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Old 10-13-2009, 01:01 PM
 
Location: Maryland
8 posts, read 14,636 times
Reputation: 15

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My husband and I love Maine - we have spent many summers in the Moosehead Lake area (Greenville specifically). We have been talking for years about moving to the Portland area.

We are currently in the Baltimore metro area in Maryland. He is going to resign from his job of 10 years to start a new career. I fortunately have a position that allows for a lot of flexibility, and I can work from home full time, so it matters very little where I live. Maryland's cost of living is just too high to justify staying here after he quits his job, so we would like to move to a place that we will love, and that has a lower cost of living. As native Marylanders, we are accustomed to low rents meaning bad area - but I've been told that this isn't always the case in other states.

What areas in and around Portland do people recommend? We would ideally like to rent a house to start - we own a condo here and have soured on home ownership thanks the the downturn. And there is the possibility that we may have to rent our condo for a period of time - I'd rather not pay two mortgages.

I'm a professional artist, and I've heard that Portland has a nice little art scene going for it - I do know the Maine College of Art is there.

Also, I currently do not drive. The area I live in is walkable, and we have access to a light rail and bus system (though not great). Is it possible to live in Portland car free? Are there areas that offer access by foot or bike?

Any informatin Mainers can offer would be much appreciated. I know that vacationing in a place is much different than living there - but Maine is my favorite place to travel to. And it would be so wonderful to have just a 3-4 hour drive to Moosehead Lake as opposed to 14 hours.

And another thing - we are Red Sox fans, so the idea of Fenway being just a few hours away is also appealing!
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Old 10-13-2009, 01:53 PM
 
Location: Boston
5,408 posts, read 9,476,626 times
Reputation: 5795
Quote:
Originally Posted by AudreyS View Post
My husband and I love Maine - we have spent many summers in the Moosehead Lake area (Greenville specifically). We have been talking for years about moving to the Portland area.
Congratulations. Both are beautiful areas!

Quote:
We are currently in the Baltimore metro area in Maryland. He is going to resign from his job of 10 years to start a new career. I fortunately have a position that allows for a lot of flexibility, and I can work from home full time, so it matters very little where I live. Maryland's cost of living is just too high to justify staying here after he quits his job, so we would like to move to a place that we will love, and that has a lower cost of living. As native Marylanders, we are accustomed to low rents meaning bad area - but I've been told that this isn't always the case in other states.
Is he planning on finding a job in Portland? Portland may be a tough spot to find a new job without having one lined up first. The general advice for moving to Maine is that getting a job is priority BEFORE making the move. If you can support you both for a while, it may be a bit easier. However, the economy is never particularly strong here. I would say the biggest priority is lining up a job as it can get uncomfortable when a lot of time passes without one and it can take a while in Portland.

Rents in Portland are lower than what you'd find in the Baltimore area. However, i don't know if you're wrong about lower rents being reflective of bad areas. That's generally the case. It's just that in the Portland area, there really aren't "bad" areas. Sure, there are neighborhoods in Portland that aren't particularly pretty (Bayside, for one), but they're not bad neighborhoods. Portland also doesn't really have "wealthy" or "poor" neighborhoods so rents are relatively consistent throughout the city.


Quote:
What areas in and around Portland do people recommend? We would ideally like to rent a house to start - we own a condo here and have soured on home ownership thanks the the downturn. And there is the possibility that we may have to rent our condo for a period of time - I'd rather not pay two mortgages.
Are you looking for single family or a condo here? Either way, you can find it in even the closest neighborhoods to downtown Portland. For starters, the Old Port area (Portland's downtown historic district) has a good number of older buildings with converted loft condos and apartments. The East End/ Munjoy Hill is a historic neighborhood adjacent to downtown that's located atop a hill. It offers great views of the harbor and Casco Bay. There are a number of single family and multi-family homes for rent here. The West End is similar to the East End in that it's historic, on a hill and adjacent to downtown Portland. Many rentals and some single families are available for rent here. Parkside is O.K... it's on the back side of Downtown Portland with lots of rentals. Bayside is ugly (as mentioned before), but the location is good. All of these neighborhoods will have similar rents.

Quote:
I'm a professional artist, and I've heard that Portland has a nice little art scene going for it - I do know the Maine College of Art is there.
Portland's art scene is pretty good. I would compare it to Annapolis (I lived in Kensington, MD for a while and we docked a boat there), but maybe a little larger. A very localized, but active art scene. There are a number of independent galleries throughout the city as well as a nice art museum (the I.M. Pei designed Portland Art Museum). Portland's a good city for an artist. You're also not too far (about 2 hours) from Boston so you can easily get into that market as well.

