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Where Should You Live? 12 Factors To Consider

Erica Gellerman7-Minute Read
November 07, 2020

Do you ever catch yourself frustrated with your current living situation and daydreaming about moving somewhere — or anywhere — else? If you find yourself constantly asking, “where should I live?”, it might be time to explore new options.

Here we give you a few things to consider when streamlining your location search.

1. Affordability

One really important factor when assessing places to live is affordability. You’re not going to enjoy living in a place that puts a financial strain on you. But when you assess cost of living, you should focus on a number of different factors.

If you’re planning to rent or buy a home, consider how much rent and home prices are. You’ll also want to consider taxes, including property taxes. And you’ll want to estimate other costs, which may take a little digging – costs like commuting and childcare can add a lot to the overall cost of living in an area.

2. Climate

For some people, the climate is a huge factor in where they want to live. Some people love four seasons and can’t imagine living without them. Others want to escape locations with months of winter and snow.

What do you prefer? If you’re drawn to warmer climates, be prepared that you might have to conserve water (in drought-prone areas) but you might be able to wear T-shirts for 80% of the year.

A colder climate offers fun activities like skiing and snowshoeing. But you might get tired of having to put on layers (and layers) just to take a walk outside.

You may also want to consider any regularly occurring events, like flooding and hurricanes. Moving to an area with climate challenges may not leave you happy with your choice of location.

3. Demographics

Do you have young kids and you’re looking for a neighborhood where they can meet others their age? Or are you a young professional who wants to be around other people in a similar life stage?

The demographics of a neighborhood are important to consider if you’re looking for something specific. Moving your elementary-aged children to a community of mostly retirees will make it more difficult to meet your goal of having them make neighborhood friends. Young, single professionals living in a community full of young kids might not enjoy the feel of the neighborhood.

Check out who lives in a neighborhood and whether it creates the atmosphere that you’re looking for.

4. Population Density

Are you looking for a city, suburban, or rural area? In each of these, you’ll find different population densities, each with its own pros and cons. Living in a city with a dense population might offer a more exciting atmosphere, but finding space and quiet isn’t as easy.

On the opposite end, a rural area may offer you the quiet solitude, but not the easy walkability of a densely populated area.

5. Distance To Family And Friends

Living near friends and family is a big consideration for a lot of people. In fact, the typical American lives just 18 miles from their mother. So if being near the ones you love is important to you, that should be a factor in your decision about where to move.

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?

6. Job Opportunities

While more people than ever are currently working from home, we don’t know yet if that will be a trend that stays. When choosing an area to live, you may want to focus on assessing the job opportunities nearby. Who are the largest employers and are they in industries that are of interest to you?

Along with job opportunities, consider the average salaries earned in the area. While some locations might have a very attractive cost of living if the salaries are significantly lower than what you could earn elsewhere, the area might not actually be as affordable as you thought.

7. Quality Of Schools

If you have children, you probably know the importance of having good public schools nearby. The quality of schools also factors into the affordability of a location, because spending money on private school tuition can suddenly make an affordable place much less affordable.

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

Use tools like GreatSchools to get the rating of the public schools in the area and also read the reviews.

8. Culture

When you move to a new place, access to vibrant cultural activities will change. If you long for a place with a thriving theater scene, exciting sports teams and museums, make sure you add that to the top of your list. If live music is important to you, finding a town or a city that has plenty of options will enrich your life.

You may also want to consider whether being near specific religious or ethnic communities is an important factor in your search.

9. Accessibility To Quality Health Care

One thing that isn’t focused on as often but is a huge determinant of your quality of life is access to quality healthcare. Does the area that you’re considering moving to have enough health professionals and hospitals to provide timely care? How is the quality of that care? Access to healthcare can directly impact your quality of life, so be mindful of what you learn during your search.

10. Crime Rates

When you begin to get a little more detailed in your search, checking out crime statistics is important. While checking out crime stats can’t guarantee that an area is completely safe, they can give you a good idea of how safe a particular neighborhood is. Remember to check multiple places because safety can vary significantly depending on the neighborhood.

11. Airport Accessibility

If you travel frequently for work (or pleasure) having quick access to an airport can significantly improve your quality of life. If travel is a big part of your life, how close do you need to be to a regional or international airport? And how easy is it to access that airport (traffic and parking expenses considered)?

12. Traffic

Few people enjoy sitting in gridlocked traffic each day, whether it be on their daily commute or running errands around town. Traffic can play a huge role in your quality of life and should be considered before you make a big move. Will you have to spend a significant amount of time in our car? If you don’t like driving, are there other transportation options available (like buses and trains)?

How To Decide Where To Live: A Guide

Ready to find the best area to move for your needs and interests? We have some easy tips to help you get started:

Make A List of Must-Haves And Deal-Breakers

There are a lot of different criteria when you’re deciding where to move. To help keep things organized, make a list of your must-haves and deal-breakers. For example, if your 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 feature as a dealbreaker.

Reach Out To Locals

It’s hard to know what a place is like when you don’t live there. But there’s a lot of research you can do before actually visiting. Do some sleuthing on internet forums to see what neighbors say about different areas. You can learn a lot from reading comments and seeing what issues come up often. You might also want to check social media posts and any local Facebook groups. They can offer a lot of information about what you can expect in person.

Visit The Area

Ideally, you’ll be able to visit an area in person before you move. There’s nothing quite like being in a place to get a feel for an 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.

If you can’t visit in person, try a virtual tour. If you have a friend in the area, ask them to Facetime you when they’re out and about. You can also try “walking” the streets when you’re using the street view version of Google Maps. It’s not perfect, but you can see what’s on each street and get a glimpse of what a place looks like.

Negotiate With Your Partner

If you’re moving with a friend or partner, you may not both be on the same page about what’s important in a place where you live. This might require multiple discussions, compromise and a little negotiation. Try ranking your must-have and deal-breaker list from most important to least. Identify things that you absolutely can’t live without and have your partner do the same. Anything after those must-have items is up for negotiation.

It may take longer to find a place that meets both of your must-haves, but once you do, your move will be that much better.

Go For It

No matter how much preparation goes into researching and weighing options, moving to a new area will include some unknowns. At some point, you have to put down your research and just go for it!

If you’re interested in buying a home in a new location, real estate agents with knowledge of a particular area can help make the process much simpler. Connect with a real estate agent in that area to learn more.

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    Erica Gellerman

    Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom and more.