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  1. #1
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    Default Midwest to Miami Relocation: Sharing My Story

    As many of you know, I am about to embark on a relocation from the Midwest (NW Indiana) to Miami. Since the nitty gritty part is about to begin, I thought I would update everyone with my moving experience. Share some tips, etc. Maybe it can help others....since I always see these relocation threads pop up!

    Some quick background:

    I am moving in mid-May to begin a position at the University of Miami. I have known about this move for nearly a year, but received 100% confirmation of my job in early December. Therefore, I started doing all my research back in December.

    I am married, no children (except a dog and a cat), with one vehicle. I am Canadian (US permanent resident) and my ethnicity is European-Canadian. I speak almost zero Spanish, except for the swear words I learned when I lived in CA, and a few phrases picked up here and there, but pretty nonexistent. I grew up in Canada where French is an official language, and spoke it throughout my school years....not fluently, but enough to get by. Many French words are similar to Spanish, so I'm hoping to ick it up.

    I lived in CA for about 6 years, in the heart of the Central Valley, and therefore was surrounded by migrant farm workers from Mexico. Not as predominant of a Spanish culture, but it was still there. Lots of tension related to immigration, etc. Lots of really good Mexican food too!

    I grew up in a metropolitan area in Canada (about 750K people in the city) and CA was basically one big giant city. I currently live in a mid-sized town of about 500K total. I live in a very suburban area though, in a subdivision. I haven't rented in about 6 years.

    I love big cities, culture, diversity, and heat. Humidity doesn't bother me too much. I prefer it over -60 degree weather in the winter!!!

    More to come.....

  2. #2
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    So now that you know everything except my social security number, I thought I would fill you in on how I started my search.

    My primary concern coming down to Miami was safety. My only impressions of Miami were from the TV shows CSI: Miami (every week it's like a battle zone!) and Miami Vice, as well as the video game Liberty City and a couple movies. I think this would be my concern in pretty much every major city throughout the world. No one wants to live in fear if they don't have to!

    I started searching the internet for forums. If you're reading this, well, you've probably already done that step! I also frequent another major website, that was helpful, but very negatively biased! People were full of horror stories about how you need to lock your doors and not leave anything in your car. I just thought that was common sense anywhere in America!

    Once I started to narrow down the areas that people seemed to agree on as being pretty safe areas, I then started focusing on areas that would be a close commute. I lived in CA and drove 2 hours each way to school for 2 years, so I know what a commute can be like (with a manual transmission vehicle!) and I don't want to do that again! In addition, I have a dog that I need to take care of, and I don't like leaving him alone for extended periods of time.

    Since I would be working at the University I narrowed down my search to the following areas: Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Brickell, S. Miami, and I added in the beach. Now, I added in the beach because I feel that it is worth it to look....it's probably the only time in my life I'll get the opportunity. If I don't find a place it's OK. At least I can say that I tried.

    OK, so I narrowed down my list based on safety and commute times. Those are what are important to me. For others, it might be the school system or where the best party scene is. But as a 31 year old professional with no kids, that wasn't my concern.

    My best advice in terms of narrowing down areas are to list the most important things in your life. Mine are:

    1. My safety
    2. My family's safety (I ranked this second because they won't be moving down here for awhile....but more on that later).
    3. Commute time (for my sanity and my dog's health).
    4. Accessibility to grocery stores, shopping, etc.
    5. Cost.

  3. #3
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    Now that I've narrowed down my areas to live, I needed to really start researching the cost of living in each of these areas. It's possible that one of these areas is just way out of my league. Now, cost is pretty important. We still have a home we are trying to sell in Indiana (YAY for the economic meltdown!) and my student loans (my brain is sure worth a lot now LOL) also have to start being paid. In addition, we also needed to determine what amenities we needed, since that could influence price as well. We seriously started thinking about all of this stuff in January (about the time I joined the site).

    We decided that we would like to keep our monthly rent under $1400, and would prefer to be closer to $1200. We needed a 2/2 with parking, central AC, first floor unit or elevator (one family member is disabled), and pets allowed.

