Author Topic: Finding a city  (Read 8633 times)

Offline phillamb168

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Finding a city
« on: September 26, 2012, 02:26:44 AM »
Well, after two years in France (and four years in married land) we're looking much more seriously at our options for house-buying. We've been thinking about it on and off for a while, with some posts here looking for advice. The trouble is, there is a huge housing bubble near Paris that's basically being completely ignored, it's like nobody sees it. House prices in my village went from ~220k-250k in 2006 for ~1400sq ft livable/8k sq ft lot size to 450k for the same thing here in 2012 - 100% increase in price over 6 years... Looks familiar... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_United_States_housing_bubble

Anyway. Add to that two things: 1. we want a nice garden and we don't want to live in Paris, which means that without breaking the bank on a house, my commute time is a minimum of an hour each way, no matter where we live, and that's just not fun when I barely get to see my kids except on weekends; and 2. I get my French citizenship at the end of this year, which means I get access to all the benefits of nationalized healthcare.

The #1 reason we moved from the US in the first place was because even with my $800/mo self-employment insurance we would end up owing between 40 and 80k for bringing to term & delivery of our first kid, because in order to receive maternity coverage you have to ask one year in advance ( :o ), so we'd be paying largely out of pocket. Compared with the $4k cost of moving, $2k cost of getting a car, and $200 cost of all baby-related medical expenses in France, it was pretty much a no-brainer. However, now that we'll have access to the CFE (Caisse Français Etranger, expat health care) for ~$300/mo for our whole family, that reason has disappeared.

The #2 reason we moved, was so that my wife could be close to her family, and our kids could really get to know all of their cousins and such. So far so good. I am not particularly close to my family and they all live very far away relative to any city we would want to live in, so it's kind of a no-brainer on that side.

We still want to be close to family, what matters more than anything else is that OUR family can spend time together. So that brings me back to the idea of moving back to the US. The trouble with that is, the country is H U G E and picking a place to research for a move is hard work. Thus I turn to you, my beery forum friends, to see if you have any advice.

For our criteria: we would like to be < 7-8 hrs flight from Paris, or able to do a 2-hop of < 5-6 hours each ( == near a major airport)

in a neighborhood of younger upper-middle-class families (I don't have anything against blue-collars (all of my relatives and family are blue-collar), but all the research I've seen said that it's very important to live around people of approximately the same income bracket as yourself), but not in an area where it's all about keeping up with the Jones' (read: gated communities. blargh.),

Nicer older houses (no McMansions), good sidewalks, walking or easy driving distance to Catholic and Protestant churches

and (this is important) within walking distance to either train/tram lines to downtown-type shopping, or in a neighborhood that has, in walking distance, shops, cafes, bars etc. I would strongly prefer for those shops, cafes, bars, etc to not be chains. Also a bonus, if it's nearby a Whole Foods. If we could be < 30-40 min to a large city center, that would be ideal. We would like to be near clean water (for kayaking) and nice big (clean) parks with lots of trees and things. I.e., wild spaces.

Also important, to be near museums and universities, my wife is going back to finish a Masters in cultural something or other,

We need to be able to keep chickens, and I am not a fan of abusive zoning regulations and housing committees, because I have a tendency to say not so nice things to people who tell me that my lawn isn't green enough.

Diversity is also important, I've lived in Chicago, NYC and Paris for all of my adult life and I like interacting with all sorts of people.

Also in terms of temps, I can deal with cold, but I do not like heat. So summer average highs of 78-82 with overnight lows of ~50-60, and I would really prefer a decent amount of sun paired with thunderstorms.

And of course, it needs to have a great beer scene, and be relatively easy to deal with the state & fed brewery license types.

Places we've considered include Newton MA and greater Boston, Redmond WA, Bloomington IL, Chicago, outskirts of DC, Yonkers etc near NYC, Providence RI, Manchester NH, Raleigh & Greensboro, NC.

