Deciding on where to live can be one of the most important and stressful decisions you and your family will make. So many aspects of your life is linked to where you live, including where you work, what schools your family will go to, the friends everyone will meet, the types of activities that will fill your days, and the opportunities to enjoy the world around you. But like any other daunting task, the decision of where to live can be best accomplished by breaking it down it smaller choices, then narrowing the field from there. Take into consideration a place’s climate, arts and culture, history, economic strength, schools, and more. It’s important to not only weigh and prioritize your own preferences, but also the preferences of the family that will join you. If you have children of any age, try to involve them in the process. Listen to what they say about what they want to find in a home or neighborhood. You may not be able to check off everything on their wish list, but simply being included in the process can dramatically improve their happiness and satisfaction with your final choice. Regardless, know that there is almost something great about every city you might choose from, and there probably is not one perfect choice, since each borough, town, city and metropolis has their own wonderful things to offer.
Weather and Climate
Whether you’re thinking of moving to sunny Sacramento, California or snowy Grand Rapids, Michigan, it’s important to take into consideration your future home’s weather and climate. Whether it’s heavy snow in the winter or summer heatwaves, each city has its own weather-based challenges. Consider what type of weather you and your family prefer – rainy or dry, hot or cold, sunny or cloudy – and compare it to the climate of the city.
Especially if you have kids, what to do when out on the town is something to keep in mind. Annual events and festivals provide a chance to connect with the city and meet new friends. Special events can also be a wonderful way to pass the time and enjoy specific aspects of a city’s heritage. But on the other hand, if noises and crowds might not appeal to you, you might want to first check the areas in which events are held and then avoid purchasing a home in close proximity to those areas.
Culture is what makes a city truly unique and memorable. Music, history, art, theater, diversity, and many other facets all help separate one city from another. Consider also the general rhythm of a city – is busy New York, New York or laid-back Charleston, South Carolina more your family’s style? Also keep in mind that the pace at which you and your family moves might change over time. A hectic, vibrant nightlife just around the corner might be an exciting plus when you’re in your 20’s, but might lose its appeal after you have children.
Author Virginia Woolf once said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Whether you are a gourmet foodie or simply a person who enjoys a good home cooked meal, food is often an important element in developing a person’s character and outlook. Many communities are known for a particular type of food, and whether you love it or hate it, that category of food can often pervade many aspects of local life. If you go crazy over the smell of barbecue, then Nashville, Tennessee or Austin, Texas, might be a good place for you. Love seafood? Give Boston, Massachusetts or Seattle, Washington a try.
Even if you don’t have kids, the quality of a city’s schools is an important metric to keep in mind. A well-educated city makes for a stronger economy, and the city’s schools often reflect the overall quality of other public services that can be harder to measure. The quality of schools can also have a dramatic impact on local real estate cost as property taxes are often linked to the funding provided to local school systems. Don’t forget to look at ratings for both K-12 and higher education.
The economy is often a family’s main pull when looking to move. Consider not just any jobs you might have already lined up, but the wider economic state of the city. Is it growing or shrinking? What’s the cost of living? What’s unemployment like? What’s the average household income, and how does that compare to the national average? Is there a higher local minimum wage? These factors may only indirectly impact your particular situation, but they will impact the economic welfare and the vitality of the community at large.
Crime rates are a serious consideration when choosing a new neighborhood. Most larger cities have higher crime rates than the national average, but there’s still a lot of variance between cities, and crime rates in rural areas can be higher for certain types of crime. When considering a place to live, it’s important to try and find a map of crimes by neighborhood, since some neighborhoods are much safer than others. This information can often be obtained online from local government sources, or ask your real estate agent for a report on local crime.
Transportation is an often overlooked aspect of living in a new place. How long is the average commute in the city? How far is the neighborhood you’re looking at from where you’ll be working? Does the city have robust public transportation, whether buses, trains, or subways? Are there any bus stops or metro stations near your potential house? Is public transportation easy to use and accessible? Is it on time? Are the roads in good condition, or full of potholes? Are the roads easy to navigate? According to the U.S. Census, the average travel time to work in America is 25.4 minutes each way. That amount of time and associated costs in fuel and vehicle maintenance can be an important factor when deciding on where to live.