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Old 06-30-2012, 12:29 PM
 
Location: Mount Pleasant
2,201 posts, read 2,848,608 times
Reputation: 812

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My husband will be retiring at the end of this year. Currently, we live in MA and want to escape the long (6 mos) winters and high, high cost of living here. We can't get a house for under 600K here - a basic 3br/2ba house with a small yard. We just rescued a dog, and want more space and a fenced yard for our dog to run in.

We love where we live and it is hard to leave, especially being so close to the ocean, so we are seeking a special place. Here's what's on our "Needs" list and "Wish" list:

Needs:
A hospital in town or very close by (my husband has asthma and a heart condition)
A good vet hospital nearby, preferably 24 hr facility (our dog also has asthma - go figure!)
Reasonable cost of living - we'd like a newer home for 200K-250K, 1,800 - 2,500 sq ft. - 3 BR/2 BA
An airport within an hours drive
Relatively low crime - someplace a woman would feel safe walking a dog alone late at night
Dog friendly
Basic amenities - pharmacy, doctor, dentist, grocery store, bank
Although my husband will be retired, I will be working, so would need somewhere where I can get some sort of job - I have a background in health care (admin) but am open to anything. I would be looking for PT

Wants:
A "smallish" town (15K - 50K) but with easy proximity to a larger city for events, etc. - we would consider up to 100K if the place was special
An esthetically pleasing place
A place with a sense of history
Community feel
Things to do - bookstores, festivals, farmers markets, movies, restaurants (other than chains), shops, library
Friendly people
Would love to be close to downtown
Walkable downtown
Mild climate - if hot, we'd prefer hot rather than hot and humid. We're also curious about the weather - how hot and humid is it?
Driving distance to the ocean

Places we've loved the ambience of and are trying to find a similar "feel" - Sonoma, CA - Healdsburg, CA - St. Helena, CA - Carmel, CA - Charleston, SC - Savannah, GA - Newburyport, MA (our city!) - Williamsburg, VA - all are vibrant and beautiful in their own way and have a lot to offer. We just like the vibe of each.

Although we like college towns in general, we don't want to live where the college IS the town. We got that sense in Chapel Hill, NC. Lots of pizza joints, t-shirt shops, the whole downtown geared to the college. Williamsburg, although a college town, doesn't feel that way, which is why we like the vibe there. In some college it's also a problem finding work because the college kids take all the jobs.

We'd love to know more about living in Athens. Would it fit our needs? What's good, what's not. We don't want a 55+ community. We'd rather be in a mixed ages area. We're a bit worried about the high crime rates.

Can't wait to hear comments!
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Old 06-30-2012, 01:57 PM
 
Location: Stuck in NE GA right now
4,585 posts, read 11,125,441 times
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It could be:

Needs:
A hospital in town or very close by (my husband has asthma and a heart condition)
There are 2 good hospitals, Athens Regional will become a med school starting this fall and St. Mary's

A good vet hospital nearby, preferably 24 hr facility (our dog also has asthma - go figure!)
Yes, there are good vets and there is Vet school in place and many just take their dogs there

Reasonable cost of living - we'd like a newer home for 200K-250K, 1,800 - 2,500 sq ft. - 3 BR/2 BA
Yes our COL is good, our real estate market is quite depressed in the area and so there are plenty of deals to be had

An airport within an hours drive
Athens has a small airport, the ATL airport would be about 1 1/2 hours away from Athens

Relatively low crime - someplace a woman would feel safe walking a dog alone late at night
Some areas are a bit wanky, remember this is a college town

Dog friendly
Hmmm as a dog owner I don't find GA "dog friendly" compaired to other states...not sure what you mean

Basic amenities - pharmacy, doctor, dentist, grocery store, bank
Athens is a HUGE college town we have plenty of the above

Although my husband will be retired, I will be working, so would need somewhere where I can get some sort of job - I have a background in health care (admin) but am open to anything. I would be looking for PT
Getting work in the are is tough due to the economy, but you can get something.


Wants:
A "smallish" town (15K - 50K) but with easy proximity to a larger city for events, etc. - we would consider up to 100K if the place was special
Athens is a bit bigger than 100k, you can also look at some of the surrounding towns, I live in Jefferson and there is Oconee county that is very popular and very close

An esthetically pleasing place
Only you can decide that

A place with a sense of history
Athens has tons of history...remember this IS the south, UGA was founded in 1785 so they've got historical buildings all over the place

Community feel
Yes

Things to do - bookstores, festivals, farmers markets, movies, restaurants (other than chains), shops, library
Yup, plenty

Friendly people
I think they are friendly

Would love to be close to downtown
Hmmm

Walkable downtown
Well the downtown isn't that big but yes it's walkable...not sure what that means though

Mild climate - if hot, we'd prefer hot rather than hot and humid. We're also curious about the weather - how hot and humid is it?
Ummm again it's the South we have loooong hot and humid summers starting in late April and often lasting well into October

Driving distance to the ocean
5 hours
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Old 06-30-2012, 03:00 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
6,599 posts, read 8,005,624 times
Reputation: 4424
Overall Athens would be a great choice for you.... except.....

