We've Moved - Charlie Gershfield
We Made the Move! Charlie Gershfield
Let's GoWhen I was still only vaguely aware of the Free State Project, my friend Herb was telling me on the phone that I should move to New Hampshire because it was a "libertarian state". I wasn't sure what evidence he had of that other than what he had read on a license plate, "live free or die". Herb and I used to work together a long time ago in the defence industry and, since then, I did the occasional contract job for him as we both moved around the country in our separate directions. He was working in Burlington, Massachusetts at the time. Meanwhile, Hazel and I were looking for a place to move to where our kids would be relatively safe, and where there would be some career opportunities in the area along with a group of home schoolers where the kids could find friends. We had already decided on New Hampshire. It's possible to get a job here without some insider already knowing you - but it certainly doesn't hurt if someone has worked with you and can recommend you. So, with job offer in hand we went to work on the really big job - moving - and here's the story.
Moving OutFirst of all, in order to move, you have to clean up a bunch of loose ends and sell your house wherever you live. We owned a 40 acre place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a do it yourself house construction project going on, animals, a garage/barn that needed a major cleanup job, an old house that needed demolishing and a bunch of landscaping work that needed to be done. My advice to anyone looking to move in the forseeable future: get your place in shape now. Do not wait until you want to move because it's a lot of work and it's cheaper if you're not being rushed to finish things in time. Those of you who are well organized people where everything is always in its correct place and the lawn is always mowed can disregard the above advice. Also if you live in an apartment, good for you. All you have to worry about is when the lease is up - or when you can get out of it.
Of course, it's always best to travel light. But we all have a
bunch of stuff that we hate to get rid of. It didn't take much
deliberation for us to reject the idea of paying $15,000 to a moving
company. It's expensive to carry a lot of weight. So we
like to pack up as much weight as possible in boxes and send it through
the post office. They will keep your stuff at the post office at
your destination for some time - I believe it's up to 30 days - until
you can pick it up. Send it by the slowest cheapest rate
available. If you're lucky you may be able to get someone to pace
your stuff at the sending end so it doesn't all arrive at once at the
For this move, we purchased a 16 foot enclosed household goods trailer. Including sway bars, electric brake controller and other odds and ends it came to about $5000 brand new. Unlike a rental truck, you can store things in it for months while you pack or unpack. And the same vehicle comes in handy when you move a year later - more on this in the next section. And, of course, if you have no use for the trailer any more, you can sell it and get most of your money back. There's a good market for used trailers.
We rented here for a
year before buying any real estate. During the year, we had a
chance to familiarize ourselves
with the area and look around for a property to buy. This also
allowed time for the old place in Michigan to be sold. It also
allows you one
year to change your mind and bail out without the complication of more
real estate problems. Find out the names of some newspapers
that you want
to look in for classified ads. Talk to real estate agents.
They know all about advertising in newspapers. You can find the
contact information for real estate agents in the area you're
interested in by searching on the Internet. Get a newspaper
sent to your current address for 3 months and start calling
landlords. We found our rental house in the Peterborough
Transcript. It was in Temple (about 45
west of Nashua) and this was in spite of the fact that we came with 5
kids, a dog, a rabbit and 4
Buying Real EstateIf you are looking for real estate in the Peterborough area (about an hour west of Nashua, 1/2 hour east of Keene) I recommend talking to Barbara Quinlan at ERA Masiello in Peterborough (603-924-8373). She was very helpful. We ended up buying a place in Bennington, about 10 miles north of Peterborough. It was close to people that Hazel had made friends with during the first year but it was a nightmare for my commute to Burlington Mass. However, the place we got was cheaper than buying closer to the Boston megalopolis. As a programmer, it was fairly easy for to make the point that I need to stay out of the office one or two days a week to have time to actually write some code instead of go to meetings all day.
And how cheap is it? It's expensive - at least in the southeast portion of the state. Maybe if you're coming from New York, Tokyo or London, you'll think this is cheap. But by national standards this is high. Our place is an hour and 45 minutes from the high technology center of the Boston suburbia, Burlington, Massachusetts, and a 40 year old raised ranch on 5 acres in medium fair shape with a large garage is $185,000, with 1200 sq. ft finished. It goes up from there as you travel east and south. And, as you can see from the picture this house needed a little bit of drain pipe work in the back yard.
