Cheapest and best place in USA to live?

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Submitted by mixxalot on March 9, 2007 - 7:35am

Since I now have a job that is 90% travel and home on weekends, I am thinking of moving out of California to be able to actually afford land and a home.

NC and FL are out due to humidity, weather and hicks. What state offers good weather and lower cost of living than California and nice place to live?

Submitted by no_such_reality on March 9, 2007 - 8:37am.

Austin TX. Good airport too. Although the locals are all complaining about the yuppies and Californians moving in.

Submitted by Cow_tipping on March 9, 2007 - 8:47am.

I'd try Northern GA southern TN.

Submitted by mixxalot on March 9, 2007 - 9:29am.

Texas sounds good. I will have to make some visits. Austin does have a decent economy and WAY cheaper than San Diego.

I should know in a year or so once work firms up at the new job.

Thinking of Vegas too which is half price of San Diego in spite of the boom that Vegas had it did go down.

Submitted by juice (not verified) on March 9, 2007 - 9:41am.

Congrats on being bold and considering the move. I have done considerable research into relocation the past two years and have looked at every 'best city' list out there, every study, every article, and have travelled the country by car on vacation twice and looked at a few cities first hand. Here's two that would be great for flying out alot:

1. Austin: I agree with the above poster. Very progressive, music scene might be one of the best in nation, great university, hot chicks if you are single, weather is good, lots of great jobs, especially high tech, diverse, state capital so lots of govt jobs, cheap housing etc. Negative: Airport may not have direct flights everywhere.

2. Denver/Ft. Collins/Boulder/Colorado Springs area: Great recreation, places to feel at home if you are conservative or liberal, cheap housing, great weather (300+ days of sun, actual not nearly as cold as say the Midwest, good universities, many safe low crime areas to live, good schools, skiing, central for flying anywhere in US, nice airport etc.

Submitted by exeunt on March 9, 2007 - 10:10am.

cheapest will never be best.................
................and the best will never be cheapest.
these seem mutually exclusive.

the cheapest might be rural mississippi or someplace similar, and you can get real cheap by living in a tin shack.

the best might be urban san francisco, new york, portland, or smaller cities like austin, boulder, etc.

for a californian, it might all be accessible.
for others, i might suggest a college town attached to a state capitol. the suggestions for austin may make sense; so might madison(WI) davis(CA) corvallis(OR) hartford(conn) etc etc etc. you'll get some diversity, educated folks, cheap food, potential investments in student rentals, access to countryside, the opportunity for community - a possible escape from suburbia without being in the boonies...

Submitted by surveyor on March 9, 2007 - 10:17am.


Here are some actual stats for you to look at...

You can go through each city it recommends and see what they have to offer.

Submitted by bob007 on March 9, 2007 - 10:37am.

portland (OR), corvallis, Seattle, Austin

Submitted by exeunt on March 9, 2007 - 10:55am.

actually, an NC story here...
Asheville, NC...
semi-rural in the hills, close to state/national parks.
very liberal, organic, hippie-in-them-hills kinda place.
i lived in a small co-op housing community when i visited, when i was crewing for a film location shot. beautiful people, very friendly. most were transplants from elsewhere, usually colder climes - portland, eugene, wisconsin, maine etc. they had this lovely artsy community in the middle of THE SOUTH...
then i remember the actual shoot, which included a lynching scene. we came out that morning to this field outside of town and over the morning something really unsettling happenned. a whole crowd of people began to gather at the edge of the lot - some came with the extras who were part of the scene. when the dummy was hauled up on the tree, you'd hear this loud cheering from the crowd! This was in the late 90's...

Submitted by juice (not verified) on March 9, 2007 - 10:59am.

Crazy stuff! I was about to recommend Asheville in my earlier post, but didn't because of the distance to an airport. I have heard that it is progressive and that area does have alot of transplants.

Submitted by Cow_tipping on March 9, 2007 - 11:06am.

