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A Whole New Paradigm When Choosing Where to Live

Polar Vortex via WQED.org

One issue I’ve been tossing around my head the past few months is the question of where is the ideal place to live in the USA? And before you think this is another “downsizing’ article (which I am prone to do!), this topic is more important for YOUNGER people as the decide where to build a life and maybe raise a family.

Before you answer me based on beauty, warmth or amenities,  want you to think about other more important issues. Weather patterns, availability of water, and demographic trends are threatening to quickly change the playing field here.

First off, let’s review a few of the major developments that, if you live away from these areas, you might have brushed off in the news.

Where to Live – Southwest USA?

Here it comes down to one major issue: water. Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico (and some parts of northern Mexico) all get a large chunk of their water supply from the Colorado River. The problem: Lake Mead has dropped to all time low levels. So low in fact that the state of Nevada is building a new pipeline to the lake because the current pumping system won’t work if the water level drops below 1,000 feet above sea level (currently at ~1,080).

where to live

Lake Mead’s “white’ showing the drop; photo via NY Times

According to a recent the New York Times article,  water levels are at such a low level despite the 20th century being one of the three wettest on record in 13 centuries (hinting that the buildup in water in the Southwest since the Dam’s construction has been a somewhat rare natural occurrence in recent centuries).

Under current treaties, areas around LA have most of the water rights and according to that article, farms around Imperial Valley control 75% of the water flow. California as a whole grows 15% of our food nationwide (with a big part of that from the Imperial Valley area) – that is another potential disaster that is just too deep to discuss here.

Where to Live – Northern California?

Yes the weather is beautiful around San Francisco – especially if you like mild climates and geographic variety. However, they’ve been having a drought that if it continues any longer, will force extremely drastic rationing steps on residents. The same drought that has hit the LA area has hit northern California too.

Much of their water also comes from miles outside the destination area. And Bay Area people, similar to Southwest residents, have their claims and rights issues with surrounding farmers too.and residents far away.

Hetchy Hetchy Water System that feeds the San Francisco Bay Area; via bawsca.org

Looking back in the past, here’s what happened in 1991 when the water situation got bad: article from LA Times in 1991 – Marin County (just north of San Francisco) imposed a 50% water

via KQED.com

ration. In 2014, Initial steps have been taken to start curtailing water use again in Marin. After a brief but heavy period of rainfall in March, water levels rose up nicely in Marin and it appeared less acute. see story here from KQED.  However, it’s an issue to pay attention to. Especially if you are planning to move to what is one of the most desirable counties in the US.

Where to Live – Florida?

Up until now, the only thing to worry about in Florida was a hurricane. However, sea levels are rising and Florida happens to be not too far above sea level.  Now it’s where to live in Florida. Here is a handy interactive map to let you know what will happen if the sea level rises:

where to live

Florida flood map

Go to Map (or click image) via geology.com

If you’re retiring there next year, it’s not a worry. But if you are planning your next 30-40 years, it’s something to think about. Unless you are wealthy enough to write off a lost house and move elsewhere.

Demographic Trends an Issue

The one who pegged this trend the loudest is a fellow I’ve quoted a number of times on my personal site ChrisGrande.com.  Richard Florida’s thesis surrounding his books such as Rise of the Creative Class has been spot on. His thesis was/is that basically the hip, attractive cities

Richard Florida via creativeclass.com

around the globe will become like city/states. That attract the most creative and industrious workers. Workers who desire not only a great market for their services, but also a dynamic, walkable city life with amenities, culture, and energy.

One only has to witness the rise in real estate demand (and prices) in the major “creative” centers such as San Francisco and New York in the US, London, Sidney, Singapore and Tokyo. These cities not only attract people from around the world, they suck out the dynamic people from the less dynamic areas around them.

Lets take a hypothetical to prove this point. If you grow up in Vallejo CA and you get accepted to Cal Berkley or MIT, and begin building a fabulous career in your chosen field, what ‘s the chance you return to Vallejo to buy a house and build a life? yeah I thought so.

I could use the same example for a New Bedford, MA kid going to Colombia or a Liverpool kid getting accepted to Oxford. They are not going back. This signals for the current cycle at least, the decline of many suburbs and the demand for city living will continue. And it’s currently exacerbated by Chinese money invading the US. As successful Chinese look to diversify their assets and even move away from the pollution for their kids.

Chinese Buying the Good Towns

Chinese buyers have been a huge booster to prices in west coast cities and have been for a long time. But more so recently. And they’re a newer (but not too new) influence in east coast real estate too. And a hint – they favor the good stuff. So not only is the wealth and talent concentrating around the dynamic cities, but within those geographic areas as well. In the Boston area for example,

These are just a few of the issues facing where to live in the coming years. Whether it’s the weather or the demographics, you have some thinking to do.

Note: Maybe the drought won’t be bad this year, and maybe the cold weather won’t be so cold in Chicago. We may get El Nino: via Slate – What Does El Nino Mean for Me?

Considering where to live now or downsizing in retirement? Maybe we can help you plan. Contact us HERE and lets discuss your goals and options!

Thanks for reading,

Chris Grande

Nevada’s new pipe – water levels in Lake Mead make the old pipe incapable of taking the water (via NY Times)

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