It is a HUGE college town. Downtown is great, fun and charming, but it is also overrun with bars and drinking frat boys at nights.

If you want the old town/small city lifestyle. I would recommend visiting Savannah and Charleston. Tons of character and tons of history! Granted they are a touch bigger than your target goal, but the character can't be beaten.

Those cities also didn't grow large like the coastal cities further north. The south's larger cities are further inland, since our economic growth depending more on transportation connections to the midwest and northeast (rail/freeway, etc..)

Athens would be a better fit for a retiree that didn't need to live directly close to downtown and frequent it always... but just occasionally. During the summer months it is a perfect fit.

You can also find nice retirement neighborhoods in exurban areas that have their own mini-parks, greenways, golf courses and other amenities.... but with a half hour drive to Athens or Atlanta. It would remove the college student element, but remove you from the town element.

Either way... I definitely recommend going on a long road trip and look around quite a bit, so you can be sure where you really want to end up for a long time.
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Old 07-01-2012, 04:21 PM
 
Location: Mount Pleasant
2,201 posts, read 2,848,608 times
Reputation: 812
Thanks. I think after seeing the temperatures yesterday and today it might be too hot for this, although I know the whole East Coast is in the midst of a heat wave. It's even very hot where I live.

We are actually looking at the Charleston area. Taking a trip down over Labor Day. We can't get wanting to stay near the water out of our blood....

We've been to both Charleston and Savannah and liked both quite a bit. High crime in both though.

Charleston itself is too expensive, so we are exploring Mount Pleasant, SC which isn't quite as pricey, but still pricier than Athens, and IMO not as pretty because fewer trees. But very close to Charleston, very close to beaches, lots of amenities, good health care, so we shall see.

Thanks again for the comments and ideas.

BTW - what I meant about a walkable downtown was that you could park, and walk to shops, restaurants, bookstores, without getting back in your car. What I meant about "dog friendly" was that there are lots of vets in the area, good pet stores that carry things like natural products, dog parks, and restaurants that allow dogs to eat outside with you.

Lots of exploring to do.
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:20 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
6,599 posts, read 8,005,624 times
Reputation: 4424
Good luck!

Don't let the temperatures scare you... at least not the ones with this heat wave. Atlanta and Athens hit their all-time high since they have been keeping record since the 1930s!

While, you're at it... make sure you get a house with central air

Quote:
Originally Posted by macalan View Post
Thanks. I think after seeing the temperatures yesterday and today it might be too hot for this, although I know the whole East Coast is in the midst of a heat wave. It's even very hot where I live.

We are actually looking at the Charleston area. Taking a trip down over Labor Day. We can't get wanting to stay near the water out of our blood....

We've been to both Charleston and Savannah and liked both quite a bit. High crime in both though.

Charleston itself is too expensive, so we are exploring Mount Pleasant, SC which isn't quite as pricey, but still pricier than Athens, and IMO not as pretty because fewer trees. But very close to Charleston, very close to beaches, lots of amenities, good health care, so we shall see.

Thanks again for the comments and ideas.

BTW - what I meant about a walkable downtown was that you could park, and walk to shops, restaurants, bookstores, without getting back in your car. What I meant about "dog friendly" was that there are lots of vets in the area, good pet stores that carry things like natural products, dog parks, and restaurants that allow dogs to eat outside with you.

Lots of exploring to do.
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Old 07-02-2012, 12:20 AM
 
