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Old 07-21-2010, 10:06 AM
 
53 posts, read 59,099 times
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Default Advice On A Great Places To Live

Hi I am looking for some advice. I want to move my family to a cooler climate. We currently live in TX and it's just too hot for us. We want to live in a place with four seasons so we can appreciate when summer arrives. However, I am not expecting to move based on a job relocation. Rather I want to move to a place based on other factors. Meaning because it's a great place to live. I am hoping that the members on city-data can help. Also, I have used many websites like CNN's Best Places To Live, Forbes....I find them helpful, but very rarely do they show anything very useful.

1. Here are some things of importance to me:
2. Summer normal high temps. below 90 would be great or a few days in the 90's is ok.
3. Family friendly - lots of stuff to do with the kids.
4. Low crime
5. Cost of living low to moderate.
6. It can be a small or medium sized town, but it would be great to have lots of amenities near by like restaurants, shopping, banks, a gym....
7. Moderate to low pollution
8. Moderate to low taxes

My ideal place would be living in a town/city of about 20-60k people. Where one could buy a house >2300 SQ. FT. with some acreage for less than 300k. The city would be within a 20-60 minute drive of a city (population size >150k) so I could have access to a decent airport, museums, libraries or a zoo if possible... The larger city should have low crime when compared to the average city of it's size. I just don't want to live near a larger city where the nightly news discuses murders almost every night. Hopefully, the place I live in does not have lots of life threatening weather. I don't mind NON life threatening storms. I also don't mind gloomy weather as long as it's not caused by pollution. I am very surprised when talking to people that many places have moderately high pollution in the air and water around them. Moderate to low property taxes would be nice. I currently live in a state where I have no state income tax, but my property taxes are around 2.5 -3.0 % of our home values OUCH. I would rather live somewhere with moderate income tax and low property taxes. However, I find many places up north are now having property taxes almost as high as mine combined with a state income tax. Since this paragraph is talking about the ideal then if I could live next to some rolling green hills of farm land that would be great too. Natural gas is a very inexpensive energy that I don't understand why some of the cooler temp. states don't have access to. Again, since this is the ideal it would be great to have access to natural gas as a utility, but it's not a deal breaker .

Looking forward to your answers!
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Old 07-21-2010, 10:26 AM
 
Location: Boston, MA & Istanbul, Turkey
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Just going to take a quick stab at it to get this rolling, but Western Massachusetts may fit your criteria very well. I would look at Northampton, Easthampton or Amherst.
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Old 07-21-2010, 10:28 AM
 
Location: Orlando, FL
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I do not like the Pacific Northwest or recommend it often, but the mild summers immediately made me think that you may appreciate the area. I am not sure if you would like the ongoing rain, but the schools are good, there is a lot to do and it never gets too hot. A lot of homes do not have pools or AC though, so when it is hot it may be a little bad. The bay area of CA is a good suggestion, but it is pricey. Most other places will have a pretty terrible winter or the heat you are trying to escape (with and without humidity).

Maybe Bend or Medford Oregon?

I would also look into the summer temperatures in Colorado, because I know there is a lot to do and it is sunny but not as hot due to the higher elevation.
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Old 07-21-2010, 10:42 AM
 
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Thanks Cart24. What do you think of the taxes in MA?

Thanks Wilshire81182. I really like OR and WA. Bend home values have really come down in price. I wish I could own my home I live in now in Bellingham, WA. Have you lived in Bend or Medford and whats your thoughts on the 2? Does Medford get hot in the summer?
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Old 07-21-2010, 11:30 AM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,241 posts, read 4,032,381 times
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I think a lot of places in the country could fit your description.

New Hampshire comes immediately to mind. It has one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the country, lower than any other state in the North. However, since NH has no state income tax or sales tax, it *does* compensate with higher property taxes, but these vary dramatically by town. So it pays to do your research into individual towns (you can see the most recent property tax rates here (http://www.nh.gov/revenue/munc_prop/2009.htm - broken link)).