I think this is the longest I've ever posted. I'd be happy to hear what you guys have to say!
« Last Edit: September 26, 2012, 02:46:32 AM by phillamb168 »
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Offline redbeerman

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2012, 04:39:56 AM »
Phil, I live smack in the middle of nowhere between Philadelphia and Baltimore.  I like living in a rural area, but I would say the biggest disadvantage is that it is 1/2 - 1 hour away from anything resembling civilization.  Within 1 to 1 1/2 hours drive or train ride you have Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC.  If you take it to 2 1/2 hours you are in Manhattan.  A lot of where you want to live depends on what you plan to do for money as well.  The northeast corridor has pharma, engineering, scientific research, DOD and other government jobs.  Downside is congestion the closer you get to the metro areas, but that is true anywhere that I have been.  The Pacific Northwest is nice too from what I understand, different lifestyle from the east coast though.  Oh and Dave Houseman, Pete Garofalo, and bunches of other very beery folks live in this area too. 8)
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2012, 05:34:34 AM »
1h is too far for me personally. I "have a very specific set of skills" which means that I can telecommute if necessary, and bigger cities are usually hiring, so jobs aren't too much of a worry... for now.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2012, 05:42:20 AM »
Look at Ann Arbor, MI. Meets many of the criteria you have. Except for the chicken thing.

There are so many fine places to live in the US, that when ever I think about a retirement location I cannot decide.

Do your research, as you are looking at a major life change.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2012, 05:44:53 AM by hopfenundmalz »
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Offline firedog23

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2012, 06:27:39 AM »
+1

Look at Ann Arbor, MI. Meets many of the criteria you have. Except for the chicken thing.

I grew up near Ann Arbor and it was always a step ahead of the rest of Michigan.  Western Michigan has a few hot spots too and Michigan is a big brewing state.  Raleigh, NC is where my girlfriend's family live and it meets pretty much everything on any kind of list.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2012, 06:36:03 AM »
I've got to make a plug for Indianapolis.

We live in the city, in an area called Broad Ripple (10 minute bike ride downtown). Its a great community of food/beer lovers and has many wonderful restaurants, a few brewpubs, and taphouses. I have about 1/2 acre that's perfect for a great garden. Its legal in our area to have chickens, and several people do (my friend has a chicken coop with a small garden on top, actually). My local (walking distance) market is a Fresh Market (like Whole Foods) and the Farmers Market every Saturday.

The cost of living in Indiana is AWESOME. I have worked in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbus, and Indianapolis is the most affordable city.

The area my fiance and I are in is a more historical district - our house was built in 1924. The neighborhoods continue to be kept up by the owners. We have a neighborhood association, but their focus is on commercial zoning, business growth, etc. The neighborhood is kept up organically by... the neighborhood. We chose the neighborhood because we wanted to meet other like-minded people and families. We've definitely succeeded! My neighbor is my age and an Engineer (like me). We've also met several couples via the dog park, rec. league sports, beer events, and my LHBS.

Indianapolis International can get you to Paris via Chicago or New York in 7-8 hours.

I am within walking distance of 3 or 4 wonderful Catholic churches. Not sure about protestant.

The job market is great as well. I just switched companies, and found a job within 3 months of starting my search. My fiance is a recruiter and she is busier than ever!

Indianapolis is home to a few great museums. The IMA (imamuseum.org) is a huge indoor/outdoor facility. There is also a workshop in the heart of Broad Ripple, if your wife is a sculpture or welder (or if you need to weld on homebrewing equipment). The Art Institute, IUPUI, Butler, and U of Indy all offer great arts/culture programs. Broad Ripple is a great district for arts and culture. The annual Art Fair is impressive, and arts in schools are heavily supported (Broad Ripple High School is a liberal arts magnet school).

The beer culture is growing exponentially and electric right now in Indianapolis! We've had a lot of breweries start up since Sun King has become so successful, and better beer locations continue to thrive. I think its the city for me to start my brewing venture someday. The area is fertile for well-run food and beer-centric business.

The homebrew culture is great as well. We have an AWESOME homebrew shop (greatfermentations.com) and a great homebrew club (Foam Blowers of Indiana). The state contest draws more than 1,000 entries per year.

AND we host a kickass Super Bowl!

Let me know if Indy falls into your consideration - I'd be happy to help you explore our options and connect with real estate agents, schools, recruiters, churches, homebrewers, etc.

Good luck in your search!
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2012, 06:38:54 AM »
I feel like Ann Arbor would be too close to Detroit for my tastes. But I can add it to the list.
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Offline troybinso

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2012, 06:47:28 AM »
Portland, Oregon?

The one thing it is lacking is diversity, unless you count all the different subtypes of hipsters you will meet.

Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2012, 06:58:47 AM »
I feel like Ann Arbor would be too close to Detroit for my tastes. But I can add it to the list.

May I ask why you think it's too close to Detroit and what are you afraid of there?

BTW, it takes at least half an hour to 45 minutes to be anywhere near something resembling Detroit.

Another Great thing about Ann Arbor, besides Michigan football, is that you're in Michigan. You're only 3.5 or so hours away from Traverse City and the Leelanau peninsula. It might remind you a little of some wine making regions in Italy or possibly France.

http://lpwines.com/
« Last Edit: September 26, 2012, 07:07:00 AM by brewmichigan »
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2012, 07:04:48 AM »
I feel like Ann Arbor would be too close to Detroit for my tastes. But I can add it to the list.

May I ask why you think it's too close to Detroit and what are you afraid of there?

BTW, it takes at least half an hour to 45 minutes to be anywhere near something resembling Detroit.

I don't like Lions/Redwings fans ;)

J/k. Does Ann Arbor have an Opera or theatre/orchestra stuff?
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Offline Mark G

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2012, 07:09:45 AM »
Except for the 7-8 hour flight time to Paris, it sounds like the Pacific NW is where you want to be. Weather, beer, culture, wilderness, etc., are all there. I like the Ann Arbor suggestion as well. Take a look, you'd probably really like it. I'm also very partial to Chicago and the surrounding areas. Look at some of the suburbs as well. Many are more city-like than common opinions tell you. I lived most of my life in the city, but am not disappointed at all to have moved out to the burbs. Just find one near a train station and you can be downtown in no time. Just my 2¢. Oh, and one more thing. We can self-distribute our beer here.
Good luck!
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Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2012, 07:11:03 AM »
I feel like Ann Arbor would be too close to Detroit for my tastes. But I can add it to the list.

May I ask why you think it's too close to Detroit and what are you afraid of there?

BTW, it takes at least half an hour to 45 minutes to be anywhere near something resembling Detroit.

I don't like Lions/Redwings fans ;)

J/k. Does Ann Arbor have an Opera or theatre/orchestra stuff?

Oh man!! You're not welcome then!  8) 8)

http://www.michtheater.org/
http://www.a2so.com/

I know the scene around Ann Arbor is very liberal and gravitates towards the arts, although I have never been to either of the places I just linked.
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline dak0415

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2012, 07:12:05 AM »
Phil,
While I enjoy living in Winston-Salem, NC (since 1972 - 30 miles west of GSO).  It does get freakin' hot here in summer.  I would consider Asheville, NC as possibly the beer capital of the East Coast. Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, New Belgium have committed to the immediate area as well as a dozen craft breweries already established with 4 more opening in the next year.  Even some of the NC wineries are putting in brewhouses!

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Online theDarkSide

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2012, 07:12:25 AM »
In regards to beer scene, Manchester, NH would not be your choice.  Things are improving but they have a long way to go.  Not to mention the schools in Manchester are in big trouble now with overcrowding.

I live in Derry ( about 15 miles south ) and love my town.  I'm just not sure it has everything you are looking for.  Getting into Boston can take 45 minutes - 3 hours, not much in the way of commuter rail ( although buses are an alternative ).  The schools are excellent though.  The high school in Derry is Pinkerton Academy ( private school the town contracts with for the high school ).  It is one of the reasons we moved to Derry...it sure wasn't because we like to pay outrageous taxes. 

I'd say if you are looking in NH, the Seacoast area is your best bet.  Or Lovell, ME...right near Ebenzer's pub  ;)
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Finding a city
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2012, 07:21:37 AM »
Except for the 7-8 hour flight time to Paris, it sounds like the Pacific NW is where you want to be. Weather, beer, culture, wilderness, etc., are all there. I like the Ann Arbor suggestion as well. Take a look, you'd probably really like it. I'm also very partial to Chicago and the surrounding areas. Look at some of the suburbs as well. Many are more city-like than common opinions tell you. I lived most of my life in the city, but am not disappointed at all to have moved out to the burbs. Just find one near a train station and you can be downtown in no time. Just my 2¢. Oh, and one more thing. We can self-distribute our beer here.
Good luck!

Mark, we had looked @ Oak Park as a potential good spot. What do you think of it?
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