Ever have the urge to live somewhere else?
“I really needed to get out of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, but I still wanted to go to a bigger city that had a lot of culture and art,” says Modery, a writer and creator of the blog Hipstercrite. “Austin seemed like the spot, so I got rid of everything I could, put everything in my car and I drove to Austin.”
Modery isn’t alone in her preference for Austin. Ranking No. 2 on the U.S. News list of 100 Best Places to Live, the city grew by nearly 9 percent from 2010 to 2014 thanks to net migration, which measures the number of people moving into the area minus the number of people who moved out of the metro area. Every day, people are choosing Austin as their next home for any variety of reasons, whether it’s for work, the relatively low cost of living or its vibrant music culture.
Whether you’ve got Austin or another city in your sights, the decision to move is a major one, and you’ve got several factors to take into account before you pack up everything and hit the road. Where will you live? How will you make money? And will the job you land be enough to live in that city?
Regina Leeds, a professional organizer and author of “Rightsize … Right Now!: The 8-Week Plan to Organize, Declutter, and Make Any Move Stress-Free,” explains it’s not just the logistics of moving that you need to take into account but the fact that the routine you're used to won't exist in a new city.
“We get so caught up in the practical that we very often forget the emotional. You need to replace your entire local support team – from friends to grocery store, dry cleaners, hair and/or nail salon, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.,” Leeds says.
How do you know when you’re ready to make the move? The trigger is different for everyone – whether it's the job you want, reuniting with a loved one who lives elsewhere or searching for a better climate – but you should be careful to take every necessary factor into account before going to live the dream.
Modery moved to Austin unemployed and knowing no one in the city. She gave herself three months to make it work, and still living in Austin eight years later, she says she wouldn’t have changed a thing, though she doesn’t know if her method of relocating is repeatable in a 2016 world, compared to 2008.
Her move to Austin happened just before the economy took a turn for the worse, but by the time it happened she had already settled in. “I was able to get seven callbacks out of 10 places that I applied to. Then that changed dramatically a couple months later for everybody,” Modery says.
Slightly edging out Austin, Denver earned the top ranking in the U.S. News Best Places to Live. Kristal Kraft, vice president and broker associate at real estate brokerage The Berkshire Group, often works with people relocating to Denver who are looking to buy a home. She says clients will contact her at various stages of the moving process, depending on their desire for more information about the area's housing market.
“Oftentimes they’re months and months out, and sometimes they’re in the process of looking for a job, and sometimes they’ve actually found the job, but they’re not sure if they want to take it yet. And in that case, they’re just trying to do research to find out if it’s going to be a good fit,” Kraft says.
Even in relatively inexpensive places like Denver and Austin, the desirability of the cities drive up the cost of housing in the hottest areas. Kraft recently worked with a client who was hoping to live in downtown Denver, but despite having a good amount of money saved up, nothing existed in his price range in his desired neighborhood.
“[I said,] ‘You need to add $100,000 more to get into the game, or else go to the suburbs.’ … And that’s like telling him, ‘You could live in heaven or hell,’ and he didn’t want to go there,” Kraft says.
At the same time, compared to markets such as San Francisco and San Jose, California, notorious for their expensive real estate and competitive sales, Denver’s downtown is reasonable if not significantly cheaper. Kraft says she closed a deal recently with clients from California, tripling their home’s square footage for less money than their previous home.
“They were in hog heaven because they’re really improving their lifestyle,” Kraft says.
Wherever you’re planning to go to a new city, it’s important to know why it’s going to be the right fit for you, and then have a plan for how you’re going to fit in it. Leeds offers a few tips to help you decide if a move is right, and if it’s right for you now:
Visit the city before you go there. It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in the romantic idea of a place away from your current home. Visit it in the offseason, whether that’s the coldest New York winter weekend or at the height of humidity in Washington, D.C., and figure out easily overlooked logistics, such as whether you need a new wardrobe for different seasonal weather. If you're moving for a relationship, Leeds stresses you should clarify the move is mutual before you uproot your life, plus work out details such as if you'll live together, who pays for what costs and when the right time to move is.
Do your research. Research the general cost of the city, from housing and public transportation to the cost of moving, the most optimal way to sell off belongings you don’t need and more factors you'll encounter with a move. If you have a family, you'll want to research the schools in the area and decide which neighborhood and school would be the best fit for your children.
Make a list of every expense. Being cautious is better than spending more than you have. “Every expensive undertaking requires a budget so you can stay on track. The more you work on the nuts and bolts, the more in control you will be financially and emotionally,” Leeds says. Sizable costs you may forget include the mover's tip, utility hookups like cable or gas, new furniture delivery and a baby sitter on moving day.
Know what you need to take and get rid of. Especially if you’re moving somewhere more expensive than your current city, there’s a chance you’ll be downsizing on your living space. Know what won’t fit and offload it before your move. On the other end, be sure your new purchases will be timely. “If you need a new bed, be sure the bed and your new linens will be waiting for you at the other end,” Leeds says, whether that means ordering ahead online and having your items delivered or having it ready for pickup before it's time to go to bed in your new place.
Set a timeline – and be prepared for the unexpected. Leeds explains a timeline is essential to making a move work, especially when you’re leaving your current city, “Schedule everything, including your goodbyes.”
Keep in mind that every city has its challenges, and any move is going to have surprises. The goal is to simply not let some of the big things become too much of a shock. Leeds recalls a young woman she knew who moved from Los Angeles to New York in the height of winter, which she had not experienced in a colder climate. "She didn't even have a winter wardrobe," Leeds says. Having never lived outside of Southern California, the chilly weather and gloomy look to the city were overwhelming, both mentally and physically.
Be prepared for shocking changes that are a part of the norm in a new city. Kraft says any major move has to come with a new viewpoint: “You have to change your perspective. If you want things to look like where you came from, then you should stay where you are.”
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.