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Old 02-26-2014, 06:45 PM
 
Location: Baltimore City
9 posts, read 15,575 times
Reputation: 22

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Hello everyone! I currently live in Baltimore, MD (yes, where The Wire took place) and my husband and I are trying to figure out where we want to settle down and raise our daughter. This year is all about location scouting; we are looking to move sometime in 2015. We’re in our upper 20s and have spent our whole lives living in the city. While there are many wonderful things about Baltimore, the crime and bad schools among other things are just too much to handle these days. We are actively researching Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan.

TL;DR Basically, we want a change of scenery, a lower cost of living, a little or a lot less “hustle and bustle,” and more snow.

I know it goes against the grain, but we would rather buy a house than rent first and have several trips planned throughout this year to each of the states we are considering. Hopefully, you all can chime in with some places we should check out. We’re pretty laid back so if we settled in an area and absolutely hated it for whatever reason we’d deal with it until we found the “perfect place.” So without further ado, what do we want? I’m not entirely sure...maybe you can help!

Weather
Weather is not an issue. We love the snow and cold and want more of it. Heat and humidity and scary storms aren’t a deterrent either. I have researched the weather in all three states we are considering and we are perfectly fine with it. However, flooding does scare me a bit because of my experiences with Hurricanes coming up the Chesapeake Bay.

Geography
I am spoiled where we are now, as we are a few hours from either the mountains or the ocean. As long as we are within a few hours of a lake/river and/or state/national parks with trees and some higher elevations I can survive anywhere!

Safety/Crime
We need to live in an area that is safe. Now, as a “city girl” I have a different view of safe than many others, so I don’t need a place as safe as “Mayberry,” (although it would be nice) but I do need to feel comfortable walking around my neighborhood in broad daylight and possibly early evening.

Schools
Schools are important obviously, but not the be-all-end-all. What I mean is, of course I want a great school district, but I’m realistic, so a decent one would work as well; they can’t be any worse than the options she would have where we currently live. Also, we prefer public school to private/catholic/etc.

Politics/Religion
I’m a firm believer of “live and let live,” but in case it matters I guess we’d be described as liberal to moderate. More often than not we lean left for social issues and somewhere in the middle for economic policy. I don’t think we’d do well in a place that was vocally conservative, but again we’re pretty easy to get along with so it is what it is.

Religion is another “live and let live” issue. I was brought up catholic and now I’m not sure what I am and my husband is an agnostic. We would like to find a nondenominational church when we move, but it’s not a necessity.

Demographics
Demographics: I don’t know if it matters, but my family is white. Where we live now is roughly 64% African American, 28% White, 4% Hispanic, and 4% other. Honestly though, I think the percentages are a little off, as there is a slightly larger Hispanic population an slightly lower White population. I’m going to be honest, at this point in my life, I couldn’t really care less about diversity on either end of the spectrum. As long as the area is safe, I don’t care about the color of the skin of the people who live there.

Work
My husband has over 10 years experience in both residential and commercial carpentry. He currently works for the top Handyman service in North America. I have experience in healthcare administration, but currently stay home with my daughter while attending school. I will be done with in the year and have Bachelor’s degrees in both Economics and Geography with a focus on Environmental Planning. So obviously we want to move somewhere where we will be able to gain employment, more specifically my husband because I probably won’t go back to work until my daughter is ready for school.

House/Community
Our budget for a house will be $150,000 or under. I know it’s low but it’s what we have so I’m hoping we might be able to find something. Honestly, we don’t have a preference right now towards an urban, suburban, or rural setting, but we’re leaning toward the later two. My ideal house would be an older single family home with “character,” at least 2 stories, 3 bedrooms and a basement. A yard /property with an area that I could use to garden and room for my daughter and dogs to run around in would be great. My husband would like the property to have a garage/workshop or at least room for one to be built. That’s pretty much it!

My ideal location would be a small to medium (but I’m open to other suggestions) town that has a walkable downtown/main street area. I’d love a really walkable location, but I’d also be fine in a suburban or rural setting that was a short distance to a walkable area. Ideally, we would be within 30 minutes or so of an area with decent hospitals as I have had some health issues in the past. Restaurants are important, I don’t like chains all that much and have been spoiled by the Baltimore restaurant scene. I’m fine with anything from farm-to-table cafes to mom and pop diners and everything in between. Museums, theaters, parks, farmer’s markets, activities for children, and festivals (please please have festivals!) are all pretty important too and we’d like to be within 30 minutes or closer to these amenities if possible.

