I love how you ask for advice from people who live here and you get people who visited in the 80s saying it's a dump. Ok, first of all, I live in Galveston and have lived here for about 5 years now. I spent a year before that in the suburbs of Houston, and I hail from up north like you do (pennsylvania). So, I'll try my best to be helpful and give you a good idea of what to expect. I should also preface my answer with the fact that I really like Galveston.
As you most likely know from your research, we're recovering from Ike still. We got quite a sucker punch from that one, and it has really impacted the whole city. A lot of people--including businesses--didn't have insurance, so it's taken a while to get everyone back up on their feet. But it's a resiliant bunch down here; people are doing the work to stay in the place they love. A lot of people did leave the island though, so the housing market is definitely a buyer's market, to put it mildly. I'm actually in the process of buying a house right now. Prices are dirt cheap for coastal property. Two years ago, I couldn't have touched a house in Galveston for what I'm paying now. But, it's a gamble, because Galveston is still recovering, and nobody knows what it will be like 10 years from now.
Ok, neighborhoods. It's hit or miss so I can't really give you a blanket statement. You just have to see houses and apartments one at a time to guage the neighborhood. There aren't zoning laws, and if there are, they're terribly loose. One block can be gorgeous, huge, victorian beauties, and the next block can be a crack haven. It really depends. You'll see what I mean when you visit. A lot of people dog the east end. But I've lived on the east end the whole time I've been here and I love it. You're close to downtown and the island is narrow on the east, so you're always close to the beach. But, I've always rented in the east. To buy, I had to go to the western part of mid-island. There are more "mixed" neighborhoods in the east, so it's harder to find a good block or 2 buffer zone, if you know what I mean. Plus, the schools are pretty terrible on the east end right now. They're supposed to be improving, but I'm not holding my breath. The mid and west schools are much better.
The great thing about Galveston is that it's a small town with city amenities. During the tourist season our population swells. So we have to have enough restaurants, hotels, stores, entertainment, etc to keep them happy. We've got a great shopping district (small boutiques, not bix box stores), great restaurants (although lacking in a few ethnicities), bars, theatres, amusement parks, and more. Plus, once the tourists leave for the winter, it's all ours!
As far as jobs though, you might have a tough time finding one. Our biggest employers are UTMB and Anico, plus the school system. UTMB is often hiring, but they also often lay off. You'll just have to guage the job market when you get here, based on what's available at the time. If your girlfriend wants to work the tourism industry in Galveston, but you can't find a job here, you can always look nearer to Houston and live in between (League City or Clear Lake Area).
Hopefully I've answered some of your questions. Galveston is quite a unique place and can shock the socks off some people. Most Houstonians hate Galveston and repeatedly dog it on Y!A. But those of us who live and vacation here know better. But, if you're the type that doesn't like people of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and you need a best buy down the street, then Galveston probably won't be your idea of a good place to live. If you like quirkiness, personality, and a quieter, slower lifestyle, you'll love Galveston. So, good luck to you, and post back if you need any more info.
EDIT: wow, I don't know what avomatic is smoking. People in the south are much much warmer than people in the north. Trust me, I still go back up north at least twice a year and can easily see the difference. And the average salary for an IT person is not $30K a year. My brother in law and sister in law are in IT and they make well over $100K combined. Plus, our cost of living is much lower than up north. He's right about the weather though. The first couple of summers will slap you across the face, but then you get to love it. Especially in Galveston. Summers are much milder than in Houston because of the constant gulf breeze. I used to be a cold weather snow bird, but now I can't stand it when it's less than about 80 degrees outside. You'll adapt. Especially once your in flip flops on the beach with a cold drink in your hand. Can't beat it!
· 10 years ago