It took almost four years for Michael and Mercedes McLoughlin to leave New York for metro Atlanta, as they had to learn about the different suburbs and schools for their children, 10-year-old Michael and 9-year-old Megan. They were thrilled to find a home on a golf course in a Cherokee County community that more than tripled the square footage of their home on Long Island.
When Michael retired from the New York Police Department as a sergeant in 2008, he started to talk about moving to a city with warmer weather and a more affordable cost of living, Mercedes said. They had bought their three-bedroom ranch home, which had about 1,200 square feet, right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “My kids were getting older and my husband retired and kept saying, ‘Let’s leave,’ ” Mercedes said.
But Mercedes said she was concerned about the quality of the schools elsewhere because she needed assistance for her son, Michael, who is autistic. “You always hear horror stories about Southern schools. Unfortunately there’s a bad stereotype that Southern schools are just not with it,” she said. “Granted, people think the schools in New York are terrific, but to get services for my son, I had to fight and bicker and respectfully request meetings (in New York).”
They sold their home in three days in 2011, then considered moving to Georgia, the Carolinas or Florida. Once they compared home listings, they decided they would get more house for their money in Georgia, minus the exorbitant property taxes (about $1,200 a month) they faced in New York, Mercedes said.
Putting down roots
The family worked with Teri Bowen of RE/MAX Unlimited and spent four to five days in March 2012 looking at homes, with a price limit of $575,000. A friend whose parents moved from New York several years ago recommended Cherokee County. A five-bedroom, four-bath resale home built by John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods on the Colonnade Golf Course in Canton’s Woodmont Golf and Country Club offered a lifestyle they didn’t expect. Homes in Woodmont range from the high $200,000s to the high $600,000s.
“We’re like, “Wow, it’s real country club living that I could never afford in New York,’ ” Mercedes said. “Here we found our money just goes so much further.”
They moved into the 2006 home, which has about 3,900 square feet and an unfinished basement, in June. Mercedes, an office manager, telecommutes with her New York employer, a group of wholesale distributors.
To talk to parents about the schools, Mercedes said. She got in touch with the Autism Society to get connected with local parents. “I would make phone calls and talk to parents about the districts and the types of services (for autistic students). Those are the people who would tell you the real deal,” Mercedes said. She also toured the schools and worked with a parent who served as a liaison between the family and the school district. “This is the difference here. In New York, if I called up a school and said, ‘I’m moving to the area, can you take me on the tour?’ they would say, no, you can’t do anything until your child is registered. Then it’s too late,” she said. “Here, they were much more amenable to (saying), ‘Sure, let me put you in touch with this person.’ I found everybody being very helpful in trying to guide me.”
TO OUR READERS
Newcomer Living is a new feature that will appear regularly in Homefinder. If you moved to Atlanta in 2012 or 2013, bought a residence and are willing to share your story, contact Lori Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org.