Otherwise, the state meets all your other criteria. Average high temperatures in July peak at about 83 degrees, with only a very few days actually getting into the 90s. Four very distinct (and beautiful) seasons. Very pristine with low pollution and extremely low crime, being one of the safest states in the country. Since NH has a very strong tourism industry and plenty of natural amenities, there's always stuff to do with the kids.

Most of the population lives in the southeastern corner of the state near the border with Massachusetts, and this area tends to have higher real estate values. However, if you go just a little bit north or west, things become cheaper. Where I live smack dab in the middle of the state, Boston is a 1.5 hour drive, Manchester (our largest city at pop. 100,000) is about 50 minutes and Concord (the state capital) is around 30 minutes. It takes about an hour to get to Maine or Vermont and a bit over 2 hours to Canada.

While the state does not have a huge number of towns that fit your desired population, you may find that towns in New England are more "clustered" and not as sprawled out, so that even if your town has a small population you are relatively close to another town center. In terms of finding the best combination of cheaper real estate, lower taxes, family friendly activities, and easy access to larger cities, I would recommend looking at the Lakes Region area north of Concord. A town like Meredith, while rather small, is very close to the larger town of Laconia and would be a great fit given your criteria. You can do some looking around here to get an idea of the properties on the market.

If you look at the area with Google Maps satellite and terrain features, you can figure out where the farmland and rolling hills are (the state is very heavily forested, so the lighter green patches of farmland stick out easily). Towns like Gilmanton and Pittsfield are particularly good for this type of terrain as far as the Lakes Region goes.

Anyway, I hope that gives you some ideas. NH certainly isn't the only state that fits your description but it seems like a good choice.

Last edited by Verseau; 07-21-2010 at 11:45 AM..
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Old 07-21-2010, 11:55 AM
 
53 posts, read 59,099 times
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Verseau, wow thanks for all the information you just gave me. I have looked into NH from the standpoint of statistics and other variables found on the Internet and books. However, nothing is as good as hearing it from someone who lives there. May I ask what your thoughts on the cost of living in NH and also are there ways to cheaply heat your home? Also, how many days of the year do you find it to dangerous to drive if ever? Lastly, if I were to live in Meredith what airport would I use and how far of a drive would it be?
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:00 PM
 
Location: The City
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Some areas of PA, Lancaster, Reading, Allentown/Bethlehem, and Stroudsburg may be worth a look see - smaller, less costly, and cooler than their larger counterparts just due east plus PA has a lot natural gas lines in most areas. Honestly i had trouble gpoing to other sources myself, especially for cooking!
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:10 PM
 
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Kidphilly, thanks for your info. I do like Lancaster especially towns like Ephrata and I was not aware of the gas lines so it's good to hear. That area is incredibly kid friendly. More so than any place I have ever been to!! I realize that no place is perfect, but I am a little worried of the property taxes in PA going up. I am not sure they are very well talked about in the websites that rank cities. I talked to a lady who lived near the Poconos and I did not believe her at first when she told me she pays over 5% in property taxes. I realize other parts of PA are not so high, but if you combine the flat income tax rate plus the property taxes in PA it gets pretty high. What are your thoughts?
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:39 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,241 posts, read 4,032,381 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alphapha View Post
Verseau, wow thanks for all the information you just gave me. I have looked into NH from the standpoint of statistics and other variables found on the Internet and books. However, nothing is as good as hearing it from someone who lives there. May I ask what your thoughts on the cost of living in NH and also are there ways to cheaply heat your home? Also, how many days of the year do you find it to dangerous to drive if ever? Lastly, if I were to live in Meredith what airport would I use and how far of a drive would it be?
Most of the other places I've lived have been major cities, so in comparison, NH has one of the lower costs of living I've experienced. However, it's still the Northeast, so we're not talking dirt cheap like some parts of the South or Midwest may be in comparison. But central/northern NH is definitely one of the most affordable places on the East Coast, and, most importantly, I strongly believe that you get bang for your buck. Year-round outdoor recreation, natural beauty, extremely low crime, highly-rated schools, easy access to larger cities, and a healthy and well-educated population.

