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What’s worth more: A great job or a great place to live?

Zillow • Sep 26, 2013 at 4:07 PM

By S.E. Slack

There’s an awful lot of talk about Silicon Valley, Silicon Forest and Silicon this-or-that. If you’re in the information technology industry – or considering breaking into it – San Jose, the heart of the Silicon Valley, will undoubtedly have the job you covet. But some say it’s not worth moving from a place a great place to live to the other side of the country just for a great job. Are they right?

San Jose residents have access to a lot of things that Norwalk doesn’t, such as 21 colleges, universities and professional schools within 30 miles, thousands of high tech companies and an average low January temperature of 42 degrees. The median income is higher, too: The median household income in San Jose was $76,593 in 2011, compared with the national figure of $50,502, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That can be attractive, especially for younger workers wanting to climb the ladder quickly.

All those things come at a cost, however. Almost everything in San Jose exceeds the national average, from groceries and utilities to healthcare, which all average more than 20 percent above the norm. The average 18-minute commute in Norwalk turns to a 30-minute or more commute in San Jose on a good day. And there are people wall-to-wall: Nearly a million residents crowd the streets of San Jose, compared to about 25,000 in Norwalk.

Real estate, however, is the real deal breaker. You might make 50 percent more in salary in San Jose, but housing will cost far more than that salary can stretch. According to Zillow, the median sale price in San Jose is $607,000. Meanwhile in Norwalk, the median selling price is $107,200.

In 2011, the median gross rent (rent plus utilities) was $1,385, compared with $871 in the nation as a whole and Ohio, which averages about $650.

Sure, jobs are more plentiful in San Jose for high tech workers. But the costs don’t always add up for the average employee.

“One must take into account the overall package,” writes Patrick J. Martin, former President of Fisher Titus Medical Center, about Norwalk. If a deal is ‘too good to be true,’ he adds, usually it is. Often, he claims, it’s because nobody really wants to go to that community or it is not a good place to raise a family or develop a business.

Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for a small town way of life. It might not be as flashy or trendy but the package can be pretty solid. For many, that’s worth more than a great job.

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