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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 09-11-2018, 06:20 PM
 
Location: Oakland, California
102 posts, read 157,114 times
Reputation: 17

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NYC native, retired, been in the Bay Area (Oakland) since 1990, now considering relocation.

Seeking a location that has affordable apartment rentals, is clean, safe, near nature, not riddled with sprawl or suffering from uncontrolled growth. Some heat/occasional humidity, cold winters and moderate snowfall okay.

Prefer smaller than larger but would not rule out large cities such as Pittsburgh. Any suggestions? Allentown, Harrisburg, Erie, York, Lancaster, State College, others?
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Old 09-11-2018, 07:36 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
273 posts, read 200,257 times
Reputation: 724
Hi npauthor-

I see you have basically the same question posted in both the Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley boards, but I’ll give you some ideas pertaining to the entire state here.

I am a native of Pennsylvania, grew up and went to college here, and I lived several years in Marin County. My wife and I moved back when we had a child, primarily so that we could be closer to family and be in a better position to buy a home—and also because even though I loved the Bay Area, I missed my home state, honestly.

Almost anywhere that you look in Pennsylvania will be much much more affordable than the Bay Area. You can find some pricey real estate in Downtown Pittsburgh or Center City Philadelphia—or in affluent suburbs of those cities—but it sounds like that’s not what you’re looking for anyway.

The northwest portion of the state gets by far the most snowfall due to what’s known as the “lake effect”. So if you want to avoid the harshest of winters, I’d take Erie off your list.

Most all of PA is reasonably close to nature in some form—be it a large urban park like Fairmount or Wissahickon in Philadelphia or the rural expanses just outside smaller cities like Harrisburg and Allentown.

Depending on what you’re looking for, there are parts of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas that might suit what you want. Certainly these two parts of the state have the most to offer in terms of healthcare facilities, shopping, cultural events, etc. And if you were interested in making use of public transportation, these two cities have by far the most comprehensive transit networks in the state (Philadelphia even more so than Pittsburgh)—probably the only two parts of the state where you can easily get by without driving. Though both cities are experiencing some fairly robust growth in certain pockets, there are still many neighborhoods and suburbs with number of stable and solid (if not glamorous) residential areas that would offer you lower rents than what you’re paying in Oakland but are safe and populated with a combination of sturdy workaday types and retirees.

(Pennsylvania often shows up on “best places to retire” lists because retirement income is not subject to state taxes.)

Outside of the two major metro areas, rents and overall costs of living are generally a little lower, although not very dramatically so. Obviously what these areas have to offer in terms of amenities is somewhat less than the two big cities, which may or may not matter to you. Among mid-sized metros in PA, the Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton) and South Central PA (Harrisburg, Lancaster, York) are generally healthy and growing, and as a result, you tend to see positive improvements (revitalized downtowns, increased shopping opportunities, etc.).

Other smaller metros in the state (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Altoona, Johnstown, Erie) have been losing population for much of the past 50 years, so there is a certain amount of malaise associated with these areas. That’s not to say that these metros don’t have their virtues, because they certainly do—including the opportunity to be closer to nature in many cases. If you’re not concerned with employment, you can probably take advantage of even lower rents in these areas. But you may find the disposition of the people and region as a whole a bit forlorn, and you may find your commercial and cultural opportunities to be less than you’d like and dwindling over time.

State College, by the way, is a unique proposition—a bustling little college town with a busy walkable downtown surrounded by the green fields and mountains of central PA. Life is very much dominated by Penn State, which is both a good and a bad thing depending on your perspective.

If you let us know some more specifics of what you’re looking for (such as filling out this form), people on the boards might be able to give you some better answers and help point you in the right direction.

Anyway, I hope the above has been of some help to you. Let me know if I can answer any more questions you have.
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