Have you ever been to Omaha? Not many people have or even have heard of it. You can locate it on a U.S. map on the east side of Nebraska. Nebraska is in the dead center of the country, so it’s often referred to as the Heartland.
Movies often depict Nebraska as a “flyover state,” associating it with nothing more than farms and cornfields. Sadly, the media incorrectly portrays Nebraska, discouraging more people from finding this gem called Omaha.
But, how do these comments make me feel? I smile and don’t break a sweat over it. I came from Atlanta, a metropolitan city, before moving to Omaha. And compared to Atlanta, Omaha is a much simpler and less stressful place to live, which is why the saying here “Nebraska: The Good Life.”
Omaha has a low cost of living, moderate traffic, and can still provide the variety of entertainment people are looking for. Did I mention that one of the world’s top wealthiest people also lives in Omaha? This Oracle of Omaha is Warren Buffet. Furthermore, Omaha is home to multiple Fortune 500 companies, such as Union Pacific Railroad, Paypal, and First National Bank.
However, this hidden place is not staying so “hidden” anymore. Major tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, have been moving into neighboring Omaha areas to take advantage of the low costs. Although the expenses are currently relatively low in Omaha, these are signs that expenses and property values are rising.
Monthly Housing Cost in Omaha
Omaha offers several options when it comes to housing. Like with any city, location plays a significant factor in determining a home or rental price. Properties closer to downtown and midtown have a higher premium. Additionally, properties near universities and hospitals also see a higher price tag.
The rent prices for a two-bedroom apartment in these areas range from $850 to $1,500 a month. Additionally, rent for houses with three to five bedrooms ranges from $1,400 to $2,500 a month. These properties usually have younger renters who are roommates commonly attending the universities or working in those areas and willing to share the costs.
Some people rent not necessarily due to financial struggles, though. There are a couple of affluent neighbors with close access to amenities or access to sound schooling systems. If there aren’t any houses available to purchase in those areas, families opt to rent in the meantime while waiting for a replacement home to become available.
Location similarly plays a factor in home prices as well. The average home price for a three-bedroom house ranges from $160,000 to $250,000. However, Omaha’s specific neighborhoods have home prices from $400,000 and crossing into the million dollars range. Furthermore, annual property taxes range from $4,000 to $10,000.
Housing Cost Outside of Omaha
The further west from Omaha, the more available land there is to build on. People can have acres of land along with their primary residence. Because of the land, cities like Gretna and Elkhorn can have a higher purchase price ranging from $350,000 to $500,000.
However, older cities north and south of Omaha, such as Old Town Bellevue, have lower home prices of less than $130,000. Rental prices in that area are is $700 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and $1,000 to 1,200 a month to rent a three-bedroom house.
Utilities Cost in Omaha
Apartments typically include utilities as part of the rent. However, some landlords may require tenants to pay for utilities on their own. On average, the expense for utilities is about $50 to $120 a month.
These expenses can vary with the season, where the winter season requires more heat. Customers can choose a level payment plan, which allows them to budget for utilities. The utility company derives the level payment by taking the average cost of utilities for the last 12 months. The following year, the monthly payment adjusts with the change in usage with the next 12 months.
There are only two internet service providers, both with comparable price plans. The price of the internet plans ranges from $30 to $100 a month.
Property taxes usually include trash collection. However, some areas might require renters or homeowners to pay for trash separately, which is about $9 a month.
Transportation in Omaha
One of the benefits of a smaller city is the time to commute. I lived in Atlanta, a major metropolitan city, where I spent three hours traveling between work and home. As for Omaha, everything is no more than 30 to 40 minutes away. In rush hour traffic or unfavorable weather conditions, it only adds 10 minutes to your commute.
Omaha does provide public transportation via bus routes. However, the courses are not as diversified as other cities, and the buses’ frequency slows down after peak hours. Public transit is mainly beneficial for those who don’t own a car and only need to travel within city limits.
Those who live outside the city but need to travel downtown have the option to use the bus. They park their vehicle at a Park ‘n Ride lot and take the bus toward downtown to avoid rush hour traffic.
A monthly pass costs $55.00 per month, while a one-way pass costs $1.25 for adults, $1.00 for students, and $0.50 for children.
Owning a car is the optimal way to travel around Omaha. There are ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber, that can help avoid the costs of owning a vehicle, such as insurance, maintenance expenses, and parking fees. However, these services are more available on the weekends and evenings when people want to dine out or do a late-night activity.
The price per gallon of gas ranges from $2.34 to $2.88 a gallon.
Cost to Dine in Omaha
Omaha offers various cuisines, such as Mexican, Greek, Italian, Mediterranean, Indian, Japanese, and more. The Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” featured at least three Omaha restaurants. There are also several food trucks, “mom and pop” restaurants, and fine dining restaurants.
The price for two people ordering at a fast-food restaurant or chain restaurant is usually less than $20. A meal for two people at a moderate restaurant can range from $45 to $65. In contrast, fine-dining for two people can cost around $80 to $100. The addition of alcohol will also increase the bill.
Grocery Shopping on Omaha
Omaha has the same big brand supermarkets as every other city. Therefore, those grocery prices do not vary outside of state sales tax, 7% in Nebraska. Aside from supermarkets, there are also wholesale supermarkets available, such as Sams and Costco, that allow people to buy their goods in bulk.
During the Summer, there are Farmers Markets. You’ll find locals mainly selling fruits and vegetables for less than $10.
Entertainment Costs in Omaha
Omaha is the home to the College World Series. Every Summer, the top college baseball teams, along with their die-hard fans, travel to Omaha and compete for a championship. The price for a general admission ticket to the game is $9.00 if ordered online and $16.00 if ordered at the box office.
For those interested in the arts, there is the Orpheum Theater, which has presented numerous musicals, such as Lion King, Hamilton, and Wicked. The average price for a ticket ranges from $80 to $150, depending on seating.
Omaha also hosts NCAA volleyball tournaments where Nebraska has already won five college volleyball championships. The tickets for the championship semi-final and finals range from $260 to $600.
Furthermore, Omaha offers free events, such as “Movie On The Green,” which allows families to watch movies on a projector screen in the park. Also, Arbor Day is an event held in Nebraska City, 30 minutes south of Omaha. Many people across the country participate in this annual apple picking tradition.
What I Love About Omaha
One of the things I enjoy about Omaha is the short commute between work and home. It takes me no more than 15 mins to get home from work. The less time I spend on the road, the more time I can spend with my family. However, the short commute has spoiled my family and me. We become impatient if any commute is more than 45 minutes.
Another thing I love about Omaha is that it’s a very family-friendly place to live. It offers many activities geared towards families, such as the Henry Doorly Zoo, one of the country’s largest zoos, and other educational venues, such as the Children’s Museum, Durham Museum, and the Joslyn Museum.
During the Fall, several pumpkin patches are open: one, in particular, is Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. This pumpkin patch is like Disneyland on a farm with hayrack rides, fire fits, corn mazes, bike races, and more.
Lastly, the cost of living is relatively low. It allows my wife and I to live comfortably, contribute to our retirement, and invest in real estate properties. My wife and I never imagined we would set our roots here. However, we don’t see any reason to leave and don’t have any plans to in the future.
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Jonathan Sanchez has lived in Omaha for over ten years and founder of Parent Portfolio, a personal finance blog. He is a husband and a parent to two lively children. He owns a small real estate business that operates a couple of investment properties in Omaha. His blog aims to help others understand their money and generate passive income. He’s also been featured in Business Insider, USA Today, FOX Business, and more.