Want to own a two-story house, give your kids a terrific education and make a decent living? Move to Indianapolis, voted by CNNMoney.com as the most affordable city in the nation.
After my parents divorced, my mom picked a place on the map (as I recall it), and we ended up in Indy. I'm not going to lie, for the eight years I lived there, I hated it. Other than going to the mall and to the movies, there was nothing to do for teens. But after moving back to New York City for college--where my Brooklyn rent soared to $1200 for a one-bedroom apartment, car insurance rose to $200 a month and grocery shopping became almost unmanageable--all the perks of living in Indy suddenly became obvious.
In 2001, my mother was able to purchase a two-story, two-bedroom, two-bath (and mini-yard!) condominium for $80,000 in a very safe suburban neighborhood of Indianapolis. Eight years later, these prices remain the same, and for $20,000 more, Hoosiers can purchase an enormous three-bedroom home in a secure and thriving location with a big yard for their dogs to roam free. One can't even purchase a studio apartment for that price in Brooklyn--I'm not even going to mention Manhattan.
Although I am a New Yorker at heart, I'm not going to discourage people from moving to Indianapolis. Heck, I'd probably move back there in five to 10 years to raise a family. The median-income of $65,100 surpasses New York City's $63,000. Public school education is fantastic. I'd even put it on the same plank as private. (I recycled my North Central High School AP English papers at Fordham University for three years!) Car insurance is very cheap compared to most metropolises, especially if one lives in the Carmel area, a much pricier (and snootier) locale, but a coveted one--a Beverly Hills of Indianapolis, so to speak. And although it was severely affected by the weakening economy, Indianapolis' unemployment rate of 5% is still below the state and national averages.
Obviously, not every part of Indianapolis is ideal. Haughville, a working-class neighborhood west of downtown Indy, is known for its extremely high crime rates and Geist, an area in northeastern Indianapolis, is notorious for outrageous real estate prices. If you're considering a move to (or within) Indianapolis, I highly recommend Washington Township, which is filled with great schools, top notch and affordable homes and apartments, booming nightlife and a high level of security. Broad Ripple, a popular area for socializing, offers an eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants and lively entertainment. Keystone provides its couture-hungry visitors a taste of New York with Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany's and Co. And Castleton is the place to go for family time, with its recently-built giant AMC theater, popular mall and lots of quality restaurants.
Yes, as much as I love New York, I'd definitely consider moving back to Indy. After all, my mother's condo is still there--empty, renovated and still on the market. So yes, there is a downside to Indianapolis if one wants to sell property: it is a buyer's market only. And when you can purchase a one-story, two-bedroom home for $90,000, paying a laughably low mortgage of $400 a month after putting a down payment of approximately 20%, who wants to live in a condo?