“There is only one livable neighborhood in Miami, and that is Brickell.” “What, Brickell? No, you really shouldn’t go there, you won’t hear a word of English and it’s a wanna-be Manhattan. Go to South Beach!” “The Beach? Definitely no! You’re not 25 anymore, it’s crazy over there, no parking at all, prices are ridiculous, and then the traffic and tourists… You should look at Coral Gables, it’s beautiful and very calm.” “Yeah, if she was married with kids and wants to own a lawn mower. Check out Coconut Grove!” “Hippie Town? Nooooo. You need to be Downtown, Kathrin, it’s so up-and-coming, and you’re everywhere within 10 minutes, even the airport!”…
Sounds familiar? If you’ve ever moved to a new and unknown city and start talking to the locals, this is what will happen – an hour long conversation about the pro’s and con’s of every available neighborhood in your area, and a full stack of realtor business cards. You will never learn as much about both the city and your friends as in this conversation, and you will leave the table with one main feeling: perfect confusion! What if you choose the wrong hood? Will you screw this whole move up? Is your exciting adventure now going to end in failure and depression?
Relax before you go out there! Because exploring the different areas won’t make it any better, and you will start to realize that your friends were right. All of them were! Every neighborhood has their pro’s and con’s and their own distinct character, and there is no way of saying which one is the most beautiful. Mary Brickell Village, Ocean Drive, Miracle Mile, Merrick Park, Design District, Wynwood Walls… How can you seriously pick from all these amazing places?
Well, the good news is that you don’t have to. After a week of insomnia, anxiety and running around with my hair on fire, here’s my take on things:
(1) Before you take advice, make sure they know about your style and intentions! The best questions I’ve been asked were “what did you come here for?”, “how much do you value space against location?”, and “what are the MUST’S and the NICE TO HAVE’S on your wish list worth to you financially?” Everyone wants to set you up for success and give their best possible advice, but they might be assuming things about you that they cannot know yet.
(2) Don’t give the branding factor too much weight! Are you willing to pay for adding the “hood tag” to your personal brand? I admit, it’s pretty cool to say “I live in South Beach”, and no question about it, it’s absolutely gorgeous there, especially for European taste. But are you going to take advantage of it enough to swallow the number on the price tag? If you do your social job right, your friends will likely be scattered all about town anyways. And if you’re an explorer and wanderer, there is a beauty to not being emotionally bound to your hood, especially in times of Uber and Lyft.
(3) Look at different places in different areas, and listen to your gut! Even if you make the best lists or think through it in the most sensible ways, the only person you should listen to closely is that little genius living right below your Celiac Plexus. Don’t drive to the front door, but park 5 mins away and walk there. Be very self-aware when walking to and through the place. Are you smiling? Are you getting excited? Are you seeing your furniture magically arrange itself before your inner eye? If no, leave it and see the next one. But if yes, trust your intuition! I guarantee you, it’s always right.
Back to my own quest. After seeing about 10 different places and a lot of rational and emotional back and forth, I now signed a lease in Waterfront / Downtown. And I’m super excited! You’re asking why on earth anyone would want to live in Downtown, especially with the Ultra festival coming up there? Well, to uncover my personal wish list: It’s right by the causeway to South Beach which makes it a 5 min drive or 20 min bike ride, Brickell is right around the corner, Wholefoods just opened 3 blocks away, the symphony, ballet and art museum are at my door step, and I have two bayside parks that I can run in every morning. And most importantly, the apartment is absolutely gorgeous!
Unfortunately it is not South Beach. But it is my new home, the “Princess Castle” as a friend called it, and I will make this into a beautiful place for this next chapter here in the “Magic City”!
Happy hunting, and always yours!