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Old 07-14-2009, 08:41 AM
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I'm trying to figure out some comparisons/contrasts between Portsmouth and Portland. We've visited the Portland area much more than we have Portsmouth -- we spent three days in New Castle and Portsmouth last month, however, and fell in love with it, so now we've expanded our search for a one year house lease (as we explore New England) to include the Seacoast.

Problem with that is -- we are spending too much time in the car trying to see houses in too big an area! The last quick trip involved driving from Portsmouth to Brunswick and back again. Really inefficient. We need to choose one or the other. We are very limited on time. We're moving next month!!

We are empty nesters - so school quality is not an issue.

Proximity to airports does matter -- but they seem to be on par with one another (although fares "seem" much higher in Portland than atbManchester or Logan on the flights we've checked.)

Health care quality matters a lot. Better hospitals, more specialists, etc. I don't think that's as easy to compare as one would think once you exclude Boston from the mix (I'm not going to struggle getting to and from Boston for visits). I usually buy a Castle-Connolly regional "best doctors" book when we've moved in the past, but there isn't one for New England.

Housing. We'll rent for the first year and it seems like there are nicer houses available for lease in the Seacoast area than the Portland area right now and that issue might become the deciding factor on its own. Perhaps there just seems to be more new construction homes in southern NH. We have not rented in decades, but we can tell that we don't want to live in an historic home as a renter. We'd have no control over how well maintained it really is, heating costs, etc. As far as home buying (if we decide to stay long-term and/or retire there), the tax comparison becomes rather moot in our estimation once you factor everything. We pay a simliar EAV tax rate now to what you pay in the Seacoast area PLUS we have a nearly 7% state income tax rate and in our town an 8% sales tax. See? We're going to better off no matter where we go (except maybe Mass).

Restaurants, shopping: we liked both Portsmouth and Portland but only spent one evening in each town. Are they as similiar as they seemed? Really enjoyed great food and the pedestrian-friendly feel of both!

Politics: Since that has come up on other threads, and quite frankly, it does matter to us -- I'll try to inform without forcing ourselves into a label (which I intensely dislike)...We think the descriptions of the political demographics in Portland and Portsmouth are just fine with us.

I'd like to able to see "Wentworth by the Sea" from my kitchen window....haha, (there is NOTHING to rent in New Castle)

Other than that, any ideas on characteristics we might consider in choosing to focus on one vs. the other?
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Old 07-14-2009, 12:07 PM
Location: CA
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Looking forward to the replies you get... I have a hunch the biggest differences may be that Portland is bigger, and that Maine and NH have different state political landscapes.
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Old 07-14-2009, 12:33 PM
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I would consider Portsmouth to Boston to be a lot less of a hassle than you are assuming. There is bus & commuter train service nearby and the drive itself is very doable.

Something else to consider are "what else is close by". Maine has some amazing features but Portsmouth really is the most populace area up there. In NH you are going to be fairly close to Boston and Manchester with Nashua & Concord not particularly far away either. I love Maine, but I think New Hampshire has more "stuff" in the general vicinity of where you'll be living...but that doesn't mean you won't have the coast/lakes/mountains/nature closeby as well.
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Old 07-15-2009, 08:00 PM
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Portland is a bigger city. The Maine Medical Center is good. With all due respect to the Portsmouth food scene, food is better in Portland. There are some very, very good restaurants (Duck Fat, Hugo's etc). There is a nice art museum. Taxes are higher. In terms of air transportation, you're much closer in Portland. PWM flights tend to be expensive, but it's a full-service airport. Portsmouth doesn't have one. Maine taxes are higher.

Portsmouth strikes me as a bit more glamorous. It has a charm that Portland doesn't (I think). I love Old Port, but parts of Portsmouth are matchless.

You could also consider Newburyport. I haven't been there, but a lot of people tell me if you love Portsmouth you will also love Newburyport. You'd be that much closer to Boston and if you're open to ME taxes, MA might also be worth considering. Just a thought.
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:02 PM
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Very helpful comments; thanks.

