Green Acres Redux: From Boston Metro to NH or RI
August 23, 2013 8:02 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I live in Boston. As part of its annual employee survey, his employer is asking whether he would be willing to relocate. The most likely locations would be facilities in southern New Hampshire or northern Rhode Island. It would be theoretically possible to stay where we live and he would reverse commute to those locations, but based on past experience, it would be over an hour each way. So, if his job were moved, we might relocate—and so we turn to you, MeFi, for your perspectives on those locations and whether we’d be happy living there or nearby.

First off—you may be able to figure out my husband’s employer and the towns in question from my ever-so-subtle hints, but we’d appreciate it if you don’t mention them in the thread. Thanks!

About us: sort of your standard-issue MeFites—we’re liberal, educated professionals, like arts and culture and food and drink, not too consumer-focused. Nesters who love to cook. We’re at the point in our lives where getting out of Boston and into a house with a yard and a garden has far more appeal than being close to a bar or a trendy restaurant. We don’t have kids or pets, though we might in the future. We’re in our mid-30s.

The RI facility is in northern Providence County. The NH facility is sort of in the middle of Hillsborough County. Each is just an office park, and we haven’t explored the area around either location.

We could theoretically live just over the border in MA for either location, but we could also end up deeper in those states (Concord, Providence, etc.). Getting out of Boston would be a big cost of living savings itself, and living in NH seems like it could be even cheaper, given taxes (though we haven’t spent much time researching their higher property taxes). We’d need a second car. I would also have to find a new job, and we haven’t done much research on the job markets in those locations.

So, northern RI and southern NH Mefites (whether you live or work there), what’s to love where you live? What do you hate? Would you recommend moving to RI/NH, or would we be happier staying safely within MA and just popping over your borders? NH, why do you not have a Whole Foods yet? If you moved from the Boston metro area, did you actually end up saving money? How’s your commute? Do you still get back to see friends in Boston? How's your internet? Are you happy?

Thanks!
posted by Calamity Jen to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hillsborough County is lovely. I've thought about living in Goffstown. There's not a TON to do in terms of bars and restaurants but you're not far from Manchester or Concord if you want an occasional night on the town. Manchester has been struggling for a while but seems to be on an upswing in terms of revitalizing itself, and Concord is a cute little New England city though without a lot to recommend it in terms of features or attractions. The Concord-to-work commute will be a solid half-hour and two tolls, though.

You will both want a car. There is little in the way of transit service, though there are regular buses to Boston from Concord and from Manchester, so you can pop down to the city for day trips when you like.

(I grew up in NH and still have some roots up there, and lived in Hooksett from 2008-2010. I'm biased, but I love it up there.)
posted by gauche at 8:31 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not from the area but as one who has moved around a bit, don't just think about current happiness with the location. A very important consideration is job prospects should the current job go away. Granted, it sounds like you are essentially in the extreme Boston suburbs either way, so it may not be a huge issue for your decision. But you don't want to end up somewhere where you are screwed if he loses his job because you now live somewhere with a really bad job market.
posted by COD at 8:35 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up southeast of Boston, and I've lived in this general area for nearly all my life. I also spend lots of time in both areas you mention. Until just a couple years ago, I had immediate family in Hillsborough County and visited them at least once a week; I also worked in the county and commuted from Massachusetts. I have extended family in northern Rhode Island, and I'm in that area at least once a week nowadays, usually more, because I'm licensed in Rhode Island (attorney) and because I love Providence.

I'll start by saying that living in southeastern Massachusetts equidistant from Boston and Providence would be my ideal. The geography ranges from commercial to rural, there are shopping malls and restaurants and quiet orchards and state forests, and the traffic is never too bad. If you decide to trek into a city, you can choose between Boston and Providence; and if you choose Boston, you can choose between four or five different routes if WBZ says there's a jam on one.

Between Rhode Island and New Hampshire, I prefer Rhode Island. For one thing, I'm a serious foodie. I spent years having weekly dinners in southern New Hampshire, constantly trying new restaurants with my family, and I'm telling you, the food in New Hampshire sucks. It's getting better, but it ain't there yet. And I'm not talking trendy, just simple and good. Dining options in New Hampshire absolutely pale beside either Massachusetts or Rhode Island—and honestly, that's true even if you exclude the cities of Boston and Providence from the calculus.

Parts of New Hampshire are beautiful, but in a very rural way. Rhode Island offers more variety. The areas bordering Massachusetts are pretty bad, but if you drive farther, southern Rhode Island opens up and is very beautiful, too. But mostly I think it's a wash on this count. You'll find a wonderful neighborhood to have a yard and garden in either state. I'd forget about the tax disparities, too. In my experience, that's also a wash.

