It seems like many people have romantic visions of moving to a new city. The bright lights of Manhattan, the California culture of Los Angeles, the hipster vibes in Portland — but moving to a new city isn’t really an adventure that should be taken lightly. If you haven’t been to your dreamy new city, there are some things to be considered before packing your things and making the leap. Here’s our checklist, just to be safe:
Sure the city may be enticing for its character and culture, but are you sacrificing safety? Most cities have safer areas and more dangerous parts of town, but check the city’s overall safety ratings and crime rates before deciding to move.
Cost of living
Often the most desired cities are also the most expensive. Basic necessities in San Francisco and Manhattan will, on the whole, cost more than they will in Toledo or Houston — things like average grocery costs, gasoline, parking, and even car maintenance can change from city to city. Determine if your new city’s cost of living will be in line with your budget.
Whether you currently have children or plan to have them in the future, have a look at the city’s educational system. Do the schools rank well on graduation rates and college attendance? Are there a variety of options, including both charter and private schools? Does the city fund their schools adequately, and are there after-school offerings that interest you? Are the schools reputable for their safety? Also take a look at higher education opportunities. Proximity to universities and colleges will mean access to all of their associated cultural and educational events, as well as preparatory classes for older children.
The climate in your new city can make or break your opinion of all it has to offer. You might save money on utilities in a new city if you choose somewhere with a moderate climate, but if you really really love snow, are you going to be happy with mild winters? Check the average highs and lows, as well as yearly precipitation patterns, and be honest with yourself about what you really need and what you can tolerate.
Public transportation and commute time
Unfortunately, not all cities are equal when it comes to public transit access. In New York City, for example, many people decide not to have cars and instead rely on the thorough coverage of public transit. Los Angeles, on the other hand, basically requires a car and a high tolerance for city driving. Investigate how effective and efficient the public transit is in your destination city and decide what is important to you. Car or no car?
Amenities and community services
Let’s say you’re considering a smaller city, maybe one like Missoula, Montana — isolated, but still very desirable. What sort of amenities and community services would be important for you to have? Would you sacrifice having access to a lot of the Big City buzz for access to endless trails? What about access to a major airport hub, top-notch medical facilities, or other amenities that you’ve become attached to? Get a sense of what is and isn’t available in your destination city and decide if you’re happy with what you find.
The cost of housing
Compared to your current housing situation, will there be any significant differences in the cost of rent, available mortgages, or available housing? The housing market in some cities is highly competitive for even mediocre quality apartments, while other cities have high-quality places at a steep price. Are you looking to buy or rent? Are there affordable and desirable homes in your target range? Don’t forget to do your research into taxes and utility rates, too — if you seek to own a home, make sure to figure those numbers in as you calculate your potential mortgage costs.
The vibe of the city and its people
Maybe your dream city has a reputation for fun, welcoming people and a vibrant energy — but how can you be sure? If possible, take a trip to visit your new city for a few days to check it out in person. One of the reasons why you should move to a new city is definitely for a change of scenery and a fresh perspective, so be sure that this city has the perspective that you want. Are you an outdoorsy person seeking a mountain town where everyone bikes everywhere, or are you a coffee connoisseur who prefers to spend Saturdays sipping endless java? Those two vibes would take you to very different cities.
Activities, Events, and Night Life
What sorts of events would attract you to a city? Families will be looking for very different opportunities than a young couple in their 20’s. Are you a ballroom dancer, an avid bowler, or someone seeking regularly rotating modern art exhibits? Maybe you’d like lots of MeetUp groups to give you and your toddler opportunities to meet other families. Either way, check out what your new city has to offer that will meet your needs. If you choose a city that already has a support network around your hobbies and passions, you’ll be able to plug in so much faster.
Is there a local forum where residents post their thoughts about their home city? Have a look. Keep in mind that there will always be complainers in every city, but is there a vibrant and supportive voice that supports the city’s culture? Are there neighborhood associations with passionate citizens who advocate for the city? Or on a more superficial level, how to visitors generally feel after a visit? You may be able to get a sense for the city by reading about others’ experiences.
Once you have completed your research, look through the available interstate moving companies to get the process started — and have fun in your new city!