What To Research Before Deciding To Move

The best way to research a city is to live there for awhile. The problem is that most people don’t have this luxury. Visiting for a few days would certainly help, but could be expensive if it’s long-distance. The good news is that you can learn a lot about a city just by using the internet and reading books.


What do you look for in a place to live? Does the city you’re considering have what you want? If you don’t have a list of criteria, make one. It’s a fun exercise to do no matter what situation your in.

Picture the perfect place to live….what does it look like? Think about which elements matter the most when evaluating a city. Here a few to consider:

  • weather
  • scenery
  • cost of living
  • places of interest
  • outdoor recreation
  • schools
  • culture
  • population
  • proximity

List your criteria in order of importance. What do you value the most? A city may only meet a few criteria, but if they’re the most important ones, then perhaps you’ll decide that the move is worth doing.

What To Research When I went through this process, I realized I wanted to live near mountains, lakes, and forests. That eliminated most cities in the States. I also really like mild temperatures, so that pretty much narrowed it down to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Choosing a city became much easier at that point.

I’ve also always been intrigued with other states out west, such as Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Colorado. Living in the Northwest makes visiting these areas more convenient.

Maybe you really value culture, a low cost of living, or a small town. If you want to move but aren’t sure where, the Make The Right Move Now: Your Personal Relocation Guide will help you identify your dream destination. I recommend this book to everyone, regardless of whether you’re single or married with children. Before I read this book, I had already made up my mind where I wanted to move, but I still found it to be very helpful. It’s mostly a workbook, so you can get through it pretty quickly.

Cost of Living

For many, cost of living will be factor. You can find out the cost of living for any city online. This calculator will tell you how far your income will go in another city. You can always search through the city data forum to find out specifics as well.

Insurance. Rates will likely change if you decide to move. The higher the cost of living, the more you can expect to pay. If you’re curious as to how much it will change, contact companies or get free quotes online. If you don’t have a place yet, then use an address in the city you’re interested in.

Utilities. Call the local utility company to find out what the average costs are and if you’ll be charged any start up fees. A large deposit might be required. Each city is different, but some require their residents to hire a garbage disposal company. Learn as much as possible about utilities so you can get an accurate estimate.

Shopping. Does the area have your favorite stores? We all have different tastes. Some are into designer clothing, some like to bargain shop. Does it have any restaurants that are appealing to you? What’s the sales tax?

Traffic. The larger the city, the more traffic you can expect. How long will the commute to work be each day? To the grocery store? A longer commute means spending more on gas and less time on other activities.

Taxes. For information about state, retail, city, and real estate tax information, visit the State Department of Revenue website. Taxes could be determined by the property value or the sale price of the home. States without an individual income tax include:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Income. How much can you expect to earn in this city? How much are similar jobs earning on average? If cost of living is higher, then will your salary offset the difference? Working in the city requires paying a city wage tax as well.

Choosing A Neighborhood

Do plenty of research on neighborhoods. The importance of knowing which neighborhoods to avoid goes without saying. If you’re serious about buying a home, then ask neighbors how they like living there. Gated communities are ideal for privacy and safety. Also consider how close grocery stores, parks, post offices, hospitals, laundromats, are to a potential residence.

Blinking lights at a nearby intersection could indicate high crime rates. These lights keep traffic moving at a steady pace to prevent theft. If you want information about crime in a particular area, look at rates online or contact the local police.


The city data forum is one of the best resources I’ve seen for doing research. It’s especially helpful for those who aren’t able to visit a city in person. You can ask questions and read thoughts and opinions from people who are currently living in certain cities or have lived there in the past.

Regardless of how good or bad a city is, I guarantee you’ll find people who love it, hate it, and fall somewhere in-between. Pay attention to the information that directly applies to you. When I was doing research on Seattle, quite a few people complained about the constant rain/overcast weather, but I actually enjoy it. From that point forward, I disregarded any negative posts about the weather.

Use Google to view a map of the area. You can identify what’s located in and around a neighborhood, including parks, hospitals, libraries, places of interest, storage centers, and so on. Google Earth provides street views of almost every city imaginable. It’s a lot of fun to use.

Real estate agents are worth contacting whether you plan on buying or renting, especially if time is not on your side. They can answer general questions about the area while helping you find a place.

The Chamber of Commerce will provide information about organizations, entertainment, schools, demographics, census tables, and places of worship. If you have children, then finding a good school for them might play a big role where you choose to live.

To find out performance of elementary, middle, and high schools, check out these websites:

A real estate agent can provide insight on schools as well.

Rent For A Year

If you’re unsure about moving to a particular city, then consider renting a place there for six months to a year. If you don’t like it, you can move once your lease expires. On the flip side, you might love it and decide to live there the rest of your life.

If you have a family, this probably isn’t practical. But if you’re single or have a partner that is willing to move with you, this is a great opportunity to explore. If you still want to move after doing research, the chances are pretty good that you won’t be disappointed. But the only way to find out for sure is to live there. You can also put together a short list of other cities that you would like to move to in case it doesn’t work out.

What Should I Do?

You can spend a month researching a city and still not know what to do. The best advice I can give is to follow your heart. Do what you think is best. If you decide to stay where you currently are, do so because that’s where you TRULY want to be.

If fear is all that’s stopping you, then my advice is to go. Giving into fear will only lead to regret later on.

You may feel some pull to stay near family (parents, relatives). That’s understandable. If you value family more than anything else, then stay. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an opportunity to grow, learn, experience, then moving is the way to go.

Getting input from those closest to you is fine – but it’s ultimately your call. If someone is trying to convince you to stay, be weary. What’s their motivation? Are they concerned about your well being?

If the move ends up being a colossal failure (which I doubt it will be if you did your homework), then you can always move again. If you want to move somewhere but don’t, you’ll always wonder “what would it be like to live there?”

This is your decision and your life. Only you know what’s best.

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