Thinking of moving somewhere in the US? Perhaps you are ready to shake things up and move away from your hometown - perhaps for retirement, a job, or school.
Here are some tips on resources to make that decision easier, with a particular focus on interactive tools to help you make your decision.
I put this list together initially for myself, based on chats with family and friends. Hopefully you’ll find it useful as well!
A great place to start is movemap.io. Fast and easy to use, it lets you quickly generate a list of possible locations of interest. Highly recommended. If you like taking quizes, you might want to try whereshouldilive.co.
Climate & Weather
The most obvious first step when considering where to move? The weather. If you (for example) hate snow, or love the sun, that’s a really good place to start.
- Overall US Climate
- Annual US High Temperatures
- Historic data for a specific location
- Compare annual weather for specific locations
- Detailed impact for a specific address
Note that the annual average (or high) temperature may not be that helpful. For example, two locations might both have an average temperature of 65F, but one might vary between 40F and 110F and the other between 55F and 75F.
Also pay attention to cloud cover. For example, certain areas near San Francisco or Seattle have significant cloud cover or fog, making them much, much more gray than the temperature alone might indicate.
Climate Change Impact
- Sea Level Rise
- Climate Impacts by County
- 60 Year Climate Predictor
- Historic Wildfire Data, with closest major fires
Jobs & Economy
For many, the job and/or economy are as (if not more) important than even the climate.
- Indeed - probably the single biggest job aggregator.
- LinkedIn - decent job search, and also you might find some connections.
- Craigslist - very popular in some areas, hardly used in others.
I’m pointing at these and not the higher level economic data for a few reasons. First, you will want to do a job search specific to your skill set, background, and interests. For example, an area focused on tourism might have very low unemployment at a macro level, but if it’s mostly for waiters and cooks and you’re a software developer it might make for a poor match. Similarly, a booming tech area might be great for a software engineer, but the high cost of living might make it pretty rough for a short order cook. Or the reverse might be true - it’s very hard to predict.
WorldPopulationReview.com has tons of demographic data, presented in a very readable format.
You’ll likely have to do a search to get the specific data you want. When searching, you may want to look at the information for a metro region, not a specific city. For example, here is the report for Santa Cruz, CA, the city. Compare that with the report for Santa Cruz, the county. Depending on what you are trying to sort out, you might want to look for either city, county, or the (often ambigious) “greater metro region.”
Keep in mind that a “greater metro region” can often involve a 3+ hour drive in traffic to get from one side to the other. If you live in, say, Mill Valley, CA and want to get to Gilroy, CA (both of which are at the border of what is often called the “greater Bay Area” it’s a long, long drive.
Traffic & Public Transit Times
Google Maps has excellent tools for estimating travel times between two locations with real world historic traffic data. In many cases this also includes public transit options such as bus, subway, and light rail options.
For example, in certain parts of the greater San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley, it can take 30+ minutes just to go a few miles in traffic. Going from a suburb such as Fremont into downtown San Francisco could literally take hours in rush hour or a (relatively) benign sub hour trip on the BART system.
Make sure that the place you want to live has a commute you can live with!
HighSpeedInternet.com is a lead generation service for high speed internet providers. It’s not a bad place to start, but you will always want to double- or triple-check availability for a specific address with the ISP directly before renting or buying a property.
Also, as a tip - generally speaking, many ISPs will try to sell a bundle with Internet, traditional cable television, and perhaps phone service as well. The prices for the bundles typically don’t include a lot of extra taxes and fees for the cable and phone and also go up dramatically after the promotional period. For most people I would strongly advice to just get as fast an Internet service as you can afford and skip the legacy cable and landline.
I strongly recommend visiting for at least two weeks before buying or moving. A few long weekends, a spring break, etc. There are some options for this kind of “preview” visit below.
I’d also suggest using the Google Maps street view to walk around a neighborhood. Here’s a fun one - go to the location you are interested in checking out on Google Maps. Drag-and-drop the little yellow person icon on an area to go into Street View. You can use your mouse and the WASD keys to move around - just like a video game! Of course, if you want to take this to the next level, get a VR headset and check out something like Wander.
Generally speaking, if you are confident you will stay in a location for at least 5-7 years, owning is usually recommended. Renting is recommended if you only plan to be in a location for 1-3 years. In between that, or not sure? Just depends on your circumstances.
One thing to consider - is there an option to rent (either on a monthly/annual basis or as an AirBnB-style rental)? If so, that might push you toward buying. Just have to do the homework to figure this out.
- AirBnB - Rent a home for a few days or a few weeks.
- VRBO - AirBnB competitor.
- Extended Stay America - A more traditional (economy) hotel experience.
Many hotels and bed-and-breakfast outfits will also offer discounts for an extended stay, although you may need to inquire to sort this out.
- Apartments.com - A lead gen/aggregator service that tends to focus on the upper end of the market, although this varies by locale.
- Craigslist - Very popular in some areas, hardly used in others. Basically no vetting is done by Craigslist, so be sure to investigate throughly.
Both of these are popular sites for providing data about housing markets. Usually you will work with a real estate agent to both buy and sell a house. If you have any contacts in an area at all you can usually get a recommendation for a good agent that can help you understand the process.
Crime data in the US is… complicated.
- ADT Crime - Provided by a company that sells security systems, so take with a grain of salt. Mostly useful for comparing between two locations.
- City-Data.com Crime - Scroll down to the bottom of the page and look at the pie chart at the bottom. If the bulk of the reported crime is theft, that’s common for nicer areas in the US. For example, Davis, CA, a pretty nice college town, is mostly property crime. Compare with, say, Compton, CA, a famously rough area.
These vary dramatically by region. Things to check for include:
Earthquakes (common on the west coast)
- Generally, areas that are prone to earthquakes in the US have also taken increasingly active steps toward housing reinforcement. You may want to factor that in when considering where to live - there’s a reason they don’t build with brick much in California.
Hurricanes (common in the south east and east) & tornadoes (common in the mid-west)
Wildfires (very regionally specific)
- For an example of how tricky it can be to track where wildfires might spring up, check out this video of wildfires in California. Clearly there are areas that are struck over and over, an other areas that are virtually never affected.
The Rest of the World
You might be thinking about moving outside of the US as well. Moving to another country is, of course, a lot tricker. Some of the tools above include information outside of the United States (for example, Zillow does show listings in Canada), but many don’t. Check out justlanded.com to get some tips for other countries.