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Old 01-22-2014, 12:54 PM
Location: Tupelo, Mississippi
80 posts, read 165,167 times
Reputation: 59


Hello, Madisonians!

I am looking forward to the move and become a Madisonian soon. I happen to have a few questions about Madison.

Although I have visited Madison once, I didn't get the chance to check out neighborhoods. I'm sure the city is mostly safe, especially West and Middletown. Even Madison's worst neighborhoods are nothing like those in Minneapolis or Chicago. Where are undesirable parts of the city that I should avoid?

I am looking to rent either a townhouse or a duplex with monthly rent being $900.00 or less if possible. Any suggestions where I should look into?

I was never there during rush hour. How is commute on the Beltline Highway if you want to drive from I-94 to Middletown?
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Old 01-22-2014, 02:15 PM
Location: Verona, WI
1,201 posts, read 2,118,719 times
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I assume you mean Middleton, on Madison's West Side. Middleton is a great place to live. If your job is there, I would live there, although you may need to up your budget, or settle for a small older place with no amenities, if such places still exist.

A duplex or townhome for $900 per month will likely be in the Section 8 areas of Raymond Rd and Hammersly Rd on Madison's southwest side, both areas I would avoid. If a townhome or duplex in a decent area is a priority for you, you may need to up your rental budget toward the $1,200-1,500 range. Maybe some stuff up by East Town Mall would be cheaper, but I'm not familiar with those neighborhoods. I will say that for $900 per month, you are probably looking at a decent 1-bedroom apartment with some amenities in most decent areas in Madison. Madison is much more expensive than MS, and the rents here may shock you. The cheapest rental places are often local landlords who do not advertise, and putting boots to the ground in town is the only way to find them. If you have dogs, finding a suitable place will be more challenging but not impossible.

Driving the Beltline sucks during rush hour, especially in the snow. It's still nothing like Chicago or larger metros, but if you can avoid driving it every day, you will be happier.

It wasn't clear from your post, but is your job in Middleton and you're thinking of living around I-94, or is it the other way around? If your job is around I-94, Madison's East side would be a much better option for you all around, and others on this board are more familiar with those areas than I. Even Sun Prairie or Deforest may be good locations for you if you work near I-94, but then you're not living in Madison (or Middleton).

You can find more information in other threads by using the search feature. Welcome to the frozen tundra!
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Old 01-22-2014, 03:47 PM
2,949 posts, read 9,185,664 times
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The Beltline is a mess at rush hour and going literally from one end to the other seems awful on a daily basis.

The bad areas most people would tell you to avoid are the south side, as well as pockets in the north side, east side and southwest side. Everywhere else is fine. In general, cheap apartments are an indication it is a bad area, since Madison is a relatively young city, so there is no traditional or decrepit ghetto. But make no mistake, there are some tough blocks you wouldn't want to live on.

I am sure you can find a decent 1 bedroom for 900 a month. Probably in any part of the city...but in an older building without ammenities. Decent as in safe is what I really should have said.

Good luck.
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Old 01-22-2014, 03:58 PM
Location: Madison, WI
1,736 posts, read 4,904,320 times
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Ironically the east side isn't a whole lot less expensive when it comes to rent. $900 won't even get you a very fancy 1 bedroom in any part of Madison. A duplex or town home are out of the question. Please understand that the people on this forum are not trying to be negative. We do know of what we speak,however. I have seen more than one person go totally in denial about the cost of housing in Madison and get mad at the messengers.
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Old 01-22-2014, 04:23 PM
4,060 posts, read 4,788,944 times
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If you were actually working in Middleton, you've got a variety of options in that range. Most of the stuff along Century Ave is going to be affordable and in general that's a safe area in terms of crime. They're going to be 40 y.o. developments rather than something sparking new (i.e. no spa or gym), but most are fine. They're priced a bit less since getting downtown (Mad.) from there is rough at commute, but fine off-hours.

You could even commute into Middleton from Waunakee, though I don't think you'd need to.

The newer developments on Middleton's west side will probably be out of your range, since they're newer developments and more popular since it's an easy walk to the pubs/etc. around downtown M'ton.

In that range you could also live in along University Ave (Glen Oak- Sunset Hills-Regent) and reverse commute out if you wanted to be closer to the action/shopping/etc. of Madison.

If you're talking about commuting over to 94, I'd agree with others that living over near Middleton probably isn't your first choice.

In my experience Madison/Middleton get much more expensive when you start looking at 2-3 BR, but for 1 BR/studio you should still have plenty of decent options with a $900 budget. (Quick check of Padmapper shows 10-12 current posts I'd consider viable, at least for me personally)
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Old 01-22-2014, 11:13 PM
Location: Tupelo, Mississippi
80 posts, read 165,167 times
Reputation: 59
Thank you for all of your helpful advices! I now feel somewhat discouraged. I have never heard of $1,200-$1,500 rent range for a townhouse or a duplex unless you live in bigger cities. Why is it so expensive in housing for a medium-sized metro area like Madison?

