“That’s a HUGE closet,” I said to the realtor showing us the rental home in the north Texas suburbs.
“That’s your tornado shelter,” she said.
“The what now?”
“The tornado shelter. That’s where you go when there’s a tornado warning. It goes all the way back under the stairs, so it’s the safest place to be in the house during a storm.”
And…cue blank stare.
This true story brought to you by our ignorance when moving from California to Texas. Who knew there were tornados here?! Not us. It wouldn’t have changed our plans, but it does illustrate how easy it is to focus on other things like jobs and housing prices and school districts and fail to really get to know the cities you’re considering—or ask yourself the tough questions to make sure you’re making the right choice. Don’t be us. Ask yourself this instead.
How’s the job market?
Many people move to new cities for jobs—either because they have one lined up already or because there appear to be more prospects than where they currently live. In fact, “the latest report from Glassdoor’s economic research team — Metro Movers: Where Are Americans Moving for Jobs, And Is It Worth It? — found that more than a quarter (28.5 percent) of Glassdoor users applied to jobs outside their metropolitan area,” said Glassdoor. “But does that mean it’s a good idea to move for work?”
The site recommends taking a look “at factors like the unemployment rate and the number of open jobs compared to the population in order to determine what the job outlook is in the areas you’re targeting.” Even if you have a job lined up, you never know what could happen. You want to know that, should it not work out, you won’t have to think about moving to a new city again.
Is the housing market sustainable?
Buying a home in an area on the rise is a great way to build wealth. Buying where prices may have already peaked can be tough. While no one short of a psychic can predict what’s going to happen, you can do your research so that you know what you’re getting into. Reports like this one are a great place to start because it goes beyond pricing trends to examine development and infrastructure.
Will you know anyone?
“Post-college, it can take a long time to find your footing socially in a new location,” said Mental Floss. “Knowing even one person can help you rebuild your network—but it takes time, and can be a lonely and isolating experience. If the thought of leaving your ten best friends in New York makes you feel queasy, it might not be the time to relocate.”
Have you thought about transportation?
If you’re coming from a place with good public transportation, it may not even occur to you that this is not the reality in many cities across the country. That might mean buying a car. You’ll also want to take your commute into account. If you’re looking to move to a city where home prices closer to work areas are super expensive, that may mean buying in the suburbs, where the prices are lower and the commutes longer.
Is it a cultural match?
If you’re super conservative, moving to a city like Austin that promotes its weirdness may not be the best idea. Likewise, someone who is quite liberal may want to think hard about moving to a place that prides itself on its conservative family values.
Can you live with the climate?
A snowy winter seems so romantic, until you’re out there in your full-body parka shoveling the steps. Put some serious thought into what the climate is like before you make a big move. If you’re used to arid Arizona and you move to rainy Seattle, you may not fare so well.
What are the taxes like?
If you’re moving for financial reasons, you’ll want to consider more than salaries and home prices. Even in a state like Texas, where there is no state tax, property taxes can kill your buzz. CNBC’s “10 Cheapest states to live in” is helpful because it takes into account “cost of living, housing affordability, the price of housing, energy, food prices and other prices of goods and services.”
Can you afford to relocate?
You might be considering a new city because the economy and/or job market are better than where you currently are, but getting there could be challenging. Movers, down payments or security deposits, set-up fees for new utilities—they’re just a few of the costs you’re going to incur along the way. “One of the most important questions to ask yourself before you move is whether you have the money to cover all the associated expenses,” said Moving.com. To find the answer, you need to evaluate your financial condition and set a moving budget.