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Old 04-11-2012, 05:45 PM
3 posts, read 3,756 times
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My family is in a sticky situation, and I'm looking for AS MANY OPINIONS as I can get. This seems like the best place, so here goes.

Many months ago, my husband (a reasonably highly paid engineer working for the local utility) applied for a position in Waltham MA. After an enjoyable interview, we noodled around in Zillow and were floored by the real estate values in the Boston suburbs. There goes that dream! At least we can still visit.

We then decided to embrace the area we live in. The Capitol Region is growing, it's diverse, it's got some degree of culture, decent restaurants, excellent proximity to our favorite places: the Adirondacks and Boston (NYC not so much). We have a handful of good friends, our elementary-age child has good friends, and we feel like this might be the greenest grass that we can reasonably expect.

We started shopping for our "last" house. We found it. We love it. It's "our" house. We got our offer accepted, and we got an offer on our current house the same day. We have inspections on both houses scheduled for this week. Closings are scheduled for late May.

Much to our surprise, my husband got a job offer today - for Western MA, not Waltham. For a nice salary - more than he's making now, and definitely an improvement considering cost-of-living. The areas around Northampton/Amherst seem amazing - music and arts and liberal thinkers, wrapped up in the quaint little package that only a New England town can offer, with mountains and lakes and streams aplenty. Property values seem higher, but taxes are unbelievably low (compared to Albany/Rensellaer counties!). Schools seem excellent, certainly on a par with the district we're supposed to be moving to, if not better.

One more thing to consider: my employment. I have an engineering degree that I used for about 7 years (manufacturing). I then left to raise our daughter. Last year I went back to work part time as a clerk/secretary at a local college. I'm working on a graduate degree. I could go back to engineering (to afford the high-price houses in the area), or we could keep living small and I could keep plugging away at the degree. The Amherst area has plenty of academia, but would I be able to find an engineering position? Would I have to go to Springfield, and how far is it? We're not rich - we have considerable student loan debt, so please don't think "two engineers - they have plenty to live anywhere". We don't. The house we're closing on is just over $200,000. Taxes are very reasonable for this area at $5500.

So what would YOU do if you were me? We like farmers markets and art shows, we like hiking and canoeing and backcountry camping, we like theater and concerts and we're involved in all sorts of school stuff - PTO and scouts and other clubs. We have all these things where we are (to some degree). Would you choose the Capital Region (areas immediately around Albany)? Or Western Mass near Northampton/Amherst? I should also mention that Saratoga Springs is NOT an option - too much of a commute.

Sorry for the book, but I hope you see our dilemma. Do we continue living in NY and close on this house, or do we move to Mass. and start over in an area that may be more "us"?
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Old 04-11-2012, 06:12 PM
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This is a tough choice, but I'd actually go with Western Mass, given the situation. Personally, I like college towns, as they tend to have some good degree of diversity and a variety of events in a generally safe and urbanized package. Springfield isn't too far away either.
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Old 04-12-2012, 04:46 AM
Location: Graham NC
68 posts, read 106,665 times
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I've done a lot of motorcycle riding through Western Mass. and I have to say I love the Williamstown area.

We've also made the trip to Springfield a few times for various sports-related camps at the college. My nephew graduated from Springfield and loved the area but couldn't get employment so ended back in the capital region.

The only thing I've ever head about living in Mass. is about the high taxes Mass. residents pay but I have not looked into that because we never considered Mass. as a place to live.

It certainly is lovely in the western region though with the geography lending itself to those outdoor things you like to do.

Good luck with your decision!
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Old 04-13-2012, 11:08 AM
Location: Albany, NY
334 posts, read 777,879 times
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My first reaction was the Capital Region because Western Mass is a tough mixture of a lot of poverty with a little bit of extreme wealth. However, the area you are talking about is really Central Massachusetts/Pioneer Valley, which is much different. Given that it sounds like you don't really care about urban amenities or environment, I would lean towards Amherst/Northampton. I have several friends who have lived in that area for a long time. There is a lot going on. You would probably have to go to Springfield to find work in your field, but the drive isn't too bad. There's not the traffic like in greater Boston.

Restaurants and arts are greater than you would expect in an area of that size, and there are lots of opportunities for community involvement and engagement. There are lots of events for families, especially if you like the outdoors. It is a more cohesive, less gritty place than the Capital District.

There are a few things my friends don't like about living there. These things may not matter to you:
1) The feeling of extreme liberalism/political correctness. My one friend and her family are about as liberal/green/socialist as they come, but she still feels the environment can sometimes be stifling because dialogue is squelched and the other point of view is demonized and people don't listen to even sensible points if they go against their already held views. 2) They feel there is a huge gap between locals/natives/people who have lived there all their lives and those who have moved from elsewhere. The two groups rarely mix beyond a superficial level. I don't think this is as much of a problem in Northampton, which has a more transient population in general. However, Northampton's housing is higher priced than other towns in the area, so the folks I know live outside of Northampton. 3) A great deal of poverty that is pushed under the rug or ignored, rather than dealt with. This may be related to #2 - most of the poor are natives, most of the non-poor are not.
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