Why shouldn't I move from Austin to Albuquerque?
January 1, 2016 7:47 AM   Subscribe

There are a lot of upsides - real estate prices, traffic, scenery. A few downsides - weaker job market, higher crime rate, but I can't think of much more than that. Why not?

Posting this under a sockpuppet because my employer is aware generally of my web presence.

We have a house in central Austin valued at approximately $750,000.00. It's a seller's market right now. Comparable houses in Albuquerque can be had in the $200-250,000.00 price range, which gives us a hell of a cushion while we re-establish ourselves. It's one hell of an incentive. We are in our 50's.

What I hate about Austin: The Me First! entitlement community of young newcomers, especially in the software/startup/fitness economy who are here to climb over the bodies of the weak. The traffic. Austin is growing at the rate of 1000 people a month, the roads are all outdated, full of potholes & no one knows where the hell they're going. I rarely leave the house any more because it's bound to induce road rage. You can't go anywhere public without being subject to Line World, jostling, and rude people getting in your way. I am sick of the crowds. The godawful heat. So I hide in my house and am getting sick of being home-bound just because it's impossible to be outside in my city.

I don't know if Albuquerque would solve for most of the things i dislike about Austin, but it kind of appears so, after talking to friends.

Benefits I envision in Albuquerque - access to a panoply of outdoor destinations - have spent some time in the region & REALLY love the history, the pueblos, the desert & the mountains to the north of Santa Fe. The Pecos wilderness would be weekend-able. Good Mexican food. Less crowded generally, everywhere. I love NA & Hispanic culture (am a small part NA & have spent a lot of time in Mexico) A strong arts community nearby that I can hopefully auger into work in my trade as a master printer. Climate - a biggie: 10 degrees cooler on average than Austin. I would be just fine being a minority white in a majority Hispanic area - I am a moderately decent Spanish speaker.

What am I missing, where are my blind spots, or is this as good a deal as it looks on the surface?

Not in a hurry -- we are saving up to make this move in perhaps 2 years when the last kid is out of high school. Open to other similar suggestions.
posted by Florida Lee to Work & Money (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was in Albuquerque for the first time last month and was surprised and charmed. It's not Austin (but you've done Austin). Good food, funky stores, low pretentiousness factor. If I've read correctly, the difference in housing prices will net you half a million? Think of the travel opportunities!

There *were* a lot of sirens. My friend lives in a "marginal" neighborhood, but we never felt unsafe.
posted by cyndigo at 8:04 AM on January 1, 2016


I'm in Austin too with a centrally-located house that, yeah, could sell for a decent amount of money. I absolutely get that motivation. And the heat. Ug.

I can't speak about Albuquerque, but just from the tone of your question, you might want to spend some time thinking about what's making you hate Austin so much. I've been here nearly 20 years and have definitely seen the effects of traffic and crowds. Whatever cool thing you think you might want to do - 10,000 people are already there doing it.

But, that being said, the city doesn't strike me as any more "rude" or necessarily "entitled" than anywhere else that's kind of crowded. People are people. The kind of generalizations you're making about people in Austin might bear some more looking into - just so you don't make a big move and find yourself being bugged by the same things about people in Albuquerque.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:11 AM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


We live in Los Alamos, NM. It seems like a lot of crime in Albuquerque, especially drunk driving. We try to avoid going there as much as possible even though it's our nearest big city. Never take our toddler there if we can avoid it at all. I suggest Santa Fe!! Has all the same things you want, pricier homes but you have plenty. If we could afford it/my job was there, we'd live there in a heartbeat!
posted by rio at 8:13 AM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


If the art community is your focus, there might be more for you in Santa Fe, but with more expensive housing, as noted.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:16 AM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


the city doesn't strike me as any more "rude" or necessarily "entitled" than anywhere else that's kind of crowded. People are people.

Point taken. Maybe it's more that everybody seems to be in such a hurry, & maybe that's an age thing. I have literally had my hand knocked away by someone reaching in from behind me to grab a number at the meat counter at Central Market. I have literally been swatted on the head by a woman impatient to pass her grocery bags to the bagger-person as I began to push my cart away from the register at HEB. I had a car careen into a parking spot I had been waiting for at Zilker park when another car backed out. I get "beaten" to red lights by people swerving around me on a daily basis, & have given up on the freeways entirely because of the lunatics that cut in and out of lanes on the thinnest of margins because why, they're late somewhere from being stuck in traffic? Last month, on my final day on MoPac, I nearly missed my exit because 10 cars in a row disregarded my blinker & wouldn't let me OFF the freeway.

Maybe it's just the crowding that makes me see these things as rude, but nevertheless, I want to take an opportunity to extract myself from whatever it is & move to a more chill environment.

Also. I am a musician -- small fish in big pond. Would this change at all in Albuquerque? Is there any music scene there at all where a pretty good musician could hope to land the occasional gig?
posted by Florida Lee at 8:36 AM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Add-on questions: What about health issues? Pollution? Radioactivity? Toxic water? Am I missing anything like that? Are the public utilities generally good? Who has the monopoly on high-speed internet?
posted by Florida Lee at 8:39 AM on January 1, 2016


I am from Albuquerque originally, and visit often.

