Knowing how to decide where to live can be overwhelming when you have a lot of options. These tips will make the process easier.
Figuring out how to decide where to live can be overwhelming for potential homebuyers. TheCOVID-19 pandemic changed the world in many ways, not the least of which was where (and how) we live and work. Indeed, the shift to remote work has many homebuyers trying to figure out how to decide where to live now that they’re no longer tethered to the office.
On the face of it, this is a good problem to have. There’s no such thing as too many options, right? Well, maybe. Being able to live anywhere can actually make it harder to choose a place to put down roots since there are so many great options.
We can’t tell you where to move – only you know what’s best for you. But we’ll give you a framework for narrowing down your options and deciding where in the world really feels like home.
How to decide where to live when you’re spoiled for choice
As working from home has become common in this new normal, living close to the office is no longer a necessity for many, which allows for flexibility when deciding where to live. While the features of the house that you choose to be your home are of course important, location might be even more important than ever. And in the new normal world, finding that perfect location, a location that fits your top priorities, has become more achievable than ever before.
Of course, with this sudden transition to working from home, many people are exploring options that previously didn’t seem available to them. They’re considering relocating to dream destinations, areas closer to family, or cities that previously weren’t on the table due to office constraints.
But having so many options can make it difficult to figure out which one is best. Every location has its pros and cons, and since moving is a big deal, people want to make sure they get it right. Do they want big city amenities? A few acres of land or a close-knit small town community? Proximity to good schools as they grow their families? You can scope out all of the “Best Places to Live” lists you want, but ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference.
How, though, do you figure out what your personal preference is?
Here are some tips to help you narrow down your list.
Scope out the lifestyle
It’s tough to really know what it would be like to live somewhere until you’ve spent a good amount of time there. But there are ways to get a feel for a place before you commit to a move.
- Check out the social media accounts of local businesses. See what types of events they hold, promotions they offer, and the types of products, food, and entertainment that are available in the area
- Look up MeetUp groups or local Facebook groups to see what the community is like. Likewise, find out if there’s a local subreddit for the city. What are people regularly talking about? Are there lots of meetups for people who share your interests? Are people frequently griping about real estate and rental prices, high crime, or expensive city parking? Is the local government engaged and responsive to residents’ concerns and feedback?
There’s a lot you can learn by seeing what current residents talk about on these social groups. Plus, you can post questions in the groups or subreddit and get valuable feedback from folks who already live there.
Search for locally-based podcasts as well, which might cover different aspects of live in that area.
- Follow the city’s official social media channels. Although you may not get as candid information as you will from residents, the city’s official social channels can provide a glimpse of what the government’s priorities are and the resources they offer. For example, do they post public safety notices regularly? Do they hold events that allow the public to engage with local officials and law enforcement? Do they hold community enrichment events, such as recreational sports leagues, and festivals? These can give you an idea of how vibrant your lifestyle will be in terms of opportunities to meet other residents and be active in the community.
Other lifestyle factors to consider include traffic, amenities, entertainment, dining, and parks and green spaces. If you’re someone who can’t stand sitting in traffic just to get to the store, you’ll likely want to live somewhere walkable or less densely populated.
Maybe having lots of unique and fine dining options is important to you. In that case, you’re probably not going to opt for a small town.
And if you’re someone who values running or spending time in nature, you may prioritize places that offer plenty of parks and trails or is a short drive to great hiking and nature spots.
Consider friends and family
Before choosing a place to live, ask yourself whether proximity to friends and family is a priority. Maybe you live near loved ones now, and a move would take you several hours – or a plane ride – away. That could be a major adjustment, and you may find it difficult to adjust to not seeing them as often or having a support system nearby.
Or, perhaps you’re considering a move to be closer to them but they don’t live near any towns or cities that are particularly appealing to you. In that case, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of being close to friends and family vs living somewhere that might better suit your lifestyle and goals.
If you opt to strike out on your own, research the travel options for visiting. Are you within driving distance from loved ones? Will you need to fly to see them? If so, are there airports easily accessible or is it a bit of a trek just to get on a plane?
All of these factors might influence your choice.
Research the city’s affordability
Lots of U.S. cities have plenty to offer – the culture in New York City, career opportunities in San Francisco, and Seattle’s proximity to incredible views of nature, for instance. But these are also some of the most expensive cities in the country, and moving there could mean sacrificing a lot just to afford a home.
Real estate prices throughout the country have spiked in recent years, particularly in popular big cities. Before deciding where to live, think about the cost of living. What is the average home price? How competitive is the local real estate market? If you plan to rent before you buy, what is the average rent in the areas in which you want to live?
If your mortgage or rent will eat up a significant portion of your budget, you may not have money left over each month to enjoy the other amenities that drew you to the city in the first place.
You’ll also want to find out the general cost of living. Sites such as Numbeo can give you an estimate of costs in different cities for common expenses such as groceries, dining out, or going to the movies.
And again, social media groups and forums are your friends here. See what other people are saying about costs in the city or post a question asking for real-world feedback on what day-to-day expenses really look like.
Another factor to consider: local tax laws. Some (albeit few) states don’t charge income tax or sales tax, which can affect the overall cost of living there. On the flip side, property taxes are much higher in some states than others, so you’ll want to think about that when assessing where you might want to buy a home.
Study up on safety and accessibility
A number of considerations fall under this category:
- Pollution levels and environmental health
- Crime rates
- Traffic congestion
- Internet and cell service accessibility, particularly if you work remotely or are concerned about staying connected with loved ones who live far away
- Public transportation
- Easy access to health care services
Make sure wherever you move has the safety, environmental, and health and wellness amenities that are important to you. For instance, if you need to see a certain type of medical specialist several times a year, are there physicians that offer that service in your area? If you don’t have a car, are there public transportation options for getting all of the places you need to go on a regular basis? This is an important factor when determining where to live.
Assess the climate – and climate concerns
A city or town may have a lot going for it, but is it in a climate where you want to live? Living in southern California is a world away from living in Vermont, for example. While both have their appeal, they represent two very different lifestyles.
Be realistic about your tolerance for long, cold winters or hot, dry summers. Consider, too, the long-term impacts climate change may have on the area. While you might love the general climate in a particular area, think about it’s climate change risks. Does the area see a high number of wildfires, hurricanes, or droughts? These could pose threats to your safety and well-being, as well as to any property you purchase there.
The bottom line on how to decide where to live
The best way to know whether you want to live somewhere is to visit, preferably several times. But when you’re making your short list of potential places to move, there’s a lot you can learn from online research before you commit to a trip – or a move – to an ideal-sounding new location.
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