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Old 11-04-2013, 12:28 PM
 
9 posts, read 15,310 times
Reputation: 17

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Hello everyone,

My husband and I are considering moving our family from San Francisco to Portland, ME. We (early 30s), have a preschooler and toddler and, surprise!, just found out that we're expecting twins. We have lived and worked in NY/NJ, the greater Bay Area, and overseas. While we adore the stunning outdoors we're surrounded by here in the Bay Area, we are getting tired of the pace of life: everyone is always too busy, we spend too much time stuck in traffic, and people seem so focused on their own lives/success that people are much less friendly than we'd expected. Top that off with the outrageous cost of living here, and our need for more space (soon!), and it is time for us to move on.

We are lucky in that we have retirement income and work from home, so finding a job will not be an immediate necessity. We are still in the early phases of research, and we have not yet visited Portland or the surrounding areas, but these are our priorities/thoughts/questions, and I appreciate any and all input.

1) Affordability: we'll need at least a 3bed/3bath house, and it needs to cost 400k or less. We have seen some houses on the market south and north of the city, even very close to the water, that seem to fit these requirements (making us jump for joy). We are interested more in having a large (1/2acreish?) lot than being in the city, hence our looking in the "suburbs".
2) Schools: we need to buy a house in an area with excellent schools. Again, it looks like the areas north and south of the city fit the bill. We're interested less in test scores and more in small classes, great teachers, and a great community. Which areas have the best "reputation" for both nice neighborhoods and good schools? We've looked at Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth, but we're not sure where else/how far out to look. Are there major differences between heading north or south of the city? Any favorite areas?
3) We love to ski/sail/hike/camp/be outdoors, which is partly what led us to Portland. Add to that the lively music scene, great food, small town feel, and coastal location, and it sounds like heaven. Have I got this wrong at all?
4) We don't mind having to drive 20 mins to the city to do shopping/go to a restaurant/etc - what areas within this radius should we be looking at? While we're at it - any realtor recommendations??
5) It has been a while since we've had to heat a house for any significant length of time! I'm sure this varies greatly, but any idea how much we might be looking at in oil/energy costs to heat a 3bed/3bath house for the winter months?
6) A random question perhaps, but: is there a German-speaking community in Portland? I don't think there's a German-speaking preschool, but perhaps cultural groups, play/mom's groups, etc?
7) On a slightly similar note: is there a good Asian/Korean grocery store in town? I know the community is mostly white, but I thought it was worth asking.
8) Do I need an AWD mommy car?! I have a minivan which has met our needs wonderfully, and I'd like to drive it until it dies. Do I need to get rid of it in favor of something with AWD capability, or can I get by with snow tires and new-found (and empty-parking-lot-practiced) driving skills?
9) Medical care: I'll be delivering the twins wherever we move to, so are there good hospitals and doctors in the area?
10) Transportation: do most people fly in and out of Boston? We'll have lots of family visiting - flights to Portland look expensive - is it the "norm" to drive to and from Boston for flights?

Thank you very much in advance - this forum has been a lifesaver for us already.

Julianna
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Old 11-07-2013, 05:52 PM
 
1,961 posts, read 4,365,017 times
Reputation: 1807
1. Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth have the lots and acreage you prefer with excellent schools. South Portland is also a very neat area, as are parts of Scarborough.
2. Many people prefer the school districts in the above mentioned areas. I Personally believe a child can excel in any district as long as the family fosters a love and respect for education and the child works hard in school.
3. You did get it right!
4. I would search north to Brunswick and South to Scarborough.
5. I will let someone else jump
In here!
6. Es gibt keine formalisches Gemeinshaft hier aber wahrscheinlich findet Sie Leute die Deutsch sprechen!
7. Yes , there are Asian markets!
8. I think your minivan weighs enough so you shld be fine! Many people here drive AWD Subaru wagons.
9, Mercy hospital has an excellent birthplace. I am partial , though, as I delivered my girls there. Maine med is also an excellent hospital.
10. People fly in to Boston and Manchester, NH is the prices to Portland are too high. Train service runs from Boston to Brunswick.
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:34 PM
 
