Saying sayonara to your humble abode in search of new opportunities and a change of scenery? You’re not alone—the average American moves eleven times in their lifetime. Finding a new city to live in comes with inherent challenges, but it doesn’t have to be a triathlon of how much stress you can endure. This easy-to-chew guide breaks down the factors you’ll want to consider when choosing and moving to a new city so that finding a new home will feel more like a treasure hunt than an obstacle course.
Moving: A Family Affair First
Moving away means saying tough goodbyes to the friends and relatives you’re leaving behind—something that’s hard for anyone, but especially for children. Open up a discussion with your family about moving. Allow them to ask questions, offer input about where to move, and air any grievances they have about moving. Having a conversation lessens tensions and will make everyone more comfortable with the move.
These are the factors families find most important to consider when choosing where to move.
How do you choose the right school for your child? Many parents choose a city based on its reputation for good schools. A good education sets your kids on a path toward lifelong learning and gives them better career opportunities later in life. Before you pick a city, check out its schools, using these tips to help guide your choices.
Type of school. What kind of school do you want your kids to go to? Public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, and schools with focus programs are all options to think about.
Consider your child’s personality. How does your child learn best? What are their social needs? Take these things into account when looking into prospective schools.
Extracurriculars. Make sure the school provides any extracurriculars your child has an interest in, be it theatre, archery, or student government.
Look at test scores. Don’t judge a school based solely on its test scores, but do take them into consideration. You want to make sure the school is performing well academically.
Talk to the principal. Have a chat with the principal, and ask questions to get a better idea of what the school is like.
Look at ratings. Great Schools is an organization that rates the quality of schools based on tests, academic progress, and equity to help you pick the right school.
Consider higher education. If your kids are older, or you’re interested in pursuing a degree, look at nearby colleges and universities as well.
America is becoming a safer country to live in—overall crime rates are about half of what they were in 1991. Still, every city has crime, although some cities are safer than others. To avoid ending up in a city or neighborhood that has a high crime rate, vet the safety of a city with these tips:
Research the crime rate. Check out the crime rates and statistics for any cities you’re considering to see how safe they are.
Ask the locals. There’s no better resource for information on a potential city than the people who already live there. Hop on the city’s social media pages to find out more about which areas to seek out and which to avoid.
Download an app. Once you’ve moved, use an app to keep you safe while you get used to your new surroundings. Safety apps allow you to send an alert to selected contacts if you feel like you’re in danger. Some even let you track your loved ones to ensure they’re safe on their way home from work or school.
Moving to a city with quality healthcare facilities provides peace of mind should you need medical attention. Living near a good hospital is especially important if you have a pre-existing condition or need a specialist. When researching which city you want to move to, look for places that have highly rated hospitals and healthcare providers that cater to your specific needs.
Affordability and Opportunity
Moving to a city or a neighborhood you can’t afford to live in will spell disaster for your finances and your quality of life. Here’s what to consider when deciding whether it’s cost-effective to move to a particular city.
Cost of living
Cost of living is the amount of money it takes to cover expenses like housing, food, healthcare, and taxes. Cost of living varies between states, cities, and neighborhoods so it’s important to take your budget into consideration when moving to a new city. Use a cost of living calculator to estimate the difference between how much you currently make and how much you’ll need to make in a new city to maintain the same quality of life.
Tax rates vary widely from state to state. Some states—Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon—don’t have sales tax for retail purchases. Others—Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming—don’t collect income tax, leaving residents with more of their paycheck each month. Consider property taxes as well, which also vary widely. Having extra cash in your wallet can improve your quality of life, so keep taxes in mind when relocating.
Unless you’re moving for work, you’ll need to make sure you’re able to find a job once you get to your new city. If you’re moving without a job lined up, we have a few suggestions to help you find a job in your industry.
Economic trends. Is your profession in demand in the city you want to move to, or will you need to look elsewhere? Research projected growth and unemployment rates for your industry.
Income disparities. The same job might pay more in one state than it does in another. If you’re used to making a certain amount where you currently live, make sure the city you’re moving to pays the same or more so you’re not left in the lurch.
Create a safety net. No matter how great job opportunities look in your new city, it’s always a good idea to have a little cushion when relocating. Set aside enough money to pay bills and buy food for three to five months while you get your feet on the ground.
Commute times are on the rise, with more than 14 million Americans spending an hour or more commuting to work every day. If you’re moving to a large city or you’ll be commuting from a suburb into the city for work, consider how much time you’ll be spending getting to and fro. Are cars a necessity where you’re going, like in Los Angeles? Or will you be moving somewhere like New York City, where using public transportation is easier and less expensive than driving a car?
Personal Preferences: What’s Important to You?