Given the regional things you are into, you will be well-served there. I can't speak to the cultural/generational issues you perceive, but it is generally a pretty casual place, and people tend not to be in a huge hurry. (N.b., I have become a New Yorker, god help me, so the "people not in a huge hurry" thing actually drives me crazy.)

There is a music scene, but nothing like the scale of Austin's. Your opportunities will depend on your genre, instrument(s) and connections you make, but--hell, you know that.

The biggest thing you may not be thinking about is that Albuquerque is incredibly isolated. Yes, Santa Fe is an hour away, but Santa Fe is an even smaller city, and outside of that you have to drive eight hours to get to a metro area of any appreciable size. Albuquerque International Sunport (sigh) is not a hub, so count on connections if you fly anywhere besides major cities.

I believe Comcast has the local monopoly on broadband, so, you know, that sucks, but not appreciably more than anywhere else. Utilities are meh; PNM is a notoriously hated institution. You might take some of the cash you'll get from selling in Austin and go solar; there's a strong local community for that and the sunshine situation is obviously very favorable.

Overall, it sounds like it would be a pretty good fit for you.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:51 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


The biggest thing you may not be thinking about is that Albuquerque is incredibly isolated.

I have thought this through & am not bothered by the idea. I will miss San Antonio, but Albuqueque is more or less the same distance as Austin from my favorite destinations in the Trans-Pecos -- Alpine, Marfa, Ft. Davis, Big Bend -- so that won't change appreciably. I like being in the middle of nowhere.
posted by Florida Lee at 10:26 AM on January 1, 2016


I lived in Albuquerque twice, once in the mid to late nineties and once for a few years a couple of years back. I was going to retire there, because of all of the cities and states I've lived in, ABQ is right in the the top three. I liked it a lot. I'd still live there if I weren't allergic to it. I mean severely allergic to the plant life. The hubster is from Albuquerque and he adores it.

My impression of ABQ was that we were living in a giant suburb. Yeah, people complained about the traffic all of the time, but I've lived in several major metropolitan areas in my travels and the traffic in ABQ was laughable compared to say, San Francisco, Hampton Roads (OMG, don't even get me started on traffic in Hampton Roads), or anywhere up here in the Seattle area.

I liked the people in ABQ generally and I'm picky about who I like, there are areas where you'll run into the people you describe as disliking. But ABQ is divided into quadrants, find your quad, and run around there generally, you'll be with the people you like for the most part until you absolutely have to go outside of your comfort zone. When I first moved to ABQ, I lived in the SW quadrant (in the South Valley) which wasn't the best part of town but I liked it. Lots of ranches, my landlord had donkeys and chickens, our neighbors had horses. Lots of pueblo style houses. More room to roam and I loved walking around down there. But the public transportation in that area wasn't that great. It gets better the more centrally located you are. I didn't have a car when I first moved there. Then I met/dated/married the hubster and he's more... established... than I am. He wasn't comfortable with the South Valley. So I moved to the NE quadrant. Less crime, better busses, no chickens, and all kinds of retail. It was like moving to a completely different city. Not a bad city, but a different one.

Anyway, I found the crime in ABQ to be consistent with any other major city I've lived in. Though we did move because when you hear the phrase, "...in the latest police shooting..." on the local news feed, then I think they have a problem -- and they do. ABQ has a very big problem with police violence, shootings, and fatalities (or they did when we lived there a couple of years ago), which is something you need to be aware of if you're a musician and going to be working in anything like bars or other venues which involve drinking.

Pollution is generally not bad. They used to have a huge air pollution problem when I lived there in the mid-nineties, but they've cleaned up the air since then. It's pretty good now. Nice, crisp, clean. The water is pretty drinkable. There's a drought, but that's most of the West Coast.
posted by patheral at 10:57 AM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know anything about Albuquerque but wanted to validate your feelings about Austin and say that I totally understand how you feel about living in a place that is more crowded, more desirable for others and less pleasant. I've been through it in several hipsterized locations. You should absolutely cash out and move somewhere else. I think smaller city may actually be better for you from what you say about lifestyle. Santa Fe is gorgeous and may fit the bill.
posted by rainydayfilms at 11:08 AM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was going to mention the police thing patheral was talking about, too. The ABQ police are pretty much awful, and the crime rate is a bit high. But, as with most other places, your money would insulate you from that quite a bit, and it's not like it's a war zone or anything. It's a normal place where lots of normal people are raising families and living their lives happily.

Most of my majority white family currently lives in ABQ, some in "bad" neighborhoods, and all of my siblings have lived there long term at some point, and none of them have been personally bothered by the cops there, and the only significant crimes they've experienced directly were a couple of minor burglaries, which are pretty much normal anywhere. They do know people who have had very bad encounters, but they were at risk to begin with.

With that kind of money, you could pretty easily get a house in one of the lower crime areas and it likely won't affect you beyond making you mad at the cops.