1 posts, read 6,630 times
Reputation: 10
The area has got amazing healthcare. All the amenities you would need. If not right by, then close enough. Traffic is not a problem unless a game day and even in that case it's mostly downtown. Housing is affordable, but you do have to be careful due to crime- I am sure there will be people, who can answer that question better and give you actual info about different places. It's mostly property crime, but not limited to, check recent crime stats. There will be people who will tell you it's really bad and people who will say they never notice anything... Truth be told, I haven't felt overly safe walking at night in areas near downtown/campus. (I'm not a student, however, so haven't spent too much time around there). Same as Savannah, for example, don't get fooled by its charm alone, it has its crime problems. Some are committed more randomly too (people will say you have to be an addict etc to get in trouble, not really...) although I do believe it's just as anywhere else. Common sense + choose your area wisely - you're OK.
This is a college town, massive student population and this is what you will largely see downtown. Downtown is definitely walkable, parking your car is not a big issue and it's definitely got quite a bit to offer. Just like any other smaller city though, you will get to know them rather quick and I hope that doesn't get boring. Lots of places for students... Did I just say that? It can get sort of rowdy at times.. The pace is pretty fast too for a city its size (the downtown Is concentrated so it's never really dead) It's never been overwhelming to me, though. I like how fast it gets rural around Athens, a nice option is to live a little outside and go to town when you need it. The countryside is beautiful.
Weather? Definitely humid, long hot summers, go well into what would be autumn up north.. Lots of pollen in the spring, the cars get yellow and are pointless to wash, really. so I don't know how that fares with your husband with asthma? The winters are normally very mild... Not quite as warm as by the ocean though.
Atlanta is pretty close- 1+ to 2h max drive, depending on the traffic around atl..
Aesthetically pleasing...it's definitely got that going, really lush green everywhere, nice buildings..
Can't really compare to savannah though in that aspect (no Spanish moss here, ha) or in my opinion, even Charleston. But those are beyond gorgeous and nothing much else can compete.. Maybe St Augustine in Florida? Anyway.
Job wise I don't believe there's too much on offer, though. And as far as wages go, you might be in for a bit of a shock, although taxes etc are low so it could work out just fine.
Another place I could suggest is Madison, GA, amazingly beautiful, but smaller. Adjacent areas are nice too. And Atlanta is about the same distance away as it is from athens. Lake Oconee area is wonderful, too...
If you want To be In a bigger town, Id also suggest Charleston.. Not as much of a students place. I believe its a better place for folk like you, more options... Definitely a good idea. Again, crime is unfortunately a problem everywhere.. Charleston is pretty splotchy.
There are lots of nice places in SE, but you wont really escape the heat and humidity.

Ps - sorry, just noticed you had said charleston was too expensive for you... Looks like you've got a good plan with the alternative, hope it works out

Last edited by bertil; 07-02-2012 at 12:31 AM..
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Old 07-03-2012, 10:02 AM
 
Location: Mount Pleasant
2,201 posts, read 2,848,608 times
Reputation: 812
Thanks all for the info.

Yes, heat and humidity are something we will have to contend with in return for lower housing costs it seems - as well as high crime.

I'm not sure what it is, but it seems to be an issue in the south. We were horrified to read of not only gang shootings, but of frequent home invasions and robberies in the Charleston area. People kept telling us "crime is everywhere" but that stuff doesn't happen where we live (Newburyport, MA). Maybe our little city of 17K is unusual - our crime index is something like 93 compred to the national avergae of the mid 300s. Our town is very affluent, so maybe that's the reason, I don't know.

But I've noticed in the north it tends to be towns that are rundown and crime ridden, we don't generally have pockets of crime in all our towns. Nor do we have random crime, except in the outskirts of Boston - Dorchester, Roxbury, etc.

Your point is well taken about looking beyond the charm or a place. I still remember the night we arrived in Savannah, and were walking @ 6pm at night in the historic center on what is considered "the prettiest street in America" and a woman pulled up in an SUV and told us 1) we shouldn't be out walking at night (it was summer and it was light out) and 2) if we decided to continue walking, we should not walk far, and we should not walk next to the bushes ont he sidewalk because there are muggings and people come from behind the bushes.

We are quite taken aback and thought maybe she was a nut or overly cautious. The next day we saw the front page of the local paper - splashed across it was a story of a 42 year old mother who was shot dead in the grocery store parking lot the prior day. It really ruined the appeal of Savannah for me.

On that same trip we drove to Beaufort, SC for lunch, and thought it was adorable. When we got back home I looked it up, and was shocked at the crime stats.

So, I don't know what the answer is. When I am 70 years old and walking my dog late at night, I don't want to worry that I am going to be mugged, or if we go away that our house is going to be broken into, or worse yet broken into while we are there. I can't live like that.

Thanks for letting me know about the pollen. Our dog also is an asthmatic - go figure - so that's a major consideration. We have pollen here, but our season is shorter.

And yes, we would never consider a house without central air!!

Thanks again for all the great info.
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Old 07-03-2012, 07:57 PM
 
3 posts, read 27,810 times
Reputation: 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ReturningWest View Post
It could be:

Needs:
A hospital in town or very close by (my husband has asthma and a heart condition)
There are 2 good hospitals, Athens Regional will become a med school starting this fall and St. Mary's

A good vet hospital nearby, preferably 24 hr facility (our dog also has asthma - go figure!)
Yes, there are good vets and there is Vet school in place and many just take their dogs there

Reasonable cost of living - we'd like a newer home for 200K-250K, 1,800 - 2,500 sq ft. - 3 BR/2 BA
Yes our COL is good, our real estate market is quite depressed in the area and so there are plenty of deals to be had

An airport within an hours drive
Athens has a small airport, the ATL airport would be about 1 1/2 hours away from Athens

Relatively low crime - someplace a woman would feel safe walking a dog alone late at night
Some areas are a bit wanky, remember this is a college town

Dog friendly
Hmmm as a dog owner I don't find GA "dog friendly" compaired to other states...not sure what you mean

Basic amenities - pharmacy, doctor, dentist, grocery store, bank
Athens is a HUGE college town we have plenty of the above

Although my husband will be retired, I will be working, so would need somewhere where I can get some sort of job - I have a background in health care (admin) but am open to anything. I would be looking for PT
Getting work in the are is tough due to the economy, but you can get something.