    To do some research I started on Craigslist. Now, Craigslist can be a great fountain of information, but there are a lot of scammers. I take everything with a grain of salt on this site. I generally just used it to help estimate the average cost in different areas. In addition, I could start determining whether searching for a 2/2 was even feasible in some areas.

    I also did some searching on the MLS site provided here. Google was also a good friend!

    I learned a couple of things right away:

    1. Apartment complexes are not a big thing out in Miami. Indiana and CA are flooded with apartment complexes and when you're searching for a place to live, that is usually where you start. Not the case in Miami! That took a bit of an adjustment for me.

    2. Parking is a concern! Again, this is probably because I'm used to apartment complexes where they have tons of parking available and it is never a concern.

    3. Flexibility is key. We were initially adamant on having a 2/2. Just recently we've loosened that restriction. 2/1s are easier to find and can, in some cases, be substantially cheaper!

    Again, this was all just preliminary research. By the end of February I was convinced I would be in Coral Gables, S. Miami, or Coconut Grove. As you'll soon see, that has shifted!

  4. #4
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    Fast forward to the end of March. Now it's time to get serious. The move is only 6 weeks away!!!! At this point I contacted a realtor. This was foreign to me! In Miami, the person renting/leasing the unit can hire a realtor and not have to pay for anything!!! The owner pays the realtor for you. I wanted to use a realtor because I needed to maximize my time.

    I came here and got recommendations and chose a realtor located in South Beach. Ah yes, I forgot to mention, after much debate my husband and I decided that it would be worthwhile to include South Beach/mid beach in our search. You only live once!

    I contacted the realtor and told her what I was looking for. She, in turn, sent me this wonderful form to fill out. It was a questionnaire asking me all kinds of questions about what I needed and wanted. It asked what was important to me, and the top 5 things I could not live without!

    The realtor immediately began sending out listings to me. For each of the listings I did the following:

    1. Made sure that it met my criteria and my price range.
    2. Made sure it allowed pets.
    3. Used Google Maps to determine the EXACT location.

    Even though I was explicit with the areas I wanted to live, there were a couple that got thrown in that were out of my boundaries.

    In conversations with the realtor, she also recommended Brickell. I had originally crossed this off my list because I thought it would be too expensive, but she has sent me some listings that are in our price range.

    In addition, even though our maximum price is $1400 she has been sending listings at $1500-1600. This is because everything is negotiable in the current economic climate. I'm a little worried though.....that we'll fall in love with something out of our price range! We're also getting sent a lot of properties way up in the north beach area. I think this will be too far of a commute. She claims it is only about 35 minutes (my goal was to be 30 minutes away or less), so we will go and check out a few places for ourselves and make the decision once we arrive.

    Over the past couple of weeks she has sent emails indicating that some properties are no longer listed, and sent new ones that were added.

    Also, within the last 2 days I have hired a second realtor. My first realtor is really an expert in Brickell and the beach and not so much around the university. Therefore, based on recommendations from people here I have hired someone who is an expert in the areas surrounding the university.

    Finally, I have also been cruising Craigslist every day. Have already run into one Nigerian scam, and some weird people. I did find one place that seems legit, and am making an appointment. In addition, I also visited the university's housing website and have made a couple appointments with places listed there.

  5. #5
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    Here is the timeline thus far:

    December 2008 - confirmation of my job
    January 2009 - began initial research regarding areas to live
    February 2009 - continued with background research
    March 2009 - initiated contact with realtor(s); also, fully funded my moving fund. We have $4500 for apartment deposit and $500 for the pet deposit. Also have money set aside for moving truck (more on that later!).

    April 1-14: searching websites on a daily basis; in constant contact with realtor
    April 15: arrival day; the plan is to drive around Coral Gables area and scope things out...maybe drive to other areas
    April 16: look at units with realtor #1
    April 17: look at units with realtor #2
    April 18-20: hopefully have time to go back and look at units we really like and make a decision
    April 21: stuck in meetings at my new job all day
    April 22: fly home very early.

