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Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-23-2007, 11:15 PM   #1
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Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

Bellingham, WA seems to be a good place for retirement: mild weather, affordable housing, a lot of waterfront places, proximity to Vancouver and not far from Seattle. Any thoughts?
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 12:08 AM   #2
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Originally Posted by Spanky
Bellingham, WA seems to be a good place for retirement: mild weather, affordable housing, a lot of waterfront places, proximity to Vancouver and not far from Seattle. Any thoughts?
Bellingham is a nice place in a funky way. It is beautiful and the people are friendly. Mt. Baker is close and a great place for snowboarders and skiers. Good mountain biking trails right in the city, some with nice Bay views.

Summer weather is very nice. But winters can be a real pain, with lots of storms. There is range of hills as you climb north out of the Skagit Valley- winter weather south of these is better IMO.

There are several posters on this board who live in Bellingham; they are better acquainted with all the pluses and minuses.

However, if what you want is "proximity" to Seattle or Vancouver, pick one of these and move there. Reminds me of my wife's parents who retired to Durham, N.C. "4 hours to the shore, 4 hours to the mountains". Guess what- that is too damn far, so they stayed put “in between” until they gave up and moved back to DC.

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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 12:20 AM   #3
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

I haven't spent much time in B-ham, but they also have an airport, a university, and they're close to the San Juans. You could definitely do worse.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 06:21 AM   #4
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Originally Posted by Spanky
Bellingham, WA seems to be a good place for retirement: mild weather, affordable housing, a lot of waterfront places, proximity to Vancouver and not far from Seattle. Any thoughts?
Bellingham is the place that I am retiring to but not because of it's attributes as a retirement paradise. The dampness makes 50 degrees F gradually eat away at your sense of warmth. The persistent clouds makes the sun seem to be a day out of hell.

Have I successfully discouraged this as a new retirement paradise enough that property prices won't balloon before I retire? If not I'll share other memories of my eleven years in the PNW but not the good ones.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 06:36 AM   #5
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Have I successfully discouraged this as a new retirement paradise enough that property prices won't balloon before I retire? If not I'll share other memories of my eleven years in the PNW but not the good ones.
It's already blown. My sister lives outside of Bellingham and she says her few acres are now in the couple hundred thou range. She bought them many years ago when that was the only place she could afford to buy. She's a poor kid with enough problems for even me have sympathy (my only sibling I've ever sent money to). She's thought about selling but she loves it there.

Bellingham is the site of the beginning of my personal fortune. I worked at the now demolished GP pulp mill during college. Ah, the smell of rotten eggs and dead fish money. I worked over a Christmas break during a mill turnaround and got a check for enough money for an entire year at the UW. Being young and foolish I would have spent it all on wild women but they were a lot less expensive back then. LBYM was begun for me.

Bellingham is on my radar for a possible retirement spot but there are complications with DW and our munchkins. My family is scattered around there. Unfortunately, hers and ours are scattered around Tejas.

Final note: the city water supply used to have a very high mercury level. It may still be. I got to have an interesting discussion with the EPA during a permitting process about our discharge of mercury being "unsafe." Our mercury discharge was due to the inlet water from the City of Bellingham.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 08:03 AM   #6
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Originally Posted by Tadpole
Bellingham is the place that I am retiring to but not because of it's attributes as a retirement paradise. The dampness makes 50 degrees F gradually eat away at your sense of warmth. The persistent clouds makes the sun seem to be a day out of hell.

