paid for mine and it is identical.

I have had carpenters, flooring and numerous upgrades. All of those have been done by local businesses. The prices were better than I expected and the work quality is superior. They were friendly, showed up on time completed the work on time. Having dealt with contractors in other areas there was no comparison to the level of competence and customer service.

Agree with the post about residential internet. It sucks. ClearWire however is $29 bucks per month and if you have a good line to their tower it is much better than GCI.

I have lived in several small villages and here in South Central. I have never run into a local business that I did not enjoy dealing with. If you are a smart shopper your costs will escalate only slightly with car repair and service being the exception. I have never seen a food product in any store on the shelf past the sell date (and I am careful about this).

Medical services are good to very good. The hospitals attract talented doctors and nurses. For highly specialized surgery you will travel out of state. Emergency care is superior as the ER's are staffed by excellent doctors and nurses. Many uber critical injuries survive here.

For myself I like it that Alaska is behind the times. "strangers" will talk to you, people are courteous to families with children and police are helpful. There is an absence of the PC attitude and this makes things comfortable.

I agree with the renting first.

The doctors I have seen have reduced fees for a eye problem which I had. People talk with other people here.

It is pretty, challenging and FAR away from the madness on the other side of Canada. If you like it you will stay some, if not you won't much like anyplace else.

!
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:59 PM
 
Location: Dangling from a mooses antlers
5,251 posts, read 6,774,766 times
Reputation: 3275
Quote:
Originally Posted by pgrdr View Post
You can always leave if you don't like it, and if you do, then you will have time to learn about the area and can know where you'd most like to invest in a home.

Good luck!
Sounds like you got a very bad case of sour grapes. You shouldn't have come to Alaska expecting everything to be like it was where you came from. If living was so great where you were before why did you leave?

Anchorage and Alaska are great places to live. I don't want to live in a NANNY state where the government taxes the dickens out of you. Less government, less taxes, more freedom!!!
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Old 10-31-2010, 04:31 PM
 
76 posts, read 79,361 times
Reputation: 28
So I wrote this really long reply and decided to delete it and sum it up
We moved here almost 2 months ago and love it here so far.
Housing is a lot more expansive than what we were used to ( we came from Oklahoma ), but it is manageable for us. My husband is in the Army and our rent plus utilities is as much as his monthly allowance. We are renting a 3 bedroom house with a nice back yard in the Sand Lake area.
Meat and Fruits are more expansive, but I buy generic for other things and it evens out. Cigarettes are double than what we used to and gas is much higher also, but I make 3 times more than what I made in Oklahoma and my husband gets extra pay to offset the cost of living. Unfortunately you won't be making more, so I don't know how this would work out in your situation.
I've found people to be more helpful here and friendlier, but again that depends on what you are used to.....
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Old 10-31-2010, 11:36 PM
 
Location: Anchorage
1,929 posts, read 2,354,460 times
Reputation: 823
Quote:
Originally Posted by pgrdr View Post
Housing values have gone up depending on where you live. In some neighborhoods, they've gone down.

I've not used the calculator, but after several years living in Anchorage this is our experience: Everything is more expensive and we get less quality and choice for our money. Service is slow and often poor. Maybe people you've made an appointment with to do work on your house will show up, or maybe they won't. Maybe they'll be good at what they do and charge a fair price, or maybe they won't. If one is lucky, on occasion one gets someone who actually behaves professionally, but so far our experience is that most have not; especially GCI employees! Corner-cutting is a way of life in Alaska. (We did finally find a fridge repairman who rocked.)

Businesses do not have enough competition to make them try very hard. Small businesses have high prices, crummy return policies, slow employees who will leave you standing without help until they feel like it, and will kick customers out at closing time instead of waiting to see if you are going to make a purchase. Large businesses do better on those scores (except for the slow employees and they are usually understaffed too), but of the stores we shop in among the big chains, they all jack up prices higher than is necessary to cover the shipping costs to Alaska, except for REI. Even Costco does. Also, most companies will not ship to Alaska so there are plenty of goods we cannot get from companies we would like to buy from. (Bless Amazon! It is great for us! And bless REI for charging Alaskans the same prices as everywhere else.)