    So....now you are all caught up! I'll have internet access throughout my visit, and will be updating often!!!

  6. #6
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    Not much to report today! Just tying up some loose ends around the house in preparation for the trip. Confirmed my hotel and rental car. Booked my hotel in Chicago (doing a park & fly since our flight is so early in the morning).

    Received an email from the Coral Gables realtor, I had told her that I hired a realtor to handle the beach area and the Gables realtor said that it might be simpler just to have everything with one realtor and that she would be happy to forward my selections to the other realtor.

    Spoke with realtor #1 and she's happy to add the places to our list. I feel a bit bad about realtor #2, but she did only send me 2 emails and didn't have a ton of time invested....whereas realtor #1 has been working with me for about 3 weeks now.

    I checked Craigslist today and nothing exciting has popped up. Also checked the UM housing website. A couple places popped up that weren't there before...am going to email and see if they meet my requirements.

    My plan is to write up an entire list of each of the apartments that we will be visiting. I want to designate one piece of paper for each one. On each piece of paper I plan to write down the amenities, distance from work, cost, square footage, etc. After viewing the apartment I will immediately write down the pros and cons so I have some reference. In addition, I am taking pictures of each place to email to our roommate who cannot make the trip down.

    I have done this with house hunting and it was VERY helpful! In addition, I imagine a LOT of places will be crossed off the list immediately after viewing.

    I keep worrying about my dog....he's a small dog, and usually only barks when he hears stuff or sees something interesting (he barks when I come home and he hears my alarm beep, barks when garage door opens, barks when he sees other dogs or people walking down the street). He is fully crate trained (for his safety in case someone burglarizes the home)....and he doesn't bark during the day (that I know of). I am concerned that in an apartment he will bark at every little sound and I won't know because I am at work.....I worry that it'll piss off the neighbors and we'll get kicked out! I just don't know how we will act in the apartment. We stayed at a hotel once and he howled the entire time we left (we went to grab dinner for 30 minutes) and you could hear him all the way down the hall. I'm hoping that when our smells are in the house he'll be OK! Anyways....I guess I can't worry too much about it right now.

  7. #7
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    I understand what your concerns are, I also feel the same way to some extent. My brother and I would like to move to Miami, South Beach area, we have two dogs, he has his and I have mine. His dog has had surgery on his back paws so would need a first floor or place with an elevator. Mine is young, about 3-5 yrsld and barks at noises and people,so I worry about us finding a place that allows dogs and two at that. Then, about if my dog is going to bother anyone. We also have a relative that is handicapped. So, price for size is a big thing.

    We have been working with a realtor, this is different for me because I am used to having choices for apts. where there it is mostly condos. She has found some places for one dog but supposedly they are picky about the size of the dog and if the dog barks. They take dogs less than 20 lbs and it is more difficult for bigger dogs. Then, not being there we want to see the place before renting instead of taking something without really knowing what it looks like.

    I also want to investigate the economy as far as jobs. One of us would need to start living there and look for a job, while the other one would keep the job until both can move. SO, we decided to go in the summer and spend a few weeks there and look for apts and jobs.

    If you have any suggestions, please let me know about places or economy in Florida since it seems you have received good information.

    I have to say this seems to be a helpful and great forum.

  8. #8
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    Hi SB.....it seems like your situation is very similar to ours. We also have a handicapped person moving down with us, and need a place that is first floor/elevator and has parking on site (at least one space). We have 2 pets as well, small dog and a small cat.

    Thus far, I have not run into ANY problems with the apartment restrictions. I'm guessing if I wasn't so picky about the first floor thing and having central AC then I would find a lot more in South Beach. However, I want to live comfortably....so I have less places to pick from.

    Also, with the dog....no problems yet. Yes, there have been a couple places that I saw and loved, but then found out they were no pets...but I found a lot more that do allow pets. THe dog is going to be my number one priority. He's not only my best friend, but he's like a kid. Therefore, houses/cottages will always be given preference...as will corner units (I can put him in the very far corner and hopefully no one will hear him.

