Moving To Mobile, Alabama- Considerations
The Background of Mobile
Mobile is an unusual place, for it is, in the words of writer Eugene Walter, "Sweet lunacy's county seat." South of the Salt Line, this city of over 195,000 is different from other parts of Alabama in that we have a background of Latin in our blood. First settled by the French in 1702 and named by Iberville the unfortunate word that meant "movable", Mobile was later ruled by the British and the Spanish. We have been American since 1813, and ,with this event, many French-Spanish families decided to move to New Orleans due to the Americans' barbaric reputation. You'll hear a lot about "Old Mobilians", but the real ones are the free people of color Creole families that stayed. Most families came here in the 1830's-1860s, when "The Cotton City" Mobile was the third largest port in the United States. Although Mobile is an older French settlement than New Orleans, the success of New Orleans' deeper port drew population from Mobile. Once peace reigned over our city several years after the Americans' conquest, it still took a while to regain population due to our then too shallow bay port.
Photos from Various Areas of Mobile
Best Places To Live
Mobile is not your usual city, where the suburbs and the newest housing are the best places for you. At first look, it appears that way. I have lived here for over twenty years now and lived in a few different areas. I usually tell people to look at only three places in the area. These are Spring Hill, Midtown, and the Eastern Shore. However, I would never want to live anywhere on the Eastern Shore if I worked in Mobile. It's so far away that it is like another world apart from Mobile. I am listing the three areas because these areas seem to hold their value as they are always going to be "fashionable" areas.
Now, to some people, West Mobile is the bomb, but I see declining values as many homes are now approaching the 30 year mark. I have noticed increasing crime in those areas. While Downtown and Midtown were known for crime, as time goes on, these areas are becoming more gentrified.
The main question to ask yourself: Is your work in Mobile or on the Eastern Shore?
Mobile: You need to live in Mobile because the commute is difficult due to crossing the Mobile Bay. For more info on that, read here. But ask yourself the Questions below.
Eastern Shore: Live in Fairhope.
If in Mobile, you should ask yourself is: Do you need to be socially involved in Mobile for your job?
Yes: Then you need to choose either Spring Hill area or Midtown/Downtown
No: Choose the Eastern Shore
The next question to ask: Can you afford around $10,000 a year per child for private school?
Yes: Midtown/ Downtown or Spring Hill
No: Eastern Shore
A bit of advice: Don't use online sites like Zillow or Trulia to help you price areas. They are really incorrect, especially for the Midtown areas which have grown tremendously in the past 15 years. Talk to people who live in the area.
Great Book To Simplify Your Move!
Homes of Spring Hill Area
Spring Hill Area
Spring Hill is the toniest address in town. Atlanta has Buckhead, Birmingham has Mountainbrook, and we have Spring Hill. There is even a song called , "I can't get a date because I don't live in '08", which referenced the desired zipcode 36608. It has homes in all price ranges and you will find the best-designed, priciest, and tasteful homes of today in this area, along with the ranch home of 50 years ago. The location has a long history of the being the second home of wealthy Mobile residents wanting to escape yellow fever in the early 1800's. Consequently, a country club was built and it still exists today, many renovations later. This club is still the epicenter of all activities, if one can afford it. Not to worry, there are many other swim clubs like Mirror Lake, country clubs like Heron Lakes, and yacht clubs like Mobile Yacht Club to keep all Mobilians happy. If you have children, this is probably where you should live as most of the private school crowd lives here. But Midtown has a strong admiration within this bunch, so should you choose Midtown, you won't miss out on typical play dates since it's nearby. The very traffic congested St. Paul's Episcopal School is the main private school here in this area. The Catholic St.Ignatius is for students up to 8th grade. For public, Mary B. Austin Elementary is a great option if you want to save money in the early years and like diversity. Parents are all involved. However, with private schools, it works best to send them from the beginning as Mobilians are cliquish. Also, Phillips Prep Junior High is a public magnet school that is the best of them all scholastically but it can be hard to get in since it is a lottery system. Murphy High School is a great, award-winning public high school provided your child can take advanced classes, like Advanced Placement or even I.B. (International Baccalaureate) courses. Same with Davidson high School. Many parents don't want to deal with the hassle of public, their ridiculous sick day requirements, and therefore default to private. Popular churches: St. Paul's Episcopal, Springhill Baptist Church, and Spring Hill Presbyterian. Popular neighborhoods are the homes around the Country Club of Mobile, Ravine Woods, Llanfair, and Lake Wood.
