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Where Should You Live? How To Find The Best Place For You

Carey Chesney7-Minute Read
February 04, 2022

"Where should I live?" is a question many of us ask ourselves at a number of different important points in our lives. Perhaps you are finishing up school and are considering getting a place of your own. Maybe you’re a new parent and are looking for a good place to raise a family. Or maybe the child-raising years are over and you’re looking for the best place to enjoy your golden years.

Wherever you are in life, this question can be tricky. There are a variety of factors at play and usually multiple people involved in the decision. Here, we will look at some of the common factors that influence people’s decision where to live and provide some good strategies for evaluating them.

Affordability

Your budget is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a house. In fact, this is where most people start the process. After all, if you don't know how much you can afford to pay for a new home, you won’t be able to determine where you might be able to live.

Most people calculate what they can afford for a home without looking at added expenses a specific geographical area might bring. For example, investigating the property taxes or the possible need for flood insurance in certain areas should be included while budgeting for a home.

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You Can Afford

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Cost Of Living

It’s a good idea to research the cost of living for all potential areas you are considering. In addition, get yourself up to speed on the average home value for each area, so you know if your home is likely to appreciate in value after you purchase it.

If your budget is a concern, you might want to consider avoiding particular states that are more expensive to live in. The idea is to get a complete financial picture instead of just what you can afford in terms of mortgage preapproval.

Rental Opportunities

If you are interested in investment properties, be sure to research the best places to invest in real estate. This is especially important if you plan on renting out the property immediately after you buy it or in the future.

Cities that have a high job growth rate and growing population are good places to start. Places with high home prices are good too, because many people aren’t able to afford a home and are forced to rent.

Transportation

Think about how you will get around your new hometown and evaluate whether a car is necessary for the area. If parking is tricky and public transportation options are plentiful, you might not need to spend money on a car.

Saving on transportation costs can be a great way to increase your home budget and help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint at the same time. Walking and biking to work if you can is also a great way to stay healthy.

Location

Saving money isn't the only factor when deciding where you should live, so you shouldn’t necessarily move to the cheapest area. Location is another important factor to take into consideration.

The perfect location depends on where you are in life and what type of lifestyle you prefer. Some areas are better suited for first-time home buyers and others make more sense for retirees.

Start with broad criteria, such as deciding between the suburbs or a city, and then narrow down your search from there. There’s no use researching farmland in Wisconsin if you already know you like the bright lights of a big city.

Climate

When thinking about location, it's important to consider the climate of an area before you commit to moving. Start by thinking about the activities you and your family enjoy doing regularly and ask yourself if their new area is appropriate for those activities.

If you like swimming and hiking, a warmer climate might work better. If you want to go skiing every weekend, a location with a mountain nearby might need to be on your “must haves” list. If you have a boat that you like to take out often, don’t live too far from the water. You get the idea.

Demographics

Learn about the demographics of an area before you make a move. Statistics like the percentage of kids or elderly people in a specific area can help shed some light on whether or not it might be right for you.

School District

If you are planning to have kids or already have them, you are probably already researching what schools the houses you are interested in are zoned for. But you should do this even if you don't plan on raising a family.

Not only will good public schools in an area mean people have a place to send their kids to school that they like, but it can also help maintain and improve property values in the area.

Job Opportunities

Explore potential job opportunities, both in-person and remote, before committing to moving somewhere. Certain  locations are better for different individuals such as teachers or young professionals.

Health Care

Learn about the quality and availability of health care in the areas you are considering moving to. Proximity to hospitals and current providers are factors to assess. If you have specific health needs, make sure the areas you are considering have high-quality facilities for those specific medical specialties.

Crime Rates

Investigate the crime rates for any potential neighborhood you are considering, as well as the proximity to registered offenders. Doing your homework to ensure your new neighborhood is safe will give you some peace of mind once you and your family move in.

Airport Accessibility

Find out how difficult it would be to get to an airport from your potential new home. If you travel frequently for work (or pleasure) having quick access to an airport is even more essential. Think about if you need a domestic or international airport nearby as well - you may even consider living near an airport.

Traffic

Anyone who watches the news knows that bad traffic can make our blood pressures rise. Consider what traffic is like in the area you are considering moving to and how it will impact your day-to-day life.

Social Factors

Don't overlook the myriad of social factors that are important to consider when deciding where to live. Sometimes, these will be the difference between a dream home scenario and a not-so-happy home.

Distance To Family And Friends

Map the distance and drive time from potential new homes to your family and friends. If you’re not able to live in the same town or area, think about what would make visiting easiest. Would you prefer to be able to drive home at a moment’s notice? Or would being a short and direct flight away be better?

Culture

Consider the culture of any areas you are considering moving to. Research the events that occur in the area, such as concerts and arts festivals, to get a better idea of what the local culture is like. You may also want to consider whether being near specific religious or ethnic communities is an important factor in your search.

How To Decide Where To Live

Now that you know some of the key factors that may influence your home search, let’s take a look at the key steps you should take to make the best decision. Whether you are moving to the suburbs, an expansive farm, or a big city, these steps will help put you on the right path.

Make A List Of Must-Haves And Deal-Breakers

List all of the things that you must have in your new living location. Next, make a list of all the things you know you don’t want in a potential new hometown. These two lists will help you narrow down your location.

For example, if a must-have is warm weather, a location where it snows 4 months out of the year won’t make the cut. Or if you definitely can’t live in a place with terrible traffic, you’ll cross out any cities that have that problem as a dealbreaker.

Reach Out To Locals

Talk with local residents as much as you can to learn more about the areas you are considering. If you can’t do it in person, look into location-specific groups on social media. There are plenty of conversations happening about the areas where you might want to live, so be sure to go find them.

Visit The Area

Visit the areas you are considering moving to before committing to living somewhere to ensure you don’t end up in an undesirable area.

When you’re visiting, take a look around neighborhoods you’re interested in living in during the day and the night. Head to shopping areas where you’ll buy your household goods to see what your options are. And test drive your commute! You can get a good feel for what it’s like to live in a place when you visit and spend time doing the things you’d do as a local.

Negotiate With Your Partner

Most of us don’t make big life decisions like where we should live on our own. Discuss the move with your partner to ensure everyone is on the same page. The right location for you might not be the best choice from them. Some compromise is inevitable, but it’s a big country so, rest assured, you’ll be able to find a place that makes everyone happy in your new home.

Next Steps

Once you’ve determined the best place to live, it’s time to start the home search. The first step is getting preapproved for a mortgage so you know what price range to look in. Next, find a real estate agent with expertise in the area you want to buy and start house hunting!

The Bottom Line

Finding the right place to live doesn't start with a house, it starts with a location. Consider which factors are most important to you, do extensive research, and include all the right stakeholders in the decision to ensure your next move is to a happy home!

Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of residential and commercial real estate experience to readers as a Realtor® and as a former Marketing Executive in the fields of Health Care, Finance and Wellness. Carey is based in Ann Arbor and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in English, and Eastern Michigan University, where he recieved his Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications.