If you’re thinking of relocating, but you don’t know much about your new city, you’ll need to do your homework. Fortunately, you can do this part from your couch and with a bag of chips. No one’s judging. To determine whether an out-of-state move is right for you, follow these seven couch potato steps.
Eavesdrop on Out-of-State Forums
Whenever we considered moving somewhere new, my first click sent me to the forums. My favorite is City-Data.com. It lists every U.S. state and some international forums as well. The forum provides a place to ask questions about schools, neighborhoods, safety, and what it’s like to live there. The main people on the site are locals, realtors, and people moving from out of state, which makes for helpful conversations. Lurk at your leisure.
Some tips if you’re new to chat rooms or forums:
- Create an unidentifiable username.
- Read through threads before you post your own. It’s always good to listen before you talk.
- Realize that anonymity does not always bring out the best in people. Don’t take it personally.
- Ignore rude comments. Engaging makes the conversation last longer and that’s what they want.
- Be safe. Don’t meet other users in person or give money to them.
These forums will help you get a better understanding of what it would be like to live in your new city from a local’s perspective. However, remember that these forums can be one-sided. Take what users say with a grain of salt. Someone might be rude, but that shouldn’t reflect on the entire city.
Start Shopping For Your New Home
Your forum research hopefully guided you to neighborhoods that might work for you. Now it’s time to go shopping. First, figure out your housing budget. Then, decide which real estate site you like best. You don’t need to spend time switching between the sites as they often have the same inventory. Pick your favorite and focus your energy on looking at houses and apartments there.
Here’s a comprehensive list of sites you can use for apartment searches. These are the top sites for house searches. Personally, I like using Redfin.com when searching for houses, but you should use whichever site works for you. Remember to create an account on the site so you can save your favorites for later. This initial search helps you get an idea of what you can afford in your new city.
Play with Cost of Living Calculators
I love cost of living calculators. You type in your current city, the new city, and your salary. Then, the calculator computes how much you need to make in your new city to keep up your same lifestyle. The calculators are especially fun when you’re moving away from California or you’re moving from Chicago to Knoxville. If your move is in the other direction financially, try to use these numbers in your salary negotiations.
Make Virtual Weekend Plans
Your apartment style and the cost of living are only pieces of the moving puzzle.
To figure out if you’ll be happy after your move, imagine what you’ll do in your free time. Visit Trip Advisor’s Things to Do and see if the top ten activities excite you. If it’s all sports related and you’re more of a symphony person, you might consider whether the city is a good fit for you.
Get to Know the Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce sounds government-y and kind of scary and old school, but it’s a great resource for researching an out-of-state move. Your city’s website will provide information about neighborhoods, permits required, things to do, and businesses in the area. The website may also refer you to the Visitor’s Bureau. You may be able to request a brochure or watch a video about your new city. This can be especially useful if you’re trying to convince your family that the move is a good thing. Pictures and movies can be quite effective.
Immerse Yourself in Daily Living
Now it’s time to imagine a day in the life (from the comfort of your couch, of course). Think of the things that you enjoy doing and the things you have to do. If you like going to the movies or playing on a local sports team, you’ll want to investigate your options for those activities. You’ll also want to think about the everyday details like grocery shopping, getting your hair cut, and getting to work. Imagine how things will be different and how they will be the same and if you’re okay with that. If someone is moving with you, consider if that person will also be happy with the day-to-day living. Commuting time, proximity to nature, job opportunities, and the local culture should be on your moving radar.
Reach Out to Friends Who Know the Area
Friends are your best resource for researching an out-of-state move. I reached out to a law school friend who grew up in Boise when my husband and I considered moving there. It didn’t matter that my friend hadn’t lived in Idaho for ten years. She gave us the inside scoop (she loved it!) and it made us excited about the prospect of relocating out west. Friends can help you figure out the vibe of a city better than websites can.
Is an Out-of-State Move Right for You?
After completing your comprehensive research, you can make an educated guess about whether this move would be a good thing for you. If you believe you’ll be miserable in the new city, despite the perfect job opportunity, you may want to consider staying where you are. Remember that researching an out-of-state move from your couch is the first step. Next stop: in-person visits. Several to be on the safe side.