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Old 02-14-2007, 08:31 AM
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This summer my wife and I are flying from Iowa to Orlando, then renting a car and driving to Birmingham. We are planning on spending a week or so just driving to different communities that we might think would be a great place to move and start over. We live in a small town in Iowa and we're getting tired of the bitter cold winters and windy summers. We are both avid motorcyclists and love trees, rivers, lakes, and outdoor life. If anyone has ever visited Iowa you will understand why we want to move. We love southern / cajun food and I think southern people are the warmest, fun people I have ever talked to. We love heat so that is not a problem. We are in our 40's and will both need to find modest jobs. We don't have a lot of money, but I am hoping to have enough money to purchase a home or possibly an acreage with 10 acres outside of a decent sized city (10,000 pop or so) for around $100,000. An area with a low to moderate cost of living would be preferred. We are pretty basic people and don't need much, just a good community with quality people who won't shun me for having a 'yankee' tongue. Also, any great restaurant suggestions during our trip would be appreciated. We have no route set up yet, and can drive anywhere in the state to check things out. We are very excited about this and look forward to visiting and soon moving to your great state. Thanks for your help.
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:25 AM
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if you love the outdoors, i think you should try northeast alabama. pretty reasonable cost of living up there.

try in and around these towns:

fort payne

...pretty much anything north of gadsden and east of huntsville.
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:54 AM
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Thanks for your reply. That surprises me it boils down to such a small area of the state. Is that the only part of the state that has the scenery I'm looking for, or just the lifestyle and cost I'm looking for? How about Talladega? It looks like it is by a Nat. forest and big river. Plus I am a huge nascar fan. Think I would be interested?
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Old 02-14-2007, 11:35 AM
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If you check the topo maps of AL, you'll find that the south and southwestern parts of the state are pretty flat. Talledega and the Lineville area are interesting, with Cheaha anchoring the southern end of mountains in the eastern U.S..

One week is far too little time to be looking around. After looking at hundreds of selected MLS listings, we spent a month, broken into three seperate trips, exploring and looking at places before finding what we wanted.

You'll find a lot of variance in land and home prices, but for $100K or less, in most areas where there are jobs, you'll be looking at 5 acres or less with an older home or manufactured home, and you may not have a great site.

Base price of land is roughly $5,000 per acre, and the price starts to go up steeply when the property has more features or is near a desirable area. In Mentone, an agent wanted us to look at a 4 acre property that was all rock, but in a good area. The price was $46K. In Lineville, we considered at a 10 acre rural site with a septic tank, for $60,000. Real estate is location, location, location.

Part of what is driving the prices is that there are very few 5 to 20 acre parcels available that aren't within a development. If you want a 40+ acre farm, you can sometimes get a great price per acre. If you just want an acre or less, you can have a great choice of sites and homes. When you get into the 2 to 20 acre market, you are competing with a lot of people who want to have horses, have a country estate, have a hunting site, or try to live off the land. If you want a stream or lakefront, prices go up quickly, and the land is often sold within days of the listing. The market is "hot" from people moving up from Florida.

We happened to hit our property at exactly the right time, and were willing to act immediately. The agent told us at closing that he could have sold the property ten times over during the three weeks between our deposit and the closing. I believe him, because each time we were at the property there were others who were stopping and looking with the intent to buy.

Starting from Orlando, you'll be wasting the better part of a day driving to Dothan. Forget buying in Florida if you want a bargain. Prices, property taxes and insurance are all high. If you are within 100 miles of the gulf coast, even in Alabama, figure on paying at least $3,000 per year for insurance on a home, and expect that figure to go up over time.

You can find a lot of demographics in map form on neighboroo.com if it is working. You'll find income levels, political affiliation, race mix, etc., but even armed with this info you'll still have to visit areas to get a real feel for them.

The area between Atlanta and B'ham is beginning to grow as Georgians discover the low taxes in AL. The northeast corner is very desirable to a lot of folks, partly because Lookout Mountain is just such a cool geographical feature. You owe it to yourselves to stay in one of the cabins in DeSoto state park, and explore the Little River Canyon on a day drive.

The northwestern part of the state has some of the best values in property. It was somewhat undeveloped for a number of years because of poor roads leading into and through the area. That is now changing, and Athens is the new "west Huntsville" for some people. That means land west of Athens and north of Jasper should be going up in value quickly over the next five years, but is now reasonably priced.

If you draw a line 100 miles from the gulf coast, and cross out Montgomery, B'ham, Huntsville, and the Atlanta corridor, you still have a lot of territory to explore. Happy hunting.
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Old 02-14-2007, 03:17 PM
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Thanks for the great info Harry. I'm sure we will be making a few visits in the next year or two. I figured this first visit would be to get a general feel for the state and scenery. We are flying into Orlando because my wife wants to drive the coast to the Fort Walton Beach area just to check it out. I was just there and didn't think much of it. Very high prices, not much beach access because of private condos all over, and way more people than what I want to deal with. We also thought about checking out Georgia, but I been told a few times that prices are much higher there than in Alabama. Anyway, I may have to settle on next door neighbors and live in a good town instead of the country at $5,000/acre. Not really a big deal. I've read some good things about Ft. Payne, so we will definitely stay there a day or two. Someone said it has a big spanish population, but that is happening in Iowa as well. I don't see that as a problem. Any suggestions on good eating during the trip? Good southern, cajun, or catfish places anyone would recommend. I usually drive by the places going out of town I wish I would have stopped at to eat, after eating at a place that wasn't very good. Thanks for your help!
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:08 PM
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The Fishing Creel in Anderson for fish, Dreamland in Tuscaloosa area for ribs, if you've never had a Krystal, stop at one of their fast food joints and order four. Dale's steakhouse in B'ham is gone, but the Dale steak sauce is still available at WinnDixie and Publix. Try it on a good grilled steak. Dimitri's in Homewood has good pull pork bbq. Bogues is a homestyle diner in B'ham. Most any restaurant in Southside of B'ham is good. Be sure to stop at one of the Alabama welcome centers (there is one on 231 going towards Dothan) and pick up the brochures and ask questions. The ladies who run these know a lot about the good places to eat.