Short Real Estate Overview of Mobile
Oakleigh Garden District in Midtown
Midtown proper is actually within the streets of Broad Street to the east, Virginia Street to the south, Florida Street to the west, and Spring Hill Avenue to the north. Dauphin Street is the Main Street in the center and all the streets feature sidewalks, great for jogging or walking. It's an active community, with lots of runners and dog walking, chatting with your neighbors, and drinking on porches. There are usually a quite a few movers and shakers, but the ones who are very involved with the area non-profits as well as big outside corporations like Austal and Airbus. The area features historic homes of Italianate style or Creoles that date back to the mid 1800's, but the majority are Colonial Revivals or Bungalows of the early 1900s.
Downtown is very cool and the two historic neighborhoods there are De Tonti to the North and Church Street East to the south. Although very safe, there aren't loads of children there due to crime perceptions that are from the 1970s, and aren't that way anymore. It's the cool place for young professionals to rent since it's only 2 blocks from downtown bars and shops.
It can be difficult to figure out where to live, but this community is very accepting unless you are unsocial, which is unforgivable! Choose residential streets like Bienville, North Monterey, Oakleigh Garden District, Flo Claire, or Williams Court. The most desired area is Ashland Place; many residents lived in the Oakleigh Garden District or Midtown prior to this. Any of these locales will give you a ready made area for your children to find playmates as well as yourself. There are a surprising amount of empty nesters and they are just as welcome. Some have even moved back from the Eastern Shore, saying they would rather retire here, close to the hospital. Busy streets feature beautiful mansions but you may be a little more isolated. Popular churches: Episcopal, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Methodist. Schools in the immediate area are UMS-Wright Preparatory private school and McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. Catholic lower schools are St. Mary's and St. Pius. The only lower public elementary school worthwhile looking into is the Council Traditional Magnet school , but it is a lottery system, but if you get into this, then Phillips Prep public is a guarantee.
Sunset View From the Eastern Shore
This area is truly beautiful and if I ever win the jackpot, I'm going to buy a sunset-viewing home overlooking the Bay... for my second home. Why don't I like it? With higher home prices and a nightmare commute to Mobile, it's not appealing to me. I actually lived in Fairhope in a golf community for several months while we renovated a home and there was none of the friendliness in Springhill or Midtown. No one ever came to meet us and I can see why several friends moved back to Mobile as it is a very transient area. If you are looking for that friendliness, I am told you need to live inside Fairhope town, like the Fruit and Nut Historic District or WEST of Highway 98. Fairhope is very safe, so much that people never lock their door, ever. Amazingly, no one (usually) gets robbed. The population is retirement aged mostly, so prepare for rage-inducing traffic where older people seem to purposely block the left lane indefinitely.
While the entire area of small communities is known for great schools, the area's wealthy and not so wealthy are now sending their children to the $15,000 a year Bayside Academy. Similar schools in Mobile cost around $10,000 a year. Over time, popular public schools change when the inhabitants find a new, cooler subdivision to live in. After some time, it's inevitable certain neighborhoods decline and so do their respective schools. Right now, Spanish Fort is hot, but so was Daphne not long ago. If you decide to live here, live in Fairhope/Montrose/Point Clear; the schools seem to be holding their value compared to Daphne and Spanish Fort. I see these areas as a little transient and not as good an investment for the long term. On the other hand, Spanish Fort has a GREAT location. If you work in Mobile and you have a type of job that requires that you be involved in Mobile's social scene, don't live on the Eastern Shore. Mobilians appreciate those families that decide to stay and live in Mobile. It's really important if you have a middle management job and are looking to climb the corporate ladder that you live in Mobile. Eastern Shore people tend to get written off socially unless you are so important in your field that it doesn't matter. Another thing to keep an eye on- PROPERTY TAXES. Many people are now bucking the idea of supporting Baldwin county schools through their taxes. In fact, a recent tax increase was soundly defeated in a landslide in March 2014. This is a troubling trend with the continual influx of retirees to the area as traditionally this was a well-supported area for years.
Make Sure Your House Isn't Haunted First!
Overview of Mobile Area for Conventions
My listing of certain areas doesn't negate other areas, it is just that areas change over time and I am looking at Mobile real estate as an investment. I'm not an expert,but I've seen areas downtrend over the past 20 years. Based on the other cities' renewals across the United States, gas prices, and other trends like the glorification of downtown areas on TV shows, I see the areas of Spring Hill and Midtown being the prime real estate for years to come. On the Eastern Shore, Fairhope is great to focus on with an eye on their own historic areas as a good investment. School costs are going to be a concern, although there IS good education to be found in Mobile public schools, despite public opinion. How do you know if it is a good education? Check and compare ALL schools' scores- you'll be surprised! Ultimately, you'll want to think about what your family needs, keeping in mind that you can have different needs as you age.