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Old 03-16-2014, 01:42 AM
 
3 posts, read 6,662 times
Reputation: 19

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Hey everyone -
My wife, myself, and my best friend are currently looking at cities in Washington we'd like to move to for a few years. We currently live in Wisconsin and want to try something new. We absolutely love how beautiful the Washington area is, and Bellingham was one of our top choices. However, while doing our collective research on the area, we all noticed an odd trend.

In almost all the reviews and posts and whatnot we could find about Bellingham and the surrounding area on every site we could find them on, we found a very large schism. Almost everyone says one of two things:

First. Many people say it is one of the most amazing cities in the world. There's so much to do, the community is wonderful, it has a great small-town feel, people are incredibly friendly, beautiful area, etc. This would be amazing. We love the fact that there's so much NATURE to be had in the general city area - all the parks, the creek running through, plus being right on the Sound and the mountains within easy travel distance. We've heard that the economy isn't great except for the service industry, but since two of us work at Walmart and one of us works at Pizza Hut and are all hoping to transfer to the respective stores in Bellingham, it shouldn't be a colossal issue. We're somewhat MORE concerned about finding an apartment we can afford without undue stress.

But. We've seen almost as many posts negatively about the city. The people have a veneer of being outwardly friendly, but actually resent outsiders moving in. It's full of old retirees and college kids and not much in between which leaves a huge gap in interaction and social activities. The cost of living is obscenely high and unaffordable for people working on minimum wage. The city's government is full of corruption.

Honestly, we were very very excited about Bellingham, but reading the odd disparity between awesome and horrendous reviews is a little disconcerting. If possible, I would love some help in this regard - as much info about as many things in the city as possible. Prices, people, everything. As much as y'all can give me. Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-16-2014, 03:16 AM
 
37 posts, read 36,671 times
Reputation: 57
I can't give you much information as I do not live in Bellingham but did just return from a house-hunting trip there... It IS absolutely beautiful! I'm a born-WA native, and I used to think Seattle was THE place, but Bellingham has Seattle beat as far as I'm concerned... It was really a clean city, diverse, wonderful neighborhoods with their own flavor/character. We found it was "quiet" for a city full of buses (GREAT bus service everywhere), smelled great, people did not look stressed, we didn't observe every person glued to a smart phone texting (which was highly unusual from what we're used to seeing), lots of people on bikes, families (all ages) out TOGETHER walking, people in the parks, etc. We found everyone so very helpful and friendly and just low-key - no hype or pretentiousness... with the exception of the property management companies we contacted (some were okay & helpful, others had the most horrible attitude and customer service I've ever encountered!). We stopped by the Visitor's Bureau and they came right up to us and were incredibly helpful. I had more friendly, intelligent, enjoyable conversations over a three day period with strangers in Bellingham than I have in my own hometown in the past five years... It was great!

On the down side... Yes, the bus system is wonderful, but I do think if you are going to live there - as a family - then having a car is a must if you want to get out and explore all there is to see. Cost of living... We did not see too great of a disparity in food costs vs. where we live, but housing (rental market is what we were there for) is really, really high... and, unless you have deep pockets and don't mind shelling out 1,500 or more per month, the housing is pretty abysmal for what you can get. We went to look at an old house in the Columbia neighborhood... The are is absolutely charming, inviting and gives off the feeling of a safe, family-friendly neighborhood. The house, however, was incredibly run down, had multiple problems, completed worn out and dated, and was shown by two young college-aged kids (trying to get out of their lease) who had absolutely no house-keeping skills (we couldn't even see the basement floor there was so much dirty laundry piled up and thrown all over it). The rent was "reasonable" for the area ($1025) but the place was a cracker box and really, in all honesty, a dump. We simply could not bring ourselves to apply for it and pay the price for the location... it was that bad. So disappointing. We looked at several other available rentals and found them to be disappointing as well... Very high rents for what you get and some of the areas did not look very good (i.e. some were near the hotel we stayed in near WWU and we saw a lot of drug dealing right outside of the hotel window... It was pretty blatant. Didn't scare us, but it was disappointing to see and not an area we'd want to live in).

We did not research employment opportunities at this time, but there are a lot of companies and business areas... and with the number of homes (and what they cost) somebody is making money in B'ham other than min. wage workers. I think it looks like a great place to start up your own business, too. One "young" person told us that there are a lot of part-time / min wage jobs - I said those probably go to a lot of the college age kids and she said no, they go to the "older people" because they stick around longer than the students...

So... Our visit was wonderful. We did not want to leave and will definitely be going back and continuing our hunt for a new home. If you have money to buy a house, then I think I would try to do that. I really think the high rents are padding someone's pockets there... With the student population, they can charge a large amount where the students share the cost... but, if you are a single family, rent can eat up a very large portion of your monthly budget if you aren't earning the big bucks. Nevertheless, I would move there in a heartbeat... and if I do, then I will let you know what it's really live living there and not just visiting!
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Old 03-16-2014, 06:59 AM
 
Location: Quimper Peninsula
1,968 posts, read 2,218,347 times
Reputation: 1666
Hi,
Don't live in Bellingham, but we considered the area, it was #2 runner up on our list.
From Manitowoc hey?... You will do fine. It is my opinion most the complainers are from real big cities in the south. Not so many progressive type small town upper midwest folks complaining.

