A Philadelphia Suburb

Technically, we’re in New Jersey. And, I suppose, technically we’re in a suburb of Camden. But, unless you’re from somewhere near here, you may not have heard of Camden before (not the same Camden as Camden Yards). Philadelphia dominates the area.

For being just 15 minutes from Philly, the town of Laurel Springs is surprisingly quiet. The houses are a scattered array of late 19th Century and early 20th century masterpieces with quite a few mid-to-late 20th century dwellings.

Laurel Springs is a modest neighborhood. While you’ll find awe-inspiring architecture, you’ll find no luxury cars or other indications of wealth. And you’ll notice that more than one home owner is unable to afford the maintenance of a century-old house, as paint has flaked, shingles have fallen off, or rot has taken hold. Such decay is the exception to the rule, however.

You will also see children, without an adult in sight, pedaling their bikes and roaming to and fro – exploring their world in the hours of their wondrous respite between school and dinner time. Such a contrast to so many other modern neighborhoods. I’d rather thought that kind of childhood freedom was a relic of the past.

Daria and I have been enjoying walks through the neighborhood. We’ve found that sampling houses and neighborhoods on our travels is not only part of the fun, but also gives us the opportunity to understand what’s important to us when we get around to buying property again.

One of my habits is to check Zillow or Trulia for prices. Property here runs from $150-$300k – absolutely a steal for a nice suburb of a major U.S. city. That includes the historic homes. The picture above is for a house built in 1900. It’s in great shape, newly refurbed, 5 bedrooms, on more than an acre, with a swimming pool… $270,000. I never thought I’d say this: that house would be $1 million easy in any suburban area on the north side of Atlanta.

Of course, the property taxes are enormous here. That same house will cost the owner $12,000 a year to taxes. That’s basically like paying for the house, plus another $150,000 house on the side that sits empty. You’re still ahead of the curve though when all costs are accounted for. And the taxes flatten out quickly – a $150,000 house requires $10,000 in property taxes. So, if this type of area appeals, buy as much house as you can to mitigate the cost of taxes.

Did we say Five Boxes?

Daria and I… we’re now down to 4 boxes, maybe 3 and a half. We’ve taken the time while we’re here to go back through our 5 boxes to assess what we need want to tote around the eastern United States. Many items we discovered in our original packing spree were crutches (duplicates of duplicates), just-in-case items, or items that simply were not versatile enough.

In fairness, we have added a new suitcase/backpack to the mix – the Tortuga Setout. And plan to pick up another soon. But these are suitcases that fold flat, carry laptops, and are small enough to be carry-ons. Again, versatile. With a trip to Uruguay coming up in March, we’re excited to see if we can be disciplined enough to only pack these two carry-ons for a 10 day trip!