You could buy a mansion near a lake or any country club in Mississippi for that amount of money monthly.

I will be working near I-94. I was asking about commute from Middletown because I thought about checking out rentals in Middletown (first choice until now).

What about Deerfield in terms of affordable rentals? I found it to be a charming tiny town. I was there once for fuel because I knew I wouldn't make it to Madison to fill up my vehicle. Anyway, people were country but not rednecks, which is what I like. No offense!

I will check out Madison's East Side, Sun Prairie, and Deforest. Just tell me the boundaries of the bad pocket in the East Side so I won't end up picking a rental there since I am not familiar with Madison.
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Old 01-23-2014, 04:56 AM
5,683 posts, read 9,462,807 times
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Madison is expensive for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the perceptions of those who live here that it is a desirable community, the presence of a large university, the fact that it is the state capitol, and the fact that unemployment rates tend to be at least somewhat lower than surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the estimates other posters above gave you are quite accurate. $900 per month will get you an adequate one-bedroom in or near Madison, but certainly not a townhouse, and certainly not fancy with lots of amenities.

Now, if you spend some time doing the "boots on the ground" approach that Ragnar suggests, you can find somewhat more affordable rentals in nearby communities. My elder kid and her partner rented a 3-bedroom duplex on the eastern edge of Sun Prairie for about $950, and they had a good-sized 3-bedroom apartment in Marshall several years ago for $750 or so. They found both of them by cruising neighborhoods that interested them and looking for "For Rent" signs in yards. Deerfield is a perfectly nice little community, and you'd very likely be able to find somewhat more affordable rental options there. As a caveat, though, don't expect to find modern fancy places with all sorts of amenities at $900 per month, even in the little communities in Dane County. The duplex my elder kid rented in Sun Prairie was in a building that was probably 40 or 50 years old, and while it was in reasonably good repair, it hadn't been significantly updated in that time.

The downside of living in one of the smaller outlying communities is that the winter commutes can be fairly awful. The county and the municipalities are generally pretty good about clearing snow, but there are years when the plows just can't keep up, and things get pretty nasty. You'd need to plan extra commuting time in the winter even if you lived in Madison, of course, but if you're driving in from Marshall or Sun Prairie or Deerfield, you'd really need to allow extra time.
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Old 01-23-2014, 07:50 AM
Location: WI
3,908 posts, read 9,456,007 times
Reputation: 2402
a couple notes from one who lived in Deforest/Windsor area for 20 years before spending last 5 down in SC.
The Defo area is a nice place to live, has good schools, etc but be wary of the commute. If you work on Madison's north or east side it is reasonable even in winter, especially if the job is just down the interstate. But if employment is on the south or far west side, trust me that is not a daily travel one would enjoy or want. Rents wont be too cheap there, perhaps some apts could be found but normally once one gets into a duplex type setting it will be over a grand. You may get lucky though and find something reasonable, just not a lot to choose from in a smaller burb setting.

OP, in general it is tough to really compare costs from Wi to down south. Property tax in Wi is high, much higher then we have in SC (and i'll make the assumption higher then MS as well); so those prop owners will be blending those taxes into any rents charged. But as others have correctly stated, there are many positives to living in Madison which can balance out cost of living there.

If you are working off the interstate, near Madison's east side, then besides checking east side areas i'd suggest Sun Prairie, perhaps Deforest/Windsor, and maybe even try Cottage Grove (SP giving you the largest variety of local shopping options over the other burbs mentioned if you want to avoid driving into Madison).
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:03 AM
4,060 posts, read 4,788,944 times
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One other factor driving up Madison cost is that the 'core' is out on an Isthmus (capitol, UW). Short of building up, the cities growth is somewhat capped without a complete snarl of traffic. And you'd need likely need a much bigger population base for the economics of light rail or some other non-road solution to kick in.

If Madison were a 'normal' geographic city Waunakee would have grown into a full-fledged suburb and you'd have developments to the NW/SE. But instead you have Lakes Monona/Mendota - both of which add to demand for the area while quite effectively constraining housing supply and transportation routes.

Edit: however, since you don't have to work downtown, you at least have more flex to look at surrounding communities without eating the slow commute into the core. Getting downtown for socializing off-peak is generally ok.
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:22 AM
5,683 posts, read 9,462,807 times
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Regarding your question here:

Originally Posted by MS Born and Bred View Post
Just tell me the boundaries of the bad pocket in the East Side so I won't end up picking a rental there since I am not familiar with Madison.
With your stated budget, I'd suggest you not even bother looking in Madison itself, unless you can be happy with a much smaller and more barebones place than you described. If you need a townhouse or a duplex, you are not going to find anything at your price in a neighborhood you'd want to live in.
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