Where should we move?
January 14, 2014 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. Inamonkeysuit and I like our current situation, but the circumstances are changing and we have decided that we will be moving later in 2014.

We live on a farm in Eastern PA. (We are renters.) It’s quiet and green, an hour out of Philly; less than that to New Hope and Doylestown. We work at home, so it’s ideal for us. But as we get older we have less tolerance for winter and want to relocate to someplace a bit warmer – if possible. We’re pretty staunch Blue Staters, but certainly wouldn’t rule out a blue (or even purple) county in a Red State. We have some family nearby in NJ, but aren’t allowing that to lock us into the East Coast because we also have family in CA, FL and in WA. So where, oh where, should we move? (Caveats: Neither one of us cares much for Florida; we aren’t really able to afford to buy a home. We are on fixed incomes, augmented with some freelance work.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
California is the obvious choice.

Any specifics in terms of what type of living situation you guys are looking for?

I'd be especially curious to know whether you're looking to rent in a rural area similar to where you currently live, or whether you're looking for a more suburban or urban experience. Would something rural but more remote than your current setup work?

The only thing I can think of about wanting to be in rural California is that the politics might run a little more red than you'd expect. But, I dunno, maybe somewhere in NorCal? Is that even vaguely affordable these days?
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2014

Nashville is nice. Bluish in a sea of red. The weather here is a cross between the deep South and the midwest. Today, for example, it's 53. It'll get down into the 30s again this weekend, and so on until the spring. Property is relatively cheap, and you can live in a rural spot and still be pretty close to town (something you couldn't do in, say, Atlanta).

There's more going on in Atlanta for sure. It's certainly got "warm" covered, but you'll be wanting to look in the Decatur area (or elsewhere inside I-285) if you want the blueness. It's a bit pricier, too.
posted by jquinby at 10:57 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

More details would definitely be helpful (is closeness to the coast important to you? mountains? urban/rural, etc.), but seconding the bluer parts of Tennessee (Knoxville may also be a good option), and adding in Virginia and North Carolina as places to consider. Asheville may be a little pricier (but is wonderful, culturally speaking), or maybe consider Charlotte, Raleigh, or Richmond areas?
posted by likeatoaster at 11:10 AM on January 14, 2014

If you don't mind the desert (and it is definitely warmer) Albuquerque or Tucson. If your location doesn't really matter (you don't need to in a big city for jobs) and by your question it doesn't there are lots of little towns that are cheap in New Mexico and winter isn't a big deal, but summer can be rough. A lot of Albuquerque is really nice and the small towns in the valley north and south of there are nice too if you aren't trying to find a job. My personal favorite town is Silver city in the southwest corner. Very strongly Hispanic and democratic, conservative in the rural sense, not the republican sense, and beautiful in way no where else is (at least to me). It is at about 5000' in elevation and winters aren't bad and summers are on the warm side (upper 90's mostly and a few 100 deg days). You aren't far from Tucson, El Paso or Albuquerque for big city resources (and they do have a hospital in silver city).

Tucson is much the same and the blue part of red Arizona and quite affordable. Flagstaff is the other blue part but not affordable and at 7000' feet in elevation winters are no joke.

And lastly, small towns in the Willamette valley in Oregon or away from Bend on the east side are fairly affordable, but prices start going up as you get near regional capitals like Portland, Bend, Eugene, Salem and Corvallis. There are a LOT of half empty mill towns with cheap housing in the coast range and Cascade foothills. Summers are great, winters are wet but rarely below freezing.
posted by bartonlong at 11:14 AM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I wanted warm liberal small town, I'd be looking right at Marfa, Texas.
posted by politikitty at 11:18 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Details: We like being rural. We are not city people, though we like having one nearby. We both have minor health issues. We are in our 60s. Northern CA is a possibility. We like all sorts of landscapes. I grew up on the beach, so I love that, but it's not a "must." Tucson might be a bit too hot in the summer. Mrs. Inamonkeysuit does not do well in excess heat. (I've been in Tucson in May and it was damn hot, over 100 F.) Otherwise we don't mind the desert at all. We like Mexican food, and I speak a little Spanish. She speaks some French and some Italian. She spent several years in Seattle/Tacoma and liked it but for the wet, wet winters. I've been up there and like it too, but those winters...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2014

Response by poster: Also, we plan on driving down to FL to visit relatives late next month; and we also plan to drive cross-country to visit family in CA in the autumn.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:22 AM on January 14, 2014

Yeah, there are a lot of great little towns in west Texas. I passed through Alpine on a train once and pretty desperately wanted to get off and go exploring.