Wants:
A "smallish" town (15K - 50K) but with easy proximity to a larger city for events, etc. - we would consider up to 100K if the place was special
Athens is a bit bigger than 100k, you can also look at some of the surrounding towns, I live in Jefferson and there is Oconee county that is very popular and very close

An esthetically pleasing place
Only you can decide that

A place with a sense of history
Athens has tons of history...remember this IS the south, UGA was founded in 1785 so they've got historical buildings all over the place

Community feel
Yes

Things to do - bookstores, festivals, farmers markets, movies, restaurants (other than chains), shops, library
Yup, plenty

Friendly people
I think they are friendly

Would love to be close to downtown
Hmmm

Walkable downtown
Well the downtown isn't that big but yes it's walkable...not sure what that means though

Mild climate - if hot, we'd prefer hot rather than hot and humid. We're also curious about the weather - how hot and humid is it?
Ummm again it's the South we have loooong hot and humid summers starting in late April and often lasting well into October

Driving distance to the ocean
5 hours
I would like to add that the outlying towns are VERY appealing. Monroe, Dacula, and Social Circle are all VERY close to Athens and Atlanta. However, they have lower costs of living, crime rates, and lower populations. I would highly recommend these areas based on your needs/wants. Also, kudos ReturningWest, on a good post.
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:08 PM
 
37 posts, read 65,113 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xXxAHCxXx View Post
I would like to add that the outlying towns are VERY appealing. Monroe, Dacula, and Social Circle are all VERY close to Athens and Atlanta. However, they have lower costs of living, crime rates, and lower populations. I would highly recommend these areas based on your needs/wants. Also, kudos ReturningWest, on a good post.
Respectfully, I would have to say that there's really nothing to do in any of the small towns you mentioned. Decent medical care/shopping/dining/entertainment/etc would be at least a 20 minute drive away.

Athens is pretty safe. Unless you're planning on walking down a lonely road at 3am, you probably have nothing to worry about. Savannah is a different story altogether. Beautiful, but not safe!

I lived in Athens for many years and feel it fits your need perfectly, macalan! The vet school in particular is fantastic in terms of taking care of your pets, especially if they have special needs.

It's also an academic sort of town, so despite the drunk frat boys (and you can avoid them if you avoid certain areas of downtown on weekend nights), there are lots of cultural activities, festivals, etc going on at any given time. You can always find something to do! The State Botanical Gardens and Ga Museum of Art are both free.

The only downside, really, to Athens, is employment. There are lots of overeducated/overqualified people there, and not enough jobs to go around. It's why I ultimately had to leave.
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:08 PM
 
1 posts, read 6,548 times
Reputation: 11
I have lived in Athens most of my life now, and my SO and I are looking for other places to live when we retire. It has become a less and less pleasant place to live over the years. Yes, very hot and humid in the summers, really almost unbearable some years (this is one of them), and you can't do much outside for a few months. We have been in a drought on and off for at least 10 years now. The last governor's solution to the drought was to pray for rain. One big problem with living in Athens is that you are also living in the state of Georgia, which is run by people who have no desire to fund infrastructure, such as good transportation, or to limit growth, which is rampant and unrestrained and probably won't be stopped until we run out of water in North Georgia.

I agree with Jane078 that jobs are very hard to find. I commute to mine an hour away, and I am happy to have it. Fortunately, it isn't near Atlanta, so I don't have to deal with the horrendous and unpredictable traffic there. But if you are older in Athens, you will have trouble finding a job. It took me years to find one within an hour's commute. There are many young people here who want to stay for the party scene, and employers are used to having cheap, easily replaceable employees. The health care field is probably more open, but you will still face lots of competition.

Crime? I think it's overstated, but the county is one of the poorest in the country. See this article:
Athens, deep in poverty, sinking lower? | Online Athens

There are many other college towns that are much more livable, I know.

Yes, UGA means there are things to do, but you will have to pay a lot to live within walking distance of downtown, and you will have to put up with drunken frat boys and loud parties.

It is pretty dog-friendly, though. Several dog parks and good veterinary care. But be very sure you have a job and can stand the heat before you move.
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