Some of the Hispanic population is moving away from Ft Payne now that the sock factories have wound down. Motels in Ft Payne are on the south end of town, on the road to Rainsville. Splurge instead on one of the DeSoto cabins for a night. The fireplace and rough hewn wood, and rustic setting is well worth it.

I used to have to supervise a location in Ft Walton Beach. I liked Panama City a little better, but never particularly cared for the ambience around there.

One item we found indispensible when exploring was a GPS mapping system. We used the Delorme program on my laptop, but most any of the GPS programs is a great help when driving country roads at night. Have fun.
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Old 02-14-2007, 10:04 PM
Location: Alabama!
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For good places to eat, try this link and download the pdf:
http://www.800alabama.com/places-to-eat/ (broken link)
And of course, ask folks for their recommendations when you stop for gas etc. You can't go wrong by asking somebody for the best barbecue place they know. Or where to find a "meat and three" place with fresh locally grown vegetables.
Birmingham has more than its fair share of upscale fine dining: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpag...51C1A9609C8B63
There is a lot of beautiful country in Alabama. Hilly in the northeast and swooping southeast to Birmingham. Fairly flat everywhere else. We have had some cold weather and snow here in Decatur, but nothing like Iowa, ever! Welcome and enjoy your visit.
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Old 02-16-2007, 05:36 AM
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Thanks again for the info. One more quick question. Harry, you mentioned DeSoto state park and Little River Canyon. Could you tell me which roads to take for the best scenery and how far they go. It looks like maybe Gadsden to Mentone would be a nice drive. Maybe even swing over to the Chattahootchee area around Rome and the area north of Atlanta. I hate to discount Georgia because I've never been there. I've just heard it's more expensive to live there. 10 degrees below zero this morning. I know it get cold down there, but this is rediculous. Take care.
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Old 02-16-2007, 09:29 AM
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I don't think there are any "best" roads to take for scenery. There is just too much variety of scenery in AL. On one hand, I agree that you shouldn't discount GA, but if you have limited time on this trip, you'll want to have some focus.

Coming from Florida, I normally take 231 to Montgomery, and start the AL day in Dothan. However, if you can arrange to get to Eufala for the first night, there are some nice antebellum homes there to wake up to. From there, hit Auburn and make sure to go through the downtown area to get a feel for the University and standard southern town layout. Head north through Milltown, Ashland, part of Cheaha, and to Talledega. If the day is clear, you might head to Cheaha Mtn. From Talledega, the main routes to B'Ham are dull, but there are some back roads that are much nicer. Head to Pell City, go down along Wolf Creek towards Vincent and head up 25 through Dunavent to Leeds. From Leeds head into Irontown. The Irontown Diner is the real "Whistlestop Cafe" of the movie "Fried green Tomatoes." Stop there (check to make sure they are open) for real southern food. Do a quick tour of B'ham, possibly including a drive on the winding little road that connects Arlington Ave and Montevallo Rd. There is an overview of the city from there, below a house that I call "the castle" that is a well-kept secret. Or, to see some nice homes, go up the side of the hill from the Eastwood area into Mtn. Brook and Cherokee Rd. The road is a lot steeper than any you'll find in Iowa, or even most of Vermont. Hit Southside, specifically the five points south area, and maybe the old Sloss furnace north in the center of town for some steelmaking knowledge. Take 59 out of B'ham until Collinsville then drive up the side of Lookout Mtn on the east of the Interstate, and keep along some of the brow roads, or just drive into Ft Payne on 59, and take the road up the Mtn to DeSoto from there. The state park will have maps of the canyon view drive, (plan a day with stops and a leisurely lunch) and in addition to that, you want to take the road from Mentone to Valley Head the next morning. Once in Valley Head, go north past Sulfer Springs, nuzzling east along the base of Lookout Mountain. At one point, the road will V as it nears a hill. Go right and into GA, and you'll see a Cove, where the mountains surround an area. With a good map, you'll want to cross the railroad tracks and go into that Cove. DW and I agreed that even the people living in trailers in that cove have a better quality of life than most city dwellers. There are some expensive horse farms in there and it'll be a millionaire's hideaway in not too many years.

Backtrack to Valley Head or Ft Payne and head to Scottsboro. You can head down to Guntersville or continue on to Huntsville. Head West from Hsville to Athens and take 99 NW to Anderson and the Fishing Creel, then continue to Muscle Shoals. You'll have run out of time by then, especially if you do any exploring of back roads, which are what make up a lot of the country experience. If you travel through the state on I-65 or I-20 you'll miss almost everything of interest.

There are plenty of other roads that are scenic, but the route I describe will provide a fairly good overview of the state in a short time. Be aware that you will see a lot of manufactured housing, some in various states of disrepair. The tradeoff to low taxes and minimal zoning interference is that there will be some eyesores. You don't have cows free run in a pasture without having to step around a few pasture patties.
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Old 02-16-2007, 04:35 PM
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i just wanted to say harry chickpea covered just about all of it.

i've lived in alabama all my life and would love to spend a week doing what he outlined!
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