    My other plan was to buy one of those draft buddy things that you put along the bottom of a door to block out the cold air....I was going to put it along the outside of the door every day to block sounds when I leave....that way if he does bark, then the whole building won't hear it.

    I have come across several places that allow large dogs...a lot of these are small houses with fenced in yards though....and are not on S. Beach. So I guess you'd have to make a decision....whether you want that beach lifestyle or a place for the dogs. My dog always comes first :-)

    Ask your realtor about areas just outside the beach....that might have houses/duplexes. That might solve all of your problems :-)

    I will definitely keep you updated, via this thread, about what I find out about the pets. I am prepared to pay a hefty deposit for him (and lose it) and even a monthly rent fee for him.

    Oh, I also planned on being totally Midwestern when I move in. I was going to visit all my neighbors (each side, across the hall, above, and below) and tell them that I have a dog that will be transitioning and to please notify me if he is any bother to them in terms of noise and to please tell me when he is noisy so that I can be proactive about it (i.e. maybe I'll have to soundproof the room I put him in LOL).

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the advice and hope to hear more about your trip and relocation. That's a great idea to talk to your neighbors about your dog and getting to know them and them you. I am sure you have not run into problems about the size of your dog because the realtor lady and places I have checked say 20lbs and under is usually easy when looking for an apt.

    I saw so many dogs in South Beach that I didn't think dogs would be an issue. I am surprised about the problems we have encountered with it. I have told the realtor about places near South Beach area but not tooo far out. I read on this forum that Mid-Beach would be one area to consider. I also read that if you go past a certain street it is gang land, so it is better we go to check it out and see what the areas that have been mentioned. We like South Beach and drove around Calle 8 what they call over there, that didn't seem too good. Brickell seemed nice, but when I look at apts there it seems more expensive.

    Well, look forward to reading your threads and good luck.

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    I wonder if the problem with South Beach is because it's all apartments....people feel big dogs can do more damage in a small apartment as compared to a home where they have a small yard. I am just grateful that I didn't let hubby get his English Bulldog, because we'd be having a lot of problems!

    No real updates on my end....surfed Craigslist and the UM Housing website yesterday. Saw an interesting place in SoBe, but after I emailed I found out it was a second floor unit with no elevator.

    The plan today is to write up the list of all my apartments. Each apartment will get a page devoted to it listing the amenities, utilities included in price, parking situation, commute in miles, and deposits. In addition, the page will have a blak area for me to make notes while going through...things like: corner unit or not, general feel of place, location to keep dog in apartment that might prevent him from being heard by neighbors, etc.

    Hotel and car rental in Miami are confirmed, hotel in Chicago is confirmed. Need to print out a recent paystub and bank statement, as well as my offer letter for my new job.

    I'm starting to get excited :-)

  11. #11
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    Awesome post, twiggers. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I just added a link to this topic on the home page.

    Don't get too worked up about the safety-thing.

    I have no idea what SBAOL is referring to when they say "if you go past a certain street it is gang land."

    Miami Beach is safe... so is Downtown, Brickell, Coconut Grove, Coral Gabels, and 90% of the other neighborhoods in Miami.

    If you and your husband want to stop by our office, I'd be happy to give you a quick tour around South Beach.

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    Hi Gus,

    Thanks so much!!! I hope this post can be helpful to others :-)

    I am trying to pin my husband down on a time that he wants to go out and start wandering....I want to start wandering South Beach early...I miss the ocean! Perhaps we'll pop in on Wednesday afternoon. I'm going to program the office number into my phone so I can call ahead of time!!!!

    I really appreciate all of the help that you, and everyone else on this site, have provided. It has been so amazingly helpful!

  13. #13
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    Today's update:

    I spent several hours today calling every single one of the apartments on our list. I'm incredibly Type A, so I just went ahead and did it, instead of waiting for realtor. Mostly, I wanted to make sure 2 pets was OK and clarify some parking issues.

    It was a good thing I did this....I was able to cross off about 5 places based on pet restrictions.

