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Old 04-06-2017, 09:45 AM
 
Location: Tennessee
30,492 posts, read 23,896,344 times
Reputation: 38793

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I live in my small hometown of about 50,000 in northeast TN. I've lived in Des Moines, metro Boston, and three years in Indianapolis since 2012. I moved back here last year for a good job offer, but could probably make more in Raleigh, Nashville, Charlotte, etc. I've been staying with my parents since.

I was looking to buy my first home sometime this year, but have been getting more hesitant for a number of reasons.

1) I currently have a good job with a pretty good income by local standards ($56,000) and work in IT, but if something happens to this job (there are some long-term stability concerns with this employer), it's unlikely I can find anything making above $40,000. There is virtually no IT employment here. Before this job, I had never made over $35,000 in this area. I've always made at least $50,000 anywhere else I've lived. Most of my friends and family are stuck in the $12-$15/hr without benefits range.

We are nearly a hundred miles away from any other metros of several hundred thousand people or more. Commuting somewhere else from here really isn't a viable option.

2) The local economy is sagging. Job growth is slowing, employment is down YoY. Unemployment rate is likely back over 6% now (was 5.9% and rising in January, trend was increasing). Wages are falling, and my metro has the lowest weekly wages of any metro in Tennessee now. The local economy hasn't been truly healthy in decades - the bottom fell out around 2010, it picked up some, and looks to be on a modest decline again. I just don't see a bright future for the area at all.

3) Many homes in my metro are sitting for months on the market without selling or without significant price decreases. Housing stock is generally old and in need of updating. Amusingly enough, it's not that cheap. I am looking at mostly 2 BR townhomes and the bottom mostly starts at $90,000 - $100,000 for anything that's not going to need a ton of updating.

I've seen similar townhomes that are just as cheap and nice for what I can get here in Raleigh, Charlotte, and even some outlying suburbs of Nashville and Atlanta. It seems dumb to spend as much or nearly so for a property in this isolated area where there are practically no viable employment opportunities for professionals not in the medical field.

4) I simply do not like areas this small. I got used to having a Costco, significant shopping, more sophisticated dining (although that is changing in the nearby college town), etc., and I'm 2+ hours away from a Costco, Trader Joe's, etc. Groceries and some other retail purchases are often significantly higher here than in Indianapolis or Nashville, presumably due to a lack of selection and competition.

There are small towns like this all around the country. Many have declining populations (we would be if not for out of area retirees moving in), a poor job market, dated housing, few young people, etc. This area has more in common with a Rust Belt city like Youngstown than it does with the booming areas down in middle TN. What makes me scratch my head is that some housing options are just as expensive, or nearly so, as in booming metros with much better wages and job opportunities. The area also has bad drug problems, and aside from two of the city high schools, schools seem to be going downhill, especially in the county and rural areas. I wouldn't feel comfortable raising children here.

Do you think buying a home in a small town or rural area, and ultimately somewhat anchoring yourself to a metro like this, is stupid in this day and age, where everything seems to be consolidating in major metros?
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Old 04-06-2017, 09:50 AM
 
28,461 posts, read 78,181,331 times
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Without getting too deep into the political /economic implications -- If you would prefer living elsewhere it does not make sense for you to buy a home.

I suspect there are lots of folks that do buy homes close to their parents and then they feel stuck. Some eventually realize that there are nice qualities in the smaller towns and try their best to focus on those things, others get kinda bitter about the decision.

That is a choice that either way is not made easier when you believe there are better options elsewhere.
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Old 04-06-2017, 09:54 AM
 
Location: USA
6,231 posts, read 6,169,935 times
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I wouldn't. What would happen if you bought a house in your area and then god-forbid something happened to the decent employment you have. I'd imagine it would be difficult to impossible to find something just as good or better in the area. Or you would have to put up with a very long commute to a more economically vibrant place. A job that allows telecommute can be a possibility. I know people who absolutely love small town or rurual living but want the wages of the big city and are lucky to be able to telecommute.

Most of the homeowners there are most likely elderly or "legacy" residents who bought when the town was more economically viable. I lived in such a place myself. In my small PA home town the majority of the homeowners are retirees from the closed up steel mill or closed up factories. The young people all leave, and those who stay end up on the dole.

Houses are cheap in small towns and rural places for a very good reason.
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Old 04-06-2017, 10:05 AM
 
Location: Tennessee
30,492 posts, read 23,896,344 times
Reputation: 38793
Quote:
Originally Posted by s1alker View Post
I wouldn't. What would happen if you bought a house in your area and then god-forbid something happened to the decent employment you have. I'd imagine it would be difficult to impossible to find something just as good or better in the area. Or you would have to put up with a very long commute to a more economically vibrant place.

