By Emma Butterfield, BestPlaces Newsletter Manager
We know it may seem like an odd time to consider moving with everything that is going on in the world, but to frame it differently, it’s actually the perfect time to research where to live so that when
the world provides a better climate for moving, you are well prepared! Luckily we’ve compiled a list of the most important considerations when deciding where to live. Whether you want to move to a place that is less crowded, want land to turn your backyard into a food forest, or are even considering raising organic chickens, social distancing is a great excuse to fill your time with researching your ideal hometown. There is a light at the end of this virus-ridden tunnel and once we reach the end, you’re going to be happy you’re prepared and are ready to jump into your best moving clothes!
In addition to this checklist we have also created a quiz to help you identify your best places to live. The Best Places To Live Quiz is a great starting point if you don't have any particular places in mind to research.
1. Size of Place
One of the most important considerations when thinking about moving to a new town is size. You may want to consider whether or not you would enjoy recognizing most of the people you see in public. If the answer is yes, then a smaller town is the way to go. If you prefer not to have this type of day to day experience, then a bigger city may be a better option. If you are someone who enjoys gardening, you may want to consider a place that has more rural acreage. If you prefer being within close proximity to many shopping centers, restaurants, and cultural opportunities, a larger city may be a better fit for you.
2. Affordability, Job Opportunities, and Taxes
No matter how much your salary is, if you are currently employed, living in a way that allows you to have all the funds for what you need and want while setting some money aside for savings and other future necessities of high importance that is great. This pandemic has the potential to teach us a lot about how fragile our economy is and how important saving really is.
Affordability includes everything from housing expenses to grocery and gasoline costs, utility bills, taxes, and consumable goods. One great tool to help you figure out the affordability of a given town is our Cost of Living Calculator. Tell us your current city, where you’d like to move and enter a salary amount. Our Cost of Living Calculator will determine how much more (or less) you need to maintain your same standard of living.
Depending on location, employment opportunities can really vary, so spending some time to research job markets in various parts of the country is a crucial step before making a big move. For those of us who have lost our job due to the covid-19 crisis, people will be hiring again in due time, so we will all persevere until this happens.
One great approach for researching your best place to live in relation to employment choices is to analyze different high quality employment opportunities within your field then figure out where there is a high concentration of this specific type of job. You may also want to consider the fact that income levels can really depend on which state you’re looking at. One great tool for comparing salaries for different careers in various areas of the U.S. is salary.com. We also offer a salary calculator to ensure you can live the same lifestyle when you move. Doing your research and finding a job before relocating is key. Curious about the areas with the fastest rising income in the U.S.? Check out “Metro Areas with Fastest Rising Income”
When you’re deciding where to live, it’s important to consider tax credits, income tax, sales tax, and tax exemptions. There are 40 states in the U.S. that provide homestead exemptions or property tax credits which can help homeowners financially. More information about tax matters like the state-local tax burden can be found on the Tax Foundation website. We also have tax information on our Cost of Living Calculator.
3. Home Value
One very important consideration for moving is how much it will cost you to buy a home in your new town. This is especially important because of the fact that real estate prices are constantly
changing. This means that it’s crucial to research the current prices of homes, how long they are for sale, their resale value, and how much time they’re estimated to be valued at this rate long-term. You should also consider reviewing cost of living price trends on websites such as Realtor.com.
You can find the median cost of housing by using our Cost of Living Calculator. Simply type in your current city, the city you’re looking into, and your annual income to calculate! Then, look in the “Median Home Cost” row on the charts provided. Sometimes, investing in real estate can be an option that will help you earn passive income but this is something that really needs to be planned in advance.
4. Restaurants and Amenities
If you’re someone who really enjoys treating yourself to local delicacies, you may want to prioritize finding a place to live that is close to the ocean or near a city. Another consideration is
proximity to farmers’ markets where you can obtain fresh produce and other goods. This is especially important if eating sustainably and locally is something you really value. You may also want to think about whether you want to live somewhere that allows you to maintain a home vegetable garden year-round. It really depends on what you’re looking for.
Aren’t we all thinking about how we can’t wait until our favorite restaurant opens back up? If this sounds familiar to you or if you enjoy trying diverse cuisines, then a city may be best for you. If you’re a fan of cooking with fresh homemade ingredients, you may want to live in a smaller town where you can grow ingredients for your culinary needs. Are you a foodie who wants to know about the best places to live to enjoy amazing restaurants? Check out “America’s Top Foodie Cities”
5. Schools & Education
With all the children and young adults being homeschooled right now, education and the importance of it are often at the forefront of people's minds. A great education is a key part of preparing children for their adult lives so finding a place that allows access to excellent schooling is a priority. One great tool for looking into different places that provide great education opportunities is the Compare Schools Tool. Choosing a place that has good schooling will impact you substantially too because it will affect different areas of your life such as finances.
