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Old 05-22-2008, 10:57 AM
 
Location: Fort Worth, TX
168 posts, read 539,527 times
Reputation: 42

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I have two offers (starting summer 2009) for University of Miami in Coral Gables, and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. I trying to get a feel for which city might be a better choice (all employment-related things are equal).
Some background & questions:

1. I've lived in California. So we can hack a bigger city (we lived around the Bay Area in Cali), lots of traffic (used to commute 4 hours total per day), crime, ethnic diversity, etc. We know that leaving windows/doors open and things in the car are no-nos (and really just common sense nowadays). We've also lived in a very very urban area in the Midwest, where we had drive-by shootings, SWAT raids, and prostitutes living across the street.

2. We will be moving from a small, suburban MidWest area, where we currently have a half acre, and things are pretty safe. So we know it will be an adjustment in either city. We have a dog and a couple cats.

3. We'll only be there for 2 years.

4. We live in the MidWest currently, so we know what 100% humidity on a 90 degree day feels like (we also know that -30 feels like too!). We've gone through tornadoes, etc. So violent weather is OK (shoot, had earthquakes in Cali as well).

5. Not worried about food/gas prices. I live 90 miles from Chicago and we have inflated Chicago prices for everything already. Only cheap thing where I live is housing.

6. We will NOT be buying, and we understand about inflated housing since we lived in Cali.

My questions:

1. Where are the best neighborhoods to live? Our qualifications would be: (1) Somewhat close to UM Gables (within a 30 minute drive); (2) No bars on the windows, etc.; (3) Median rental price for a 2/2 apartment around $1200; (4) Preferably a low property crime area

2. Is $1200 for a 2/2 even reasonable? Where will we end up with that kind of rent?

3. Is hurricane insurance offered for apartments/rental insurance?

4. What is the job situation like for the trucking industry (semi trucks)? Or even overall (hubby would be needing a job)?

5. What is the weather really like? How bad can it really be in the summer?

6. Utilities: How expensive is it to run that A/C almost all year long?

7. What kinds of fun things are there to do around the Miami area? Where are population vacation/weekend trips?

8. We survived in California on about 40K year with about 40K in debt payments + car payment + child support. We'll now have about 40K with 70K debt payments (student loans) and no other payments. Can it really be done or am I crazy to think we can realistically survive?

Anything else I might be missing or haven't thought of? I'm trying to be real careful this time. Last time we didn't do a lot of research and ended up in the ghetto with drive-by shootings (we promptly ran to the suburbs LOL)! Would love recommendations for neighborhoods, streets, apartment complexes, etc.
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Old 05-22-2008, 11:52 AM
 
Location: Downtown Raleigh, NC
2,086 posts, read 6,798,837 times
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Hi twiggers. I'll try to answer a few of your questions.

First, UM has a great off-campus housing site, primarily for students, but is really a great resource for staff or anyone else looking in that vicinity for rental housing. You'll find it here Off-Campus Housing | University of Miami (http://www.sa.miami.edu/off-campus-services/off-campus-housing/ - broken link). Don't forget to also browse craigslist to get some ideas of what the rents are running.

The first thing that stands out to me that might make your rental search a big pain is your pets. It is very difficult to find decent rental housing in Miami that allows pets, especially dogs (which annoys the heck out of me, because more of the population is allergic to cat dander that can't really be removed from a place without spending some major money than they are to dogs, but that is another story for another time).

I did a quick search on the UM site to see what rents are going for these days for a 2/2 in Coral Gables, South Miami and Coconut Grove, the three main areas that I would plan to look if I were you (assuming you are going to be at the Gables campus). I got only one or two hits in the Gables and the Grove betwen $1,000-$1,299 and no hits in South Miami. Most of the 2/2's listed in S. Miami seemed to be going for over $1700.

I tried using the "any" value for bathrooms and came up with more options in your price range, including one right around the corner from where I used to live for $1100, which was the going rate for that building when I lived there as well. It is in the South Miami area just south of Sunset Place off of Red Rd (SW 57th Ave). This area is awesome, and I highly recommend it to anyone. If you can make do with one bathroom, you will have more choices and maybe even find a really good deal.

The Gables, Grove and South Miami will all keep you nice and close to the Gables campus as well as entertainment and some of the prettiest neighborhoods in Miami. All three are considered pretty safe with only a few areas in the Grove and South Miami that might be a little sketchy, but they would be pretty obvious for someone who seems to have the experiences that you have. You shouldn't have a problem.

As for renters insurance, I never had it, but highly recommend it. You can get insurance that will cover a hurricane. It will only cover the contents of your apartment, as the owner of the building has to insure the structure itself. I heard that renters insurance is very reasonbly priced. One thing to keep in mind is that the insurance companies have an invisible box that they place around active hurricanes or tropical storms during which they will not write policies. So if one forms before you get the insurance, you may not be able to get insurance in time. I'd make this a priority if you move during hurricane season.

The weather is pretty much warm and humid year round, with a few breaks in that pattern around January-February, although the past several years have been hit and miss. Although I was born and raised in Miami, I still absolutely couldn't stand the heat+humidity combo from about April to November. The temperatures often do not go below 70 at night with high humidity, so even nights and mornings can be pretty steamy. I always likened it to living in a sauna for much of the year. You really notice it if you are someone who leaves for work early in the morning when the dew is still out, and you break a sweat that won't evaporate just from walking from you house to your car after showering. It's one thing to sweat in 100 degree heat, but when you are sweating in 89 degree heat plus 70+% humidity, your sweat doesn't evaporate, but you seem to be aware of this. Think of that feeling at 7:00 in the morning or 11:00 at night.

Summers used to bring afternoon thunderstorms that you could set a watch to. Recent years have seen droughts, so this pattern has been upset as of late. The thunderstorms are nice, and while it is raining can actually cool the things down, but there will be a swampy feeling that comes once the rain stops and the sun and heat return to a soggy landscape.

I can't remember exactly what my electric bills were like, but I also lived on the second floor and had only two window A/C units to cool my apartment. The window A/C was able to cool the place because I had nice wood floors, but some days it definitely worked pretty hard. I do know that my electric bills in Miami were still quite a bit more than what I paid here in Raleigh last summer, and we had several days in a row of 90-100 degree heat and 80's the rest of the summer. Again, the humidity comes into play I think in making the A/C work a little harder because of the greenhouse type conditions.

If you like water related recreational activities, you'll never be bored. There is always the beach for entertainment. The Everglades is a quick drive away for a nice day trip, the Florida Keys are a good weekend trip, Marco Island and Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast are also good weekend getaways.

It really depends on what kind of lifestyle you expect to maintain on whether you can make it in Miami on any particular salary. I think you could do it according to my terms, but that will vary widely depending on your own wants and needs. Just try to research what your expenses will be as best you can (I'm sure others here will be able to provide more detail than I have on the utilities) and you should be able to determine if it will work for you.

Last edited by miamiblue; 05-22-2008 at 01:12 PM.. Reason: I am spelling deficient.
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Old 05-22-2008, 12:08 PM
 
Location: Fort Worth, TX
168 posts, read 539,527 times
Reputation: 42
miamiblue: Thank you so much for all of that information! You have certainly given me a lot to think about! I will definitely check out that website.
As for bathrooms: If push came to shove we could make due with 1! And the pets. yes, it always makes it more difficult. Fortunately, he (the dog) is under 20 lbs, and we are prepared to pay the extravagant non-refundable fees that they charge.

We've lived pretty frugal in the past in California...pretty much were forced to because of the high cost of living (gas was $2.29/gallon when we left and I was spending well over $400/month to commute)....so I think we can do it again. I just want to make sure we wouldn't be living hand-to-mouth because of high rents.

We get somewhat humid in the MidWest, but we do cool down at night...so even after a 90 degree, 70% humidity day we can easily cool down to 55-60 at night. Conversely, we lived in Cali with 115 degree days in the summer....but it feels more like a furnace with the dry heat.

South Miami, Coral Gables, and Coconut Grove.....any areas to specifically avoid within those areas? I know in CA there would be areas where it would be nice for a block, then a couple blocks of bars on the windows, and then back to nice. Is Miami the same way? Or are the bad neighborhoods really segregated away from the nice neighborhoods?

Thank you again!
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Old 05-22-2008, 12:32 PM
 
Location: Broward County
2,518 posts, read 9,680,032 times
Reputation: 1333
Quote:
Originally Posted by miamiblue View Post
I always likened it to living in a sauna for much of the year. You really notice it if you are someone who leaves for work early in the morning when the dew is still out, and you break a sweat that won't evaporate just from walking from you house to your car after showering. It's one thing to sweat in 100 degree heat, but when you are sweating in 89 degree heat plus 70+% humidity, your sweat doesn't evaporate, but you seem to be aware of this. Think of that feeling at 7:00 in the morning or 11:00 at night.
It really is that disgusting. Moderator cut: comment He is not exaggerating...it's NASTY and you feel the need to take a shower as soon as you walk outside.