Houses are cheap in small towns and rural places for a very good reason.
Yes, if something were to happen to my current employment, I'd basically have to move anyway, or learn to make it on $15/hr or so. There is a more prosperous metro about 100 miles away. It's all interstate and I can do it in 80 minutes or so, but that would get very old. I wouldn't mind living there. I'm not making any of these decisions immediately. It would probably be next year, at a minimum, before I'd leave unless something happens. I'd prefer to stay in Tennessee just for the tax advantages and familiarity, but not tied to it. I have no intentions of leaving the South though.

I probably spend half of my weekends away from this immediate area as it stands now. Mom will be retiring in two years and they don't make much money themselves. I've thought of just waiting out the next two years, fixing up the house a bit, then we all move to the same town (obviously separate houses). What I don't want is to be in Nashville or something then driving back here every weekend to take care of relatives. Grandparents are still here and in their 80s. I have a buddy who is pushing 60 living in Nashville, and his mother is back here and won't move. He's just burning up the roads.

What gets me is that once you account for the low local wages, houses are not cheap at all, relatively speaking. The median house price/median HHI ratio is probably more favorable in Charlotte, Raleigh, etc., than it is here, because HHI is in the mid $30k range.
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Old 04-06-2017, 10:13 AM
 
5,048 posts, read 8,393,170 times
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"4) I simply do not like areas this small."

This is the key. Don't buy. Since things are sagging keep an eye out in those areas you preferred.
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Old 04-06-2017, 10:20 AM
 
Location: Mostly in my head
19,859 posts, read 61,449,959 times
Reputation: 19280
Don't. YOur heart is telling you what to do. Your job may not last and then you would have a hard time selling whatever you bought, undoubtedly losing $$. Keep renting and saving.
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Old 04-06-2017, 12:36 PM
 
Location: Berkeley Neighborhood, Denver, CO USA
16,289 posts, read 24,945,276 times
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Statistically, the world population has been moving to the big cities for the last 50 years.
Many rural areas in the USA are depopulating at a rapid rate (e.g., Buffalo Commons).
Some small towns are going to do OK (college, hospital, county seat).

These trends will likely continue.
Ignore them, fight them at your peril.
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Old 04-06-2017, 12:59 PM
 
4,850 posts, read 4,227,910 times
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It sounds like you are answering your own questions.
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Old 04-06-2017, 03:04 PM
 
Location: Sector 001
10,807 posts, read 8,586,691 times
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Too many variables to give a simple, one sized fits all answer... is a person's job secure? Is the community growing? Does the town have a job base to support a growing population? Is new industry attracted to the area?
What kind of lifestyle does the person prefer? Do they need all the amenities and things to do? Do they like traffic and stoplights?

I wish I lived closer to Sioux Falls (I live in Brookings) but this entire part of the state is growing and there is a worker shortage in my town, a ongoing housing shortage, and home prices are high.... population density is low and there's not a lot to do. For many in this forum I'm sure even Sioux Falls doesn't come close to what they want for a lifestyle, but this is a stable area to raise a family. Everyone has different needs and wants.

However if not along the interstate, most towns are in stagnation.. people really don't want to commute so if you're willing to drive 30 miles (which takes 30 minutes out here) you can get really cheap housing and have a good life with no overtime. Some towns are more desirable based on topography, school system, etc.

If you plan to stay in the area 5+ years, buy a house... if not, rent.. if you have kids, buy a house, if you're single, rent... there's no right or wrong way to live your life based on what other people think.. live it how you want.
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Old 04-06-2017, 03:32 PM
 
Location: Central Pennsylvania
68 posts, read 55,430 times
Reputation: 201
You pretty much answered your own question in the OP, saying that your area is in decline and you'd rather live elsewhere. Buying a house in a place you really don't want to stay longer-term is usually a bad idea no matter what your reasons are.

I bought in a small town (about 18k population), but my town and my personal wants were completely different than yours. The town is economically stable, a college town which is also the county seat and within commuting distance of the state capitol. We're around the crossing of multiple major interstates, so distribution centers for major online retailers have popped up like dandelions over the last decade (including Amazon). I don't see the slow but steady growth around here ending anytime soon.

But the hugest factor of all is that I WANTED to live in a small town. I cannot stand cities, even smaller ones. I grew up on a very isolated 200 acre farm and will always be a rural/small town girl at heart. If you're the opposite, don't try to shove yourself into a lifestyle that just doesn't fit you. That's a recipe for a lot of unhappiness.
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