While we are really excited about moving to New England, we're not Boston fans. I'm not sure why -- we've lived in cities some tell us are similiar (I was born and raised in Seattle) we have both traveled often to Boston for work and just didn't care for it. I would certainly go there for medical care if I needed to -- but I wouldn't go there otherwise. I totally get your comments about the charm of Portsmouth and the food scene of Portland, NH2008. I'm pretty sure we're going to be thrilled to land in either place.
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Old 07-17-2009, 03:39 PM
Location: portland, me
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I have lived in both (in Portland now, and just outside of Portsmouth.) They are similar in that they are both on the water and artsy. They both deliver the typical brick history that many people lust for in a New England town. They both have good restaurants, good bars, and easy access to major highways.


Portland is a city. It operates like one. There are homeless people, crime, congestion, trash, graffiti, etc.
Portsmouth is much more quaint. While it has issues, they tend to be on a much smaller front.

Portland is in Maine meaning more taxes. Just having no income tax and sales tax in Portsmouth makes a big difference.

There is more to do in Portland easily. There is the Civic Center, Portland Museum of Art, many islands, etc.
Portsmouth has stuff to do, but in a vast smaller quantity. This may be good though, if you enjoy walking Strawberry Bank, a lot.

There are more close job opportunities in Portland (it's why I'm here now.)

Housing tends to be cheaper in Portland. Portsmouth tends to charge more due to college kids, and its desirability.

I love both towns. I was born and bred in NH so I lean toward Portsmouth (and the surrounding area.) The main things to think about are taxes, population size, and jobs.

If Boston turned you off, I'd suggest Portsmouth.
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Old 07-21-2009, 11:59 AM
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I have heart issues, and used to live in Portland. I needed surgery and strongly considered going to Boston to get it done, after consulting with several people, including a family member who "just so happens" to be a vice president at the american college of surgeons, I went with Portland. I had a great experience and a great outcome. there are a lot of great doctors in a variety of specialties in Portland. Yes the Portland airport is expensive, but living 10-15 minutes away from a full service airport is nice. ( now live in Derry NH- 15 minutes from Manchester which is very nice for us- but I really miss the ocean)

I agree with the previous post that laid out that Portland is a city with the attending advantages and problems whereas Portsmouth is a quaint seaside town, the feel will be very different.
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:22 PM
Location: Kensington NH
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Don't totally discount the Portland airport. I recently had to fly back to Ohio last minute for a funeral. I was looking at $600 tickets out of Manch, Boston, and Providence. I did a hail mary search out of portland and scored a ticket for $250.
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Old 07-22-2009, 07:16 AM
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Well, we found a house we liked in the Portland area (Freeport, to be more specific) so that's where we'll land - at least for our first year in New England. I'm encouraged by your comments, rogersparkjen, about health care because I need to find a cardiologist up there. I presume you're referring to Maine Medical Center? Is that where you had the surgery and is it also where you found a cardiologist? This is really good news to hear that Portland has specialists and facilities with solid reputations and credentials. Thanks for mentioning this info.

fishinfool, I'm surprised you found good (really good!) last minute airfare to Ohio. I was just checking for Chicago to Portland for my daughter to attend an event and United was $600 and also a smaller plane which no-one in my family likes to fly during the stormy summer months in the south and midwest just as a personal preference. We've been using Manchester because there's non-stop to and from Chicago on Southwest. After reading your experience, I'll start checking Portland again. I would imagine Portland has more and less expensive flights to other cities -- maybe Chicago not-so-much.
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Old 07-22-2009, 07:27 AM
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Default Thanks for the comparisons, dubthang

Originally Posted by dubthang View Post
I love both towns. I was born and bred in NH so I lean toward Portsmouth (and the surrounding area.) The main things to think about are taxes, population size, and jobs.

If Boston turned you off, I'd suggest Portsmouth.
That's was the nutshell of our considerations too dubthang. I know your posts from the Maine forum so I was eager to read your thoughts and comparisons. I think Portsmouth and the surrounding area is my personal preference also, but the Portland area had us from hello (isn't that a song?) as it was the very first area in New England we ever visited and it seemed the housing supply there gave us the best options for the first year. We'll be there next week. I can't believe this is happening -- we're really looking forward to it. I'm sure we'll spend a lot of time in the Portsmouth area. We're used to a lot of driving in both time and distance (spent many years in Seattle and D.C.) so to us, it doesn't feel far from Portsmouth to Portland. (although my DH drove it on the sunniest Friday of the year about two weeks ago and thought it reminded him of a commute from D.C. to Rehoboth in July!)
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