Quote:
Also, I currently do not drive. The area I live in is walkable, and we have access to a light rail and bus system (though not great). Is it possible to live in Portland car free? Are there areas that offer access by foot or bike?
This is debatable. Portland has a nice walkable downtown area, but it's really small geographically (keep in mind, Portland is a city of 63,000). The neighborhoods I listed above are close enough to walk or bike to most of downtown. The East End, West End, Old Port, Parkside, and Bayside make up the "peninsula" of Portland... really the city's core. That area is quite walkable. Deering, Rosemont, and Oakdale are relatively close to the center of town but are much more suburban... really old street car suburbs. They're walkable, bikeable, and have bus service to downtown. The walking and biking from Deering, Rosemont and Oakdale to downtown would be rough, especially in the winter.

Portland's relatively easy to navigate on a bike. However, there's almost permanent snow or ice from December through March and even Early April that lines the streets. The snowbanks last into May. It makes it real difficult for the bulk of the year to bike and walk good distances. The cold from November through April makes it difficult too.

While there is a bus system, it's relatively limited. Especially when you compare it to what you're used to. Baltimore doesn't get a good rap for it's public transit, but the light rail, MARC, and Metro subway as well as the bus are light years ahead of what Portland has. Portland has a bus system (metro bus) that has 8 routes that only cover the peninsula well... outside the center of the city, there is VERY sparse coverage. If you want to take public transit out of town, good luck. a few branches of the metro bus extend a short ways into South Portland (to the mall), Main St. Westbrook, and Falmouth... all immediate neighbors. It's hardly extensive. There is rail service to Boston but it's infrequent, unreliable, and very slow (3.5 hours as opposed to 2 by car).

In short, you CAN do it, but it's going to take a lot of work. It's just easier to own a car in Portland. I had a car while in Portland and couldn't imagine not having it. I'm in Boston without a car now and couldn't be happier. In Maryland you can get almost anywhere quickly without a car... not the case in Portland. You'd be sacrificing a LOT of mobility to live car free in Portland.

Quote:
Any informatin Mainers can offer would be much appreciated. I know that vacationing in a place is much different than living there - but Maine is my favorite place to travel to. And it would be so wonderful to have just a 3-4 hour drive to Moosehead Lake as opposed to 14 hours.
Good perspective. Many people don't realize there's a difference. It's a beautiful area and I'm sure you would love it if you could work out the job and transit situation. I would suggest coming and visiting during the winter for a while to get a good idea of what it's going to be like. Baltimore's winters are much milder than Portland's and much shorter. Portland's summers and fall are SO much better though. It's easy to fall in love during a summer in Maine... it's harder to stay in love when it's 20 degrees every day with ice and snow everywhere.

Quote:
And another thing - we are Red Sox fans, so the idea of Fenway being just a few hours away is also appealing!
Fenway is a great time. The Seadogs in Portland are a good way to see the Sox stars of the future without spending a fortune on going to Boston. I also love seeing the Sox in Baltimore. Camden Yards is my favorite park (outside of Fenway, of course!) in the country.
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Old 10-14-2009, 12:13 PM
 
Location: Maryland
8 posts, read 14,636 times
Reputation: 15
Wow! That's quite a response. Thanks for all of the info.

Naturally, where my husband finds work will be the determining factor in where we move, but we're trying to make a short list so he isn't going nuts looking all over the place. Maine is my dream place to live, but I am preparing myself for the reality that it may not pan out. Still, I'm doing my best to make it work!

As far as driving, based on our experiences in Maine, I'd say I'd be more inclined to drive up there than I ever would be down here. We have a car, but we try to use it only when necessary. I would like to live in an area where I can mix it up and not have to rely on the car for everything.

One other question - heating costs. I hear how bad they can be. I know a lot of people up there use heating oil. We are on natural gas down here. Since our winters are milder and shorter, our energy bill isn't monumental - and we just pile on more sweaters if it gets too chilly inside but turning up the heat isn't justifiable. Generally January and February tend to be coldest, but our super cold snaps rarely last more than a day or two. Do you know if heating oil is the main source of energy, or are people on gas/electric as well? I've lived in a house that heated with oil before and it can be awfully pricey. How bad are heating costs in your opinion?

We have the oposite problem here due to our heat and humidity. Get a week of 90-100 degree humid days and you will be cranking your AC! This summer was nice and mild, so we could run the AC at low levels and got more days of open windows. But last summer was hot and we were paying for it. So in a way I kind of feel like the heating bill in ME is the reverse of our summer AC bill. Maine summers are so much nicer compared to ours that I feel like we could get away with fans and windows - especially since Portland is on the coast. You get those nice water winds.
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Old 10-14-2009, 05:49 PM
 
Location: Boston
5,408 posts, read 9,476,626 times
Reputation: 5795
Quote:
Originally Posted by AudreyS View Post
Wow! That's quite a response. Thanks for all of the info.

