More Bang For The Buck

High property taxes, deteriorating infrastructure, and an undesirable urban environment drove Amir and Gilda Salmon away from the Garden State in June 2006. At age 41, the Salmons had spent all their lives in Paterson, New Jersey, but decided moving up meant moving out.

They were paying more than $8,000 a year in property taxes on the single-family home where Gilda grew up. The couple purchased the house from her father back in 2003 for $170,000, with no money down, after selling their first home for $190,000. The couple, married 19 years, has several school-age children. In addition to their four daughters — Amira, 16; Aziza, 15; Akili, 13; and Aneesah, 2 — they also care for their niece, Gia Shuler, 13. The duo says it was not economically sound to work another 20 years and raise children in New Jersey. “Not for a family of this size and for the lifestyle that we wanted,” adds Gilda.

The Salmons made a list outlining their family’s needs and wants and came up with a total of eight criteria:

  • Affordable housing with low taxes
  • Great public schools and educational opportunities for college
  • Area consistent with their lifestyle
  • (e.g., nearby malls and restaurants)
  • A church active in the community
  • Easy access to cultural events
  • Close proximity to family and friends
  • Ability to save for comfortable retirement
  • An area where their careers could excel

Since they knew many people who had relocated to Georgia, they naturally began eyeing Atlanta. They ventured to the Atlanta Metro area — to a town called Snellville. “It offered everything on our list and more,” says Amir.

The Salmon family now lives in a single-family home, purchased for $218,000. “Property taxes are 1% of the purchase price of the home and you get a lower mortgage payment,” says Amir. Professional hairstylists for more than 15 years, the duo both work as senior stylists for Too Groovy Salon and Spa, a black-owned franchise business in Atlanta, and are confident they will each earn six-figure salaries by next year.

Safely nestled in their southern dream home, the Salmons are a prime example of Declaration of Financial Empowerment Principle No. 6: to be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues. The move to Atlanta saved them $6,000 in property taxes and more than $20,000 in education costs (the girls are attending public school) each year. This is money that can now be funneled into investments and IRA accounts for their retirement. The money they saved by relocating is also a good example of DOFE Principle No. 4: to engage in sound budget, credit, and tax management practices.

However, the move was not all sunny. The home the Salmons fell in love with was part of a new development, and there were issues with the preferred lender. “They promised us a fixed rate, but they kept trying to give us a one-year to two-year ARM (adjustable rate mortgage),” says Gilda. “We were told we didn’t have to have jobs in Atlanta, but once we got down here, we were required to have been working in the area.”