    I am feeling a little disheartened right now though. Many of the places we are looking at are at the upper end of our price point, and some are slightly out of our reach (we're hoping owners are negotiable due to economy). I really wanted to look at more places in South Beach, but we only have one place :-( It's just a tad bit discouraging right now. I'm sure things will be better once we actually arrive and can start driving around....maybe we'll stumble on that perfect gem!

    I also did my daily surfing of Craigslist. Stumbled on a cute little house that is listed by the owners. Again, slightly out of our max price, but maybe negotiable.

    Also spent today getting all of our paperwork organized. Printed out bank statements (both checking and savings accounts), printed out paystubs, dug around and found phone numbers for our old apartment in California. Also printed out all of our hotel confirmations and directions from the airport to our hotel.

    Tomorrow I'll probably do one more search through Craigslist, and then tomorrow night we head out to the airport....we're spending the night and doing a Park & Fly deal since our flight is pretty early!

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    It's good to hear you are getting things ready. I am looking forward to going down there and hoping to find a place while there than online. Will check out the places the realtor has mentioned and look at places close range to South Beach, also. I was told that around the 60's there were a lot of gangs. But since I don't know what are the cutoffs like in most cities there are the good and bad I would like to get an idea where to look and not look. I know I felt safe in South Beach but not so sure of Miami and its areas. I considered looking at the Art Deco district but again, not sure what that is like. I was wondering if Hollywood was a good area, is it close to South Beach? Is it walkable like South Beach?

    Just trying to get an idea of where to look when we go down there and what to avoid.

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    Hollywood is up near Ft. Lauderdale...nowhere near South Beach. Also, I was told that pretty much all areas of the beach are good....there might be a couple pockets of rundown buildings, but generally safe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twiggers
    Today's update:

    I spent several hours today calling every single one of the apartments on our list. I'm incredibly Type A, so I just went ahead and did it, instead of waiting for realtor. Mostly, I wanted to make sure 2 pets was OK and clarify some parking issues.

    It was a good thing I did this....I was able to cross off about 5 places based on pet restrictions.

    I am feeling a little disheartened right now though. Many of the places we are looking at are at the upper end of our price point, and some are slightly out of our reach (we're hoping owners are negotiable due to economy). I really wanted to look at more places in South Beach, but we only have one place :-( It's just a tad bit discouraging right now. I'm sure things will be better once we actually arrive and can start driving around....maybe we'll stumble on that perfect gem!
    Hey Twiggers!

    Don't be too disheartened, tell your realtor you want to look at more beach properties, and also walk round the beach yourself as there are tons of for rent signs around. That's always fun, and how I found the area where I wanted to live.

    Also, saying you are Type A... I am like this too, or at least I was until moving to Miami. When I first moved I was incredibly anal about everything... Anyway, not sure how to explain it, but basically don't let the little things get you down here, Miami is a 'laid back' city shall we say, and things don't always work like they do elsewhere... I have learnt to laugh when the repair men turn up 4 hours late etc, I call it 'Miami Time'. My boss gave me this advice when I first moved and I feel it's only fair to pass it on!

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    Thanks Jess!!! We are definitely planning to just walk around the beach, and probably drive around Coconut Grove and Coral Gables and S. Miami looking for signs.

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    Hey Twiggers,

    Bank statements are ok to have with you but try not to use them to show the prospective landlord or condo board "proof of funds". As soon as I showed this, they decided they wanted to be paid upfront.

    When I was a Realtor in NJ, I used them all the time in lieu of a credit report if the applicant was international and had no American credit. In my experience the landlord has never asked for payment upfront.

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    Thanks Sungal! I definitely won't be showing them anything until they ask. Paying up front would be a deal breaker for me....we have more than enough guaranteed income (shoot, mine alone would be 4x the rent) that they shouldn't ask for the bank statements anyways.

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    Oh,thanks, I didn't realize Hollywood was that far. Is it nice and walkable, like South Beach? I guess this is why it would be good to go to Miami and check out the areas around South Beach.

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