Have I successfully discouraged this as a new retirement paradise enough that property prices won't balloon before I retire? If not I'll share other memories of my eleven years in the PNW but not the good ones.
No, you have not discouraged me to consider this place as a possible site for retirement. Despite its recent run-up in real-estate prices, it is still affordable in comparison to the Bay Area. Obviously the weather is a little bit nicer in the Bay Area.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 08:11 AM   #7
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Bellingham is on my radar for a possible retirement spot but there are complications with DW and our munchkins. My family is scattered around there. Unfortunately, hers and ours are scattered around Tejas.
I am in a similar situation. DW's family is here in the Midwest while my family lives in the Bay Area. My older daughter is going to college this Fall. DW does not like the idea of going to a place in which no relatives are present. That's pretty much eliminate a lots of places. In contrary, she mentions that she likes to live in Singapore for a few years.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 10:06 AM   #8
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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It's already blown. My sister lives outside of Bellingham and she says her few acres are now in the couple hundred thou range.
Bellingham was "on the radar" for me a few years ago, but no longer, due to the increase in real estate prices there. To be frank, I do not have much motivation to tie up a lot of money in a house, any more. This is probably due to living in the midst of the devastation caused by Katrina all this time, and seeing the ruins, tragedy and heartbreak over and over on a day-to-day basis. If I spend less on the house, I can spend more on other things/activities that can add to my quality of life.

Anyway, I'm looking at southern Missouri now.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 10:47 AM   #9
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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To be frank, I do not have much motivation to tie up a lot of money in a house, any more. This is probably due to living in the midst of the devastation caused by Katrina all this time, and seeing the ruins, tragedy and heartbreak over and over on a day-to-day basis.
Yep

In a way - glad we were wiped out (fish camp in Lake Catherine on leased ground) - no entangling alliances like insurance or land ownership to dispose of - just some good quick whining, bitching, moaning, take the tax loss, convert some retirement to Roth buy a small house in NW Missouri and move on. Kansas City is an easy commute(40 minuites) should brite lights big city be needed.

In New Orleans, Slidell, Diamondhead over the Holidays - I could see/feel the wear/worry on the friends and acquaintences we visited.

In ancient days(da 60's) when I lived in Kent and my sister was at Western in Bellingham I thought the freeways and cities were crowded. Fast forward to last summer - heh, heh - my sister now lives near Kent and it's even more crowded. Housing! Yikes! And down south - Kalama, Kelso, Castlerock - the commute to Portland effect is reaching there.

heh heh heh - learning to love da plains.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 10:55 AM   #10
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

Unless you are sure that you need to be close to a major megalopolis (opera, major league sports), you might get a higher quality of life in a smaller town. For example, consider going 10 years without being in a traffic jam or searching for parking.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 11:16 AM   #11
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Originally Posted by unclemick2
In a way - glad we were wiped out (fish camp in Lake Catherine on leased ground) - no entangling alliances like insurance or land ownership to dispose of - just some good quick whining, bitching, moaning, take the tax loss, convert some retirement to Roth buy a small house in NW Missouri and move on.
Sorry to hear you were wiped out. I suppose that if it had to happen, that was as bearable a way as any. Friends who would like to re-build and return to Lakeview can't, due to not being able to get their kids re-admitted to a magnet school in Orleans Parish yet (no room for all the students, so they bought a second house in St. Charles Parish and are waiting). Others who were wiped out are still in FEMA trailers and dreading eviction because they can't afford another mortgage or rent. Another's retirement has been delayed indefinitely to pay the difference between the insurance settlement and what the carpetbagger construction scam artists/a-holes have been charging for rebuilding. This is a place of heartbreak and misery. I'm sure you have heard it all, too. I loved New Orleans, but that New Orleans is gone. I am sincerely glad for you that you managed to get out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclemick2
Kansas City is an easy commute(40 minuites) should brite lights big city be needed.
Springfield (Missouri) is my target for retirement, and right now I am pretty sure it has a greater population than New Orleans. At any rate, we think it will suffice for us.