That said, west Texas is remote in a way that really doesn't compare to eastern PA. Marfa is three hours from El Paso, which is the nearest city by far.
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Perhaps north of Atlanta, but not too far away. Gainsville, or some place like that. or even Villa Rica? For the more rural atmosphere.

I like Atlanta, lots of neat places, and rentals are cheap and plentiful.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2014

Response by poster: We were in Wilmington, NC last year and liked that place. At least, I did. My wife thinks the summers will be too humid.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:27 AM on January 14, 2014

Greensboro, NC. It's purple to blue (as a city, we swung against the Amendment 1 vote last year; the county swung ever so slightly for the amendment.) Winters are generally mildish (with some exceptions; we'll get a good snowstorm a year). If you want to live rural, you'll find fields and farms and cows 15 minutes out of the city; on the other hand, living in town is pretty nice too. The cost of living is reasonable, there's a lot to do, and there's a lot within easy driving distance (the beach is a couple hours away, the mountains are a couple hours, DC and Atlanta are 5, etc.) The local food scene is good, and getting better; the ethnic food scene is decent (lots of Mexican food!) and getting better (we just got our first Ethiopian restaurant.) [upon preview and seeing your addition: it is humid here. But it's going to be humid anywhere in the South.]
posted by joycehealy at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2014

I'll throw in a second vote for somewhere in middle Tennessee. There are plenty of smaller-ish towns like Cookeville that lie right on the interstate between Nashville and Knoxville, give you great access to the out-of-doors, don't get too cold in winter or disgustingly hot in summer, and are within an hour's drive to a bigger city.
posted by komara at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2014

As a Texan with old friends in TN, I want to steer you away from anything resembling west Texas and toward Knoxville.
posted by skbw at 11:56 AM on January 14, 2014

Kingston Springs, TN. It just on the western edge of Nashville. It's a close knit community that seem to have lots of stuff going on year round. You can drive in to Nashville for concert and other cultural events but you can easily live "out in the sticks" as well. Good luck!
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2014

Have you considered Hawaii? it's way nicer than Florida at least for vacation...Expensive to get there, though. On the other hand, I'm sure folks would come visit you!
posted by leahwrenn at 1:01 PM on January 14, 2014

You might take a look at Asheville, NC, which doesn't get as humid as the Carolina coast. I've been there only a couple of times, but I liked it.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2014

My best friend lived in Wilmington, NC. She later grew to hate it and has moved to a rural area near the Research Triangle. That's sort of the best of both worlds.

If you're considering TN, then I'd recommend Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge or even Cherokee. Close to Knoxville, but all are around the Smoky Mountain National Park and it's absolutely gorgeous there. It's one place we discuss for our retirement. At the very least, drive into the area and enjoy the touristy goodness of the joint. We have friends who live there and they LOVE it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:46 PM on January 14, 2014

If I was on a fixed income there is no way in the world I would consider moving to California. Mind you, I live in California and I love it, even the cheaper areas are pricey compared to lots of others. Personally, I would likely move to the Ashland / Jacksonville / Medford Oregona area. CA is NOT a good place for fixed income, unless your fixed income is SUBSTANTIAL.

I have not been to N Carolina for awhile, but it sure was nice last time I was there. (Asheville, Greensboro). Tucson seems interesting but there are probably good reasons not to go...
posted by jcworth at 1:55 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Coastal Northern California is good if you can afford the rents in, say, Bolinas, Mendocino, Fort Bragg, or Eureka on your fixed monthly budget. Do you need to be near an airport? What about a hospital? Do you want to be in a walkable place or are you willing to drive a lot? You might also tour the 101 corridor: Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Cloverdale, Willits, Ukiah...
posted by slidell at 2:10 PM on January 14, 2014

You don't mention anything that would rule the Columbia Gorge (OR/WA) out, and most of the rural areas have some sort of internet access, if that's a requirement. We can have our nasty times, but winters are really too bad. Decent growing season, though not an extended one like say, California. Thing is, around here, most are living rural, but they're close to small towns, and within .5 to 1.5 hours of the Portland metro. Good hospitals. Great farmer's market availability.

As for the politics, well, it's the Pacific Northwest.

