Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I have a question. Please answer. This isn't a gimmick. I really want some advice.

I have a question.

How do you decide where to live?

I'm not just talking about apartments or houses (although that is also totally over my head), but the neighborhood, the community, the city.  How do you decide that one place will be better for your family than another?  I have no idea.  If you do, please tell me.

We're in the interview stage.  Bryan's applied to optometry schools and we've narrowed it down to three.  Three interviews.  Three totally different places.  All of them brand new to us. 

And all of them a plane ride away.  The big O and I are for sure going with him to one of the schools for the interview, but we're undecided on whether we should go with him for the other two interviews.  Mostly because it's expensive.  We'd love to save money and drive, but it's not an option.  Between his current classes and the interview schedules, it's just not possible.  Any insight?  Any advice?  For those of you who have been through this, do you think it was beneficial for both you and your husband to go check things out?  Or do you think that would be a waste of money?  I have no idea.

Now, back to housing.  How totally overwhelming to find good, safe, affordable housing in a place you've never been before!  Luckily we have good friends (and even some family!) in each of the three places we're looking at.  If that weren't the case I don't know what we'd do.  We've already looked around on PadMapper (a site that combines housing listings on Craigslist with Google Maps) a little bit, but I honestly just don't even know how to tell if any given place is going to be a good one. 

In one of the areas we were looking at we found an area that got us really excited.  At least a handful of cute houses to rent.  And all the listings kept mentioning the zip code so we took it as a sign that the area must be a good place to live.  And the houses were cheaper than what we pay on our cinder block apartment rent now.  With yards.  And washing machines.  Ahhh.  I started dreaming of hanging my wash out on a clothes line.  I started getting motivated to decorate.  I started seeing red accent on pillows and the big O and me hanging out in the back yard.

Then I talked to my cousin who lives there.  And she told me that we were looking at a super sketchy neighborhood.  Gah!  How would we have even known that without going there ourselves?  So frustrating.

So how do you do it?  I know we're not the first ones in this boat.  So, to those of you who have been there and done that, I ask for your experiences, your advice.

What do you look for in a community?  
What do you look for in an apartment/house to rent?
What do you look for in a neighborhood?
How can you (or is it even possible to) tell if a neighborhood is safe just by visiting it once in the middle of the day?

Also, can I just say this?  Rental car companies really should change their policy.  Bryan and I are both responsible, respectful, trustworthy adults with perfect driving records.  We are married.  We have a child.  We have a car of our own.  We have good credit.  So why is it that we have to pay an additional $27 per day just because we're not 25 yet?  Gah.  Sometimes it's frustrating to be the same age as your spouse.  Sometimes it would be convenient if one of us were older.  Or at least if one of us were as mature as a 25 year old.  Because, clearly, we're nowhere near that.

Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a whiner post.  Because it's not that I'm angry or pouty.  I'm really not.  (Well, maybe except about rental cars.)  I'm just really feeling like I don't even know where to begin on trying to make some of these decisions.  I'm really interested to hear from you about your experiences.  Thanks so much in advance for sharing.  I really appreciate it.

Really.  :)


Dorothy said...

I'm going to cut to the chase: Pray. Pray to know what is right for your family at this time. Then visit the places and listen to the Spirit. Do you feel calm there? A good sign! Do you feel nervous or confused? Walk away now. Period.

Dorothy said...

Of course, I just realized that you said you might not be able to personally visit....so adapt the strategy. Have friends/family already in that area help do some searching for good housing, then PRAY and pay attention to the feelings you get.


Kathy Haynie said...

Email Anna's friend, Bridget. She's lived in a bunch of different places. Me, I was just lucky. Except like Dorothy said, I definitely felt the spirit when I walked into 916 Laurel.

kati said...

I totally agree with Dorthy and get on that city's website and see what the city has to offer you. Parks, Hiking trails, bike trails library, preschools, things that you need with small children and a growing family. Also, if possible, go to church in the city and get a feel for the people you might be living near. Good Luck!

Jenn said...

A couple of suggestions for you. Go to the local police station and ask their advice about local neighborhoods. They will happily give it and have the most accurate information. Also, check with the school's housing coordinator, they should be able to help you locate good housing. Don't get locked into a lease for more than 1 year, just in case the area is not as good as you hoped. Good Luck!

Juliet said...

My Hubby is in Optometry School right now! We he got into 3 schools aswell and we decided on UH because the tution was cheaper...so we could use student loan money for things like diapers and he liked the school the best. its a great spot with lots of parks, zoos, museums, other free stuff to do and a great ward.

Katie Lewis said...

Thanks so much everyone for your advice so far! I really appreciate it. And, Jenn, how genius to call the police station to ask about neighborhoods! I never would have thought of that, but it makes so much sense!

Trina said...

I haven't done that myself but when my bro/sis-in law moved for medical school the school helped them a lot. They had suggestions for areas to live that had more students and they ended up getting a house from other students that were done and moving out and when they were done they sold their house to new students coming in. Once you've decided on school I bet they have some resources that would help, including the local wards that would have suggestions. I would pick more based on the program and school (unless their all truly equal). You only have to be there a few years so I think the school, and as someone else mentioned- the cost, would be a deciding factor.