We have the worst cable/Internet/phone service than we've experienced in any other state, but for higher prices. When I moved here, I was literally shocked by the outright awful service I received when I wanted phone and cable outlets installed and it took over a month to get a dial tone on our new phone line. Even food, herbs, spices, over the counter medicines, and cosmetics must be checked for their dates because things sit on the shelves until sold and if one isn't careful, one buys old stuff for those extra dollars. Expect to buy foods past their sell by dates for full Alaska prices.

Alaska is about 15-20 years behind much of the rest of the country in a number of areas. For example, they just started a city recycling program, which we've been using in every city we lived in for 20 years. Due to no interest in what the rest of the country has been up to, there is a rather extensive list of areas Alaska is behind the times in.

Visit before you move here because housing is a shock, especially in Anchorage. For the money, mortgages are higher for much worse housing. Building codes were inadequate for far too long and still could use improvement, so homes built during the pipeline building and early oil heydays of the 1970s-1980s were thrown up and show it. Many homes are improved and maintained by owners themselves because the costs of hiring professionals are so high, and the workmanship on many if not most homes shows it. You will find a lot of jerry-rigging. (Thanks to lax code enforcement, I've seen it in apartments too.) If you want to live close in, you will pay a lot of money for a small, low quality home.

Old homes built in the 1960s and before tend to have been solidly built, but are mostly small and/or have small rooms and so need a good gutting and remodel to bring them up to contemporary expectations.

Newer homes are better about room sizes, satisfying contemporary expectations, but those are harder to find in Anchorage close in. If they are nice, they are very expensive. Even in the burbs though, be careful because the homes might be bigger for the money, but there is still a lot of shoddy building going on in this state. Take the time to investigate the reputation of the builder and the land the home is sitting on for any problems.

If you plan to buy, I'd look very closely at the schools before I chose where to buy. Our schools are struggling and we have the highest drop-out rate in the country. I'd look for a neighborhood with good schools or close to a good charter school I knew I could get my children in to.

I'd rent first because most people who move here are gone within two years. The weather, culture shock, and isolation is too much for most people so they book. If you've bought a house but you decide you don't like it enough to stay here, you will be stuck trying to sell your home. I've watched a couple of houses in a sought after neighborhood that always has very few homes for sale, just sitting there for sale for the last four years despite their prices dropping. That's worrisome for anyone wanting to sell and leave.

Also, the weather and permafrost issues are hard on homes so the expense of maintaining them is ongoing. Everything up here costs more, so if you need a new roof or want to build a fence it is really going to cost you. If you aren't sure you will stay here for a long stretch, your extra money might be better spent on savings rather than home maintenance in addition to your mortgage.

Even with rentals, though, I'd visit first. In Anchorage, close in toward downtown and downtown, there are a lot of dingy, depressing rentals. The nice apartments in the city cost around $2000.00 or more a month, and anything less is really small. The not very nice apartments and the slumlord houses cost less. I'd come here and do a search in person for my family or you could end up with a very depressed spouse and getting used to Alaska is hard enough for a lot of people. It will be easier in a happy home the spouse doesn't hate.

We thought medical costs were 30-35% higher than other places, but WA state Blue Cross said last year that Alaskans' medical costs are 55% higher than Washingtonians'. Most medical providers in Alaska refuse to belong to health insurance networks, and they can refuse because there are not enough of them-again, no competition. Therefore, unless you can strike a deal with your employer, you can expect to pay out of pocket what your health insurance plan won't cover when the physicians or dentists have no contract with them requiring them to charge only what the insurance company will pay.

Alaska is not preparing well for an oncoming energy shortage. If this shortsightedness continues, with more fighting than moving toward new sources of energy, we will soon be facing depressingly, even crippling, skyrocketing energy prices. (Fingers crossed the right people come to their senses before our household feels forced to leave ahead of the you know what hitting the fan.)