6. Safe Neighborhood
No place is going to be completely devoid of crime, but desiring to settle down somewhere that has low crime rates is a reasonable wish. You can make sure that you’re able to live in a safe neighborhood that has a low crime rate by doing your research beforehand. If you are visiting your potential new town or have already moved and have concerns, visiting the local police station can be a great way to find more out about what crime is like in that area. Usually, police are more than willing to have with these types of discussions with newcomers. Another way to learn more is by checking out the City Compare function on our website. Here you can compare the amount of crime in two different cities. If you are interested in just analyzing the crime rates in one area, you can simply go to our website and type in the name of the desired city. On the left hand side you will find a column - click on Crime. You may also want to read our article titled: “America’s Best and Worst Cities for Crime” which contains various studies about crime in the U.S. An important consideration is the fact that crime statistics change over time so even if a certain area is safe today that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will continue to be safe for the foreseeable future. This is why it’s important to look into the long-term projection of safety and stability in a given neighborhood.
7. Culture and Proximity to Friends and Family
I know that personally I am a huge fan of enjoying the latest musical and occasional trips to the art museum to check out new exhibits so if you’re on the same boat, you will definitely want to choose a place to live accordingly! Do you have little ones? You will want to make sure that your new town provides plenty of opportunities for entertainment, cultural learning and other ways to enrich their growing brains and bodies. You’ll also want to factor in parts of your life that are currently important to you such as access to local sports events and theater offerings. If Sunday mass or other religious offerings are a staple to your schedule, this is also a very important factor to take into consideration. When this pandemic starts to settle down, a lot of us will be very drawn to live music so living in a place that has these opportunities will be ideal!
If you have a large extended family and/or hope to spend the holidays with friends and family, you may want to think about living somewhere that isn’t too far from where they’re located. One important component of this is choosing a place that is either within driving distance or a reasonable plane ride to your family and friends. If you are not able to do this, you may find that you have to devote too much of your time, money, and energy to traveling to and from your home and where your family and friends live. The majority of us are really missing friends and family right now so after this is all done we may want to move closer to them!
8. Climate & Weather
If you are a fan of skiing or frequent trips to the coast, you may want to plan accordingly when deciding where to move. The weather can have a huge impact on our lifestyle and quality of life so making sure that you live somewhere that fits within your comfort range is essential! This way, you are able to feel energized and engage in the hobbies you are passionate about without too much of a commute, meaning both a better quality of life and better mental and physical health. To compare the climate and weather of two different cities, check out our Climate and Weather Compare Tool and check out “Places with the Highest Comfort Rating”! Another great tool is our annual BestPlaces Comfort Index which allows you to easily compare places and is available for any place in the U.S.
9. Health and Healthcare
Right now we are seeing how important it is to have health resources near us. The fact that air quality, water quality, and living near other healthy people can greatly affect our health has become even more evident lately. It is also important to consider access to healthcare options at all stages of life but this is especially true if you are nearing retirement or have children. Being able to frequently access high quality healthcare can improve your quality and length of life substantially so keeping an eye out for towns with great medical schools and hospitals is crucial. Some places have longer life expectancy, lower mortality rates, and healthier lifestyles than others. One great tool on our website to check out that is related to health is our newly added Health content! You can access this by simply typing in your town of choice, scrolling down to the column on the left, and clicking Health. Here’s Portland, Oregon Health as an example!
10. Commuting, Traffic, and Travel
One benefit of the “stay at home” order that has been mandated across the country is that we’re putting less wear on our roads and environment overall. Hopefully, this experience in itself will teach us to give our environment breaks more frequently by not commuting from point A to point B 24/7- this way we’ll learn the value of working from home when we can. Another vital consideration is that even though rampant growth in many suburbs and surrounding metro areas can provide great opportunities for employment, dining, and entertainment, this can also make commute times much longer. Length of commute time is shown to have a huge impact on level of happiness so it’s no wonder that it can be a deciding factor when considering whether or not to move to a specific location. There are so many different options for commuting around town, and public transportation can be one of the best options budget wise and for the environment, so this may be something to consider when deciding where to live.
Feeling cooped up in your house? Traveling will seem even more fun once these restrictions are lifted now that we’ve been confined to the quarters of our households for an extended period of time. If you’re someone who enjoys traveling frequently, living close to an airport may be important to you. Traveling to and from the airport if you’re more than an hour away from the closest one can eat up a lot of time and money so consider the distance to an airport if you’re a frequent traveler.
If you're still stumped on where to start, take our Best Places To Live Quiz. It will provide you with a few places in the United States that meet your criteria.