Moving to a new city is an opportunity to start over. That’s why it’s important to pick a place you love, somewhere you can see yourself thriving. Consider these questions when making your initial list of potential new homes.
Big city, small town, or something in between?
Do you prefer that small-town feel or the hustle and bustle of a major city? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Small towns are cheaper than big cities in almost every aspect, from housing and food to entertainment and gas. But bigger cities have more opportunities for dining, entertainment, and jobs—not to mention public transportation, which can save you a bundle and even make it possible to ditch your car.
What’s your ideal climate?
Climate has a huge impact on your quality of life. If you detest the cold, head to the south. Find humidity unbearable? Go north. A city’s climate can influence your mood, so if you’re prone to seasonal depression, cross cloudy, wet climates like those of the Pacific Northwest off your list. If you’re an outdoorsy type, research cities in states like Colorado and California that have an ideal climate and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Georgia, Hawaii, and Texas have some of the most temperate climates in the US, ideal for heat-seekers who want sunny skies all year round.
What’s there to do?
If art, music, dining, sports, culture, and entertainment are your thing, look at large metropolitan areas like Boston, New York, Denver, and San Francisco, which will have the most such opportunities. If you prefer smaller cities, choose one that’s big on culture, like Austin, TX, Savannah, GA, and Madison, WI. If you’re thinking of going rural, choose a small town close to a larger metro so that you can easily head into the city for a night out.
How to Find a Home in Your New City
Now that you know where you want to move, it’s time to find a place to live. Finding new digs before you move means you won’t have to stay in a hotel or crash on friends’ or relatives’ couches indefinitely. Here’s the best way to find a new home from afar.
Find a realtor. Research and interview realtors to help you find your new home. Realtors know the ins and outs of the city and can give you advice on where to look for homes. Make sure your realtor is tech-savvy—you’re going to be buying a home from a distance, and you’ll want someone on your side who’s easy to get ahold of.
Visit before the move. There’s no better way to get to know your new city and choose a new neighborhood than by visiting it. Do the preliminary research online, but once you’ve narrowed your choices down, an in-person visit will give you the opportunity to meet your realtor or leasing agent and view potential houses and apartments in person.
Budget. Estimate the cost of living for your new city, and budget accordingly for buying a home or renting an apartment. Your realtor will be able to help you find good neighborhoods that are in your price range. Before committing to buying a home in a city you’ve never lived in before, consider renting an apartment for the first year. That way, you can really get a feel for the city’s neighborhoods and decide where you want to live before you lay down deep roots.
Prepare For the Move: The Nuts and Bolts
You’ve settled on a city, you know where you’re going to live, and now it’s time to make it happen. Hauling yourself and all of your worldly possessions across state lines is a mighty undertaking, and there are many preparations you’ll need to attend to before you move.
Use a dedicated notebook to keep all of your notes and lists having to do with the move. Keep a master checklist of the major tasks you need to accomplish and cross them off as you go. Staying organized will ensure everything goes smoothly and you don’t forget anything major in the months, weeks, and days leading up to your big move. These are a few of the things you’ll need to attend to:
Find a new doctor. Research your new city’s general physicians and any specialists or mental health professionals you or family members will need to see. Ask your current doctor(s) for recommendations. Once you’ve chosen your new doctors, have copies of medical records sent to them so they’re ready to see you any time after you arrive.
Register at a new school. Most schools have online registration forms, and you can usually upload documents like birth certificate, immunization records, and transcripts.
Change your mailing address. Submit a change of address form at the post office, but don’t stop there. Banks, credit card companies, and any websites you regularly shop from will need to be updated with your new address.
Find a vet. Don’t leave your furry friends hanging. Research and choose a veterinary clinic in your new city, and request your pet’s medical records from your current vet. Check on licensing requirements for new residents.
Transfer professional licenses. If you’re a doctor, nurse, lawyer, aesthetician, massage therapist, or in any other profession that requires a license, contact your professional organization to find out your new state’s requirements for licensing, and start the process early.
Start downsizing and packing. It’s tempting to wait until the last minute to start packing so you don’t feel like you’re in limbo, but if you start early, you can take your time sorting through and culling your belongings, packing them properly, and staying organized during the process. An early start saves you a lot of stress later on.
Getting There: How to Move Your Things From A to B
If you don’t have much stuff, renting a moving truck and doing it all yourself is one option for getting your belongings to your new home, but it may or may not be the most economical or practical. Depending on a range of factors, including where you’re moving from and to, renting a moving truck may be more costly than hiring a moving company, so it’s a good idea to call around and get estimates for both options before committing to being your own mover.
