Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best Places to Live for 2012

A new year brings many opportunities for new adventure. If your New Year’s resolution involved relocating to a new state (or even country!), we can help. We’ve taken the guesswork out of the situation with our all new list of Best Places to Live in the World.

Best Places to Live in the Middle East

Although the Middle East has earned a reputation filled with strife and struggle, there are several safe and sane places to live in this region. Built on oil profits, Dubai is now has a gross domestic product exceeding $90 billion a year. Dubai also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the entire world at just over 1%.

Live in the Middle East

Best Places to Live in Australia

Australia is an amazing place to live. In the “land down under“, there is no better place to live than Sydney. A 3.8% unemployment rate, relatively low cost of living and plenty of entertainment makes New South Wales in general and Sydney in particular a great place to call home.

Best Places to Live in Africa

South Africa is an incredibly Americanized place to live. Many residents speak English. Although once a den for violence and crimes against citizens, South Africa has recently invested billions of dollars into making the streets safer for all. Education is a priority here and a great emphasis is placed on traditional art and music.

Best Places to Live in Europe

Ah, Europe. The name practically screams affluence, and there is no more affluent place in all of Europe than Switzerland. This beautiful country nestled in the Swiss Alps is as picturesque as it is prosperous. With a stable economy, a mere 1.5% inflation rate and some of the best education in all of Europe, Switzerland is a sure bet.

Best Places to Live in Canada

British Columbia is among the best places to live here. With incredibly low taxes, a great job market and some of the cleanest air in the world, British Columbia clinches a mention. British Columbia is cold, but does have some of the best weather in Canada.

Best Places to Live in UK

London is great, but rural England offers some of the best living around. With quaint cottages, lush, green fields and plenty of opportunities for livestock and agriculture, rural England has a charm all of its own. Yorkshire county boasts low unemployment, a strong emphasis on simple family living and a high priority on educating their youth.

Best Places to Live in Asia

Singapore lies in southeast Asia off the Malay Peninsula. Once a poor, struggling city-state, it has now become a hub of commerce with a healthy market-based economy. The 14th largest exporter in the entire world, Singapore has a triple A credit rating from all three major credit rating agencies. In an effort to increase population rates, Singapore actually encourages foreign immigration.

Best Places to Live in the US

Globetrotting not on your resolution list this year? There are plenty of opportunities for relocation right here in the states. With an incredibly low crime rate per capita, New Hampshire tops our US 2012 list. Rated 46th lowest in the nation for violent crime and 48th in the nation for homicide by weapon, this is an amazingly safe place to live. As of December 2011, the New Hampshire unemployment rate was 5.2%, more than three points below the national average.

Whether your New Year’s resolutions involves relocating across seas or simply across state borders, opportunity is everywhere. Make a leap of faith, spread your wings and fly to a brand new home in 2012!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Best Places to Live in Canada for 2012

In terms of total area, Canada is the world’s second largest country. Colonized by the English and Europeans in 1497, it has long been a great place to call home. Multiculturalism is celebrated here, making Canada home to some of North America's premier locations to live. Join us as we tour several of Canada's Best Places to Live.

Best Places to Live in Eastern Canada

For a culture-rich experience, Quebec is the perfect relocation destination. Located between Ontario to the west and the east coast provinces including: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador and New Brunswick. Quebec is Canada’s second most populated province. Quebec’s economy accounts for more than 20% of the entire GDP of Canada as a whole. Unemployment is holding fairly steady at 7.4%, more than a full percentage point lower than the neighboring United States. Jobs here are mainly in the service sector and minimum wage stands at $9.65 an hour. Quebec has the third lowest crime rate in all of Canada and is among the best places to live in the country.

Best Places to Live in Central Canada

Ontario is the most populated province in all of Canada, but has the lowest total crime rate. Responsible for more than half of the country’s exports, Ontario’s economy is firmly rooted in manufacturing. Unemployment is on par with US rates at about 8.4%. Minimum wage here is $10.25 per hour, which is the highest rate of all the Canadian provinces. A three bedroom home can be had for $205,000, down nearly 3% from 2006. Toronto is the province’s most populated area, and home prices in the city are among Canada’s highest.

Best Places to Live in Western Canada

British Columbia lies on Canada’s western border and is the best place in western Canada to call home. Minimum wage is a respectable $9.50 an hour. British Columbia is among the most beautiful places in Canada; however, that beauty comes at a premium. The median home price here is more than double that of Ontario as a whole. The climate is the mildest in the entire country, with an average high of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to Canada’s typical tundra-like atmosphere, the weather alone may be worth the high home prices.