Biggest thing is going to be rent, it's a college town.

Age demographics, you can see that from Wiki, and stuff from CD to. I would not worry about it any more than in any other mid size town in Wisconsin.
http://www.city-data.com/city/Bellin...ashington.html
http://www.city-data.com/city/Manitowoc-Wisconsin.html

Friendly... I think that is more up to the individuals expectations... I don't see it that much different from NE Wisconsin. Just less "I stand with Walker" bumper stickers......




Quote:
Originally Posted by SerenitysRequiem View Post
Hey everyone -
My wife, myself, and my best friend are currently looking at cities in Washington we'd like to move to for a few years. We currently live in Wisconsin and want to try something new. We absolutely love how beautiful the Washington area is, and Bellingham was one of our top choices. However, while doing our collective research on the area, we all noticed an odd trend.

In almost all the reviews and posts and whatnot we could find about Bellingham and the surrounding area on every site we could find them on, we found a very large schism. Almost everyone says one of two things:

First. Many people say it is one of the most amazing cities in the world. There's so much to do, the community is wonderful, it has a great small-town feel, people are incredibly friendly, beautiful area, etc. This would be amazing. We love the fact that there's so much NATURE to be had in the general city area - all the parks, the creek running through, plus being right on the Sound and the mountains within easy travel distance. We've heard that the economy isn't great except for the service industry, but since two of us work at Walmart and one of us works at Pizza Hut and are all hoping to transfer to the respective stores in Bellingham, it shouldn't be a colossal issue. We're somewhat MORE concerned about finding an apartment we can afford without undue stress.

But. We've seen almost as many posts negatively about the city. The people have a veneer of being outwardly friendly, but actually resent outsiders moving in. It's full of old retirees and college kids and not much in between which leaves a huge gap in interaction and social activities. The cost of living is obscenely high and unaffordable for people working on minimum wage. The city's government is full of corruption.

Honestly, we were very very excited about Bellingham, but reading the odd disparity between awesome and horrendous reviews is a little disconcerting. If possible, I would love some help in this regard - as much info about as many things in the city as possible. Prices, people, everything. As much as y'all can give me. Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-17-2014, 06:34 PM
 
5,076 posts, read 7,166,434 times
Reputation: 4581
You know, I have heard the same thing from students at WWU. Some of us loved being up there and stayed for the summers. Others never really liked being there and got out every chance they could. For me, having all the wonderful parks, hiking, mountain biking and camping nearby was a huge asset. For some real 'city' time, Vancouver is about an hour away. I can see though how if you don't take advantage of those things Bellingham would lose a lot of it's appeal.

I'm still not sure how people generally afford the expensive homes there working locally. I'm under the impression house prices there were buoyed by overflow $ from the BC market, and people that no longer need to work to pay a large mortgage. Maybe more mobile tech employees are locating there as well. There does seem to be a big disconnect between the local job base and the number of higher end homes in any case.
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Old 03-23-2014, 10:25 AM
 
1,604 posts, read 1,652,178 times
Reputation: 2021
Bellingham is great for school aged kids and university students. Once you get past that it sucks for 8 months out of the year.
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Old 05-01-2014, 07:38 PM
 
Location: Bristol tn
83 posts, read 104,188 times
Reputation: 40
I read that "it sucks for 8 months of the year" yet I look at the data and follow the weather on my phone and it doesn't look that bad. Its about a 65/35 split between the people that say it is a great place to live and beautiful and those that say the weather is awful. Living in NE ohio it looks great to me! Are you people that say "it sucks" from southern California or just very picky people?
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:12 PM
 
Location: Bothell, Washington
2,639 posts, read 4,124,524 times
Reputation: 3539
Quote:
Originally Posted by adam18629 View Post
I read that "it sucks for 8 months of the year" yet I look at the data and follow the weather on my phone and it doesn't look that bad. Its about a 65/35 split between the people that say it is a great place to live and beautiful and those that say the weather is awful. Living in NE ohio it looks great to me! Are you people that say "it sucks" from southern California or just very picky people?
For the weather complainers, I do think they are from warmer weather places and don't realize much of the country has far worse winter weather than this area. I am from the Midwest, been in western Washington for four years now, and winters here are fantastic- so much better in every way than back home. Not nearly as cold, almost no snow, and the grass, many bushes and many trees remain green.
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Old 05-06-2014, 11:10 AM
 
Location: Bellingham
24 posts, read 28,238 times
Reputation: 74
I'm from southern NY and have had it with our bitterly cold and snowy, gloppy wet winters. We just got back from Bellingham, found a home and we will make the move soon. During my two extended stays in Bellingham, in January and April/May, the weather was fine. There's more precipitation where I live. The most significant difference is that I'll experience many more overcast days out west. No problem. Keep a light rain jacket handy and go about your business. With one exception, everyone I've met has been incredibly kind. I'm the kind of person who will strike up a conversation while standing on line at the checkout counter. Some people respond, some don't. It's the same way in NY. I've travelled extensively along both coasts and experienced much of the same everywhere.

