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Ibbygirl

Pennsylvania WTMers

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Can I ask you some questions?  I'm considering a possible move to PA and need to gather some info. I have only driven through the state once in my life. It's a beautiful state, but I know very little about living there and don't know a soul there either.  Would love some info about the different areas of the state, ie places to go, places to avoid, home prices, taxes, snow fall stuff like that.  Ideally, I'd like to live more rurally as I'd like to have about an acre of land, but not too too far from amenities either.  I have never been in snow in my life so would need to learn how to do a real winter as well and well, any info would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you in advance. 🙂

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I’m in the northeast. I absolutely love it here, but it took me about a decade to come to that conclusion, lol.

Actual home prices are dirt cheap. The real estate (school) taxes are considered ridiculously high by most, but I’m originally from NJ, and they’re a fraction of NJ taxes.

WIthin NEPA, you can get a house on 20 acres or a third of an acre. Smaller than that is mostly limited to living right in, say, East Stroudsburg. Much of the area is made up of private communities with or without gated access.  That doesn’t always mean fancy and expensive. (I live in a small, inexpensive house on over an acre of woods, within a gated community.) There are certain communities to avoid within the area.  Drugs are an issue everywhere, but that seems like nearly any state now.

I’m about 20-30 minutes from most things.  Our Walmart and Target are about 30 minutes from one another.  Hospitals are at least 20-30 minutes unless you’re in an ambulance running their lights and sirens.  Urgent Cares are everywhere. Fire is all volunteer and can take a little while.  Police are almost all state and regional, not individual towns.

There are things to do out in nature year round and very active homeschoolers.  Well, in normal times.

We haven’t had much snow at all this year.  We can get a lot, as early as October and as late as April.  Little League practice often gets delayed, and then we roast toward the end of the season! In the higher elevations, we get a lot of ice with or instead of snow. 4WD helps in the snow, not in the ice. Dh has AWD, I do not. I just don’t go out during storms, and the roads are typically well taken care of after.  Having a non-electric heat source is important, but power outages are actually less common than when we first moved in.

Homeschool laws are not nearly as hard as people paint them. They’re written long, and you have to push pointless paperwork, but it doesn’t have real impact on the actual home education.  Groups plan tons of activities over a large radius, and most of them are totally worth it.  I’m trying to think of a type of trip (zoos, museums, performances, etc.) that we haven’t had access to, and I’m coming up blank.  NYC and Philly are still possible day trips, but LONG day trips that I can’t handle with any real frequency.

We do not lack indoor water parks. (Though I’ve never been to one, lol.) The skiing is considered excellent for people who haven’t been to, say, Colorado. 🙂 

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Pa is quite a large state.  What area are you thinking?  I’m south central.  I think we may have had 6-8” of snow total this winter, we had a very mild winter.  Haven’t had to wear a coat most days this year.

My area is as you describe- rural, but close to amenities.  I’m an hour from Baltimore & Harrisburg.  Two hours from Philly & DC.  People commute to all of those places for work from here.

Re taxes.  We have one of the highest gas taxes in the country.  There’s about a $0.40 per gallon difference between gas here and down in MD, more of a difference if you go east to Jersey (and they get full service!).  When we first moved to Pa, I felt like we got a different tax bill in the mail every day from lots of different places.  Here we are taxed by:

local - income based
(local - used to charge per capita too)
school - property based and can impose per capita fees for special projects
county - property based
county - income based
state - income based

So, your taxes are really dependent on your locality and school district.  Our school district boasts they have the lowest millage rate, but they leave out that they also have the highest assessments too.

 

eta:  medically, we are very fortunate to have so many options within an hour or two drive, if those services are necessary.  Hopkins, Hersey, CHOP, etc....

Edited by school17777
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I am in the far western part of PA, close to Pittsburgh, Ohio and West Virginia. I really love it here. 

  • People are nice -- laid-back, kind, tolerant
  • scenery is beautiful
  • weather is pleasant; we get all four seasons, but nothing extreme, not too hot in summer, not too cold in winter, occasional snow, but not much
  • taxes and housing prices vary, we bought a foreclosure on five acres for under $50K, but we've had to put a lot into it
  • the homeschool laws look intimidating, but aren't bad at all once you figure it out
  • access to medical care -- several of my kids have medical needs, they get great care here and it's nearby (in the midwest I had to travel about four hours)
  • access to sports, music, theatre, museums etc
  • lots of parks, state forests, and natural beauty

I recommend it.

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I lived two years in southeastern PA. Crowded, expensive. Would not want to do that again. 

 

I've lived over a decade in rural south central PA. I hope never to move. It is beautiful here!  The weather is pretty balanced -- hot summers are never as bad as the south, snowy winters aren't ever as bad as the northeast, and spring and fall are like slices of heaven. Cost of living seems pretty decent here, but that's in comparison to outside Philadelphia or DC. I pay more than I'd like in school taxes, but I think it's still pretty reasonable for most areas. There are some dumb small taxes, but our county ones aren't bad, and at least our libraries are good. 

 

We are 20 minutes from a grocery store or library, so there are just no quick trips anywhere. You get used to that. It forces you to choose only the most important things to do because it's a minimum of two hours out for every activity or class. Otoh, super social kids may find that hard because you can't do everything. But, we are 30 minutes from anything major, and 1-3 hours from major cities, high level healthcare, culture, etc. 

 

Nobody delivers pizza, but Amazon Prime arrives in less than 24 hours sometimes. 