Best Places to Live in Northern Canada

Northern Canada is a cold place to call home. The Yukon territory, Canada’s northwestern-most point, was most famously occupied by the hale and hearty gold miners of the 19th century. Unemployment is 3.7% and most jobs are in mining, manufacturing and agricultural pursuits. The housing market in the Yukon has been all over the board in recent years. As it stands now, a three bedroom home can be bought for just under $125,000. Famous for its natural beauty and recreational opportunities, the Yukon territory is a great place for the outdoor enthusiast.

The Best Canadian Cities to Live in

Some of the best Canadian cities to live in include Quebec City, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Whitehorse, Yukon. All of these cities have great cultural and entertainment opportunities as well as thriving economies.

Canada has no shortage of great places to live. The cold weather is not a deterrent for the enthusiastic citizens of our neighbor to the north. With one of the highest standards of living in the world, a country-funded medical program and wonderful foreign relations, Canada ranks high on our list of amazing places to live.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Best Places to Live In Maryland

The Top 100 places to live in America

Each year Money magazine conducts a survey of the top 100 places to live in America. Many states can’t even crack the list—more than half fail to place even one city within their boundaries in the top 100.  In 2011 Maryland had the distinction of finding three of its cities on this enviable list.

The Best Places to Live

The survey ranks “best places to live” on a number of criteria.  Chief among these is levels of stress experienced by residents—which may be linked to crime rates and availability of good jobs; also important area availability of good schools, and access to the amenities and benefits of being near a larger city or major metropolitan area without having to live in the midst of the metro areas congestion, crime and high costs of living. Other factors cited in the survey include economic strength, good climate and recreational opportunities.

Three Maryland Cities that make the List

Montgomery Village

Clocking in at #40 on the list of top 100 places to live is Montgomery Village, Maryland.  Situated near Baltimore but classified as a suburb of Gaithersburg, this large, planned community lies in the middle of an unincorporated section of Montgomery County.  The population is approximately 40,000 and is considered a fairly affluent area—a reputation bolstered by its location near the Maryland “technology corridor with its high paying technical jobs.  The Montgomery Village schools are well regarded and low stress living is enhanced by the planned nature of the community, with no fewer than six law enforcement agencies servicing the area, crime is low.  Housing prices are high—as might be expected from a prime location between Baltimore and Washington D.C.


Eldersburg, in Carroll County is ranked as the 67th best place to live in the US by the survey.  Eldersburg claims a population of just over 31,000.  Eldersburg’s close proximity to Washington D.C. makes it a popular “bedroom” community for professionals, federal and contract workers who commute to the nation’s capital daily.  Once a thriving farming region, recent decades have seen a steady influx of families moving into the area and yet the rural appeal of the town is maintained by its small size and its location nestled in scenic, rolling hills.  Public schools in Eldersburg  are ranked as among the best in the state; housing prices—again due to the proximity to the very high cost District of Columbia are higher than average, but the economic health of the area is excellent, which supports the higher real estate costs.


The third Maryland community in the top 100 is Crofton, which comes in at number 82.  Crofton, situated in Anne Arundel County started its existence in 1965 as planned, gated community equidistance from both Washington D.C. and Baltimore (20 miles to each).  With a population of only slightly over 20,000, Crofton is situated around a scenic 3.5-mile scenic loop that includes two elementary schools, the town hall, and a country club and which is famous for its jogging, cycling and walking opportunities.  Crime is low and the schools are among the best in the state.  Housing prices however are reported as being “significantly” higher than the statewide average.

While one man’s paradise can be another’s purgatory, the criteria cited by Money magazine’s survey identify the most important factors that go into making a particular location among the “best places to live in the United States.  Not everyone can move to these oases of domestic tranquility, but for those relocating due to job or schooling reasons to Maryland’s Baltimore-D.C. area, these three cities rank among the best places to live in Maryland.

Two Of The World's Cheapest Places To Retire Overseas

This New Year we will be investing some time and space in for direct comparisons of the world's top retirement and living locations to help you determine your best options for living a comfortable lifestyle.

Today our Guest author will compare and contrast two of the hottest - cheapest and best places to live right now!

