Monday, December 31, 2012

Augusta, Georgia

As 2013 begins, I'll start my review of the Top Ten cities I'm considering for my new home.  In order to avoid any appearance of favouritism, I'll review them in alphabetical order, beginning with ...

Augusta, Georgia

Augusta was founded in 1777 at the fall line of the Savannah River (the farthest navigable point upstream from the Atlantic Ocean).  The city's population is roughly 195,000 but the metropolitan area includes several suburbs in both Georgia and South Carolina totaling about 550,000.  Augusta has a humid subtropical climate, with short winters and an extremely humid summer. The average high temperature for the summer months is 90.6 °F (32.6 °C), but summer daytime temperatures can soar to 100 or above. The average low temperature is 67.8 °F (19.9 °C). The average high temperature for the winter months is 58.9 °F (14.9 °C), with an average winter low temperature of 34.4 °F (1.3 °C).  Light snow flurries are common in December, January, and February, but the freezing rains that are more common also create more hazardous driving conditions.  More about Augusta can be found on Wikipedia at,_Georgia.


Augusta's primary advantage for me is affordable housing.  It is second only to Jackson, Mississippi in the number of homes available in my price range.  Although electricity rates per KWH are about 16% higher in Georgia and natural gas rates are almost 30% higher per therm, my usage of electricity would be slightly lower in Augusta and my natural gas less than half what I use in Marion.  Cable Internet is $20.00 per month cheaper in Augusta than Marion, but water and sewer are $6.00 per month more, and rubbish collection is $16.00 per month more, so the other utilities roughly even out. 

There appears to be a viable market for a traditional Japanese dojo in Augusta.  There is a well-established Motobu-Ha Shito-Ryu dojo in the area, but no mainstream Shito-Ryu nor any iaijutsu, kenjutsu, jojutsu, Ryukyu kobujutsu, or aiki-jujutsu dojo listed.

The climate in Augusta is well suited to growing several hot weather fruits and vegetables, including:  peaches (of course!), grapes, berries, melons, citrus, corn, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, okra, sweet potatoes, and squash.  Most houses have 1/4 to 1/3 acre of property, which is ample for home gardening.

There are also several moderately-priced golf courses in the Augusta area, so I will be able to afford to play golf at least a couple of times per month there.


Summers are hot and humid.  I have a low tolerance for heat and humidity, so I will enjoy few outdoor activities during the summer in Augusta.  It may at first glance seem a minor inconvenience, but I know myself too well ... I will have a difficult time motivating myself to do lawn care, gardening, and other outside chores in oppressive heat and humidity, which means in summertime my garden will suffer along with the curb appeal of my house!

Augusta does not have a large "international" airport, but a regional airport serviced primarily by commuter airlines.  So I will either face higher airfares and additional connections or a 2.5-hour drive from Augusta to either the Atlanta airport or the Charlotte, SC airport.  Either of these drives is nearly an hour longer than my current drive to the Indy airport.  And from Augusta it will be a five-hour flight plus layovers to visit my family in Scottsdale, San Diego, or Seattle -- even longer than my current travel time from Marion!

Many of the homes I can afford in Augusta are in neighbourhoods that many would consider "undesirable".  While this is not an issue for me, it might discourage some friends and family from visiting me as often as they otherwise might.

So, what are your thoughts?  Is moving to Augusta a good idea or a bad idea?  What are your impressions of Augusta?  If you know me, would you be more inclined or less inclined to visit me in Augusta than you would in Marion?  Or the other locations I'm considering?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Decisions, Decisions ...

I have spent the majority of my life as a manager -- a profession whose primary responsibility is making decisions, often difficult ones.  And I currently teach in graduate and undergraduate business programs.  My expertise includes economics, finance, statistical analysis, quantitative analysis, and decision science, so it would be natural to think that deciding where to live next would be second nature to me.

If only that was true!

The decision about a new home and a new home town involves a combination of emotional and intellectual inputs.  The location must not only be economically feasible and meet my decision criteria (the intellectual part), but it must also be a place I like and will feel comfortable living (the emotional part).  As an economist, I know that both the intellectual and emotional factors can be quantified and rationally analysed.  After all, liking a place and feeling comfortable living there are basically factors of what economists call "utility".  Emotional satisfaction, even though it is chiefly subjective, is useful and can therefore be quantified in "utils" or units of utility.

In practice, the process is just a more complex version of the process one goes through when decided what doughnut to buy.  There are a wide variety of choices available:  Hostess, Entenmann's, Van de Camp, Dunkin, Winchell's, Krispy Kreme, ... as well as local mom-and-pop doughnut shops or even making them at home from scratch.  When we decide which doughnut to buy we consider a whole array of factors; not just the price.  Included in our buying criteria are such things as the flavour, the proximity and convenience of the point of purchase, the environment in which we will purchase and consume the doughnut, or whether complementary products like coffee are available.  Many people will also consider the quality, origins, or healthiness of the ingredients used, or whether they perceive the company producing or selling the doughnuts to be socially responsible.  Despite the complexity, most of us can weigh all of these factors and decide what doughnut to buy fairly readily.  That's because the risk is low!