Location: Northern Maine
10,189 posts, read 15,916,574 times
Reputation: 10578
The Portland schools have 38 different first languages. Portland is a port city and ships from all over the world visit Portland.
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Old 11-11-2013, 07:09 AM
 
Location: Maine
18,571 posts, read 22,366,540 times
Reputation: 22446
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsandski View Post
1) Affordability: we'll need at least a 3bed/3bath house, and it needs to cost 400k or less. We have seen some houses on the market south and north of the city, even very close to the water, that seem to fit these requirements (making us jump for joy). We are interested more in having a large (1/2acreish?) lot than being in the city, hence our looking in the "suburbs".
For $400k you can buy a very nice house pretty much anywhere in Maine that you want to. If you want land and a semi-rural atmosphere, stay north of the city. There are some very nice towns south of Portland, but you’re never really “out of town” until you get north of Portland. In fact, many Mainers I know refer to Portland and points southward as “northern Massachusetts.” They do it with a bit of a wink-wink, nudge-nudge, but they do it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsandski View Post
2) Schools: we need to buy a house in an area with excellent schools. Again, it looks like the areas north and south of the city fit the bill. We're interested less in test scores and more in small classes, great teachers, and a great community. Which areas have the best "reputation" for both nice neighborhoods and good schools? We've looked at Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth, but we're not sure where else/how far out to look. Are there major differences between heading north or south of the city? Any favorite areas?
3) We love to ski/sail/hike/camp/be outdoors, which is partly what led us to Portland. Add to that the lively music scene, great food, small town feel, and coastal location, and it sounds like heaven. Have I got this wrong at all?
4) We don't mind having to drive 20 mins to the city to do shopping/go to a restaurant/etc - what areas within this radius should we be looking at? While we're at it - any realtor recommendations??
5) It has been a while since we've had to heat a house for any significant length of time! I'm sure this varies greatly, but any idea how much we might be looking at in oil/energy costs to heat a 3bed/3bath house for the winter months?
6) A random question perhaps, but: is there a German-speaking community in Portland? I don't think there's a German-speaking preschool, but perhaps cultural groups, play/mom's groups, etc?
7) On a slightly similar note: is there a good Asian/Korean grocery store in town? I know the community is mostly white, but I thought it was worth asking.
8) Do I need an AWD mommy car?! I have a minivan which has met our needs wonderfully, and I'd like to drive it until it dies. Do I need to get rid of it in favor of something with AWD capability, or can I get by with snow tires and new-found (and empty-parking-lot-practiced) driving skills?
9) Medical care: I'll be delivering the twins wherever we move to, so are there good hospitals and doctors in the area?
10) Transportation: do most people fly in and out of Boston? We'll have lots of family visiting - flights to Portland look expensive - is it the "norm" to drive to and from Boston for flights?
First of all: Visit before you move. I know from experience that there are several places that look great online that are not that great in reality. And vice versa. We toured all of New England and upstate New York before moving, and we ended up moving to a place that hadn’t even made our original list.

From what you’ve posted, I recommend you check out Brunswick.

Brunswick is about 25-30 minutes north of Portland. Home of Bowdoin College. We’re on the rail station, so you can easily catch the train into Freeport, Portland, Boston, and all points southward. In fact, if you want a day in Boston, take the train. It’s a very leisurely ride, and Boston has fantastic public transportation. And you really don’t want to fight traffic and find affordable parking in Boston. Just take the train.

Brunswick public schools are great. The elementary schools are fantastic. The high school is great. The junior high is good. I say good not great, because even though the curriculum is great and there are lots of activities for students, I was really unimpressed with a few of the junior high teachers I ran into. Seemed to dislike kids and be very mad at life in general. Maybe I just caught them on a bad day. Who knows? But there are also private schools in the area is public education is not your thing, and we know a few families who home school.