Regarding the actual houses, there are two kinds here (roughly speaking): 200 year old houses that are made from post and beam hardwood, and the typical stick frame houses that are all over the country today such as the one we bought, a "raised ranch", for example. For the same living space, a twentieth century house is cheaper and is easier to maintain than the antiques. The old post and beam houses tend to be a little out of plumb with no square corners anywhere and the floors are not exactly flat or level. Caring for one of these is a great hobby if you have the time for it and certainly these houses have plenty of character. And they were built strong. A hundred years from now, these houses will be 300 years old and our raised ranch will most likely be demolished.
BureaucracyFirst the good news. There is no requirement to have insurance in order to operate a car on the roads. Of course, you probably want it anyway and you need it to drive out of state. But we purchased a used car from a dealer and drove it off the lot without talking to an insurance agent. That was nice. The state seat belt law only applies to under 18 year olds.
Now the rest of the news. If you're bringing a trailer in, you should try to get a title for it first, or at least a copy of one. They have a rough time understanding that you don't have a title because the state you came from only issues registations, not titles. Property taxes are high - and we were unable to figure out how to predict what they would be based on the purchase price of the house and the town it's in. They re-evaluate the property every now and then even if it hasn't been sold recently. In taxes and registration, our 2 cars and a trailer are about $400 a year. We had to go back and forth between the town hall and the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) in Milford to finally pay it all. The driver's license is done at the DMV. You are supposed to get the car inspected, although they don't volunteer that information when you register the vehicle. Gas stations and repair shops do it. Cable, phone, electric etc. was somewhat confusing. You should get the story from whoever lived there before you about who to contact about all that. To register to vote, start at the town hall.
WorkI already had a contact for a job in the area, but it seems that the Nashua, Manchester, Concord region has a lot of business and industry. And there is the route 128 (I-95) area in Massachusetts and the whole greater Boston area to look in. Remember that if you work in Mass., you'll be paying real estate and real property taxes in New Hampshire and income tax in Massachusetts - the worst of both worlds. This is what I'm doing, but anyway, it's a living.
What It's LikeSome people are concerned about the northern winters here. After spending 7 years on the shores of Lake Superior, the winter here seemed quite mild. There's a long fall where the leaves turn gradually from north to south, different species showing their colors at different times. For those of you from the West, you have to see the fall colors in the East. Then, there are the rivers and lakes. This area is full of hills, some mountains, carrying rocky streams feeding into lakes that you can swim in or paddle around on in a kayak. The kids get plenty of swimming time in the summer. There's enough sun, rain and growing season to grow nice vegetables here in your back yard. And it's not as sweltering hot as some places are in the summer.
The people here have turned out to be generally quite friendly. Even the commute isn't so bad - there are enough considerate people on the road that let each other in, so that it's pretty pleasant - not at all like the stereotype of the Boston area drivers, who are supposed to try and run you off the road while pretending they can't see you.
The home schooling involves a little more bureaucracy than where we came from. There are no reporting requirements in Michigan. We decided to join an organization. The kids are enrolled in Clonlara, a secular school in Anne Arbor, Michigan. Clon Lara people deal with home schooling paperwork from all 50 states and they help you out.
When we first came up with the idea of moving, the kids were not
excited. But after a year, they have met a lot of
new friends and are now happy that they moved.
are a lot of home schoolers in the area, so, for you home schoolers out
there, your kids will have plenty of friends. You yourself will
also have an automatic group of people you have something in common
Any time you move, there will be things about the old place that you didn't even realize were important to you until they are gone. New activities take the place of old ones and your life inevitably will change. While some people welcome the change, others eventually refuse to move any more because they don't want to disrupt their lives another time.
I was originally from New York. There are Italian neighborhoods, German neghborhoods, Polish, Korean, you name it. People like to live near other people with a common culture and language. I never found a libertarian neighborhood in New York though, or anywhere else in my travels for that matter. After being here for a year, I've come to the conclusion that this may be the closest thing to a libertarian neighborhood we'll ever see in our life time. And it may be a good place to move to before finally deciding to stop disrupting your life with additional moves.
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