If you plan to keep ties with Boston, note the MBTA commuter rail runs to Providence and all the way down to North Kingstown. If you're commuting from Hillsborough County, you're driving to the Lowell T station or else driving into the city.

Having spent considerable time in both areas you mention, my first choice would be to commute from Massachusetts and my second choice would be to live in Rhode Island. From earlier threads I've gathered that AskMe tends to frown on commutes, but I've been commuting my entire life and it doesn't bother me a bit. Normal for me is about 40–80 minutes during rush hour, and if you figure that radius then you have a lot of terrific options in all three states.
posted by cribcage at 8:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


And adding to what Cribcage said, Sharon MA is about halfway between Boston and Providence along I-95 and is consistently ranked very highly nationally as a place with a great quality of life. You might want to check it out.

I live on the far south coast of MA, just a few miles from southern RI, and I also own a home up in NH....just north of Concord. In my experience, the two areas are just very different so it really depends on what floats your boat. To me, NH has a much more rural feel, even in areas close to Concord. But you are much closer to the mountains for hiking and skiing if that interests you. If you move to a place like Sharon, you are still living in metro Boston and would have a moderate commute to the facility in northern RI. It will be a more suburban feel obviously. But then again, if the traffic isn't bad, you can get from Concord to Boston in like 1 hr + 15 minutes if you need culture. But that is often easier said than done when life gets busy. If diversity is important to you, then a place like Sharon MA wins hands down compared to a small town in NH. And yes, the tax differences are substantial. My property tax bill in NH is almost 2x what I pay in MA, even though my MA property has a higher value. But NH doesn't have income or sales tax, so it might be a wash. Different politics? Yes, but based on my experience in NH folks up there are pretty measured and pragmatic, regardless of which side of the aisle they identify with. But if you live in a small NH town, you will be around guns. Lots. Of. Guns. All of my NH neighbors have them. Hunting is big. What else? The weather in winter is noticeably colder and snowier once you get up to Concord compared to southern MA, so again, whatever floats your boat.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2013


Thanks for the answers so far! I'm glad to hear there are some good options out there. And I should maybe clarify, too--we'd have no choice whether, when, or where the job would relocate to (though we'd obviously pick where we'd live). We'd just be listing a willingness to be moved somewhere. There are other places outside New England, as well, but they're less likely.

The particular gamble is whether we say we're open to relocation and thereby increase our chances of being moved (but more or less locally), or not say we're open to it and potentially be overlooked for moves--but also potentially get moved to somewhere we'd rather not go, if NE is all filled up by that point. Eek!
posted by Calamity Jen at 10:49 AM on August 23, 2013


I spent a lot of time bouncing around various locations in New England, though I don't live there anymore.

A big question is where do you work (DO you work?)... that, I think, will better inform your decision about whether and where to move. Also, if you live in MA and work in NH, MA will still get you on state income taxes -- live and work in NH and you won't have state income tax.

I lived in Nashua for about a year and a half (2001-2002), and I absolutely loved it. At the time, I worked in Tewksbury, so I was still paying MA income taxes. I was in my early 20s, when it's typical for people to want to live in cities. I'm finding that I best like to live in smaller cities like that. You can also conceivably find an affordable house with some land for pets there... I'm not so sure about Manchester in that regard. Some of the surrounding towns seem really nice, but I only knew one or two people from Merrimack and I often had little reason to venture north of Nashua (unless it was to Manchester or even further north to the ski areas). I imagine the smaller towns would be as sleepy. Though I am approaching my mid-30s and I live in an absolute bumfart rural area now, and I'm much happier with it than I think I would have been in my 20s.

I've heard that property taxes in NH are higher than in MA (but I was an apartment renter in NH so I didn't see that). Excise tax seemed about the same. Car insurance seemed to cost more, largely because NH doesn't require it and so you have more uninsured people to cover. I met a large majority of my New England-based friends while I was living in Nashua and they're still (mostly) living in that area.

I've also lived in Chelmsford, MA (2003-2004). To me that was a sleepy, yawn-a-minute, boring town, and I spent a lot of my social time in Nashua (or, rarely, Lowell) anyway.

I've never lived in RI. I've got one friend who lives there, in Warwick, and I've visited. It seems somewhat different in character to northeastern MA/southern NH.

One of my Nashua friends got really excited and posted pictures to her Facebook last week about a Whole Foods being built in Nashua -- though it might have been some other store like that. There's also a Trader Joe's in Tyngsborough MA just a stone's throw across the state line.
posted by tckma at 11:01 AM on August 23, 2013


Yes, they're building a Whole Foods in Nashua.

