In Whos Your City, I list a ten-step process for deciding on a new home.
Heres an abbreviated version:
What do you like most and least about where you live now? Where are the places youd most like to live? Is it important to ind a job in your ield, or are you thinking of a career change? How important to you are outdoor activities and nature? Climate and weather? Cultural activities and the arts?
A good starting place is either Bert Sterling’s “Find Your Own Best Place Tool” or Kiplinger’s “Which city is best for you”, which allow you to compare communities by cost of living, schools, crime, climate and other factors.
Read and gather information. Look at statistics. Read the local papers. Visit and talk to people.
How do the cities compare in job opportunities? Cost-of-Living? Professional development?
Are the schools good? The streets safe? Housing affordable? Transportation available, and congestion manageable?
What is the political leadership like? Not only now, but historically? Are there opportunities for citizen involvement?
Does the place match your values? Is there tolerance of differences? Do people seem to trust one another? Do people seem to feel free to express their individuality? And how important are these things to you?
What are the aesthetics of the place? Does it have parks, old buildings, interesting stores? And which of these matters most to you? Does it seem authentic? Does it have unique neighborhoods or is everything generic? Does it value and preserve its history? Whatever you do for fun, is it available? Arts & culture, music or theater, spectator or participant sports. Find the people who live there and share your interests, and talk to them.
Remember, no place is perfect. Make a chart of whats important to you and compare the places on your short list. Add up the places and compare them. But dont decide based on just numbers.
Use your chart to choose places to actually visit.
Do you know people who live in each city? Talk to them.
Visit for more than just a weekend. What is the rhythm of the city during the week? Overnight?
Is the noise level alright? Are the streets too empty or too crowded?
Explore different neighborhoods. A city is more than just its downtown.