Other areas to consider might be the Klamath Falls (if you like LOTS of sun days a year, but less water for growing), or somewhere within driving distance of the Eugene, OR metro area.
posted by stormyteal at 4:14 PM on January 14, 2014

If you do consider Washington, try looking inside the rain shadow or east of the mountains, for more sun and fewer clouds. (Eastern Washington gets a lot hotter in the summer than Western, but the rain shadowed area doesn't.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:28 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, internet access is a must for home-workers like us. We love to garden, as well, so the more sun the better.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:48 PM on January 14, 2014

the more sun the better

I rescind my recommendation of the northern California coast then. You'd have to go inland to get out of the fog, and then internet access would become an issue.
posted by slidell at 4:50 PM on January 14, 2014

To further on my previous answer now that you have provided details I would seriously recommend Albuquerque and Silver city for a very close look (a big city choice and a small city choice). Neither is near the ocean but they have warm summers and mild winters (summer is usually 90-95 at the highest and winters are usually just below freezing at night but days warm up a lot). Both areas have about the same climate, living expenses aren't bad at all and their is a long growing season at both (long enough to grow chile's and corn with no problem and usually you can overwinter hardy plants). The best mexican food (and in my mind the best food period) is in the Rio Grande Valley and centered on Albuquerque. And the landscapes are breathtaking and the state has more than a lifetimes worth of places and experiences to explore and find. Also southern Oregon, in the Umpqua Valley has a Very mild climate and cheap living and usually good internet if you are near one of the bigger metro areas (coos bay or Roseburg really). Oregon has just as much to offer as New Mexico (except maybe the food) as far as things to do and places to find.
posted by bartonlong at 5:29 PM on January 14, 2014

Some more Northern CA suggestions (and a couple repeats):
Russian River valley at large: Occidental, Freestone, Guerneville, Cazadero, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Valley Ford, Sebastopol, Petaluma (not technically RR valley but a lovely place with many farms. It does get a bit rainy in the winter the closer you get to the coast but not as bad as PacNor.

I just visited Silver City NM and this region at large (Southwest New Mexico) seems to have many great areas. Lots of hot springs!

Bisbee Arizona is supposed to be lovely with lots of personality, I know it's more in the mountains than Tucson so I believe the summers are more livable. AZ is GREAT for sunny winters, lemme tell ya.

Athens, GA.
posted by dahliachewswell at 5:49 PM on January 14, 2014

You don't mention what you'd be comfortable paying for rent, per month, for what size house; that's important.

In terms of choice, saying "Northern California" is a bit ambiguous. That could be north of San Francisco (across the Golden Gate Bridge), or to the northeast (Chico, Auburn); you probably don't want to go due east (Central Valley; hot) and you certainly can't afford to go south (Silicon Valley).

If you go north, you certainly can't afford anywhere in Marin County except possibly for the most isolated parts (as in, no high-speed Internet). For affordability, you need to to be north of Marin County. The further north (or, to be more specific, the longer the travel time to the Golden Gate Bridge), the less expensive the rent (and the fewer places for rent).

For rents, Craigslist is your best friend. For weather, look at weather.com monthly averages. For example, Eureka, with inexpensive housing, may not be as warm as you like, during the day, though it rarely gets below freezing at night.

Personally, I like Sonoma County, where my wife and I have lived for about 18 months. We picked a suburb of Santa Rosa, when we moved from Virginia, but the county is primarily rural. Still, there are plenty of retail and cultural options along the main north-south freeway (Route 101), and it's just an hour to the Golden Gate Bridge from Santa Rosa. (Significantly less than that from Petaluma, but the offset is considerably more expensive housing.)

Another factor we considered (but may not be relevant to you) is access to airports. We looked at the central coast area (San Luis Obisbo and south to Ventura), parts of which may be affordable enough. But from SLO it's more than a three hour drive to LAX, during non-commute hours, meaning a trip to Philadelphia (for example) involves a long, unpleasant day.

And yes, Sonoma County is very blue; not as blue as San Francisco or Marin County, but here, "rural" tends to mean "hippie" more than "redneck". (Here is a map of 2012 election results for California, by county.)
posted by WestCoaster at 8:59 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Life around Sequim Bay, WA seems nice. It's on the warm side of the Olympic Cascades, so it's close to beautiful nature, but also protected from the rains. There's a gorgeous 400 acres of dedicated wildlife habitat near one of the Pacific Northwest National Labs that was donated by a fish cannery that went out of business. Also, there is a 5.5 mile-long spit called Dungeness Spit that you can stare at for ten minutes before finally spotting a lighthouse way out in the distance.
Check it out, it's an interesting little spot.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:26 PM on January 14, 2014

Response by poster: Yes, we like Sequim Bay, actually. The whole Olympic Peninsula is wonderful.

Rentwise, we're good for about a thousand bucks. We currently have 2 BR, 1 bath, a big study, kitchen, and LR/DR combo, plus laundry room and 2-car garage. One more room would be nice.

New Mexico is sounding better all the time. We like the mountains.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:40 AM on January 15, 2014

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