The dominant heating method here is heating oil. However, the best way to reduce heating costs is to diversify your heat sources and adapt to changes in the economy. For example, in our old house we used a combination oil/wood burner. Many people in NH use pellet stoves as well. Probably the most secure investment in this day and age would be geothermal heat, but it's not easy to find a house that already has it, and it does take a while before the investment pays off, I think. If you do use oil, it's a good idea to buy your supply in the summer before the cost goes up in the wintertime.

New Englanders know how to deal with winter weather, so the roads are very well-maintained in the winter. Usually the plows are out and the roads are salted / sanded before most people go to work. When there is snow cover on the road, there is usually no reason to believe it's unsafe to drive as long as you drive a bit more slowly and you have suitable tires. It takes some practice to get used to winter driving, but it really is not a hindrance to daily life here at all.

There are only a few occasions where it is absolutely better to avoid driving if possible. If we get a freak bad Nor'easter, it's probably best to stay home, but then most schools and businesses will shut down anyway. This maybe happens once or twice per winter at the most. The other would be an ice storm, as ice is much more dangerous than snow, but fortunately NH is far enough north that ice storms are very rare and usually only happen at the very beginning or the very end of winter. Pay attention to the weather forecast and you'll be well-prepared. We don't really have any natural "disasters" per se, so it's the most excitement we'll get!

If you lived in Meredith you would fly out of Manchester airport, which is just about an hour away. It's a small airport that never has long lines and some cheap domestic fares (Southwest flies there). For international flights it usually connects to NYC or sometimes DC.
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:53 PM
 
Location: The City
18,515 posts, read 14,514,415 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alphapha View Post
Kidphilly, thanks for your info. I do like Lancaster especially towns like Ephrata and I was not aware of the gas lines so it's good to hear. That area is incredibly kid friendly. More so than any place I have ever been to!! I realize that no place is perfect, but I am a little worried of the property taxes in PA going up. I am not sure they are very well talked about in the websites that rank cities. I talked to a lady who lived near the Poconos and I did not believe her at first when she told me she pays over 5% in property taxes. I realize other parts of PA are not so high, but if you combine the flat income tax rate plus the property taxes in PA it gets pretty high. What are your thoughts?

PA State income tax is 2.8%, local income tax can range from 0%-4.5% (philadelphia county wage tax) though typically .5 to 1% (not exactely sure on Lancaster but is changes by the municipality). Property taxes also vary widely by the muncipality and last assesment. They are uneven even within municipalities in PA on real estate taxes. For example two houses with a similar present day value say in your 300K range could even in the same township have different real estate taxes by as much as 5K per year. PA (mostly) assesses higher taxes on new construction and the original assesment on a house built 25 years ago would still be in tact. I guess it is all relative to me PA seem cheap on taxes compared to NJ - i know I paid less than 10K per year in real estate taxes for a bigger house than a firend Jersey was paying nearly 20K in real estate taxes for.

But that is closer to the Philly area where I believe taxes tend to be worse than an area like Lancaster.

A couple of things to keep in mind with Lancaster. Is even though it is cooler (probably wrong word) than TX on the the whole, 90s (even a couple of days to hit 100 this year, more abnormal) are not uncommon in the summer - that flat land (by PA standards) is one of the hotter summer areas of PA. Also the winters will be colder and with a few decent snowfalls. But it is beautiful and affords pretty good access to DC/Baltimore/Philly (all less than 100 miles) so airports, museums etc. at a more affordable price and in a mid sized metro that offer a bit. Many do actually commute into the farther western areas of the Philly metro for work from there (KOP great valley area) or Harrisburgh so there are some other employment options outside of metro even and many within.

My suggestion if you are seriously considering would to find some specific townships and review their individual taxes (most will have this available on their website - also realtor.com has good price and tax comparisons. It may be onerous but really could save $500 bucks a month if done wisely. Check on local income, real estate tax milage, and school real estate tax milage (sometimes lumped with local), and any employement taxes, though most of these are less than $200 annually

Good luck and lancaster is truly a beautiful place with great access all in a family friendly environment.

Last edited by kidphilly; 07-21-2010 at 02:02 PM..
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