Whittier, Alaska: A Town Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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Whittier Alaska
ZillowThe Alaska town of Whittier features mountain views and spectacular wildlife. Condos are listed for $50,000 and less.
How would you like to live in a small seaside town with snow-capped mountain views, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city? The mayor is your neighbor, and so is the police chief. The people are friendly -- and when you live there, just about everybody knows your name.

In the Alaska town of Whittier, population 218, some are living such a "dream." And for a mere $49,500 for a two-bedroom condo, you could buy in to this life. A three-bedroom unit is $55,000.

The catch? Well, there's winter. Plus, most of the town's residents live under the same roof in a 14-story former military housing facility known as Begich Towers, reports NPR. The city government is housed on the main floor. So is the post office and a small grocery store, the Kozy Korner. There's a church in the basement. You rarely have to leave home if you don't want to. The school, serving elementary and secondary students, is even conveniently accessed through a pedestrian tunnel so the children can roll out of bed and get to school -- in short sleeves -- without ever having to go outside. That's especially convenient in the winter, when winds can get up to 60 mph and 250 inches of snow fall annually. The town's only playground is even indoors, reports the California Sunday Magazine.

If you do venture out, Anchorage is only an hour away. Get your fill on some finer dining or catch the latest flick, but don't stay out too late. The 2.5-mile, one-lane Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel you have to drive through to get back home to the west side of Prince William Sound closes at 10:30 p.m. for those entering Whittier, according to Alaska.org. If you're late, you just might have to sleep in your car or head back to the big city for a hotel stay. The tunnel doesn't open again for incoming traffic until 5:30 a.m. The single lane, supported above a working railroad track, is shared with outgoing traffic, alternating at 30-minute intervals.

If this serene life documented in a PBS video is not for you after all, maybe you'd still consider investing in a condo as rental property. Whittier is a major tourist attraction in the summer. With its 22 hours of daylight, more than 700,000 visitors come each year. "If you are a birder, come enjoy our world-class collection of raptors such as the bald eagle, the great gray owl and the elusive peregrine falcon," boasts Mayor Daniel Blair on the city's website. "During our glorious summer, we are often visited by humpback and orca whales [as well as] sea otters along with seals and sea lions."

Interested? The out-of-state owner of the three-bedroom unit already has a renter, according to the property listing by Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group. But the tenant gets a 30-day notice to vacate if you want the place just for yourself.

Sheree R. Curry is an award-winning, 20-year veteran journalist who has been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009. Send her your tips & ideas. Follow her on Twitter at shereecurry.
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