 

Our area has almost entirely friendly people. Like, cashiers at the store are just nice. Lots of small businesses who treat you like their only customer. Very family friendly. People love the kids! There is a ton of stuff to do; even being rural, we could spend every weekend doing stuff if we wanted to. Our state parks are free and beautiful! Lots of stuff for homeschoolers, and it is well accepted. 

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Thank you all so so much for your replies.  I have only ever been to Hershey and it was just passing through, but I enjoyed what I saw and did there.  All of you sound like you love your respective areas.  Honestly I am open to anywhere in the state, but being a native of South Florida, who has never been through a real winter or seen snow IRL, the idea of winter was very intimidating to me so I was hoping to not wind up in a part where I would have to shovel my house out of the snow, kwim?  Maybe that doesn't happen there though?

All of you sound like you are very happy with where you live.  I like the idea of PA because they have so many programs for Autism and I can hardly get any help for my kiddos here in Florida.  There is basically just one program here for kiddos with Autism and I have been on the wait list for it since 2005 and have basically been told I will never get off of it.

I am open to going anywhere in the state really, I just wanted to go where the winters are not too intense or too heavy with snow.  Do you mind sharing what counties you live in that you are so happy with?  Or what counties you know of that you would avoid?  It sounds like you have a lot more taxes there than we do here in Florida.  Can you give me a rough idea of what you pay in those taxes per year?  Here I just basically pay property taxes once a year and that's it. Other than of course sales tax when we buy anything.  As far as your yearly taxes, what is a rough estimate of what you would pay in total?  It sounds like it varies a lot by the county, but y'all mentioned some taxes that I haven't heard of.  School taxes here are just part of the single tax bill for property taxes that I get in November every year.  It is itemized and everything is on the one tax bill.

Can you recommend some towns/counties?  I have to start from scratch and hope to take an exploratory trip up there sometime this year, but need a place to start. I'd love to hear more of your suggestions.  Thank you all so much. 🙂

@happypamama  What towns/counties in Southeastern PA should I avoid. I am so over the city and big crowds.  I just want some peace and quiet in a beautiful setting with a nice big garden. 🙂

My mom moved to a rural part of Georgia when she retired 19 years ago so I am pretty acquainted with how country life is from my time up there with her. I actually don't mind the drive.  I usually have to drive 30-45 from her house to go pretty much anywhere, but I have to do that here too in South Florida because the traffic is so bad it takes that long anyway even if the place I want to go is closer mileage wise. I'd much rather have a tranquil scenic drive tbh,. 🙂

Thank you all again for your replies. I have a lot I need to learn.

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The farther south you go in PA, the less snow there usually is, but you definitely need a shovel EVERYWHERE in PA. In my area of Monroe County, I’d recommend a snow blower or plow, depending on driveway length. (I don’t have either, but I call for a plow if we get more than 6-8” or so.). I didn’t call at all this year. Actually, we only shoveled half our drive once or twice for walking paths and drove over the rest this season! But that’s not representative of every winter.

Tax-wise, our state income tax is 3%. My local income tax is 1%. Our sales tax is 6%.  My real estate taxes are around $3700 for combined municipal and school tax, on a 3 bed, 2 bath, 1100sf home on an acre and a quarter.  I also pay abut $1000/yr dues for my development’s pools, lakes, activities, road maintenance, 24hr security, and staffed gated entrances.

I won’t go into more detail because I think you’ll probably rule my area out for the snow.  😀 

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Here's a site where you can compare taxes per county:

http://www.tax-rates.org/pennsylvania/property-tax

Here's a cost of living calculator -- we used this when we were considering a move. It's not exact because, of course, there are variables, and it doesn't include taxes, but it gives you a ball park range:

https://www.bestplaces.net/cost-of-living/

I live north of Pittsburgh and we haven't shoveled snow for several years. We get enough that we need to brush it off of our cars, but it often melts by later in the day. Interstate 80 is often the snow-dividing line in this part of the state. There will be snow north of it and rain south of it. 

Edited by mom@shiloh
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I lived in Montgomery County over in SE PA. I lived pretty far out in a small town, and it was okay. Closer in to Philadelphia is more expensive and crowded. Chester, Delaware, definitely crowded and expensive, plus Philadelphia. Bucks is expensive too, I think, but I'm not as familiar. 

 

Lancaster, York, Berks, Adams, Franklin, Cumberland, Dauphin (that's where Hershey is, and I can personally recommend their hospital/children's hospital), Perry, um, what else is around here? Centre is where Penn State is, and it is also really pretty, probably more expensive, but maybe the surrounding areas aren't so much?  We went to school up there but haven't lived there in two decades, just visited. Basically, I think it depends on how close you need to be to a city of any type. 

 

We have a snow shovel, and yes, we have to scrape the cars sometimes because no garage. This winter was very mild, though. 

 

I think we pay around $3000 total in property taxes, plus a little more in the per capita and occupational assessment taxes. 

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I live in York County.  We pay $8k in property taxes altogether on a 2400 sq ft house.  My in-laws were paying $12k and $16k (two different families), all three of us in different school districts in York County.  Their homes were bigger than ours, but not much bigger.  (Both have moved to smaller homes, partly because of the school taxes)

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I live in SE PA, 20 minutes away from Philly, so I'm right in the thick of it. I love it here. But I think you should consider your reason for moving which is your children for Autism services. There are some areas that have much more than others and I would think ease of obtaining and getting to those services would be a huge factor. I know some parents who have specifically moved to smaller homes/condos so their children have access to public transportation as they get older so it really depends on what you want. Perhaps you could contact some of the Autism groups and try to meet some families who can give you more guidance?

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