At most places you can still get a doughnut for under $5.00 so even if you make the worst possible choice, you have risked and lost only a couple of dollars and a few minutes (or hours if you tried making your own) of your life.  But if you move to a new town and find it doesn't suit you, you are facing a huge expense and a significant upheaval in your life!

As a result, I have already amassed spreadsheets of data on potential locations:  housing costs and availability, climate data, cost of living data, crime statistics, business and employment data, social, political, and cultural information, photographs, maps, and much more.  All that data can help with the intellectual issues involved in the decision, but they are of little value in determining if I will like any particular location.

So, over the next couple of weeks I will be posting what I have learned about each location I am considering.  I hope I will get feedback and comments regarding those locations and my impressions about them so I can begin assessing whether or not I will like them and feel comfortable living there.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

House Hunting 2013

In "House Hunting 2012" I described the reasoning process that has led me to be looking for a new place to live -- not just a new home, but a new home town.  This is the first phase of the decision-making process:  deciding which city will become my new home.

As I mentioned in the last installment, that decision is turning out to not be as easy as I had hoped.  The factors in the decision are:  temperate climate, low cost of living, proximity to a major airport, and conducive to opening a dojo.  Months of research have led me to the conclusion that no cities in the United States meet all four of those criteria.  Those that have temperate climates lack affordable housing.  Those that are most conducive to opening a new dojo are either prohibitively expensive or in blast-furnace climates.  The only places that meet all four of my criteria are in Central or South America!  And I can't obtain a residency visa for any of those offshore locations until I'm drawing Social Security.  So, until then my search is limited to places where the heat and humidity are almost unbearable to me ...

There are 16 metropolitan areas that meet three of my four criteria.  The top ten of these (in alphabetic order) are:
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Carrollton, Georgia
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Columbia, South Carolina
  • Columbus, Georgia
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Dothan, Alabama
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • San Antonio, Texas

Not one of these locations seems ideal to me.  Each has major disadvantages, but each also has some attractions and advantages for me.  So my focus in the early part of 2013 will be comparing all of these areas in an effort to cull them down to no more than five -- and preferably just three -- to visit in person before making my final decision.  This is where I invite reader participation!

If you are familiar with any of these areas, have suggestions or comments about them that you would like to share, please feel free to share your knowledge and impressions with me.

Monday, December 24, 2012

House Hunting 2012

I was laid off at the end of June and after spending the past six months looking for a new job, it has become apparent that I have exhausted the possibilities in my current area (Grant County, Indiana).  I have decided that if I must leave Grant County, I will leave Indiana altogether.

Don't get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed living in Indiana these past 12+ years, and in some respects I don't feel I'm leaving of my own volition.  All other things being equal, I would be content to live out the rest of my days in Indiana.  But all other things are NOT equal.

The cost of living, and the cost of acquiring certain things that I consider essential to a healthy and active lifestyle, is simply too high in Indiana.  The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which are not produced in Indiana, is astonishingly high.  The cost of heating my home in winter is growing unaffordable.  Even though I love having four real seasons, I cannot afford living somewhere the furnace must be on five months out of the year!  So my next stop will be somewhere with a more temperate climate, and hopefully somewhere that I can reduce my living costs and improve the quality of my diet by growing some of my own fruits and vegetables -- without drenching them in chemicals or altering their DNA!

That one consideration alone narrowed my search to what is essentially America's "Sun Belt" states:  California, Arizona, southern Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.  However, I included parts of southern Utah, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Carolina in my research, as well.  Another consideration was frequent weather extremes, like hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, or flooding.  This eliminated most of Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and the Gulf Coast.  As soon as I factored in the cost of housing (including insurance, property taxes, and utilities costs) the scope of my search was narrowed to just EIGHT feasible states:  Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Next I focused on cities and towns.  My primary considerations were:
  • Not more than two hours from a major airport to facilitate visits with my family
  • Population to sustain a dojo (at least 100,000 within 25 mile radius)
  • Cost and availability of housing and utilities
  • Local cost of living factors
  • Temperate climate
These factors narrowed my search to only about a dozen possible locations in Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. None of these locations are ideal.  Each has one or more significant drawbacks.  ALL of them have much hotter summers than I would prefer to endure, but that seems to be the price of affordable living in the USA!  If I want affordable living AND a temperate climate, then I'll have to move to Central America or Ecuador ... and that's not entirely out of the question!

So, please stay tuned for the next part in this series, "House Hunting 2013" in which I will start reviewing the pros and cons of each possible location and invite your suggestions on which to choose.