Having said all that, we do get a PFD check every year, one for each member of the household (you have to be here a full year before you qualify.) In our house, our PFD checks almost cover our property taxes. One year they did cover it so ultimately we had a negative tax responsibility to the state that year.

It is true there is no state income tax, no city tax in Anchorage, and no sales tax. Of course, it shows. There are many cities in the old US of A nicer than Anchorage because their citizens pay taxes to cover making their cities nicer places to live. We don't. (But citizens still complain about taxes!) Except for the downtown core that was being improved until a couple of years ago, and now that progress has slowed to a trickle, most of Anchorage is poorly maintained and unattractive.

If you don't mind commuting, with a family you might like it better out in the burbs or in Eagle River. Keep in mind the added cost of commuting, plus there are only two roads out of town so during commuting hours, they are heavily traveled by lots of rigs. The road to Eagle River has too many accidents on it to suit me, and I've seen traffic backed up all the way from Eagle River to 5th Ave. downtown Anchorage, which is about a 20-30 minute drive when traffic is easy. That's a big backup! Some of our friends in Eagle River adjust their work schedules so they can commute during less heavily traveled hours.

South of downtown Anchorage there are some nice suburban neighborhoods where you can find more house for the money (we have friend who just bought a great house on a nice street), there are more routes to take to get there than there is going to Eagle River, and there's been a lot of commercial growth so most of what you need is close by, from big grocery stores, to Costco, to Home Depot and Lowes, restaurants, small businesses-pretty much everything.

I agree with avoiding Muldoon, Fairview, and Mountainview.

The "life-long Alaskans" (You'll hear that term a lot, meaning they are special so we should buy from them and vote for them, but to a lot of the rest of us it means insular and out of touch with possibilities. The lifelong Alaskans we know who do not fit that description, never use that term for some reason), seem largely unaware of what I've described. Most look surprised or perplexed about any complaints or comparisons, and if questioned about why service is crummy while so expensive, the most common answer is, "This is Alaska!" The fact that it is the 21st century with its superior technologies, and also we are connected by land to Canada and the rest of the United States via Canada, so they don't have to be gouged over absolutely everything or they could at least be getting better service for their dollar, hasn't occurred to enough of them yet.

Transplants who love it here don't care about what makes it harder to live here. They love it that much. They love the beauty and the outdoors. The politics are amusing and unpredictable. The pace of life is slower and more relaxed. You can go to the grocery store in your pajamas and no one cares or even notices. All kinds of people rub shoulders in public forums in a way that is refreshing.

Of both of those groups, the life-long Alaskans and the happy transplants, there are plenty who love Alaska but do not like Anchorage and wouldn't live here or wish they lived in a smaller community. I can understand why, because once out of Anchorage, Alaska is a pretty awe-inspiring place.

Both groups tend to get outside a lot and to leave the state often and/or for extended trips because doing both makes living here much more enjoyable.

If you don't buy a home right away it is less risky to try it out to see if you and your family will like it here longterm. You can always leave if you don't like it, and if you do, then you will have time to learn about the area and can know where you'd most like to invest in a home.

Good luck!

Ever thought about moving?
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Old 10-31-2010, 11:42 PM
 
Location: Dangling from a mooses antlers
5,251 posts, read 6,774,766 times
Reputation: 3275
I guess what I find most distressing about living here is the fact that the deli counter at the Super WalMart in Anchorage doesn't sell FRIED OKRA!! Everything else I can deal with!!
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Old 11-04-2010, 10:43 PM
 
Location: Alaska
247 posts, read 150,408 times
Reputation: 249
Quote:
Originally Posted by roadfamily6now View Post
Ever thought about moving?
Well, sometimes. However, I'm a property-tax paying citizen so I see no problem with being honest about the realities of life here without being expected to leave. Frankly, I see no problem with that for any resident of the state. If everyone who knows how things could be left, only those who don't would be here. Now that's a dismal thought.
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