I love, love, love all the nearby parks. I will miss NY pizza and bagels. That's about it. For the record, I just retired (mid 50's), and my husband and 25 year old son are coming along. My son loves Bellingham. I noticed quite a few girls checking him out. Yikes!

Wherever you go, your happiness and satisfaction depends on your view of the world and your level of self respect. There are pros and cons to living most anywhere. NY is nearly in our rearview mirror. Wheeee!



Quote:
Originally Posted by jm31828 View Post
For the weather complainers, I do think they are from warmer weather places and don't realize much of the country has far worse winter weather than this area. I am from the Midwest, been in western Washington for four years now, and winters here are fantastic- so much better in every way than back home. Not nearly as cold, almost no snow, and the grass, many bushes and many trees remain green.
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Old 05-06-2014, 04:24 PM
 
13 posts, read 18,033 times
Reputation: 25
Default Also moving

Quote:
Originally Posted by seagypsy59 View Post
I'm from southern NY and have had it with our bitterly cold and snowy, gloppy wet winters. We just got back from Bellingham, found a home and we will make the move soon. During my two extended stays in Bellingham, in January and April/May, the weather was fine. There's more precipitation where I live. The most significant difference is that I'll experience many more overcast days out west. No problem. Keep a light rain jacket handy and go about your business. With one exception, everyone I've met has been incredibly kind. I'm the kind of person who will strike up a conversation while standing on line at the checkout counter. Some people respond, some don't. It's the same way in NY. I've travelled extensively along both coasts and experienced much of the same everywhere.

I love, love, love all the nearby parks. I will miss NY pizza and bagels. That's about it. For the record, I just retired (mid 50's), and my husband and 25 year old son are coming along. My son loves Bellingham. I noticed quite a few girls checking him out. Yikes!

Wherever you go, your happiness and satisfaction depends on your view of the world and your level of self respect. There are pros and cons to living most anywhere. NY is nearly in our rearview mirror. Wheeee!
Can't wait for next spring; we are also moving, to Blaine WA because my daughter lives in Whistler BC and we want to be close to her and our grandkid; 6 miles from the border. We love our current location NJ; we've been in this home I built 17 years ago and it's like paradise; besides no shortage of work for me since I'm in technology. Initially we will rent while I, yet again build/have built another new home, overlooking Drayton Harbor, with even better and spectacular views. I'll adjust to the weather though my wife will miss the sunshine. It rained every time we were in Blaine; I still don't care because I'm so excited about the move and new house project.

Keep in touch
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Old 05-06-2014, 06:25 PM
 
642 posts, read 832,795 times
Reputation: 562
To me, Bellingham is not a "small" city... it has a population of something like 80,000 and that swells because of the college kids. It has a the "feel" of a medium sized city to me. For example, there's really no park inside the city that doesn't feel like a city park. There's always people around and you do hear traffic noise blended with your nature sounds. However, for city parks, some of them are quite nice. I especially like the waterfront park with the coffee shop right there and the long walkway that spans out over the water. However, when I think of "small town," I tend to think of places where it is really easy to get into the "country" easy and there are big nature parks around without the bustle of the city intruding in.
Shopping wise, it feels like a medium city too. You have just about any big box store you can think of. These tend to be clustered on the north and newer end of town. I believe part of the reason for this is the fact that so many Canadians come down to shop in Bellingham. The Trader Joe's there is the fourth busiest one in the nation and finding parking is difficult and it is always crowded no matter what time of day you go. You'll see many Canadians there with buggies piled high, sometimes with two buggies in fact. Sometimes they can't keep certain items stocked because of this. This is true too for many of the other box stores in Bellingham, so much so, there were locals protesting at Costco.

There are independent stores around if you look for them but there's less emphasis on this than in other places. The older parts of town is where you'll find a lot of these. Parking is a bit of a issue, especially in the summer. There is a very nice food co-op with two locations if you like organic/natural food and like to support local farming. They are well stocked and you could probably do the bulk of your grocery shopping there if you wanted to. They offer great native organic seedlings in the spring and some other items besides food too.

Bellingham definitely leans left... way left on many, perhaps most, issues. A conservative would probably feel like a fish out of water.

On the friendly meter from 1 to 10, I'd give Bellingham a 5-6. You will definitely run into people where it is definitely a facade friendly but there are genuinely friendly people around. However, I've been in friendlier places too.... I've been in way less friendly places as well. So, about average in this department.

It is definitely a college town culture wise.

One of my gripes about Bellingham was the lay out. Not the easiest town to navigate, especially for a town its size.
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