Finally, we would like to live somewhere that is friendly. I don’t need a welcome party when we move in, but neighbors that at least wave would be nice. We are very easy to please and just want to be an active family in whatever community we settle in. Trust me when I say, not much can be worse than where we are now. Baltimore is not all bad, it is just not for us anymore. While we don’t have any family or friends in any of the states we are considering, there is a very good chance that both of our parents would shortly follow where ever we settle down.

Wow, that was much longer than I thought it would be. Thank you in advance to any suggestions you may have and for taking the time to read my novel!
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Old 02-26-2014, 09:16 PM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
4,981 posts, read 5,446,707 times
Reputation: 9212
I would strongly encourage you to scratch Michigan off your list, as MI - OH - IN are in for continuing downturns in employment. Forget Ann Arbor and consider Madison, WI (below) instead.

It sounds like your husband is the main one working. I would encourage you/him to line up work, first. You may want to look into Wellston, ND as all those oil field workers need houses and there is a severe housing shortage, so his skills might be in demand. It will be rough living, but it might mean a fair amount of money in a short time, depending on his skills and other factors.

If that's not appealing, look at Twin Cities, and that forum can help you out with more specifics. Egan is close and less pricey. Honestly, it's too cold up there for me, but if you're drawn to Michigan, consider it, as the economy is tons better.

For Iowa, look at the Des Moines Metro area (houses are cheaper in the east and south) or outside of Iowa City, which is pricey in town, but better outside of town. The IC area is more liberal and may be a better fit for you. Again, consider jobs. DSM is a tad more conservative (although there is a lot of live and let live here) but it's bigger with more positions available.

One more recommendation: it's probably not in your budget, but I think you'd fit in very well in Madison, WI. There are places outside of it, like Sun Prairie, 10 miles away, that is less pricey. If your husband can find work, do consider it. There's a family/liberal vibe there that a lot of East Coasters like.

Last edited by Meemur; 02-26-2014 at 09:25 PM..
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Old 02-26-2014, 10:36 PM
 
1,374 posts, read 2,249,329 times
Reputation: 1439
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meemur View Post
One more recommendation: it's probably not in your budget, but I think you'd fit in very well in Madison, WI. There are places outside of it, like Sun Prairie, 10 miles away, that is less pricey. If your husband can find work, do consider it. There's a family/liberal vibe there that a lot of East Coasters like.
Even on the outskirts of Madison, home prices are high. I was shocked at how little house $200k buys there compared to most cities in Iowa.
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Old 02-27-2014, 07:31 AM
 
Location: Midtown
152 posts, read 171,774 times
Reputation: 99
If you're just looking to move to the Midwest, I'd suggest you at least consider Omaha, NE. It's a good little city with very low unemployment, a lot of new solid growth, and a VERY low cost of living.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:00 AM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
4,981 posts, read 5,446,707 times
Reputation: 9212
Quote:
Originally Posted by mustang84 View Post
Even on the outskirts of Madison, home prices are high. I was shocked at how little house $200k buys there compared to most cities in Iowa.
True! But I stand by my comment about "fit." I tend to be more conservative and less into family activities. Madison is "Ann Arbor west" with lots of family activities and festivals, plus an extremely liberal vibe, which the OP wanted. The economy is decent; however, taxes are high. It was quickly scratched off my list, although I truly enjoyed the several days I spent there looking at homes, and I hope to get back on a "vacation" and see more of the sights.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:03 AM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
4,981 posts, read 5,446,707 times
Reputation: 9212
Quote:
Originally Posted by Old General View Post
If you're just looking to move to the Midwest, I'd suggest you at least consider Omaha, NE. It's a good little city with very low unemployment, a lot of new solid growth, and a VERY low cost of living.
I like Omaha a lot! But it is rather conservative and very church-going (why I like it). I didn't recommend it for the OP for that reason.
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:09 AM
 
Location: Midtown
152 posts, read 171,774 times
Reputation: 99
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meemur View Post
I like Omaha a lot! But it is rather conservative and very church-going (why I like it). I didn't recommend it for the OP for that reason.
Oh don't worry - there are plenty of pagans here.

On a serious note... I have family in Minneapolis. A house in the Minneapolis metro will cost literally double what the same house in the Omaha metro will cost. And the property taxes here are lower. Just something to consider, regarding the cost of living.
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:26 AM
 
Location: Minneapolis
1,704 posts, read 2,626,829 times
Reputation: 2325
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tagger1011 View Post
Hello everyone! I currently live in Baltimore, MD (yes, where The Wire took place) and my husband and I are trying to figure out where we want to settle down and raise our daughter. This year is all about location scouting; we are looking to move sometime in 2015. We’re in our upper 20s and have spent our whole lives living in the city. While there are many wonderful things about Baltimore, the crime and bad schools among other things are just too much to handle these days. We are actively researching Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan.