Brunswick has a great downtown area with lots of good restaurants and small shops. Nice village green area that shows free movies in the summer and has ice skating in the winter. Any shopping you can’t find in Brunswick, you’re right next to Topsham, not far from Freeport, and easy driving distance to Portland. But really, there’s very little we can’t find locally. Not sure about the Asian/Korean grocery in Brunswick, but there are two health food stores that carry some Asian cuisine.

Heating really depends on your house. Most houses up here are still heated with oil, which is expensive but not back-breaking. Natural gas is beginning to make in roads in some neighborhoods. Some houses also heat with propane or pellet stoves. You will need good heating. Maine has 4 distinct seasons, and winter is cold.

Brunswick is about a half hour from 2 of Maine’s best beaches, and you’re never far from the woods anywhere in Maine. We live in town, and we’ve had deer in our front yard. Raccoons visit frequently, and we’ve even had a badger once. A family of foxes live in the land behind our neighborhood. The only real pest is the occasional skunk. We even get the occasional moose. Local skiing is mostly cross-country. There are several trails in town. Downhill skiing entails a drive into the mountains.

I don’t know of a German speaking “community” per se, but we personally know two ladies from Germany and two of our neighbors are from Holland.

Lots of people in Maine have all wheel drive vehicles (Subarus are popular), but it isn’t necessary. Most of Maine does a fantastic job of keeping the streets clear and safe. In the 6 years we’ve lived here, we’ve been through some VERY harsh winters, and only once have I been afraid to leave the house. And that was during an ice storm. Snow doesn’t usually present a problem as long as you’re careful.

Lots of great doctors in the area, and Maine hospitals were recently dubbed the safest in the country.

For airline travel, your nearest options are Portland, Boston, and Manchester, NH. It really depends on your chosen airline as to which is most affordable. I have flown out of Portland and Manchester several times. No complaints with either. My mom uses all three airports. Boston and Portland are the most convenient, as they are right on the rail line. But Manchester is sometimes more affordable.
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Old 11-19-2013, 01:31 PM
 
9 posts, read 15,310 times
Reputation: 17
Thank you so much, everyone, for your feedback. I've just returned from a very quick area "recon" trip and found it to be a beautiful, friendly, peaceful area. What a nice change to have people say "hello" to you on the street! We'll look into Brunswick, too - my travels didn't take me that far on this trip, sadly. Great to hear there's a bit of an international community! It's so hard to get a feel for different neighborhoods, and I did get the sense that Cape Elizabeth was more "suburban" than points north of Portland. That said, I did love the feel of being near the ocean, the schools are good, etcetc.

A few follow-up questions for anyone willing to jump in. It did seem a bit as if most "kid" activities are either in Portland or in the towns north of it. Is this the case? Would driving from Cape Elizabeth (near the lighthouse, not all the way south) end up being a drag, ie you'd end up making that drive all the time for the kids? My current morning "school" run is 15 minutes, 30 minutes in traffic, and only the traffic drives me crazy, not the time. Also, Falmouth and CE were both beautiful and have great schools, but I was amazed at the huuuuge houses right by the coast. At the risk of offending people, is there a "rich kid" feeling in either one of these places, ie in the schools? As I said, we'll be comfortable, but we're not well-off, and I'd hate for our kids to feel out of place (I went through that - not fun!). In any case - what a beautiful part of the world, and if we move there, I will hopefully eat my weight in lobster with great regularity.

Thank you!
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Old 11-19-2013, 05:25 PM
 
1,961 posts, read 4,365,017 times
Reputation: 1807
Cape Elizabeth has a very nice community- some well- off, others just inherited and are struggling to pay taxes. Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cumberland are all great if you are concerned about schools.
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