If you’re thinking about moving, here’s what to consider:
1. What are your current needs?
When buying your first home or retiring and planning to downsize, purchasing a smaller house can make more sense. Starting small as a homebuyer gives you the chance to become a homeowner, begin Building Prosperity in the form of home equity, and then move up to a larger home (if you desire) in the future. On the other hand, you may need a bigger home if you’re growing your family or living in a multigenerational household.
Knowing exactly what you need can help inform your decision on where to live. Cities like Beaumont, Fort Smith, and Shreveport are among the “best” places to find starter homes. Lancaster, Pensacola, and Daytona Beach are considered some of the top retirement spots in the U.S.
2. What locale are you looking for?
If you could live anywhere, where would it be? While your wildest dreams may not always be feasible, depending on affordability and stage of life, your longing to live near the mountains or in a more walkable neighborhood is worth considering.
This may be the time to separate your “must-haves” from your “nice-to-haves” and decide what sacrifices need to be made. If you want to live near water, home prices may be higher. In this case, you could look into purchasing a smaller house or house hunting in an affordable coastal area. Instead of moving to a pricier mountain town, you might compromise by living in a nearby city with plenty of access to the great outdoors.
3. What cost of living do you need?
If home prices have surged in your area, cost of living may be a primary concern. A record number of homebuyers have found relief by moving to less expensive cities—from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, for example. A city’s cost of living index typically factors in how much money is needed to pay for basics, like housing, food, healthcare, and others. Harlingen, Topeka, and Mobile are among the cheapest places to live.
Taxes can also impact affordability and vary by state. Oregon, Montana, and Wisconsin are some states with lower state and local tax rates, while Louisiana, California, and Arkansas rank on the high end.
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4. What would make you happy?
Along with cost of living, a happiness ranking also exists. After weathering a pandemic, happiness matters more than ever for many Americans. Of course, happiness is relative. But many of the happiest cities, like Sunnyvale, Bellevue, and Frisco, have low crime, good wages, and a (fairly) reasonable cost of living.
Your happiness might improve in one of these environments, or it might be boosted by living in a place with more sunshine, a richer culture, or better school districts.
5. Do you need to be closer to—or farther from—friends and family?
Maybe you have small children and need help with childcare, or perhaps you need to be near aging parents. The opposite can also be true. You might prefer to live farther from family and visit on the holidays. If you plan to live away from family, it may help to research a new city’s community. Does it have an active social scene? Is your preferred spiritual institution available? Can you afford childcare?
6. What kind of transportation will you need?
For those working 100 percent remotely, your commute may not matter. However, if you still commute to work or plan to look for a new job in a new city, this will influence the location you choose. If you’re tired of spending time in traffic, you may want to consider a city or part of town with better public transportation. It might also be worthwhile to look up a city’s traffic score and drive through in rush hour, if possible.