TL;DR Basically, we want a change of scenery, a lower cost of living, a little or a lot less “hustle and bustle,” and more snow.

I know it goes against the grain, but we would rather buy a house than rent first and have several trips planned throughout this year to each of the states we are considering. Hopefully, you all can chime in with some places we should check out. We’re pretty laid back so if we settled in an area and absolutely hated it for whatever reason we’d deal with it until we found the “perfect place.” So without further ado, what do we want? I’m not entirely sure...maybe you can help!

Weather
Weather is not an issue. We love the snow and cold and want more of it. Heat and humidity and scary storms aren’t a deterrent either. I have researched the weather in all three states we are considering and we are perfectly fine with it. However, flooding does scare me a bit because of my experiences with Hurricanes coming up the Chesapeake Bay.

Geography
I am spoiled where we are now, as we are a few hours from either the mountains or the ocean. As long as we are within a few hours of a lake/river and/or state/national parks with trees and some higher elevations I can survive anywhere!

Safety/Crime
We need to live in an area that is safe. Now, as a “city girl” I have a different view of safe than many others, so I don’t need a place as safe as “Mayberry,” (although it would be nice) but I do need to feel comfortable walking around my neighborhood in broad daylight and possibly early evening.

Schools
Schools are important obviously, but not the be-all-end-all. What I mean is, of course I want a great school district, but I’m realistic, so a decent one would work as well; they can’t be any worse than the options she would have where we currently live. Also, we prefer public school to private/catholic/etc.

Politics/Religion
I’m a firm believer of “live and let live,” but in case it matters I guess we’d be described as liberal to moderate. More often than not we lean left for social issues and somewhere in the middle for economic policy. I don’t think we’d do well in a place that was vocally conservative, but again we’re pretty easy to get along with so it is what it is.

Religion is another “live and let live” issue. I was brought up catholic and now I’m not sure what I am and my husband is an agnostic. We would like to find a nondenominational church when we move, but it’s not a necessity.

Demographics
Demographics: I don’t know if it matters, but my family is white. Where we live now is roughly 64% African American, 28% White, 4% Hispanic, and 4% other. Honestly though, I think the percentages are a little off, as there is a slightly larger Hispanic population an slightly lower White population. I’m going to be honest, at this point in my life, I couldn’t really care less about diversity on either end of the spectrum. As long as the area is safe, I don’t care about the color of the skin of the people who live there.

Work
My husband has over 10 years experience in both residential and commercial carpentry. He currently works for the top Handyman service in North America. I have experience in healthcare administration, but currently stay home with my daughter while attending school. I will be done with in the year and have Bachelor’s degrees in both Economics and Geography with a focus on Environmental Planning. So obviously we want to move somewhere where we will be able to gain employment, more specifically my husband because I probably won’t go back to work until my daughter is ready for school.

House/Community
Our budget for a house will be $150,000 or under. I know it’s low but it’s what we have so I’m hoping we might be able to find something. Honestly, we don’t have a preference right now towards an urban, suburban, or rural setting, but we’re leaning toward the later two. My ideal house would be an older single family home with “character,” at least 2 stories, 3 bedrooms and a basement. A yard /property with an area that I could use to garden and room for my daughter and dogs to run around in would be great. My husband would like the property to have a garage/workshop or at least room for one to be built. That’s pretty much it!

My ideal location would be a small to medium (but I’m open to other suggestions) town that has a walkable downtown/main street area. I’d love a really walkable location, but I’d also be fine in a suburban or rural setting that was a short distance to a walkable area. Ideally, we would be within 30 minutes or so of an area with decent hospitals as I have had some health issues in the past. Restaurants are important, I don’t like chains all that much and have been spoiled by the Baltimore restaurant scene. I’m fine with anything from farm-to-table cafes to mom and pop diners and everything in between. Museums, theaters, parks, farmer’s markets, activities for children, and festivals (please please have festivals!) are all pretty important too and we’d like to be within 30 minutes or closer to these amenities if possible.

Finally, we would like to live somewhere that is friendly. I don’t need a welcome party when we move in, but neighbors that at least wave would be nice. We are very easy to please and just want to be an active family in whatever community we settle in. Trust me when I say, not much can be worse than where we are now. Baltimore is not all bad, it is just not for us anymore. While we don’t have any family or friends in any of the states we are considering, there is a very good chance that both of our parents would shortly follow where ever we settle down.