Love asheville, dont get me wrong ... But there is 2-3-4 problems with it ...
1. Too many second homers ... too many doctors/lawyers from NY or Atl or somewhere ... buy somehting in the mountains and weekend there and totally up the costs for everyone else. Yuppie bedroom community dead during the week, and over crowded weekends.
2. Its humid all the time winter and summer as opposed to the rest of NC when its humid only in summer.
3. Scenery and roads to kill for if you're a biker especially, and they tend to over run the place winter summer, spring or fall.
4. Too far from the ocean if you want that.

Savannah GA or wilmington NC or Myrtle beach or thereabouts are better IMHO.
Also Boone NC is nice especially if you like a little snow and winter sports.

Submitted by juice (not verified) on March 9, 2007 - 11:42am.

I hear that Savannah has a huge crime problem and I would be aprehensive about moving there. It's smaller than Oceanside, CA by 30,000 residents (Savannah=130k, Oceanside=160k), and yet the crime rate is literally twice as bad.The murder rate is 4 times as bad. Oceanside murders in 2000=3, 2001=4, 2002=5, 2003=8, 2004=8. Savannah murders in 2000=31, 2001=26, 2002=32, 2003=28, 2004=23.

It is a very unfortunate fact that areas like Savannah that have a large, young, poor, black population always have sky high crime rates. Savannah (city) is 57% black, median household income for blacks is 25k, whites 46k, and the child poverty rate among whites is 8%, blacks 34%!

Submitted by mixxalot on March 9, 2007 - 12:21pm.

Thanks folks- I have a year to think about it.

What about Vegas? Great for a young single guy with lots of clubs restaurants and stuff to do. No taxes and cheaper than San Diego and close enough to everything.

Submitted by PerryChase on March 9, 2007 - 12:33pm.

How about Talahassee or Gainesville, Florida? Great college towns from what I hear.

Submitted by Cow_tipping on March 9, 2007 - 12:35pm.

I did not know that about Savannah GA. Generally I avoid the coast. Hurricanes. But some people like coast. I really prefer the part of GA that is up by TN and SC that corner area and it still under 100 miles from atlanta.

Submitted by surveyor on March 9, 2007 - 12:37pm.


Vegas is a nice place, but I thought you were avoiding "bubble" areas like San Diego. If you were to live in Vegas, you probably won't be buying real estate...

Submitted by drdeadprez on March 9, 2007 - 4:08pm.

Sky Harbor Airport in Pheonix is great. Downtown Phoenix, which already has pro baseball, basketball, etc, is adding the "light rail" trasit system, ASU campus and high rise condo buildings. There are numerous neighborhoods in walking distance of it all where you can buy historic homes with plenty of flavor on large lots for cheap. Now is the time to get in. 5 hour drive to San Diego or 3 hours to Mexico for beaches. 250K will get you a very nice property right now.

Submitted by PerryChase on March 9, 2007 - 4:17pm.

"Now is the time to get in."
Ha.haha, that's really funny!

Phoenix's bubble is as big as California's. Phoenix and Tucson will crash much worse than California when this thing unravels. They'll have nothing left but snowbirds after Intel and the other techs decamp for China.

Submitted by hipmatt on March 9, 2007 - 4:23pm.

Dude, Vegas sucks, maybe for a young single guy, OK, but really, there is a reason that they call it SIN CITY. The place is obsesses with greed, sex, and substance abuse. Crime is worse than you think there and climbing, and housing is still in a huge bubble (although it is crashing and SHOULD) so its not cheep by any means.

If you are looking for a nice, single, quality woman, I doubt there are a whole lot in Vegas. If you just want some easy action and you have money, Vegas is for you!

Submitted by hipmatt on March 9, 2007 - 4:27pm.

I have to agree that the phoenix bubble is worse than even socal's, and that it has less to offer. I a few years there will be BIG deals in phoenix, much less than 250k.

I would recommend Texas, Oregon, and Idaho to look at.

