AA's got all of this and more. Ann Arbor offers one of the highest per capita ratios of both churches and bookstores in the country, and contains an above-average percentage of minority and foreign-born residents for the state of Michigan. The University and many other large companies bring a whole variety of employment options, and many folks are able to live and work locally, with an average commute of only 18.8 minutes. Gentrification is admittedly an issue, and you'll find hipsters, students and well-off professionals living in neighborhoods that were formerly more affordable. However, if you search farther away from the campus in less trendy areas (yes, you can handle the extra mile on your bike to get to the coffeeshop!) you can certainly find a place that's within the average Ann Arborite's price range.
Think of Ann Arbor like a selection of coffee or beer microbrews at an upscale place: lots of variety and you can most likely find something you'll like that's right for you...but you do have to carefully choose your 'hood. That's where we come in...
Thanks to Big Blue, Downtown is very lively, all right, but much of the rental housing is gobbled up by students. Young, loud, hard-partying students. If you enjoy a good night's sleep now and then, the further you go from campus, the better. The rehabbed homes, condos and loft conversions of the Old Fourth Ward Historic District are a current hot spot - luring a wide array of renters. Expect competition to be fierce, and start your search plenty early. $$ - $$$$
The diverse population of this area is reflected in its equally diverse housing: condos, semi-detached one- and two-story units, townhouses, and apartment complexes all combine to make up the area known as Lower Town. The buildings of UM’s North Campus draw students to live in this area as well, but the quiet sort that everybody likes - mostly grad students and medical residents. $$ - $$$
Rental opps abound in Southwest AA, ranging from low-income to luxury. One caveat - proximity of the area to I-94 means easy freeway access, but can also mean noise. Note to those with road rage: on game days, driving within this area may be simply too much for you to handle. If you must live in this area, stay indoors on Saturday afternoons and medicate. $$$
Tips and Tricks
Pay Up or Shut Up: Rents in Ann Arbor tend to be fairly high. If you're looking for new construction with a laundry list of amenities, brace yourself for sticker shock. If you stumble across a deal, it'll most likely be a dated duplex or apartment featuring a kitchen circa 1980's and an even older bathroom. One way or another, it definitely won't last long in this college town. However, while the economic slowdown has affected Ann Arbor along with the rest of the country, unemployment's lower in this city than in the rest of the state of Michigan, so if you can line up a good local job before moving here, you should be able to make it.
"Chillin'" Takes On a Whole New Meaning: Another important thing to keep in mind for your move to Ann Arbor are utility costs. Ann Arbor isn't exactly known for its mild winters, and heating expenses are nothing to sneeze at, especially in older buildings where windows and insulation may not be top notch. What seems like a "deal" might not be after a long, cold winter spent shoveling cash into your furnace.
To put it bluntly, parking in Ann Arbor sucks - especially downtown and anywhere near the university - if your commute doesn't require a car, take advantage of AA's walkable nature and sell the dang thing.
That's A-Squared in a nutshell. With a little bit of cash and a whole lotta perseverance, you'll be an Ann Arborite in no time . . . strolling the safe streets, smelling the fresh, midwestern air and, quite possibly, threatening to call the cops on the raging frat party next door. All that's left to do is brush up on your Buckeye jokes. This one's on us:
What's the only sign of intelligent life in Columbus?
"Ann Arbor: 187 miles"
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