Wow, that was much longer than I thought it would be. Thank you in advance to any suggestions you may have and for taking the time to read my novel!
Let's see if I can dissect this a little bit for you!

Weather: Sounds like you'll be happy pretty much anywhere.

Geography: Michigan > Minnesota > Iowa

Safety/Crime: Iowa > Minnesota > Michigan

Schools: Minnesota > Iowa > Michigan

Politics/Religion: Minnesota > Michigan > Iowa

Demographics: Also sounds like you'll be happy pretty much anywhere.

Work: I'll do this one more on a city level... Twin Cities > Des Moines/Iowa City > Grand Rapids > the rest > eastern Michigan

House/Community: Iowa > Minnesota > Michigan


I would say your best fit will probably not be in Michigan, though you should still look at Grand Rapids and maybe Ann Arbor.

The Twin Cities is the Seattle of the Midwest; there's very little not to love about it. See what you can find in south Minneapolis, western St. Paul, or one of the St. Paul suburbs (Roseville, Falcon Heights, White Bear Lake, Woodbury, Maplewood, etc.)

One place you should definitely definitely check out in Minnesota is Hastings. It's a suburb just outside the main urbanized area southeast of St. Paul and it sounds like it could be a great fit for you. Another smaller town in that region to look at is Northfield - a little further from the Twin Cities, but it's a very cute, very friendly double college town near bluff country.

Duluth could also be great for you if you are able to find the right kind of work. Very extreme winters, but it's impossibly beautiful, right next door to all kinds of recreation, and the community is wonderful.

In Iowa, your best options are Des Moines and Iowa City. In Des Moines, look at the suburbs of Clive, Urbandale, and Windsor Heights, as well as the city proper. You may find a neighborhood you like in West Des Moines. In general, the neighborhoods with the most character are east and south of I-80/35. The Des Moines version of Hastings is Indianola, but I personally would much rather live in Hastings.

Anywhere in Iowa City is a good place to look. You could even look as far north as Cedar Rapids since the cities are rapidly growing together.

Elsewhere in Iowa, you might think about Pella, Decorah, or Mt. Vernon, which are all small college towns with good character.

Omaha is another good suggestion. Lincoln could work too.
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Old 02-27-2014, 10:53 AM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
4,981 posts, read 5,446,707 times
Reputation: 9212
Quote:
Originally Posted by steel03 View Post
In Des Moines, look at the suburbs of Clive, Urbandale, and Windsor Heights, as well as the city proper.
Your post is very good! I want to fine tune it a bit as I just bought a house in the Des Moines area. Clive, WDSM and Windsor Heights are expensive (although family-friendly and nice). Urbandale would be more likely to have homes in their budget but the east and south areas (and there are some nice neighborhoods if one looks carefully) have more 100K homes. East Des Moines is not all welfare bums and dive bars. The north side, closer to Altoona, has some nice subdivisions with WWII houses, mature trees, and a lot of young families.

But I think Des Moines is a lot more conservative than some East Coast liberals would find comfortable. Iowa City is the better fit, I think, not that there's a ton of bashing going on! But there's a major conservative Christian vibe in Des Moines, which is one of the reasons I like it here. (-:
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Old 02-27-2014, 01:10 PM
 
Location: Baltimore City
9 posts, read 15,575 times
Reputation: 22
Wow thank you all so much for your insight and for taking the time to respond! You are all awesome! I was going to respond to each post individually, but it'll be easier for me to just mention everyone and the things you recommended in one big post for the sake of time (toddler's down for a nap so I need to make it count)!

Honestly, I think I was being to cheap/conservative/too much wishful thinking in terms of our budget. We could realistically go to 200,000-225,000 and be comfortable; I just don't want to! Also, in terms of conservative/christian areas, I could deal. It wouldn't be the end of the world because I truly respect everyone's opinion even if I don't agree with it and I have no desire to step on anyone's toes or try and change their mind. So, with that said:

Meemur: Thanks for the advice, we will definitely check out Wellington, ND and everywhere else you mentioned. The good/bad thing about this situation is that we don't have any ties to a particular place, so nowhere is out of the question!

Mustang84: Thanks for the heads up on home prices!

Old General: It's funny you mentioned Omaha as I keep coming across it in my research for the "perfect place." It may just be time to look at it more seriously. The lower property taxes are a big bonus! Here, a 100 year old, 1200 sqft townhouse that needs a ton of work and is in a sketchy area, the property taxes are about $4000.

Steel03: Thank you so so much for that detailed response. Having specific cities to research makes it so much easier to get a feel of the area. And yes, we truly will be happier anywhere that is not here at this point.

Again, I can't thank you all enough! You are all wonderful!
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