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclemick2
In New Orleans, Slidell, Diamondhead over the Holidays - I could see/feel the wear/worry on the friends and acquaintences we visited.
Then you understand. It's that way throughout the population here. For many months it was impossible to shop or go out without hearing the stories of panic and desperation from everyone, everywhere (while waiting in line at the grocery store, for example, or buying gas). Now they don't talk as much. They drive like suicide is on their minds and many seem bitter and hostile. Generally this is not a healthy place to live so I'm glad you were able to get out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclemick2
heh heh heh - learning to love da plains.
Good! Hopefully in 2009-2010 I will be retired and will be loving the Ozarks just as much.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 11:23 AM   #12
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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In ancient days(da 60's) when I lived in Kent and my sister was at Western in Bellingham I thought the freeways and cities were crowded. Fast forward to last summer - heh, heh - my sister now lives near Kent and it's even more crowded. Housing! Yikes! And down south - Kalama, Kelso, Castlerock - the commute to Portland effect is reaching there.
I was in the Kent-Des Moines area in the 60's too. My brother (the bum) still lives there. When I lived there, you knew where the various city limits were. Now its all grown together. It's one uninterrupted urban sprawl between Seattle and Tacoma.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 11:25 AM   #13
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

Hi Spanky.

I live in Belligham. Previous posters are correct regarding real estate prices. I would not call them affordable, compared to almost anyplace except the Bay Area. We had an incredible run-up over the past two years or so. If I had not been lucky enough to show up here in 1987 and buy a house in 1989 I might not have ended up staying.

Other than that, and the rain, I think it's a great place to live. I've been here 19.5 years, and can't imagine moving anywhere else permenantly. That said, our ER plan includes spending large parts of the rainy months elsewhere. It can rain for weeks on end. With no sun breaks of any sort. It gets old. Really old. And then it rains some more. Morning. Noon. Night. Rain. More rain.

Ooops... sorry.

The previous mention of "now demolished Georgia Pacific" is not quite accurate. It is now defunct, but not yet demolished. The redevelopment of the waterfront is going to be one of the largest and most interesting projects in decades. As a design professional I'm excited but scared too, that we will %&# it up.

What else would you like to know about B'ham? There is a definite liberal bias. Environmentalists abound. It is the final resting place for all VW Microbuses. We have one of the greatest park systems in the country. And yet we keep voting more and more and more money for parks. There is a very "vibrant arts scene." Plenty of Thai and Mexican food, but nothing much more exotic. We have many microbreweries, coffeeshops, and funky botiques. If you want a higher end shopping mall with the standard stores that you find in most shopping malls, you'll need to go toward Seattle at least 45 minutes. The mall here is pretty crappy. But that's never been a big thing for me.

Good skiing within an hour at Mt. Baker. World class skiing at Whistler is 3 hours away. Kayaking is almost literally in my backyard - very accessible waterfront. The San Juans are about an hour away if you have a boat or take the passenger ferry. If you want to take your car on the State ferry it's an hour + drive to the terminal and another hour or so ride, depending on which island you want.....

Traffic and parking issues are nowhere near the level of the greater Seattle area - you occasionally have to park a couple blocks from your destination.. and occasionally have to wait through two traffic lights if you're driving around 5 pm...but nothing I'd call traffic jams.

I could go on and on, but I see that I already have.

I'd be happy to answer any more questions. Feel free to PM me.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 11:28 AM   #14
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Unless you are sure that you need to be close to a major megalopolis (opera, major league sports), you might get a higher quality of life in a smaller town. For example, consider going 10 years without being in a traffic jam or searching for parking.
Due to technological advances, our world is smaller. Living in a small town no longer has to mean being surrounded entirely by hicks with small minds and nothing to do. Well, it can, but it doesn't always have to mean that.

I have lived in some big cities, and found that I never actually went to the opera or major league sports and such. It was nice to know these advantages were there and I always intended to go, but didn't.

Also, I find that as I grow older my vision and hearing are such that I get more out of TV sports and opera than I get out of live sports and opera.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 12:55 PM   #15
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

If you visit Bellingham, I strongly recommend a downtown coffee house named The Black Drop. Have one espresso there and you will never again go into a Starbuck's.

http://www.theblackdrop.com/people_talk.php

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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 02:04 PM   #16
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Originally Posted by Want2retire

