A view of Downtown Colorado Springs in front of Pikes Peak in the winter.

Thanks in part to a solid job market, Colorado Springs jumped up several spots to No. 2 in this year's rankings. (Getty Images)

Moving to a new home is no easy feat, especially when you've decided to put down roots in an entirely different part of the country. Now you’re not only considering the type of house or apartment you want, but you're also weighing whether you’ll be able to afford the area, send your kids to good schools, get to work easily and a number of other major factors.

Whether you’re presented with the opportunity to relocate to a new city for work or you simply want a change of scenery, it’s imperative to do your research first to determine if your general needs will be met, you’ll be able to live comfortably and you’ll be able to feel at home in the community.

[See: The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018.]

The U.S. News Best Places to Live ranking helps you view the most important aspects to consider for living in any of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., from New York City to Anchorage, Alaska. Factoring in details including job market, crime, population growth due to net migration, cost of living and access to quality health care, we compiled the most important information to determine which places offer the most for most people. (For more information on how we calculate Best Places to Live, visit the 2018 Best Places to Live Methodology.)

Austin, Texas, ranks No. 1 for the second year in a row. Known as a hot spot for the tech industry, Austin attracts young professionals with its reputation as a city teeming with diverse cultural opportunities and draws visitors throughout the year with music, film and arts festivals.

Here are the top 10 Best Places to Live:

  1. Austin
  2. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  3. Denver
  4. Des Moines, Iowa
  5. Fayetteville, Arkansas
  6. Portland, Oregon
  7. Huntsville, Alabama
  8. Washington, D.C.
  9. Minneapolis-St. Paul
  10. Seattle

While the third annual Best Places to Live ranking not only reflects the continued status of well-recognized places like Austin, Denver and Fayetteville – which ranks in the top five on the list for the third year in a row alongside much larger counterparts – the list also welcomes 25 new places. In fact, 2018 is the first year the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., rather than only the 100 most populous, are considered.

The 25 new additions to the list are, of course, smaller metro areas than the likes of Dallas-Fort Worth and Seattle, but their inclusion shows how smaller places can compete with the country’s largest cities when it comes to offering job opportunities and a well-rounded community for residents.

Huntsville makes its first appearance on the Best Places to Live list at No. 7. The local job market remains stable with NASA and the U.S. Army serving as the metro area's largest employers. Not only is the median individual annual salary, $52,960, above the national median of $49,630, but the typical household income also goes further in Huntsville – residents spend just 22.56 percent of their income on housing expenses.

[See: The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018.]

Of course, with an additional 25 metro areas to consider, some major metro areas fell out of the top 100 list. Los Angeles takes the No. 101 spot, Miami ranks No. 110 and New Orleans is No. 111, after ranking 88, 92 and 95, respectively, in 2017.

A metro area’s population growth – reflecting where people are choosing to move over a five-year period – plays a key role in the rankings and was at least partially responsible for significant changes in the rank for places from the 2017 list to this year.

One reason Los Angeles dropped to No. 101 is that the second-largest metro area in the country grew by only 0.2 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration. Los Angeles nearly breaking even isn’t quite as dire as those metro areas that saw population losses between 2012 and 2016, like Chicago (No. 87 in Best Places to Live), which saw a decrease of nearly 2.2 percent, but it's a far cry from the booming populations due to net migration enjoyed in other places. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (No. 74 in Best Places to Live), for example, saw more than 15 percent population growth due to net migration during the five-year period. The average growth due to net migration for the 125 largest metro areas in the U.S. between 2012 and 2016 was 2.3 percent.



Can't Handle the Cold? 6 Steps to Move to a Warmer Climate

Discard the heavy coat for sunglasses in a warmer city, but not before you consider these details.

Affordability is another issue many of the largest metro areas face. While some of the richest people in the world may live in New York (No. 96 in Best Places to Live), LA and Miami, they’re also home to large sections of the population that regularly struggle to afford rent or mortgage payments. The median cost of living in all three metros is more than 35 percent of their annual household income, compared to Des Moines, where the median income is smaller but residents spend just 23.5 percent of their income on housing costs.

But as years pass, companies and individuals move, local governments strive to improve the reputation of the area and housing markets shift – and the rankings reflect those changes. Portland jumped from No. 32 in 2017 to No. 6 this year, as a result of the fact that it is the second-most desirable place to live in the U.S. in 2018, based on a series of Google Consumer Surveys commissioned by U.S. News that asked 2,500 respondents which place they would like to live in most.

Portland also grew in population by about 4.74 percent due to net migration between 2012 and 2016. Similarly, Phoenix went from No. 44 in 2017 to No. 19 this year, primarily based on the 6 percent population growth due to net migration between 2012 and 2016.

[Read: Why the Best Places to Live May Be in Middle America.]

Any place on the list you call home may get a little extra leeway in your mind once you consider yourself a local. The daily bumper-to-bumper traffic may be a struggle that unites residents, or the fact that it’s a relatively unknown place that keeps flocks of tourists away. But when it comes to moving to a new part of the country for the first time, you want to be aware of the hurdles you may face. Consider all the factors to make the most informed decision possible for your next big move.

