So You Want To Move To Las Vegas? Real Advice From Someone Who Did!

Few visit Las Vegas without having some thought of what it would be like to live in Las Vegas. Typical comment in the summer is “I wouldn’t be able to stand the heat”. Others are tempted by the inexpensive new housing and escaping the cold winters of many parts in the country.

For whatever reason, thousands move hear each month. In fact, the suburb of Henderson, NV (which includes the Green Valley area) is the nations fastest growing city with a population of 100,000 plus, and the resort / retirement city of Mesquite, NV (one hour north of Las Vegas) is the nation’s fastest growing city.

According to DMV records, the top 10 states (in order of how many new residents that come from each) that new NV residents come from are:

1. California
2. Arizona
3. Texas
4. Illinois
5. Florida
6. New York
7. Hawaii
8. Colorado
9. Washington
10. Ohio

We have a guest column this week from Las Vegas resident Eric Simandl about his experiences and advice for those considering that move to Las Vegas. Eric notes that “two years after writing it, I still feel it’s an accurate list of preparations to make for a successful move to North America’s Greatest City”.

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We’re a late-40s couple who sold everything and moved here from Upper Michigan in March 1996. Here’s what we’ve learned in those 13 months:

1. Good jobs are tough to get for any newcomer, even for experienced talented intelligent people like you and us. They say some 6,000 people move here each month. They don’t always mention that some 2,000-3,000 also LEAVE each month. Because Las Vegas is and always has been such a transient area, employers are very leery of newcomers. People move here, give it a couple months, and bail. Employers want stability. Best bet is to register with every temp agency you can find, take every temp assignment you get and try to parlay it into a permanent position. (And in some ways, “juice” still counts in LV: job-hunting would be much easier with a couple good local references.) Anyway, make sure you’ve got enough money put away to ride it out on temp jobs until you get a decent position. May take a while.

2. When you arrive here without a job, it’s not easy to get a decent place to live. Since you can’t demonstrate any source of income, landlords tend to ask for hefty deposits or several months’ rent in advance. Hey, it’s a transient area, and they’ve been burned. Make sure you’ve got enough money to get a decent place for your family to live, furnish, cover utilities, and eat for a few months while you’re getting established.

3. If you don’t have a local residence and phone, how can you get a job? Or, for that matter, a bank account, driver’s license, license plates, voter registration, school enrollment? You want to look like a fully documented local on your job applications. Become one; get all this stuff and more.

4. It’s your life, but I wouldn’t want to raise a kid in Las Vegas right now. The Las Vegas schools are overcrowded; some run year-round schedules. Which means that Yale and Princeton are not exactly flying out here begging for LV HS graduates, which is exactly what your kid will be. The school system needs to add a classroom a day to keep up with the growth, and they aren’t. Are you sure the city’s ambience is any good for youngsters anyway?

5. Traffic problems are overrated. The traffic is not much worse than what Chicago or Detroit or LA or even Green Bay sees. Old-time locals complain; but it’s really typical urban North American traffic. Auto registration and insurance might be higher than what you’re used to back home. There’s a smog certificate. Gas is probably comparable. Repairs seem to cost more, but that’s subjective. Probably costs more to maintain a car here, but that’s offset by free or valet parking most everywhere. You’ve got 30 days after arrival to insure your car, pass smog, get a NV driver’s license, and buy plates. The cops are cracking down on non-registers, because it’s easier to deal with them with than to go solve that Tupac Shakur thing.
Despite all this, you’ll move here anyway.

We did. And we’re glad we did.

We (our grown daughter lives out East) did exactly what you’re doing. Sold everything (except the house in Negaunee which still hasn’t drawn an offer–and, oh by the way, sir, CAN you handle a year or more of making two house payments every month? It’s a crunch!), loaded the Ryder truck and split for Vegas.

[Well OK, we HAD flown out for three days a week earlier (on a cheap Fitzgerald’s gambling package), didn’t gamble (well, not too much), rented a car, leased an apartment, ordered the utilities, registered at several temp job agencies (with our newly-acquired LV address and phone number); flew back, sold or gave away everything that wasn’t going to go west in the Ryder.]

It’s been great. We’ve loved living here from the outset; but it’s taken the whole year to get our income back up to an equivalent “back home” standard of living (and Upper Michigan standards are pretty damn low), and to begin to focus on career advancement. Fortunately, we had some decent cash reserves to fall back on, and frankly, a pretty strong marriage to handle the stress.

Because there WILL be stress when you do this sort of thing…

Once here, you will notice that there are a lot of people living here who are about one paycheck from being homeless and broke. Maybe they’re next 2,000 to leave. This town sure does sort them out.

If you can handle the initial sacrifice, work hard, and are semi-lucky, you’ll be glad in the long run that you made the move.

We call Las Vegas the Warm Silly Place: it is GREAT to live here once you get established. It may be the quintessential North American city for the 2000s: vibrant, growing, shallow, flashy, and never taking itself too seriously.

But…if you did happen to have a few thousand acre-feet of water, could you bring them along when you come? You’ll make a few bucks.

This is really long and preachy. Maybe I should write one of those How To Move To Las Vegas books.

Maybe I just did.

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Eric Simandl can be reached at [email protected] and we thank him for this contribution.

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