I grew up in southern NH, lived in Boston for ten years, and live in Lowell now. Southern NH is not cosmopolitan at all, in any way, with the exception of Portsmouth, which is probably too far east for you. It gets worse the further north you go. Not great on the diversity front, either. Culturally, NH is very different from Massachusetts.

But if you intend to buy property, homes in southern NH are cheap compared to anything you'd see in eastern Mass.
posted by gentian at 11:25 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What do you do for work, since you're the one who will have to find a new job? My husband and I both worked jobs in Manchester, NH for a number of years while living in Lowell, MA and between the commute (which was an easy one, but, you know, gas and tolls), the MA income tax, and the hefty pay difference between MA and NH salaries in our jobs (him a designer and me an RN) we had to find jobs in MA to really sustain life. And we're cheap :P So while your spouse's salary in NH may stay the same, be prepared to have yours be much less in NH even in the major cities, depending on what you do for work. My job in MA at a local non-Boston hospital is about a 30% pay increase on my well paying (for NH) hospital job that i had as an RN up in Manchester. It more than makes up for the higher income taxes in that way alone.
posted by takoukla at 12:02 PM on August 23, 2013


We lived in Providence for 5 years and really liked it. It is a great little city with decent connections to Boston and you can be in the city, walking distance from the bars etc. and have a yard. And, man, the rent was CHEAP compared to the Boston area as long as you weren't right next to one of the colleges. We found it very easy to hang out with friends in Boston, either by taking the train/bus up or driving.

If we ever had a reason to, I would move back to Providence in a heartbeat.

I grew up just next to Hillsborough county in NH. It is very easy to get very rural very fast. So, if instead of a yard, you want a stand of trees and a few acres, you can get that without a problem.
posted by chiefthe at 2:09 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Quincy, MA. I went to college in RI and moved to Hooksett, NH where I've lived for the last 15 years.

I personally find NH a great place to live. Property taxes are higher than MA, but are more than offset by the no state income tax OR sales tax. Sales tax adds up and it is a factor to consider. If you get relocated to the NH facility, staying in MA over the border and paying MA income tax would make absolutely no sense to me.

You will definitely need a second car. I love that parking is literally never an issue in NH. The job market in SNH is not bad right now depending on what you are looking to do. Salaries will be lower than you are used to in MA, but so is cost of living.

It's more outdoorsy than cosmopolitan - lakes, skiing, ponds, hiking are popular past-times here in a way that museums and theater are not. But you're still less than an hour to Boston, the ocean, the mountains. Some pretty good shows come to the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.

Food wise, NH is a lot heavier on the chain restaurants than the independent foodie scene, but Nashua and Manchester are coming along in that regard.

If kids are in your future, pay attention to school systems, they vary widely.

I loved living in RI but it does have a more city feel than NH. I chose NH.
posted by mazienh at 10:02 AM on August 25, 2013


I live in northeast Rhode Island. My BiL works for $UNNAMED_EMPLOYER, and lives across town; we was delighted when he got transferred to the location near us (instead of one up in Mass.). And I worked in Boston right by the Custom House for a year or two while commuting down here, and was delighted to changes jobs to work at a small university in Providence...where I have been for 12 years!

Yes, I do miss the excitement of downtown Boston, but we lived in the Boston suburbs (Norwood) before we moved, so it was really a wash. *shrug* It was a 25 minute train ride in then, and it's like an hour's drive now: heck, yesterday we drove the kids up and spent twelve hours in Boston as tourists. You're not moving to, like, Texas, for heaven's sake! :7)

You need another car, yes. And you will need to make a bit of an effort to connect with the people in your new community since the all-driving nature of getting around (instead of walking to stuff) cuts down on how often you run into people.

Many/some of your Boston friends will drop you like a bad habit when they need to drive to see you. Deep down, they suck. :7)

Lots of good brewers, coffee roasters, restaurants, farmer's markets, and other ways to stuff your face here.

Providence has lot of things going on. (Again, its not like you're moving to Indianapolis or something.) The whole state is about an hour's drive across, so living in Rhodey still puts you close to Boston. And RI has lot of good stuff: Trader Joe's and REI and Sweenor's Candy and the beaches and whatever it is that floats your boat.

Have you thought about the extra fuss each April if you're doing non-resident taxes for his job? Ugh, we did that for a few years and it was a drag.

Give it a go: the real estate market is recovering here (if my little neighborhood is anything to go by), and you can always sell your house to some incoming CVS exec if you move to Cumberland or Lincoln!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2013


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