We're at the next phase of figuring out where to live once you're all done with school :-) All the questions you have we're in that boat again. All of our extended family lives in the same spot but it's very expensive so all of the younger "next" generation is moving out little by little. I'm the oldest of the next gen. and have no idea where to go! Good luck!

Erica and Spencer said...

Okay, First of all Spencer and I had the same problem with rental cars and I totally understand that it is crazy annoying. Check out Hertz. When we went to Hawaii they had this thing going on where if you joined the Hertz #1 club they would waive the underage fee. I couldn't find the website where it had that listed as one of the benefits but seriously, check it out. Even though it's not one of those cheep-o car rental places they were less expensive than ANYONE else was after the underage fee. You could also try bidding for a rental car on Priceline because if you win the bid it includes the underage fee (at least I'm pretty sure it does.)

As for it being beneficial for you and Olivia to go with Brian, I told Spencer that if he went to interview at law schools that it would be fine if he went alone but that I really wanted to at least visit the place before we made the commitment. As lame as this might sound, the biggest deal maker for law school wasn't where the school was (believe me, we would be in DC or Boston or Virginia if it were) but it was scholarship offers and how we honestly felt about it after we prayed together and individually. It was a hard decision because neither of us wanted to stay in Utah but BYU was just such a great opportunity and we both felt really good about it so we stayed. Anyway, depending on when you are going on your trips you could find some really great deals on travel. If you are going in September or October, flights can be cheap.

I feel like I'm writing a book. How about you e-mail me and I would be totally willing to give you more travel advice. Traveling on a budget is what Spencer and I do best so I would be more than willing to give you some tips that might make it easier for you to go. I would love to help!

My e-mail is ericadriscol(at)gmail(dot)com

Erica and Spencer said...

I hope that shows up...when I posted the comment it said it was too large...haha

Bridget said...

What great questions. With the exception of when I moved to Provo to go to the BYU, I have never had the luxury of seeing/visiting the places we've moved ahead of time. You are right, it is so hard. I'm glad you have family and friends to help you out. And that is my biggest advice to you - use the Mormon connection. Get in touch with someone in the know who's in a ward out there and pepper them with your questions.

For an idea of a neighborhood's sketchiness, you can check the sex offender registry maps, too. Just a start.

Oooh, don't get me started on rental car age limits. RIDICULOUS.

Good luck!

Callie said...

I think talking to the ward members in areas is helpful. When we moved to MA, we got some help from a ward member who was a realtor. She helped us sort through the MLS and drove me around to look at places. It really helped to have a local who REALLY knew the area go with me, and who knew a lot about housing, because Hello, I've lived in one apartment and one house besides my parents and both were recommended by family living there first.

Stephanie said...

When we were looking at places for grad school, I wasn't able to go with Daniel to check things out because I was in school still, had a baby, and well...we are poor, starving, college students! :) The best thing we did was to pray individually and together about it. After each interview I would quiz Daniel on the area, how he felt about the school, what the money situation was with the school, etc.
We prayed a lot...but as you know faith without works is dead, so I got online and looked at the city web pages, looked at rental listings, and all that good stuff then tried to determine how I felt about the areas.

Once we decided where we needed to go (which was not where either of us thought we would end up), we had a really hard time finding housing. We looked everywhere we could, tried multiple craigslist listings and still no luck. Finally out of desperation, we contacted the bishop to see what areas were better than others, and if they knew of anyone that we could contact to get a place to live. He was able to suggest a company where some members worked, and they happened to have one listing available for the time we needed to move in. Next time, we are doing that sooner. Moral of the story: just because you prayed to know where you are supposed to be, and feel really good about it, doesn't mean it will be easy to get there. But I know that after a lot of hard work and prayer something always works out...even if it is not what you planned.

Hope that helps...good luck!

Caroline said...

I've moved around a lot, although many of the places I lived were rented to me through my jobs. If you happen to be thinking of moving to MA, NY, or Philly I would be happy to give you advice, I know you don't know me, but I have many friends in those cities and live in Boston myself.

If you are going to one or more places that have zipcar, you may want to consider joining, particularly if you can get the student rate through your husband's school. That way you don't have to pay extra for being under 25 and it is a bit more flexible than a rental car.

Katie Lewis said...

Again, thank you everyone SO MUCH for all of your thoughtful advice! You have reminded me of some things I had forgotten as well as given me some very good, practical ideas for how to get started. I really appreciate it! You are all so nice! Thank you!

Eric D said...

Hi Katie, this is Eric from PadMapper. Sorry it wasn't able to give you a good idea of what the sketchy areas are. We're working on rolling out our crime maps nationwide (see http://www.padmapper.com/crimeTest/ for San Francisco). Currently you can sort of use the restaurants nearby as an indication of the type of area... If there are a lot of nice restaurants nearby, then it's likely to be a nice area.

At the end of the day, though, the best way is to just get a place in the area for a week via AirBnB or similar and walk around - that will pretty quickly give you a sense of which areas you don't want to live in. Also, talking to locals is a great way of figuring things out.

Good luck!

Tonia Z said...

Contact a real estate agent in the area. They usually know the market, desirable neighborhoods, good school, etc. because they have to for all their clients' wishes.