Kathleen writes --

I got an e mail from Correspondent Lee Harrison, who offered to compare two of his favorite cities, from our 2012 list of world's best and cheapest retirement hot spots: Cuenca, Ecuador, and Granada, Nicaragua.

Lee is a big fan of both cities and highly recommends both but, for different reasons.

Here's what Lee has to say -

"Comparing different retirement or investment destinations head to head is not only necessary, but fun and interesting. It's the key to narrowing down your preferences among all of the world's choices for the best place to live. Both seasoned overseas buyers and novices will benefit from this exercise.

When I looked over our recently published top picks for 2012, two cities jumped out at me immediately from the Super Cheap category: Cuenca, Ecuador, and Granada, Nicaragua.

I lived in Cuenca for years, own property in Granada, and have been to both of these cities in the past year. Throughout my visits to each, I couldn't help but draw comparisons. These cities line up naturally with one another, so, when comparing them, it's easiest to begin by looking at their similarities.

Both Cuenca and Granada are beautiful and authentic Spanish colonial cities, founded in the 1500s. In both cases the cost of living is about as low as you'll find anywhere. You can get by frugally on less than US$1,000 per month or live a comfortable lifestyle by North American standards for around US$1,500 a month or so.

Real estate in both cities is well under the magic US$1,000 per sq meter (around $93 US per sq ft), putting both these cities in 'bargain basement' territory. Transaction costs in both are low, as well.

Both cities are in Third World countries, with all of the attendant institutional inefficiencies, corruption, and less than perfect infrastructure maintenance. But they also have low levels of government intrusion, low taxes, and few rules and regulations.

Both Cuenca and Granada are home to sizeable, thriving expat communities with many North Americans. There are far more expats in Cuenca than in smaller Granada, but I'd guess that the ratio of expats to locals is about the same in both places.

Access to the United States is not bad from either city. Cuenca has a convenient international airport right in town, but virtually all flights to the United States connect through Quito or Guayaquil. Both these cities offer good connections to U.S. hubs, and flight time to Miami is just under four hours.

Granada is served by the Managua airport, about one hour away, which also has good U.S. connections. Flight time from Managua to Miami is about two hours.

Finally, residency is easy to establish in both countries, with low income and investment requirements.

But that's where the similarities end.

Cuenca is a large city of more than 400,000 people; more than four times the size of Granada. So Cuenca has the edge for big-city amenities, like theater, nightlife, and restaurants. It also has a new, upscale shopping mall and lots of modern health care facilities.

Granada, by comparison, has more of a small-town, close-knit feel, where everyone seems to know everyone.

Cuenca is located high in the Andes, at 8,200 feet above sea level (2,500 meters). So it offers spring-like weather, with highs rarely above the mid-70s and little seasonal variation. In five years of living in Cuenca, I can recall seeing 90° only once...and that spike broke a long-standing record. Granada, on the other hand, is warm all the time, with highs in the 80s to low 90s year-round.

Granada is on the shores of one of the world's largest lakes, meaning swimming and boating opportunities close at hand. You can even purchase your own private lake island. Nicaragua's Pacific beaches are less than two hours away.

In Cuenca, the nearest beaches are almost three hours away, in Machala, and the nearest nice beach is over four hours away in Playas or Salinas.

Shopping for real estate is a pleasure in both Cuenca and Granada, with lots of terrific homes available at reasonable prices. However, in my experience, each has its strengths when it comes to real estate.

Granada is best for its amazing inventory of low-cost Spanish colonial homes. Their center courtyards are typically open-air and often contain swimming pools, something very unusual in Latin America. Also, the colonials in Granada tend to be fairly small, so they're great for one or two people, or a small family. To me, there's no better place to shop for this type of property.

Cuenca has colonials, too, but they tend to be larger and expensive. Many are old homes for large families, 700 square meters or more...a lot for a retired single or couple to take on. On the other hand, Cuenca excels with its newer construction, offering a huge selection of modern condos at reasonable prices. So you can enjoy the Old World character of the historic center but live in a modern house or condo in First World comfort as near as a few blocks away.

Comparing Cuenca and Granada, there's really no winner, as is the case with many city-pairs. The key is to understand your own priorities.

I'd favor Granada to enjoy a traditional Spanish colonial home, in a smaller town with warm weather. I'd head to Cuenca for big-city amenities, cool, spring-like weather, and hundreds of modern housing choices.

Either way, you're enjoying one of the finest colonial cities that Spanish America has to offer."

Kathleen Peddicord, editor Live and Invest Overseas