I should know more about the music scene, but I really only know that there is one and that it seems to keep the musician I know plenty busy. Gigs don't pay very well, but they do pay, and he gets tons of them. And the rest of them are all involved in the other arts, and, oh hells yes, there is a very vital visual arts community there, I think particularly in the UNM area. That's the primary reason most of my family moved there in the first place. You'd almost definitely find your people there.

I've never noticed significant pollution, and the water everywhere but my sister's house is fine. (And I think my sister's problems are coming from inside the house.)

Overall, it really is a great place, slow paced and friendly for the most part, there are lots of things to do, and the pace sounds just like what you're looking for.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:10 PM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I know two couples who have moved to Albuquerque in the last few years. One couple is in their fifties and the other in their sixties. They all seem to be loving it and frequently share gorgeous pictures of their hikes. They've never mentioned anything about crime.
posted by mareli at 5:22 PM on January 1, 2016


One thing you should know about New Mexico as a whole is that the state tends to be on the wrong end of lists -- that is, on rankings of good things, we tend to be at the bottom; on rankings of bad things, we tend to be at the top.

The state is also very poor. We have some of the worst poverty and education rates in the nation. There is also a lot of corruption and low standards in this state.

About Internet service, I have Century Link and am happy with it.

I've lived in Albuquerque since 2009, moved around a lot before that.
posted by maurreen at 10:06 PM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've lived in ABQ for over 20 years and really like it here. The weather is unbeatable (no humidity!), it has great international food, wonderful outdoor opportunities close by, and a couple of interesting, walkable districts. It boasts an excellent, non-tourism related art scene with vibrant niches including lithography. ABQ also has an amazing variety of neighborhoods that cater to all kinds of lifestyles, from semi-rural to urban. We're even very slowly coming to understand the value of good pedestrian and transit infrastructure!

That said, it also has a lot of serious problems, many rooted around poverty, addiction, homelessness, etc. which will have gotten worse in recent years as the economy stalled and never restarted. Most of my time here I've lived in higher-crime areas near the university or in the south valley, and over two decades have had a handful of car break-ins and one home burglary. Since I've lived here, ABQ has always been far more violent (in terms of shootings, etc.) than my previous city (Columbus, Ohio), and this activity has increased in recent years. There are huge parts of the city where you would be more insulated from its challenges, but if you like interesting, non-suburban communities like my family and I do, you are more likely to experience or witness crime in some form or another.

Comcast and Century Link are the two main internet providers, and they're both so-so, but pretty much the same options you have in most other US cities these days. Our tap water has won quality awards and I love it, though like all southwest cities, future supply is always a concern. There is a 50-year-old jet fuel spill now in the process of being cleaned up at the nearby air force base, which some believe could contaminate water. I'm fairly certain that the water authority would not deliver tainted water to consumers, but fears abound. Speaking of the nearby air base -- ABQ is, and likely will be for the foreseeable future, dependent on the military industrial complex for its economy. The affordable SE area where I live is inundated by the sounds of Osprey engine run-ups on a nightly basis.

In terms of housing, it is certainly a buyer's market here right now!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:47 PM on January 2, 2016


Thanks for all the replies-- Albuquerque will remain at the top of our list. None of the minuses come as any surprise. Texas is also at or near the bottom of the list for education, poverty, govt. services etc. so that won't be a huge change. Anticipated the slightly higher crime rate & slower economy & they were already trade-offs we were willing to accept. Will try to stay out from under the Kirkland runways, & we may even look east towards Tijeras or Placitas, or north towards Bernalillo. Probably will take an exploratory jaunt next summer to get a feel for the place.
posted by Florida Lee at 8:24 AM on January 4, 2016


Florida Lee - I think you're on the right track.

I lived in Albuquerque from 2000 to 2006. It wasn't at the top of my list then and when I left I was ready to leave, but I was younger and upwardly mobile as well as just hitting my stride professionally. If I had not moved I wouldn't have built a successful career over the last decade so I have no regrets. I was as surprised as anyone when I realized that New Mexico was in the running for places to live when I suddenly had the freedom to move anywhere in the US within an hour of a decent sized airport. Ultimately we decided on something new to both of us and moved from ungodly hot and humid St. Pete to McMinnville, OR. (HI MATT!!).

I've been going to Austin for work related reasons, and some personal, for the last eight years and I've seen it change a lot with the influx of the tech crowd. Early on I could see the charm and while I never loved it, I enjoyed my visits. Now I loathe going to Austin. I feel like many of the things that made Austin fun and unique are dying and there is a growing sense of "Do You Know Who I Am?" about it. But that could just be me. Albuquerque, for better or worse, may have missed its chance at the tech boom. Who knows, it may come back around.

As for weather - Albuquerque gets hot. Really hot, but it's no joke that it's a dry heat. Growing up in Chicago, the move to living in Albuquerque was a relatively easy transition. Too hot for you? Step into the shade. Instant 20+ degree drop. Heavenly.

Good luck!
posted by FlamingBore at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2016


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