Submitted by drdeadprez on March 9, 2007 - 5:01pm.

I was speaking of a particular area within the city of Phoenix. I agree that there are many areas/suburbs that are at risk for futher price decline. Downtown Phoenix is developing into a "real" city with entertainment, retail, dining, education and culture. With rising gas prices and baby boomers becoming empty nesters urban centers are on the rise. Phoenix is a perfect example and one that is still very affordable. You can have the best of both worlds right now. You can have a nice size lot for your dogs to run around in yet walk to the ball park for a Dbacks game. All of this in the 200K range. The price charts for Phoenix look nothing like the charts for SoCal. Investors: Put 20% down and rent out cash flow positive. No bubble there! The bubble is here in San Diego.

Submitted by JJGittes on March 9, 2007 - 5:08pm.

Washinton state -- no state income tax, and between the coast and inland, you should be able to find a climate you can stand.

If you are climate sensitive, you may be stuck with coastal Calif.

Submitted by no_such_reality on March 9, 2007 - 5:25pm.

What about Vegas? Great for a young single guy with lots of clubs restaurants and stuff to do.

I had a friend move there two years ago, he's back already.

For weekend partiers, it's Sin City. For the locals, it's hard not to be Strung-Out Hard Luck City. Everything has a price tag. For an eye-opener, go by the utilities during the business day on Fridays. The cars are lined up to pay cash to keep their utilities on.

More importantly, not a lot of economic diversity and the city really lives and dies on the Sin City tourist trade.

Submitted by mixxalot on March 9, 2007 - 7:05pm.

Humidity and I do not mix well. Freezing cold weather and I do not mix well. I will skip Vegas. I admit- since living here in San Diego for almost past 4 years, I've been spoiled by the great weather. I probably can get used to humidity with good AC and a swimming pool. I hear that northern panhandle part of Florida- Jacksonville, Clearwater, Gainsville are great towns if you can deal with giant bugs and humid weather and storms.

At this point, I have some time to think about it. I like a good cosmopolitan city with excellent nightlife, restaurants and shopping. I did like Portland and coastal Oregon a lot when I worked up there years ago.

I have heard a lot of really really bad things about the cops in Texas as being dirty and corrupt. So thats not good. I do hear good things about Austin though.

Thanks for the tips on Vegas- will skip it as place to buy- okay to visit I guess.

Looking in San Diego- I predict that areas like La Mesa will become much more affordable. I actually like La Mesa area a lot near SDSU college.

I might wait out this bubble and buy there near Mt. Helix. I have a friend who cannot sell her place for what she wants. May score a deal if she cannot sell it.

Thanks for the great tips! Might still just build home on my parents land in Oroville in save ton of cash for the crash.

Does anyone know how to appraise a 2 acre plot of land with a new home built on it? Do agents use comps for the local area to appraise property that has a home built on it?

Submitted by mixxalot on March 9, 2007 - 7:07pm.

I like what I see from Virginia Beach, VA and there is a lot of work for government tech market!! That and much cheaper than San Diego!!

Will make a trip hopefully soon to Virginia, Florida and Raleigh, NC.

Right now these are my top 3 picks for future home purchase and residence as long as work goes well as a traveling computer consultant!

Also check out Tennessee and no, I dont care much for Atlanta. Myrtle Beach sounds nice though.

Submitted by Cow_tipping on March 9, 2007 - 7:09pm.

Jax is Humid, summer winter all the time.
Central NC is humid in the summer but not all other times. The opposite of CA actually. But I doubt that any where is as dry as Vegas and PHX, but the places everyone here has mentioned are humid at some point in the year or other. Except of course AZ and NV.

Submitted by sdrealtor on March 9, 2007 - 10:25pm.

Jax is the biggest pit I have ever been to and the worst excuse for a big city. I was there for the Super Bowl a couple years ago and was appalled. No nightlife at all. We had to stay an hour away to get a hotel room, which was a hole in the wall for $300/nigth. About 3 decent restaurant in town. It was an absolute joke.

