I talked about fear in my last post. Over the past couple of months our fears have slowly turned into frustration. We’ve been having a hard time in finding a suitable apartment close to work. A big part of our plan to downsize involves finding a nice apartment close to work. This is a critical part of our plan, since the gas and time saving would be significant enough for use to consider a move. There are other factors also, but the drive is one of the biggest. I drive 68 miles per day (34 each way) down a busy Interstate for my commute. Part of this commute takes me through downtown and often through a lot of traffic. As I mentioned in my last post, any accident on this route has the potential to add hours to my drive. By living closer to work, the gas savings alone would be about $3000 per year.
Initially, things looked good. We found a couple of pretty nice apartments within 5 miles of my workplace. We inquired about costs of rent and utilities to help in our decision. Financially it all looked good, and we set aside any further analysis as we worked on purging all the stuff from our house so we could fit in a smaller place. A big part of that purge ended in December with our huge garage sale. Since then we’ve been attacking the smaller things and trouble spots, like the file cabinet and the garage.
In the past couple of weeks we’ve been getting more serious about finding a suitable apartment. There are three very nice apartment complexes all in the same area. As we started research more, and trying to pick through all the horrible reviews for strings of truth. Online reviews are hard to sort through, since most people are quick to post complaints, but rarely seek out places to issue praise. (I think if the Taj Mahal rented out living quarters, someone would still find something bad to say about it and post it online.)
One thing that has been a nagging concern over the past couple months, is that the nice apartments that we like abut a not so nice area. On one side of the apartments is upscale retail, but on the other side is a section of town where most people don’t walk alone at night. The retail would be nice if we were still in a consumer mode, but now it would just be a source of traffic. Also, there is a lack of public parks nearby, which means we’d no longer be able to bike, walk, or even drive a couple of minutes to a park. The area we live now has several public parks within biking distance.
In general, this whole area just isn’t high on the family friendly list. And to top it off, one of the apartments had a kidnapping and murder within the last couple of years. I’m sure kind of thing could happen anywhere, but knowing it happened near here is alarming. Internet reviews also revealed that parking was inadequate, and folks often had to park a couple buildings away. That’s ok in a safe neighborhood, but is not ok when the safety of the area is in question.
Looking towards the other side of my workplace, there is a very nice neighborhood, but only one apartment complex among high end single family homes. This complex is pretty old, has smaller apartments, and was half converted to condos during the big housing boom. Many of those condos are now in foreclosure, which means less money through condo fees for general upkeep of the buildings, grounds, and pool.
We’ve pretty much scrapped the idea of living really close to work. The area of town I work in just isn’t conducive to family living. We decided to expand our search circle. Much of that circle includes more undesirable and unsafe locations, but there are a couple areas that show promise.
The downtown area would be nice, with parks, grocery, and dining all within walking distance. This area is mostly high-rise apartment buildings or historic single family homes. The apartments are very nice, but they come at a higher price, which would eat into the cost benefit of living closer to work.
At this point I’m really not sure what to do. We want to free up a good portion of income for doing more of the things we love. We really want to do some traveling and take some vacations. Dream and I are bouncing around ideas in daily conversations. We’re going to check out some apartments in our expanded circle, but we’re also going to see what could be done to save money in our current home.
We’re working through everything, but like everything in life, there are no easy decisions.