Springfield (Missouri) is my target for retirement, and right now I am pretty sure it has a greater population than New Orleans. At any rate, we think it will suffice for us. Good! Hopefully in 2009-2010 I will be retired and will be loving the Ozarks just as much.
Want2Retire, can you tell me more about what it's like around Springfield? We have family in Columbia but never really considered moving there.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 02:22 PM   #17
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Want2Retire, can you tell me more about what it's like around Springfield? We have family in Columbia but never really considered moving there.
Rich, Springfield met our criteria, which were:
1) very, very cheap housing and low cost of living
2) town between 50,000 and 250,000, adequate medical care but remote
3) far away from hurricanes
4) reasonably low crime
5) as warm a climate and as "southern" a feel to the local culture as the above criteria would allow

It also happens to be where my grandparents lived, though I have no more relatives there and hadn't been there since around 1962. We went there twice last year, for a week each time.

People there are nice and friendly, and the culture is a delightful combination of midwestern and southern. It is a highly conservative, highly Christian community. In fact, the international headquarters of 7th day adventists is there. We are not religious, so that is not much of a "plus" for us, but we do tend to be politically conservative. There is virtually zero racial, ethnic, or cultural diversity there so that might turn some people off. A recent matter of steamy debate in Springfield was whether or not to begin banning those under 21 from bars entirely. College students wanted to get in and listen to the music (and probably sneak a drink), but the decision was made and now they cannot do that in Springfield until reaching 21.

Springfield has one normal sized mall, and a bunch of slightly tacky strip malls. The Bass Pro Shop is a local attraction, as it is the original and very large. There is no Trader Joe's and it does not have many of the conveniences that Californians and other coastal dwellers might desire. The economy seems reasonably healthy for a small town that is not near a city. It has the usual "big box" stores like Home Depot and BB&B (no Linens 'n' Things, though), a modest Barnes & Noble, and not one but two Hobby Lobbies. Universities include Drury and Missouri State U., both of which are pretty small, and a half dozen tiny religious colleges. There are walking trails and parks throughout the town.

The region is hilly since it is in the Ozarks, with lakes, streams, forests, and karst topography that is susceptible to sinkhole development due to the limestone dissolving along underground rivers. To me, the natural beauty all around is a big plus. Weather is very extremely hot and humid in the summer, with snow and ice off and on in the winter, so there is definitely a change in season, and they are subject to tornados like many midwestern states. New Orleans has prepared me well for the summer heat and humidity, but I will have to learn about living in sub-freezing temperatures and snow.

The north side of town is mostly older, deteriorating frame houses, and what crime they have tends to be there. The south side has a number of new developments just outside of town. Springfield is not far from Branson, which has some very upscale communities. Springfield is about 3-3.5 hours from St. Louis on I-44. Locals complain bitterly about rush hour traffic along main streets within Springfield and clamor that something must be done. It didn't look THAT bad to me, but then I wasn't in a hurry to get to work or anything.

What sorts of things did you want to know? Does that cover it?
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 03:04 PM   #18
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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Originally Posted by Sheryl
Other than that, and the rain, I think it's a great place to live. I've been here 19.5 years, and can't imagine moving anywhere else permenantly. That said, our ER plan includes spending large parts of the rainy months elsewhere. It can rain for weeks on end. With no sun breaks of any sort. It gets old. Really old. And then it rains some more. Morning. Noon. Night. Rain. More rain.
Sheryl ,

I like the rain and therefore it would not bother me much. I guess I might change my opinion later. Regarding real-estate prices, it is still lower than that of our current location in Minnesota for a comparable home. Thanks for sharing your insight -- it really helps.

Spanky
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 05:29 PM   #19
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

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If you visit Bellingham, I strongly recommend a downtown coffee house named The Black Drop. Have one espresso there and you will never again go into a Starbuck's.

http://www.theblackdrop.com/people_talk.php
Ha, Don't give away all the insider secrets! But next time you're going to the Black Drop let me know and I'll by you a cuppa joe. I'm just around the corner.
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town
Old 02-24-2007, 05:54 PM   #20
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Re: Bellingham, WA as a retirement town

Sheryl,

Seems to be a good place for coffee. Thanks.

Spanky
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