Naturally, where my husband finds work will be the determining factor in where we move, but we're trying to make a short list so he isn't going nuts looking all over the place. Maine is my dream place to live, but I am preparing myself for the reality that it may not pan out. Still, I'm doing my best to make it work!
That sounds like a good strategy. The only reason I asked is because many people seem to think that they can just walk in and get a job. Maine's economy doesn't work that way... it takes time. Unfortunately, because of this, many people become disillusioned about Maine. I think you have the right approach. If you can find the work and it is your dream, I can't imagine a better situation.

Quote:
As far as driving, based on our experiences in Maine, I'd say I'd be more inclined to drive up there than I ever would be down here. We have a car, but we try to use it only when necessary. I would like to live in an area where I can mix it up and not have to rely on the car for everything.
Again, another good approach. The neighborhoods I listed for you in the first post would be ideal for this sort of situation. Many, if not most rentals in Portland come with at least one off-street parking spot which will be very convenient come winter time as "snow bans" (overnight periods where you're not allowed to park on the street so they can plow) can be annoying.

Using the car to compliment your public transit/ pedestrian lifestyle would be ideal as transit and walking will only get you so far in Maine. You can probably do without it for most things, but it will be very nice to have when you want to head to Moosehead or even just to the grocery store.

Quote:
One other question - heating costs. I hear how bad they can be. I know a lot of people up there use heating oil. We are on natural gas down here. Since our winters are milder and shorter, our energy bill isn't monumental - and we just pile on more sweaters if it gets too chilly inside but turning up the heat isn't justifiable. Generally January and February tend to be coldest, but our super cold snaps rarely last more than a day or two. Do you know if heating oil is the main source of energy, or are people on gas/electric as well? I've lived in a house that heated with oil before and it can be awfully pricey. How bad are heating costs in your opinion?
This is a tough one for me to answer. In Portland, Natural Gas is the primary heating source.... Oil is common most places outside the city. The gas is less expensive than the oil. Every apartment I rented in Portland included gas heat/hw in the rent so I didn't ever see a bill for it. I lived in 1 and 2 bedrooms in decent locations and never paid more than $750/mo for rent. Even though the price was built in, I never kept my apartment at more than 65-68 degrees and instead opted for a sweatshirt and pants when lounging around. I'd imagine that while heating costs would be higher here than in MD, the overall cost would be less. I don't have specific numbers though... maybe someone else does?

I'd be a bit concerned about electric. I don't know what you pay (is it BGE?) down there, but Maine has a notably high electricity cost. Not as bad as some areas, but higher than most. Many rentals build this into rent though.

Quote:
We have the oposite problem here due to our heat and humidity. Get a week of 90-100 degree humid days and you will be cranking your AC! This summer was nice and mild, so we could run the AC at low levels and got more days of open windows. But last summer was hot and we were paying for it. So in a way I kind of feel like the heating bill in ME is the reverse of our summer AC bill. Maine summers are so much nicer compared to ours that I feel like we could get away with fans and windows - especially since Portland is on the coast. You get those nice water winds.
Maine summers are great. In fact, many people don't own any sort of A/C. One year we got a window unit and plugged it in but used it maybe twice. The humidity on the worst days in Portland doesn't compare to what you have down there. For the most part, open windows and a few fans kept it comfortable in the summer... that's how I always did it.

In the end, the costs probably just about balance out between A/C costs in the summer there and heating costs (natural gas) in Portland. A higher floor (second, third, etc) can lower heating costs due to simple physics, but the reverse effect happens in the summer. The difference is that being on a higher floor may expose you to some better breezes in the summer.
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:23 PM
 
Location: Maryland
8 posts, read 14,636 times
Reputation: 15
"I'd be a bit concerned about electric. I don't know what you pay (is it BGE?) down there, but Maine has a notably high electricity cost. Not as bad as some areas, but higher than most. Many rentals build this into rent though."

Yeah, it's BGE, and they've increased the rates numerous times in the 8 years that I've lived in the Baltimore area. They're owned by Constellation, and there is constant controversy surrounding their pricing. I'd say our electric is pretty high, but we've managed to keep our bill reasonably low by not leaving lights on, using low-energy appliances, and running the AC high - all the common sense stuff. Summertime tends to be when the killer electric bills come though.

The job market everywhere is so lousy that we're being very careful. My husband hasn't resigned from his current position - that may not happen for another year, and he won't until he finds a new position. He is super conservative about this sort of thing, while I've moved tons in my adult life and I'm a bit more adventurous. We're a good mix that way.

Thanks again for your replies - very helpful!
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