Plus they are forecasting a busy hurricane season. Do you like your schooling to be disrupted often ? A busy hurricane season can and will do that.

If I were you, I would stick with John Hopkins. Are you planning to do pre-med or something ?

Last edited by Keeper; 05-24-2008 at 05:44 AM.. Reason: please..your comment was uncalled for
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Old 05-22-2008, 12:53 PM
 
Location: Fort Worth, TX
168 posts, read 539,527 times
Reputation: 42
heydade: Thanks! My husband is really pushing for Baltimore; however, I am sick of winter and snow. It will actually be a two year postdoctoral research position (basically an identical position at either place). I keep thinking it won't be too bad since it is just two years. We also won't be moving down until around August 2009.
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Old 05-22-2008, 01:09 PM
 
Location: Downtown Raleigh, NC
2,086 posts, read 6,798,837 times
Reputation: 1298
Quote:
Originally Posted by heydade View Post
It really is that disgusting. He is not exaggerating...it's NASTY and you feel the need to take a shower as soon as you walk outside.


twiggers, yes there are areas in Coconut Grove for sure that are nice for a few blocks, then sketchy, and nice again. The western section of Grand Ave from US-1 to about SW 32nd Ave has historically been an area to avoid (check out the street view on google maps), but it has been improving little by little in recent years. Still, I wouldn't want to live right there. Also, several blocks north and south of Grand are also not places you would want to look. Search the forum for Coconut Grove and you'll find some good threads with more detailed discussions about the areas to avoid.

I probably shouldn't have lumped Coral Gables and South Miami into the mix of having sketchy areas. There really aren't many areas in Coral Gables itself that I would consider unsafe, just some that are less attractive than others, I guess. South Miami is generally pretty safe, although I do remember hearing a LOT of gunfire coming from the western part of South Miami during New Years of 2004. I don't know exactly where it was coming from, but definitely around the Sunset Dr corridor, west of US-1. There used to be some subsidized housing near where I used to live in South Miami, but it has been gone for quite some time now, removing the unsavory element from that specific area. Others might be able to give more specifics here, since I mainly stayed in areas that I knew were good and that I could walk to . There are still some holdouts here and there in parts of South Miami that seem to have bars on the windows, but I don't really know why they have them.

If you live in any of those three areas, your commute will be super easy to UM - no $400/month on gas for the commute! You could even take the metrorail, ride a bike, or walk from some of these areas if you wanted to.

Last edited by Keeper; 05-24-2008 at 05:45 AM.. Reason: removed response regarding removed quote
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Old 05-22-2008, 01:11 PM
 
Location: Broward County
2,518 posts, read 9,680,032 times
Reputation: 1333
well, give Miami a shot then ! If you need a change, come on down.

Here are some listings : Old Spanish / Completely Renovated / Central AC / Stainless Steel Gran (broken link)

This is in pinecrest...a very desirable place to live. It' a suburb located about 5 miles south of Coral Gables. 1/1 Close to UM, Dadeland and Metrorail North. (broken link)

Day trips ? The florida Key's, airboat rides in the Everglades, you name it....we have it.
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Old 05-22-2008, 01:13 PM
 
Location: Fort Worth, TX
168 posts, read 539,527 times
Reputation: 42
thank you miami & dade!

What about Doral or Kendall? They were coming up on rent.com as being close to Coral Gables.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:10 PM
 
Location: Downtown Raleigh, NC
2,086 posts, read 6,798,837 times
Reputation: 1298
Quote:
Originally Posted by twiggers View Post
thank you miami & dade!

What about Doral or Kendall? They were coming up on rent.com as being close to Coral Gables.
Kendall and Doral are both surburban residential areas. The farther west you go, generally the worse commute you will have in terms of sitting on secondary roads that are congested to their maximums and having to deal with a lot of lights. I personally would not live anywhere west of SW 127th Ave. It looks like it's not very far away on the map, but the traffic is not very pleasant. If you can deal with the traffic, then those areas are decent otherwise.

The Dadeland area would also be a decent place to look with an easy commute.

Pinecrest is also a nice area, but rentals will be pricey.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:10 PM
 
Location: Fort Worth, TX
168 posts, read 539,527 times
Reputation: 42
Thanks Miamiblue! I really appreciate the help!!
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