After 3 years of ER, we moved from NJ to Denver. I'd like to share some of our thoughts on the move & encourage others to to so as well. This is a big part of many ER plans.
We wanted better access to the amenities that big cities offer. While we were close to NYC, getting in & out was both time consuming and expensive. We also wanted access to more outdoor activities.
A move was also part of a fall-back plan in case the stock markets fell in the early years of ER. NJ is also very expensive and lowering housing costs was a big factor. In the end, the financial rationale was less compelling than the first reasons given above.
We wanted to be in an area with progressive social, political and environmental attitudes. We wanted a lower cost of living, easy access to urban facilities (plays, music, restaurants, events), access to the outdoors. Portland OR, Boulder CO and Denver CO were both interesting to us & we visited all of them & chose Denver. Denver seemed to have a more vibrant economy than Portland OR (which is struggling with very high unemployment) and the weather is much sunnier and dry. We could afford a home that met our needs in the city with quick & easy access to downtown.
Real-estate prices did not fall precipitously in our area and we had lived in the house for 15 years, so financially, it was feasible for us to sell & afford a replacement in Denver. We had updated the house (built in 1925) over the years - a new kitchen, patio, landscaping, toilet fixtures, lighting etc. We felt that it was better to update to our liking and enjoy it rather than upgrade only before selling. This worked to our advantage as we were able to price at the high end & sell in a few weeks. Be prepared to give up a big chunk of the sales price. A good realtor will ask for 5-6%. A lawyer is about $900-$1000. Realty Transfer fees vary from state to state and is almost 1% of the sales price in NJ. Keep cash on hand to address the fixes that come up during the inspection. This is a buyer's market. Luckily, our buyers were reasonable. We had a couple of inspection surprises, but they were manageable.
Realtors & Preparing for the sale
Our town in NJ has an active message board so we asked for recommendations there & from our friends. We also picked realtors who had successfully sold houses on our block & those around us. We then interviewed 4 of them and went through their selling records before picking one. The sales price suggested by the realtors varied by almost 10%. So when Realtors say you have to price a home right - it really depends on the realtor. Our realtor walked us through every aspect of the home - from kerb to roof - and made suggestions. We pointed out what we thought were issues & he told us his opinion on whether we should fix them or leave as is. He also recommended a contractor who was able to start immediately. We had asbestos in our home & past termite damage, so we knew those would come up in the inspection & had budgeted for it. I am not impressed by the professionalism of the real estate industry. Plan to stay on top of everything and everyone.
We went to town on this & our realtor helped. We don't have a lot of stuff in our home but we pared it down ruthlessly. Our home was spotless for every showing. We even vacuumed between same day showings. We got a professional window cleaner & wished we had done that years ago. We bought flowers, aired the house out every morning, kept the landscaping tidy (it was early spring). We had an open house 3 Sundays in a row. House sold in 2 1/2 weeks very close to the selling price. We know that luck played a big part.
This was stressful especially for DW. Picking a mover seems to be a crap shoot. The advice we got was to use one of the big van lines. We looked at movingscam.com
& got recommendations from friends. The move went very smoothly with only minimal damage. We did most of the packing ourselves, leaving only furniture & expensive china for the movers to pack. Moving is expensive! Get at least 3 estimates & read the advice on the site mentioned.
We chose to rent for the first year & we feel it was the right decision. We love Denver and plan to stay, but this gives us the opportunity to visit various neighborhoods, look at open houses and figure out where we want to live & what kind of home. In this economic environment, we don't think we'll lose out on home prices. Unfortunately, the money from the sale of our last home isn't doing much in the bank.
What do we miss?
We miss NJ pizza, the abundance of good ethnic food & restaurants and our friends & neighbors.
Was it worth it ?
Time will tell. We are going out a lot and enjoying bike rides, concerts in the parks, festivals etc. We find that people are quite friendly so we're sure we'll make friends in time. We save almost 50% on health insurance. We are renting on the high end (rental market is hot here!), so housing costs will be the same for this year at least. Denver property taxes are 20%-30% of what we paid in NJ, so we'll save there once we buy. Most of the other expenses seem to be more or less the same. This move has given us a huge feeling of accomplishment. We feel more energized and excited about life & the possibilities.