Your Moving Checklist: Don't Let These Details Slip Through the Cracks

Organize your move early.

Moving boxes surrounding family relaxing on sofa

(Getty Images)

Few people can escape heightened stress when it comes time to move. Despite it being a common occurrence – about 11 percent of the U.S. population moved to a new home in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – moving is undoubtedly an exhausting process. You not only have to pack up everything you own and relocate it, but you also have to clear out your former home and set up house in a new one. It’s easy to find yourself getting into arguments, losing items or running behind a deadline to be out of one place and into another. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for your move.

Research professionals and prices.

Research professionals and prices.

Relaxed young couple using a laptop at home


The key to a stress-free move is organization, so you should start thinking about the process as soon as you know you’ll be relocating. Begin by researching moving companies, and take inventory of everything you’ll be moving with you. Then, reach out to a few companies to inquire about cost, availability and materials to move your home. “It’s not unheard of for people to be making inquiries for six months ahead of time,” says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association. “You don’t need to lock down a contract that early, but it doesn’t hurt to start doing some research.”

Book a moving company.

Book a moving company.

Businessman talking on cell phone and using laptop

(Getty Images)

Once you know your moving day, whether you’ll need movers to pack up your belongings, how much you’ll be taking with you and what your budget is, book a moving company or reserve a truck if you're moving yourself. You still want to book with as much advance notice as possible, with a minimum of a month’s notice in summer and two- to three-weeks' notice during the rest of the year, says Angela Gonzalez, operations and quality manager for Unpakt, an online marketplace that connects consumers with vetted moving companies.

Buy packing materials.

Buy packing materials.

(Getty Images)

Boxes, tape and trash bags are a given when it comes to moving, so much so that they can easily be overlooked. Purchase or find moving materials early so you can begin packing the things you don’t need right away. You can order materials online, inquire with a local retailer or search Craigslist for used boxes. You can even ask your mover if it will include the cost of providing packing materials in the moving cost.

Downsize and start packing early.

Downsize and start packing early.

(Getty Images)

The last thing you want is to find yourself paying more to move things you don’t want or need. Before you break out the moving boxes, sort through your belongings and determine what goes with you, and what goes away. Those rarely used items you decide to keep should be packed early so you can get a good estimate of how much will be loaded into a moving truck. “The stuff that’s been sitting in your closet for the last five or six months – donate it if you can, or pack it if you really need to keep it,” Gonzalez says.

Donate what you don't need.

Donate what you don't need.

Father and son folding clothes for charity

(Getty Images)

Whether it’s a couple bags of clothes the kids don’t wear anymore or a fully stocked pantry of canned goods, minimize the amount of things you take with you – and what you take to the landfill. “A lot of people that are moving have food items in their pantry that maybe they don’t really need anymore,” Michael says, noting moving companies often have contact information for local food banks and may even deliver the donation for you.

Transfer your utilities.

Transfer your utilities.

Man turning off light switch.

(Getty Images)

The last thing you want is to arrive at your new home and realize you forgot to turn on the water, heat or electricity – or you didn't turn them off at your old place. Be sure to call in advance and set the start date for your utilities at least a day prior to your move day to ensure everything is on when you arrive. Gonzalez stresses that any utility installation such as cable or internet shouldn't happen on moving day.

Change your mailing address.

Change your mailing address.

Postbox with old yellowed newspaper.

(Getty Images)

The U.S. Postal Service makes it easy to change your mailing address online – just go to moversguide.usps.com. You can set up the change of address as far in advance as you'd like so mail will begin forwarding to your new home the day of your move. You should also notify your bank, doctor's office, employer and friends and family of your new address, but you have extra time to do so once you’ve established the change with the post office.

Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.

Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.

group of friends standing at the back of small moving truck, lifting up rear door, truck filled with moving boxes and furniture, urban environment

(Getty Images)

If your moving truck will occupy space on a city street with street parking, you’ll likely need to apply for a permit or request “no parking” signs to reserve space on your move day. In Chicago, for example, each ward offers free “no parking” signs for people moving, which must be posted 48 hours in advance. If your moving truck is 16 feet or longer, the Chicago Department of Transportation requires you to apply for a permit. Similar policies exist in other cities for permitting and obtaining signs to clear space. A moving company will often handle the permitting process for its own vehicles, but you should clarify that responsibility when scheduling the move.

Take out the trash.

Take out the trash.

Trash bags on a street curb.


Never leave garbage in the home you’re vacating, and if you rented the place, the cost to clean or remove trash will be deducted from your security deposit. To save yourself some cash, pick up garbage in every room as you move items out. Once the home is empty, go back through with cleaning spray and a vacuum or broom. Checking each room will help you catch any small items you may have missed.

Schedule with room for delays.

Schedule with room for delays.

A young man checking his smart watch.

(Getty Images)

There may be a snow storm, a foreign dignitary in town or a car accident that puts the highway at a standstill. Expect the unexpected, and give your itinerary some cushion for such events. Gonzalez says one of the most common mistakes people make is scheduling too much on a moving day. “Give some ample time,” she says. “When you’ve scheduled a move at 8 a.m., don’t schedule a flight for 1 p.m.”

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Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, home prices, renting, moving

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

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 dthorsby@usnews.com.

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