Submitted by vegasrenter on March 10, 2007 - 1:19am.

Vegas is an mostly an armpit with a couple really nice, large master-planned communities. I'm a civil engineer for a public agency and the pay rates here for that are extremely high - so much so that it's hard to move away. Lots of money available for professionals with strong people skills. Restaurants and entertainment are excellent. Not much in the way of museums or culture. Very high drug/booze/divorce/suicide rates. Weather is great most of the year but is a furnace for 3 months. It NEVER rains, ever! Not much nature/fishing close to town but many beautiful places in Utah starting at 4-hours drive. Housing is bland and overpriced on tiny lots. Older custom homes on large lots are very expensive, starting at $450K in bad areas. RE Prices here are not dropping very fast at all. The drive to LA on weekends is very easy, but horrible for LA visitors going the opposite direction to LV for the weekend.

Submitted by Realtor in Uptown on March 10, 2007 - 9:31am.


Agents first find out what the average per sqft is to build a home in the area. They use those nubmers with the comps of the homes in the area. If the home you build matches the comps then it works out. I do know building material has been going up due to energy cost. Oil is going up again which will push the cost of building higher.

If like Mt. Helix you might like Windsor Hills,Eastridge and Serramar. You can get a house with views of the ocean,Point Loma and Downtown. They are all in the 91941 area.

Submitted by PerryChase on March 10, 2007 - 9:57am.

"I do know building material has been going up due to energy cost."
How do you know?

In my view, construction cost will drop 20%-30% from the peak. Contractors are finishing up houses under construction now, but they'll go begging for work in the next few years.

From the February 19, 2007 Issue of ENR
Housing Puts Pressure on Lumber Prices

Last year, the single-family housing market fell 12% in dollar volume, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. That drop in demand is dragging down lumber prices. In February, ENR's 20-city average price for the most commonly used species of 2 X 4 lumber fell 5% from the previous month. This follows more than a year of price declines, which leaves ENR's price 16% below February 2005's level. Prices for plywood fell earlier during the housing cycle and are now 4% below a year ago.

Submitted by mixxalot on March 10, 2007 - 10:24am.

Addicted to San Diego and southern California weather

Thanks you folks are great! I am thinking of just renting here for the next year or so until I visit new places. I love San Diego in spite of 4 dollar gas and sky high prices! Mt. Helix is great and will have to check out the areas (Windsor Hills, Eastridge, Serramar) that you mention. Do you by chance have any links to builders or homes for sale in these areas?

One thing I have noticed in Point Loma: prices are dropping! I saw one place listed six months ago for 600k that now lists for 500k! So it is going to be a good time to buy in a couple years. I might just park my cash in CDs for now until the market bottoms out.

Rain sucks otherwise I would live in Washington state or Oregon- both places are gorgeous and friendly people and cheap but I am not a fan of 200 days per year of downpour. Humidity would be a pain but if it is only a few days per year than I can deal with it. Bugs- yuck! Not sure about massive roaches and bugs in Florida. Texas has chiggers nasty bugs that cause disease and sores.

The irony is that I grew up in New England and dealt ok with snow and cold as a kid but we moved to northern California when I was 12 and been in California since so the mediterranean climate has permanently affected me.

I do like Colorado but the cold and snow would be a pain to deal with.
Guess I would have to spend time in winter there on a project to see if I could hang with it. The hiking and outdoor sports would be great and tons of hot single women help.

Right now- besides California top picks to visit are Virginia Beach and Fort Collins, Colorado. If I can hang with cold then Fort Collins looks nice. Maybe a summer home? Rent a room in San Diego until prices drop and then have primary residence in Colorado or Virginia may work well. My parents already told me they would put a home on their land for me to crash at. Once thats ready I am thinking to spend winter their and maybe jet to a small home in Colorado or Virginia for spring and summer unless I go skiing in winter.

Wait for San Diego to fall then buy.

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