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What City Should I Live In? 8 Things to Consider

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If you’re looking to move because you’re retiring or have the opportunity to live and work wherever you want, there are probably a number of considerations you’ll know you’ll want to look at before you move in. Financial matters are a natural focus. But it could pay off to look beyond numbers (like taxes) and also consider things such as local dynamics and the amenities that are meaningful to you. 

We’ve rounded up a few of these things, along with some of the numbers you’ve probably already had a look at.

1. Cost of living

This is probably one you’ve already considered, but it’s too important to skip because money for the basics may not necessarily go as far in your new area as it does in your current one. So it’s here as the financial version of “measure twice, cut once” safety.

These are some of the local costs you’ll want to consider:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Healthcare (more on that a little later)

Not really feeling the math? There are several cost-of-living calculators that can show you how far your money could go, like this one by Bankrate.

2. Transportation

In terms of daily travel, you’ll want to look at how far and how frequently you may need to drive and account for things like gas, insurance and regular wear and tear. If you don’t have a parking spot, garage or free on-street parking, you’ll want to allow for that cost too. If you travel frequently and live far from an airport, the cost of getting there or housing your car for an extended period could be a number to crunch. 

If you’re more of a walker, Redfin has a walkability index that awards higher scores to cities or neighborhoods where you can walk to do errands.

Even if you’re not a walker, the WalkScore report includes a pretty interesting insight that ties into employment trends. It shows that it could help to look at the areas that surround emerging industries because those places could become the new, very connected, (and possibly popular) suburbs.

3. State and local taxes and politics

States that don’t charge income tax exist, and if you’re happy with the weather and lifestyle you can find in states including Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming . . . terrific.

But you could pay taxes on investments in these states and have higher sales and property taxes. If you’re looking at remote places, like Alaska, your costs of living could also be higher than you’re used to. 

When it comes to politics, mixing things up could be something you like, but it could be worth getting a sense of your community. You may want to look at this from several angles, like what things look like at the state and local levels and the roles community organizations play in neighborhoods you’re exploring.

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4. Employment (even if you’re retiring)

Employment trends and industries have an impact on local life, including the ages of your neighbors, the variety of nearby activities and a general sense of community. The Bay Area’s tech boom also shows the impact business hubs can have on housing prices. In this instance, getting in early could be good if your goal is to buy a home and flip it for a profit. But, like most investments, that’s a gamble. Another potential downside? “Golden handcuffs” where you like where you’re living but you can’t move within the area because prices have jumped.

Along the same lines, it could be worth looking at how dependent the area is on a particular company or industry. This could have a significant impact for several reasons, including how dependent the local economy is on its success, in terms of employment, taxes and any sort of local grants.

5. Schools

Learn what you can about the local public and private schools and if they meet your needs. If you’re looking at a college town, consider checking out the classes, museums and theater options you may be able to tap into. (Also see if you can get an understanding of the relationship between the town and the students.)

6. Proximity to friends, family and healthcare

You may want a bit of distance from family, we get it, but home can be a little bit better when people you want to connect with are in relatively easy reach.

The same goes for health. Consider exploring what hospitals and medical services are nearby, how they rank and if they have the array of specialists you may need.

7. Fresh air, entertainment and amenities like broadband

Rural can be really out there – as in without broadband access – so make sure your new town has other things you value like arts, entertainment, high-speed internet connection, parks and beaches. Also consider keeping an eye on any environmental concerns, which could include air and water quality, even in areas that don’t have heavy industry.

8. Give it a trial run

Moving is a commitment, but you can create a plan that gives you the freedom to move and find a better place: renting. It’s surprising, but there may not be significant difference between owning a home and renting one. And the short commitment could make it easier to change neighborhoods or even towns. 

Happy hunting!

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.