If you decide that you’d rather let a moving company take over the loading, driving, and unloading duties, you’ll want to do your due diligence and find a reputable company with whom you can trust all of your worldly possessions. Here are a few tips for ensuring you’re hiring the right guys.
Get referrals. Ask around to see if anyone you know has a referral for a good moving company. If you’re working with a real estate agent, they might have some suggestions for reputable movers. Go down your list, and read testimonials and online reviews by previous customers.
Make sure it’s a legit business. Only use companies that are accredited by the Better Business Bureau or that have a good rating on TrustPilot. Watch out for companies that ask for cash up front—this isn’t a common practice among reputable moving companies and can indicate a scam that will leave you high and dry on moving day. Licensed interstate movers will have a U.S. Department of Transportation number. Request this number from the moving company you choose. If anything goes amiss during the move, you’ll need it to file a claim.
More money doesn’t always mean better service. Call at least three long-distance moving companies and compare prices, policies, and time frames before you make a decision. Comparison shopping ensures you’ll get the services you need at the best price point.
Considerations for Moving Internationally
The world is your oyster—live in it! Whether you’re a retiree looking to start again or a recent graduate interested in getting a taste of the world around you, living overseas is a life-changing experience that opens up a world of opportunities—literally. But living across the ocean from your friends and family is a pretty big deal, and one you should take into deep consideration before leaving the US behind. Moving internationally means missing out on the small stuff like Sunday dinner at grandma’s and meeting your friends on the whim for a drink—and possibly big things, like holidays and family weddings. But once you’ve decided to take the plunge and relocate to an exotic, foreign land, here’s how to make it happen.
Research, research, research
Anyone can move abroad—you just have to do some research first to find the right country for you. Make a list of countries you’d like to live in, then read blogs, watch online videos, and link up on social media with expats living in those countries. Talk to your friends—maybe someone has a BFF or relative living overseas they can put you in contact with who wouldn’t mind answering your questions.
Find a job
If your job isn’t relocating you overseas and you find yourself wondering how you’ll make money in a new country, fear not — you’ve got options. Use networking sites or social media to find available jobs overseas. Working holiday visas are available in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Singapore for those who are 18 to 30 or who have a graduate or post-secondary degree. Teaching English in countries like China, Taiwan, and South Korea is a great way to make money overseas if you’ve got a bachelor’s degree.
Plan your move
International moving can get quite pricey, so unless you’re willing to drop the cash on moving everything you own, the first step to moving overseas is downsizing. Pare your belongings down to just the essentials, then decide how you want to transport your stuff. Shipping via sea freight is less expensive than using air freight, but it takes longer. If you have any questions about your new country’s laws regarding the transportation of certain items, such as vehicles or appliances, an experienced moving company can help you answer them.
Mind the finer details
There’s a lot to keep track of when you’re moving to a new country. You’ll need to file for a visa, find a healthcare provider, and make sure you’ve got cell phone service where you’re headed. Notify your bank that you’ll be living and spending internationally, or move your money to a bank in the country you’ll be staying in. Research how to move your pets internationally. Find out whether you’ll need a new driver’s license—there are driver’s license exchange programs for certain countries and international driver’s licenses available for those countries that don’t allow an exchange.
5 Easy-living U.S. Cities to Call Home
There are 19,495 cities in the United States. How do you choose which one you want to relocate to when there are so many choices? To get your mind whirling, here are five cool cities to move to in the U.S.
- Austin, Texas
Austin has it all: Ample access to outdoor activities such as hiking, bike trails, and parks, amazing food, and a thriving live music scene. Austin is the fastest growing city in both Texas and the United States.
- Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is 44.4% cheaper to live in than New York City while keeping all the perks—a bustling nightlife, museums and entertainment, and of course all that delicious Southern food—with better weather, to boot.
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
The gorgeous mountain city of Colorado Springs has beautiful weather, affordable living, and it ranks #3 for the best cities to live in Colorado. It’s a short drive from Denver, which draws all kinds of major sporting and entertainment events and hosts a major international airport.
- Fayetteville, Arkansas
An oasis in the Ozark mountains, Fayetteville is a fitting home for those who love the outdoors. It has tons of state parks, walking trails, and playgrounds—plus, it offers stellar live music and nightlife.
- Hilo, Hawaii
Hilo is a small town located on Hawaii’s Big Island, known for delicious food, pure water, and clean air. If a year-round warm climate, lush forests, and the prospect of beach life are major draws for you, you can live the tropical life in Hilo while remaining in the US.
Moving to a new city offers a fresh start and exciting opportunities for personal growth and change. Everyone has their own reasons for making the jump to a new area code, and getting there doesn’t have to be a complicated affair—with some diligent research and a touch of wanderlust, you can move to any city that’s calling your name.
This article was originally featured in The Hire A Helper blog.